Tag Archives: Writing

Collocation Challenge: 20/2/15 – Top 10 places and cities to visit in England (Part 3)

This collocation challenge continues a series based around a text which appeared in the travel section of the UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph:  Top 10 places and cities to visit in England.

Part 1 opened the series with a Reading exercise and a look at collocations in the first section of the text about Yorkshire.

Part 2 went on to explore vocabulary in the next section of the text about Bath.

This post will take a look at collocations and useful language for describing places in the sections about the Cotswolds and Devon.

1.  Collocations in the section about the Cotswolds

  • vibrant festivals
  • intriguing museums (C2)
  • rolling hills
  • an area of outstanding natural beauty
  • bracing walks (in cold weather)

Match the adjectives in bold above to the ideas they communicate below:

  1. doing this activity in the cold makes you feel alive and full of energy
  2. interesting, unusual and mysterious
  3. full of life, colour and energy
  4. describing geographic features – gentle, not extreme rises and falls in the landscape
  5. clearly better than what is normal

2.  Useful phrases for writing about places from the text about the Cotswolds

The text about the Cotswolds puts an emphasis on what visitors can do there if they visit at different times of the year.  It says that “every season has intrinsic appeal” and gives highlights for why each season is special in this place.  Try using the same sentence stems that appear in the text to give advice to potential visitors to your hometown or region; you could use things like activities you can do at these times of the year, special events that happen, or features of nature which are specific to the time of year:

  • Winters are ideal for…
  • Come in spring to see…
  • Visit in summer for…
  • Or make an autumn excursion for…

3.  Features text organisation in the section about Devon

Thinking about cohesion, the section about Devon highlights some simple techniques for organising ideas effectively in texts.  Just look at the structure given in this basic framework:

(Name of place)

_____ and _____, _____ and _____, _____ and _____ – holidays in (name of place) are  adjective ,   adjective  , and  adjective  .

Most people are drawn to _____, but _____ has its appeal too.

A visit here mixes two of life’s loveliest pleasures: _____ and _____.

Activity ideas:

  1. Look back at the original text about Devon for 1 minute (link to the article).  Switch back to this page with the framework above and try to complete it from memory.
  2. Use this framework as the basis for a short text about your hometown or region.
  3. Find examples of parallelism to bring cohesion to the text in the framework above.

*Notice how the word draw appears in this text.  We met it before as a noun in the section about Bath (“Shopping is a major draw”).  Here it’s a verb:

Most people are drawn to the magnificent beaches on the south and north coasts, but inland Devon has its appeal, too.



Filed under C1 - Advanced, C2 - Proficiency, Collocation Challenge

Collocation challenge: 18/2/15 – Top 10 places and cities to visit in England (Part 1)

Today’s collocation challenge is based on an authentic text published in the travel section of The Daily Telegraph (a UK newspaper).  It starts with some multiple-matching reading questions and goes on to start a series of posts which mine the text for interesting collocations and phrases that could be used in your own writing when describing places.

Let’s start with the reading exercise.

Part 1:  Reading

You’re going to read an article about the 10 best places and cities to visit in England.  For questions 1-10 below, choose from the places and cities mentioned in the text.  The places may be chosen more than once and there may be more than one possible answer to some of the questions.

Multiple-matching questions - Top 10:  Best places and cities to visit in England.

Multiple-matching questions – Top 10: Best places and cities to visit in England.

Click this link to visit The Daily Telegraph website with the text.

Once you’ve got answers to all or most of the questions, check your answers at the bottom of this post.

Part 2:  Language focus – collocations and useful phrases for describing places

This part of the post starts off a series of posts focusing on some collocations found in the text.  We’ll start with the section about Yorkshire and look at the other sections of the text over the next few days

1.  sheer + noun (C1 / C2)

When giving reasons why Yorkshire is worth visiting, the writer says that…

The sheer beauty of the county, sometimes as unexpected as a dilapidated mill chimney stabbing up through a leaden sky, has inspired generations of painters

What’s the effect of adding the adjective sheer in the collocation with beauty?  Does it emphasise or weaken the noun? What could you replace sheer with and still keep the meaning and effect the same?    

