Monthly Archives: August 2014

Summer Writing Ideas 2014: an Article – 24 hours in Coimbra

This is the third and final post in our series of writing tasks for our students to try out over the summer.  For the other tasks, click here:  Task 1, Task 2.

This post sets up an article writing task in which you’ll write a travel feature about your city giving suggestions for how visitors can best spend 24 hours there.  It is based on these authentic texts found online:

Here are the task instructions:

An international magazine for travellers has asked readers for articles for a series entitled 24 hours in…

24 hours in Coimbra

What should visitors to your city do if they only have 24 hours to spend there?  We’d like to hear about how you think visitors should spend their morning, lunchtime, afternoon and evening in your city.  Your article should give suggestions about what to see and do and where to eat.  You can target your article towards a specific groups of travellers if you wish (e.g. Visitors with family, travellers on a tight budget, backpackers, culture  lovers, party animals etc.) or keep it general if you prefer (note:  if you choose a specific group, state who you’re writing for early in the article).  When you suggest places to visit and things to do, you should also give plenty of reasons about why visitors should do these things.

24 Hours in Coimbra - How should visitors spend a day in your city?

24 Hours in Coimbra – How should visitors spend a day in your city?

 Advice to writers

Some suggestions for those of you who’d like to try this task out…

  • Follow the links above to the texts from The New York Times and Time Out to get an idea of how to organise and lay your text out.  Brainstorm possible headings for different sections of your text.
  • Think about the content of your text and your reader.  Decide who your text is aimed at and think of places to visit, eat, relax and things that your reader would enjoy doing.
  • When you have some ideas of things to do, try your day out!  Do part of your itinerary and get a fresh insight into things your reader would experience and write down ways to describe it in an interesting day.
  • Think about the language you’re going to use.  Do you need to look up any translations of key words for your text in an online dictionary?  Think about descriptive language that you can use to make your article as interesting as possible.  Think about the style you’re going to write in;  Are you going to address the reader directly or just describe your itinerary in a more general way?  If you’d like to explore some texts in which travel writers write about Coimbra, visit our pinterest board.  You can pick up some ideas about the styles you could use to write your text and some interesting vocabulary for describing places and experiences from these texts.

  • Be ambitious with the language you use when writing.  Try out different ways to say things until you feel you’re pushing the language level beyond the basic.  Watch our tips video for some advice on how to do this.

Candidates taking Cambridge English:  First, Advanced (up until Dec ’14 but not from Jan ’15) or Proficiency could be asked to write Articles in Part 2 of the Writing paper.  To make the task more exam-like, aim to write within these word limits:  First:  around 190 words, Advanced:  around 260 words, Proficiency:  around 320 words.

So, why not take this opportunity to practise your Writing skills?  We’d love to read the results.  International House Santa Clara students can even get feedback on their texts.  All you need to do is type them and send to us at  Happy writing!


Leave a comment

Filed under B2 - Articles, B2 - Cambridge English: First, B2 - Cambridge First Writing, C1 - Advanced, C2 - Cambridge English: Proficiency

Fantasty dinner party

The fantasy dinner party

If you could invite 10 people from any point in history to join you for a dinner party, who would you invite?  Students on our July 2014 Speaking Skills topic discussed this topic in class and here are some of their summaries from these conversations…

Margarida’s guest list

My initial suggestions were…

  • Lana Del Rey, for the reason that she’s a great singer (not to mention the fact that I’m a big fan of hers)
  • Amy Winehouse, due to the fact that, despite her death, she continues to be an icon as well as having been a fantastic singer.
  • Chloe Grace Moretz, on account of the fact that I’d really like to meet this actress.
  • Dylan O’Brien, who comes across as being a really funny person (but it also helps that he’s absolutely gorgeous!).

My classmate, Inês, suggested that we should invite Bob Marley, and I would also like to get a personal insight into his perspective on the world.  She also suggested Angelina Jolie, but I was afraid that if I met her I would stop liking her.  As many people have said before, sometimes it’s dangerous to meet your heroes.

After lots of debate, our final list was:

We’d sit people who are well-known for the same reasons together:  writers next to other writers etc.


Marisa’s guest list

My original suggestions for the people I’d invite for the dinner party were:

  • Chef Henrique Sá Pessoa
  • César Mourão
  • Pete Tha Zouk
  • Cristiano Ronaldo

I’d invite Chef Henrique Sá Pessoa due to the fact that he is a good cook and he will make an excellent meal for the guests.  Although I don’t know him, I reckon he’s a polite and trustworthy person.

