Sunday, April 17, 2011

A gift that you presented


Do you have a small or large family?

My family is a very small one.  I have my wife and daughter.  My wife is a nurse and daughter is studying in high school.

In fact, I have a large family.  Both my parents are alive.  My father is engaged in agriculture.  My mother is a housewife.  I have two elder brothers, who are working.  The eldest one is married and stays with my family.  The younger one is working in Bangalore as a software engineer.   I also have a younger brother, who is studying in school.

How much time do you spend with your family?

Whenever I am at home, I try to spend a few hours with my family.  Since I have a lot to study these days, they let me alone most of the time.  I usually have food together with my family.  We spend some time watching television together, especially in the evenings.  We also pray together.

Since I stay away from home, it is only during holidays that I can be with my family.  Whenever I am at home I make it a point, to be with the members of my family.  We sometimes go for a trip or eat out often.  I really love being with them.  I always cherish the memories of childhood, when I was always at home.

What things do you do together?

There are a lot of things that we do together.   One of the important things that we do as a group is to cook, especially during the weekends, when I have a lot of free time.  We also do our gardening together, watering, manuring and weeding the plants.  Another important activity that we do is to pray in the evenings.  Apart from that, we shop together and go to the movie together.

Language Learning

Let us talk about learning English.
How long have you been learning English?
Where did you learn?
What is easy / difficult?
Is English important in your job?

I have been learning English ever since I was about 10 years old, when I was studying in my fifth grade.  I learned the alphabets and basic words at that time.  I studies in a vernacular medium school, but English was a subject throughout my school years.  I did not take English very seriously during my school days, and I scored comparatively poor marks for it.  Well, English was the hardest subject for me; and to be frank, I hated this subject at that time.  One of the reasons that I did not like English was that we did not have any good teachers. 

It was after I joined college, I started studying English seriously.  I had a wonderful English teacher who laid a sound foundation in English grammar.  Since then, I started loving this subject and started reading books in English.  Now I am in my forties and the more I study English the better I love it. 

Since I am an English teacher, I need to improve my English all the time, learning new vocabulary and reading more and more books.  I make sure that I update my knowledge of English all the time.

A gift that you presented
What the gift was
What the occasion was
Whom you gave it to
Why this gift was very special

My youngest brother was getting married and I wanted to give him a special gift.  A couple of days before the marriage my wife and I went to Ernakulam for some shopping.  As we were about to return we just went to my favourite store, ‘Wills Life Store’.  In fact, this particular shop has the trendiest and the most fashionable clothes for both men and women.  I had the gift in my mind when I went into the shop.  After spending a few minutes in the store I spotted an off-white linen casual shirt.  It was a designer wear and I put it on, to see how it looked.  My wife said, it was one of the best shirt that I had ever bought.  I was very happy.  It was an expensive shirt but it gave me a great sense of satisfaction.

On the eve of the wedding we had a party and my brother put this shirt on.  Everybody was very appreciative of the shirt and my brother was very happy about it. 

This gift was very special to me because I really liked the colour, material and the design of the shirt.  Apart from that, it was first gift that I ever presented to my youngest brother.  I was extremely happy that he really liked the shirt.  It was the right occasion that I gave him this present. 


Would you like to receive the same kind of gift yourself?

I definitely would like to receive the same kind of a gift.  The reason is that I love good clothes, especially linen shirts.  For example, two of my brothers work abroad and when they come to India, they present me shirts.  I always look forward to it.

What are the positive/negative aspects of giving and receiving gifts?

Giving and receiving gifts have both advantages and disadvantages.  On the one hand, it is an expression of one’s love or appreciation for someone.  It can strengthen relationships.  It can also create a good feeling in the minds of people. 

On the other hand, giving and receiving today has become a commercial activity.  Sometimes we are forced give and receive gifts.  A lot of time and money is involved in buying gifts.  For example, if someone calls you for a birthday, you are compelled to give a gift.  Sometimes, it can become a burden on your budget.

What are the different types of gifts that women, men and children would like to receive?

Women are usually fond of ornaments and clothes.  They also like to receive household appliances and handicrafts.  For special occasions like birthdays they receive a lot of such gifts. 

Children are usually attracted to toys and dolls.  They love chocolates and sweets too. 

What changes have taken place in giving and receiving gifts in the last 50 years?

A number of changes have taken place in the way people give and receive gifts, over the last 50 years.  In the olden days gifts were not very common and it was exchanged only during rare occasions like marriages and housewarming.  Today, giving and receiving gifts has become a very frequent affair.  Exchanging gifts has become very common on a number of occasions like birthdays, anniversaries and success in an exam. 

Whose gifts do you treasure most?