Check your ideas with the Cambridge Dictionary online entry for sheer 

2.  Useful phrases for writing about places

The section about Yorkshire has a few interesting phrases that you could adopt in your own descriptions of places:

Visitors flock to Yorkshire because there is no place on earth like God’s Own County…

Yorkshire boasts more Michelin-starred restaurants than anywhere else in the country

  • to flock to a place  – go or travel somewhere in large numbers
  • to boast – when people boast about something they usually talk about something they can do with a lot of pride – it’s usually considered a negative thing.  In the example here however, it is used to talk about something a place has that it deserves to be proud of.

Try to finish these sentence beginnings with your own ideas:

  • Visitors from northern Europe flock to the Mediterranean in summer because…
  • Tourists flock to my hometown to see/visit/experience…
  • A new 5 star hotel has been built in my hometown.  In addition to 2 swimming pools it boasts
  • The most famous museum I’ve ever been to boasts… …in its collection.   (What makes that museum really famous and special?)

Answers to the reading exercise questions:

  1. The writer says that the food which is available today in Bath is better than it once was: “Bath’s Achilles heel used to be used to be a surprising dearth of good, affordable places to eat. But that is no longer the case. The foodie transformation of a number of the city’s pubs over the past decade has been the most significant improvement.”  Achilles heel = weakness
  2. The writer mentions opportunities to buy locally produced food in the sections about Devon and Suffolk: “A visit here mixes two of life’s loveliest pleasures: good food and the great outdoors. Devon folk make the most of the rich larder of food on their doorstep. Lamb, venison, pheasant, pork and seafood are staples, and the county’s farmers’ markets are full of artisan producers selling delicious cider, apple juice, cheese and ice cream.” / “Wherever you are, you’re never far from a cosy, pamment-floored pub serving local ales or an excellent delicatessen selling the region’s specialities – pungent cheeses, smoked fish or honey.”
  3. In the text about Suffolk the writer talks about opportunities for nature lovers to see a diverse variety of animals? “Bird life is astonishingly rich… … while the unique wetlands of the Broads, one of England’s 10 designated National Parks, is home to more than 400 rare species, including butterflies, dragonflies, moths and snails.”  Wild animals (seals and sharks) are mentioned in the section about Cornwall but the writer doesn’t emphasise the variety of animals visitors can see.
  4. The sections on Brighton and London highlight the variety of things for visitors to do as major attractions. Brighton is praised for being a place where “you need never get bored” and a number of varying different attractions are listed as reasons why the city “caters for all tastes.”  Similarly, the diversity of activities available to visitors to London is emphasised:  “Restaurants, bars and theatres are buzzing and the range of events on offer – from sport to food pop-ups, from music festivals to theatre – is unbeatable. “
  5. The weather is mentioned in various texts. However, in the section about Norfolk the writer refers to “northerly and easterly winds” keeping “temperatures low” and goes on to say that “even on cold, bright days in winter, the beach car parks can be busy with dog-walkers and hikers” – hiking and dog walking can be considered “outdoor activities”.
  6. The section about The Lake District best matches the statement that “the area is associated with many artists and writers”: “The Lake District also has numerous artistic and literary connections, most famously William Wordsworth, who was born in Cockermouth in 1770 and drew much of his poetic inspiration from the surrounding landscape.”  A reference to only one writer, Jane Austen, is included in the section about Bath and in the sections about Yorkshire and Cornwall only artists are mentioned.
  7. Surfing is mentioned in the texts about Devon and Cornwall but in the section about Cornwall this water sport is said to “attract a number of visitors”: “Surfing is big draw, for all ages – bodyboarding too – and lessons are available on most north-coast beaches.”
  8. “The glorious, honey-coloured towns and villages of the Cotswolds look as if they have strayed into the 21st century from another era.” This description matches the statement that “places in this region look like they did in other periods of history.”
  9. The writer mentions the fact that “even in natural areas you can see signs of an industrial past” in the text about Yorkshire: “The sheer beauty of the county, sometimes as unexpected as a dilapidated mill chimney stabbing up through a leaden sky…”
  10. The advice that exploring the place on foot can bring you interesting surprises matches to the text about Brighton: “There’s always something unexpected to enjoy – the secret is to roam freely and keep your eyes peeled.”