César Mourão is a good Portuguese comedian and he’ll entertain the guests.  This is the reason why I chose him.

Pete Tha Zouk is a Portuguese DJ.  I think it makes complete sense to invite him.  After all, every good party has great music.  With him there, the guests can dance all night after dinner.

I’d invite Cristiano Ronaldo because he’s well-known not only as a footballer but also because he’s helped several charities.  He could talk about this and at the same time will encourage others to do the same.

One of my classmates suggested inviting Luis de Matos, a great Portuguese magician.  I completely agree with her.  He’ll provide even more entertainment for the guests.

My final list, after talking to my classmates was the following:

  • Chef Henrique Sá Pessoa
  • Amy Winehouse
  • Lana del Rey
  • Bob Marley
  • Peter Tha Zouk
  • Queen Santa Isabel
  • Luis de Matos
  • Eça de Queirós (writer)

Some of these people came from my classmate’s suggestions.

Regarding the seating plan, we decided to put Henrique Sá Pessoa and Queen Santa Isabel on opposite sides of the table.  All the musicians will sit on the same side and the others will sit in front of them.  This way everybody will be able to talk about things they have in common.

I hope the dinner party goes well.


Inês’ guest list

It’s my dinner party and I have to make the guest list.

To start, I want to invite Angelina Jolie for the obvious reason that she’s my favourite actress and I think that she’d have a lot of stories from her many trips around the world.  I’d also have One Direction on the list because they played an important part in my youth.  I’d also invite Bob Marley for the reason that he would be the life and soul of the party.  He had a different way of seeing the world and I admire that.  I would probably also send an invitation to John Green because he’s the writer of my favourite book and due to the fact that I would like to know more about him.  To finish, I’d love to invite Ansel Elgort.  Not only because he’d be a good bit of eye candy but also because he’s done so many amazing things:  being an actor, a top model and a DJ.  This would be my top 5!



  • to come across as – to make a particular impression.  I don’t know him personally but he comes across as being really friendly.
  • eye candy – nice to look at!
  • well-known for – famous for
  • the life and soul of the party – the most amusing, entertaining person at a party
  • outlook – the attitude to life that someone has – He’d be interesting to talk to because he had a different outlook on life…  (way of seeing the world / perspective of the world)

Leave a comment

Filed under Speaking Skills - Summer 2014

60 second idea to improve the world…

If you could suggest one idea to improve the world around us, what would it be?

That was the question we asked our four students during our July 2014 Speaking Skills course and here are three of ideas they came up…


Sixty second idea to improve the world:

Each week on the BBC World Service radio programme The Forum invites a guest presents an idea to improve the world.  You can listen to an archive of these recordings on the web:

Using the Sixty Second Idea in the ELT classroom:

1 Comment

Filed under Speaking Skills - Summer 2014

B2: Essay – Is hosting a major sporting event worth the cost?

The World Cup in Brazil, the European Football Championships in Portugal, the 2012 London Olympics.  Whenever major sports events take place there is inevitably a debate about whether the huge expense it takes to host them is justifiable.  Towards the end of June, students in our B2 group debated this hot topic and some of them followed up this up with an Essay discussing this statement:

Spending vast amounts on sporting events such as the World Cup or the Olympic Games is a waste of money

Essay 1

Football is one of the most popular sports in the world and to find out which country has the most powerful team, a World Cup is organized every four years by FIFA.  This year the event is happening in Brazil, a under-developed country with many issues related to poverty, social injustice, a shortage of housing and criminality.  One of the demands which FIFA made on Brazil before the event was that the country must invest in new stadiums and other infrastructures.  As a result, the Brazilian government spent millions of Euros on new structures.  As a result, many people started to protest on the streets against the expense.

On one hand, those in support of hosting such tournaments, argue that these types of the events promote the country worldwide.  Not only do they attract more tourists during the event, but they will also bring more in over the next few years.

On the other side, people are protesting that the money spent on such events is outrageous. They support the point of view that the money would be more usefully invested in education, health and public transportation.