I treasure the gifts of my loved ones.  For instance, I always cherish the gifts that my wife has given me.  In fact, she gives them to me with great love.  I greatly value gifts from my parents too.  Gifts from close friends or colleagues also can give me great pleasure.

What may be the type of gifts that children will receive in future?

I think we should wait to see the type of gifts that children will receive in the future.  If I make a guess, I think, mostly it will be electronic gadgets or games.  They are also likely to receive a lot of good chocolates. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A gift or article your treasure most

1.     Where do you come from?

I am from a small and beautiful town called Athirampuzha.  In fact, this place is in the district of Kottayam in central Kerala. 

2.     What kind of place is it?

Basically, it is a trading place.  People from the surrounding areas come to my place to buy vegetables, fish and grocery.  We have a large pool in the heart of the town which is connected to other places by a network of canals.  When I was a small boy, water transport was very popular and country boats would come in large numbers for trading purposes.  It was wonderful to see trading boats crowd in the large body of water for loading and unloading goods.  But today, you can hardly see any water transport and such boats have disappeared for ever, and large trucks have replaced them.

3.     What would you suggest a visitor your hometown should see or do?

It is difficult to suggest a particular place, but I think, the pool and the canals are an interesting site. You can also go for a boating through the canal.  On your way you have beautiful paddy fields, on either side.  Another important place that a visitor can see is our church which was built a few centuries ago.  It has got an ancient alter ornamented with wooden carvings of saints and angels.  Another attraction is a large church bell, which was imported from Germany in the 18th century.  There is also a famous Siva Temple in our neighbouring town of Ettumanoor.  This is a well-known pilgrim centre.

4.     What is the most interesting part of your home area?

Again, I would say it is the pool.  Most of the activities of the town take place around this area.  There is a fish market on one side and a vegetable market on the other.  Especially on market days, that is Mondays and Thursdays, the whole place is full of activity.

5.     What kind of jobs do the people in your town/village do?

Although it is basically a trading place, majority of people are not engaged in business.  My town is thickly populated and the people are quite educated.  So many of them have jobs, especially in the district headquarters of Kottayam, either in the government or private sector.  There are teachers, lawyers, nurses, doctors and other professionals.  A few of them are also engaged in agricultural activities.  Certainly, there are a number of businessmen as well.

1.     A gift or article your treasure most

What the article was
Where you got it
How you preserve it
Why it is very precious to you

Something that I treasure most is my IBM laptop, which was not actually a gift.  Although it is quiet old it never had any serious technical problems, except a few software crashes, ever since I bought it about 8 years ago. 

Well, I bought it from a friend of mine who has a computer business.  He suggested the brand and I think I made the right choice by buying an IBM lap top.  Technically, the components of my computer are of very superior quality and therefore, in spite of my constant use, I have never changed any parts.

Although I have a leather laptop container, I rarely use it now.  I used to put it in a leather bag initially, but later, due to my laziness, I just leave it on my study table.  Sometimes it gathers a lot dust and occasionally I wipe it with a towel.  I would say my laptop is very untidily kept but by God’s grace it keeps working.

My laptop is very precious to me because I type my notes in it and use it for presentations in my class and meetings.  Sometimes I watch movies in it.  I also have stored a lot of data and personal information in my computer.  After my office hours I spend long hours in front of my computer either browsing the net or studying.


1. Do you think if people have become more or less materialistic in the last 25 years?

What I feel is, people’s attitude towards material things have not changed over the last 25 years.   The only difference is that today we have greater access to comforts and luxuries unlike in the past, and we have enough money to buy them and so we enjoy them. For this reason, many people tend to say that materialism is on the increase.  Actually, that is not the case.  If people in the past had access to such things and if they had as much money as we have today, they would have definitely enjoyed luxuries.  The only difference is the economic progress that we have made.  The attitude towards materialism remains the same always.

I feel that people have definitely become more materialistic during the last 25 years.  Formerly, comforts and luxuries were not available to people as much as we have today.  May be, people were little more idealistic and they had better human relationships.  Especially in rural communities, you know, people maintained traditional values in families and social life.  Whereas, today the situation has changed.  Urbanisation has forced people to be more individualistic and achievement oriented.  Material achievement has become a major purpose in life and therefore, I think, other values of life have taken a back seat.

2. What kind of gifts children usually like?

Children usually like chocolates, toys and electronic games.  You know, for example, if you go to a shop with your children, you will see them running to the toy corner or the chocolate rack.  These days, a lot of children have a great liking towards electronic games.  There are many children who like, cartoons and story books too.  So when if you plan to give a gift to a child next time, think of these things.