Language notes for Part 2:  collocations and useful phrases for describing places

1.  sheer + noun  Sheer emphasises or intensifies the noun beauty, it could be substituted by complete or utter.  Nouns which frequently collocate with sheer include:

  • size
  • weight
  • volume
  • force
  • scale
  • joy
  • number
  • pleasure
  • delight
  • luck
  • quantity
  • chance
  • determination
  • coincidence
  • relief
  • frustration

2.  Useful phrases for writing about places – possible ways to end these sentences:

  • Visitors from northern Europe flock to the Mediterranean in summer because of the good weather / they are almost guaranteed sunshine.
  • Tourists flock to Coimbra to visit the historic university.
  • A new 5 star hotel has been built in my hometown.  In addition to 2 swimming pools it boasts an 18 hole golf course, a state of the art gym and 3 top restaurants.
  • The most famous museum I’ve ever been to boasts an amazing dinosaur skeleton in its collection.

You can continue exploring the language in this text by looking at Part 2 in this series of posts.


Filed under C1 - Advanced, C2 - Proficiency, Collocation Challenge

C1: Article – A Portuguese icon: Joana Vasconcelos

Students in our C1:  Advanced course recently wrote articles based on a well known representative of their country.  To kick start our series of articles about Portuguese icons, here’s what one student had to say about the artist Joana Vasconcelos…

Joana Vasconcelos, Portugal’s Rising Artist

Joana Vasconcelos is an acclaimed contemporary artist who has achieved global recognition for her innovative and peculiar work. She was born in Paris, in 1971, where her parents took refuge after coming from Mozambique. After the 25th of April Revolution, they moved to Lisbon, where they started living and working.

Her work is widely known for its eccentricity and unconventionality as she uses ordinary objects from everyone’s daily life and gives them a brand new meaning. Amongst her catalogue of work are remarkable sculptures such as shoe made of pots.  Colour and texture are also paramount in her art.

Her work has been shown in numerous places such as Japan, São Paulo, Moscow and Versailles, where she was the first and youngest female artist to present an exhibition. What is more, her exhibition in Palácio Nacional da Ajuda was also the most ever visited show in her native country.  Recognition of her art has also led to her having been awarded several prizes.

However, Joana Vasconcelos’ work tends to divide opinion because of how singular it is. No more so than in here in Portugal.  Portugal’s preference for what’s traditional and conventional explains why it took some time for Portuguese people to appreciate her work and why she first became famous in other countries.

Something that I admire about Vasconcelos is how she is able to share aspects of Portugal’s traditions with the world, but at the same time depict new elements in our society.  She does this due to the ease with which she is able to mix popular culture with what is, in a way, slightly more erudite. For example, the odd animals she creates out of crochet (the animals being what’s modern and the crochet what’s traditional). Even though it is sometimes hard for me to understand what she is trying to convey with her work I still find myself astonished at her vivid imagination.

Because of this, I believe she is not only one of the most influential artists in Portugal but also one of the most influential people in the country.

Want to know more about Joana Vasconcelos?  Here are a few links to videos that might be of interest.  The first includes an interview with the artist in English.

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Filed under Articles, C1 - Advanced, C1 - Cambridge English: Advanced, C1 - Cambridge English: Advanced