In my opinion we have to arrive at a compromise.  Firstly, it’s true that these events promote a country worldwide. Take the example of Portugal, host of the European football championship in 2004, tourism has risen over the years since this event and this year it has beaten its record for the number of visitors.  However, at the same time, the majority of public money should be invested in those areas which citizens need the most:  Education, Health or Public Transportation.  What’s the point of having sophisticated stadiums, if the country has the highest illiteracy rate in the world or the worst hospitals?

In conclusion, I strongly believe that the Brazilian Government could have been more cautious in the investment it made for the World Cup, perhaps building fewer stadiums and more schools and hospitals in order to promote the country as both a nation of football fans and as a developed country.

Essay 2

Is spending vast amounts on sporting events such as the World Cup or the Olympic games a waste of money?

Many people feel that spending money on events like these is wasteful because there are other priorities like health, education, or security for example.  They agree that in countries where some people don’t have anything to eat, it is unbelievable that governments inject public money into infrastructures that will not give a justified return.

From another point of view, others argue that events like these bring visibility to the host countries and employment. They think that the stadiums could have other uses after the events so they can take advantages and benefits from the investment.

In my opinion, on one hand, the money invested is excessive in countries with economic problems.  However, on the other hand, although the employment created is often only temporary, sports tournaments can create lasting jobs too.  Especially if the spaces are used in a way that the stadiums become profitableThis was the case in my city, Coimbra, which had a stadium built for a football competition.  It has a mall, a gym, a pharmacy, a medical clinic and other services in it.

In conclusion, I think that this is a complex issue with many pros and cons.  Taking everything into consideration, I honestly do not know if the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

 Essay 3

I am under the impression that being a host for a big sports event, like the football World Cup, may bring benefits to the country but that it can also have drawbacks.

For instance, such events are invaluable in terms of providing opportunities for cultural exchange, promoting the country as a tourist destination, and they may also boost people’s sense of patriotism.  However, in some cases, like Brazil 2014, that effect can be reversed.  Especially when the nation feels the money invested in facilities and infrastructure could have been spent catering to the populations’ basic needs like health and education.

Back in 2004, the Euro 2004 football tournament was hosted by Portugal.  Although at first most of the people were enthusiastic about it and how it would benefit the country’s economy, in the years following the event, people have seen downsides.  Many people realised that most of the stadiums built for the championships were not being fully taken advantage of after the tournament.  Add to that fact a severe economic crisis, and nowadays many of those who were in favour of hosting the games at first, now claim it was a waste of money.

In conclusion, I believe that these kinds of events, like everything in life, have good sides and others that are not so beneficial.  Everyone has a choice to try and see how they can make the most of an opportunity and it is my view that local people in countries which host sporting events, should try and give a new life to the underused facilities that remain in place when the fans and sports stars have left.

Further reading and listening:

World Cup Boom and Bust.  Will the World Cup improve life in Manaus?  by Chris Feliciano Arnold in Harpers Magazine.

Brazil’s expensive World Cup stadiums could become housing complexHuffington Post

London 2012:  Lords report warns of faltering Olympic legacy, BBC Sport

Will the World Cup leave a positive legacy in Brazil?  by Jorge Knijnik and Ramon Spaaij in The Conversation

FIFA World Cup ‘hits the poor hardest’ by Bill Wilson, BBC News

Key vocabulary from the debate lesson:

Spending money:  to run up huge debts, to get into debt, to invest heavily in stadiums, allegations of corruption, to cut back spending on something, inject money into a sporting event, to misspend money, private/public money/investment, sponsorship revenue, rising costs,

Sports event related vocabulary:  a tournament, a championship, build stadiums, the eyes of the world are on Brazil, fans

Benefits of hosting sports events:  to boost tourism, to develop a sense of national pride / patriotism, to attract visitors from abroad, to leave a positive / lasting legacy

Drawbacks of hosting sports events:  lack of a legacy (e.g. no long-term benefits to people living in the country), with the benefit of hindsight we can see that money was misspent

The situation in Brazil at the start of June:  Ahead of the World Cup in Brazil, we’ve seen people taking to the streets in protest at a number of perceived social injustices such as a shortage of housing, schools and hospitals.  In other cases, there has been industrial action taken by transport workers who feel they are underpaid.  All these grievances might lead us to question whether it is right to spend huge amounts of money on building stadiums for an international competition when there may be more pressing needs for the local population.

Leave a comment

Filed under B2 - Cambridge First Writing