3. What kinds of things give a sense of prestige to people today?

From my personal experience, I feel, material possessions can give a great deal of prestige to people today.  For example, if you have a luxurious car or a beautifully designed house it can give you a sense of pride.  Another important criterion for prestige is political power at different levels, which can make you popular and accepted by the society.  Superior positions in government services can also definitely give you prominence in the society.  What I mean is, senior police officers, judges and similar officials have great prestige in the society.  Apart from that, superior education can give you a lot of honour among people.  Certain professionals like doctors, engineers and teachers are respected in the society.

4. What kind of things were status symbols in your grandfather’s time?

Although I am not very sure, money and other material possessions were status symbols even in my grandparents’ time.  I think, people who had a lot of land were considered honourable in the society.  Superior education and political power were also considered status symbols at that time.  I believe, basically, the status symbols people of all ages are generally the same.

5. What kind of things are women usually attracted to?

Women are generally fond of good clothes and ornaments.  If you go to a textile store or jewellery shop the majority of the shoppers are usually women.  This means that there is a certain vanity in women and they love to flaunt their beauty.  They are also attracted to cosmetics.  Many women buy a lot of house hold appliances and crockery.

6. Do you think people purchase a lot of things for prestige and not because of genuine need?

Certainly, today if you have money to spare, you certainly buy things that can show off your wealth.  Although you may not need such luxurious items, you buy them because you want others to look upon you.  For example, one of the considerations for many people, when they choose a car, is whether a particular car is used by the elite in the society.    Or, even if the family is a small one, people build huge houses and many of the rooms are unused for years.  Prestige is a serious consideration for many people these days.

7. What will be the kind of things that will give a sense of prestige to people in future?

Even in the future wealth will be major determining factor that will a sense of prestige to people.  Education, the expertise in technology and communication abilities also will give a sense of pride to people.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Speaking 003 (The sports you enjoy)

Speaking 003 (The sports you enjoy)

Part 1

Traffic where you live

How do most people travel to work where you live?
Most people in my place travel to work using public transport system.  We have both government and private bus services that are very efficient and frequent. The bus fares are also quiet moderate, and that makes it the favourite mode of travel for ordinary people to go to work.  People, who go to longer distances to work, usually make use of trains.  We have a number of short distance trains, which are very inexpensive.  A lot of people also have their own private vehicles to go to work.  Most young people have their own motor bikes.  The more affluent go to work by car. 

What traffic problems are there in your area?
Traffic problems are quite frequent in my area, especially during the peak hours of morning and evening, when people travel to work or study and back.  Many roads are very narrow and cannot hold the increasing traffic volume at a time.  So traffic moves at a snail’s pace, especially during the rush hours.  There are also a lot of puddles on the roads especially during the rainy season and manoeuvring them would further slow the traffic down.   There are constant repairs on the roads which are both slow and ineffective and traffic is often diverted through narrower roads making the situation still worse.

How do traffic problems affect you?
Traffic problems affect me very badly.  I need to reach work on time and very often the unexpected traffic snarls and jams do not let me do it.  I have made it a point that I start a bit earlier from home, so that these unexpected delays do not affect me much.  Another problem is that driving in high gear in the traffic jam, exhausts your fuel tank very fast.

How would you reduce the traffic problems in your area?
The first thing that the government should do is to widen the roads with immediate effect and that can definitely reduce the problem tremendously.  Another area that the authorities can look into is to engage a big company to construct roads that can last for a longer period of time.   It would definitely reduce the constant repairs on roads.  People also should be made to obey traffic rules very strictly.

Part 2

Describe a game or sport you enjoy playing.

You should day:
What kind of game or sport it is
Who you play it with
Where you play it
And explain why you enjoy playing it. 

In fact I don’t play any games at the moment, because I don’t have the time or opportunity for it.  It is very difficult for you to play a game once you get out of your school or college.  There are very few playgrounds for the public in our area.

May be, I will talk about the game I played when I was in college.  I was very interested in soccer, and I played in the forward line.  It was usually played in the evening when the sun was not very warm and that preserved a lot of your energy.  I hope you know that football requires a great deal of running and if it is very hot your steam will run out fast. 

I usually played with my college mates.  We would break into two teams and sometimes the numbers would vary from seven to twelve, depending on the number of people who were interested in playing the game.  It always used to be great fun to play with your mates in a very friendly atmosphere.  Since everybody knew each other there were hardly any hard tackling or rough play.  Everybody enjoyed the spirit of the game.

We played in the football ground, just in front of our college.  It was quite a big ground and so we had to run around a lot, but that gave us a lot of physical fitness.

I enjoyed playing soccer because there was a thrill in scoring goals and winning.  You kept improving with every game and that gave you a great deal of motivation and competitive spirit.  Even during the day, when you were not playing you kept thinking about the game.  So it was great fun and I always waited for the evenings to play soccer.

Discussion topics:

Children’s games

How have games changed from the time when you were a child?
Games have changed tremendously over the years.  When we were children the standard of the game or the players was not as good as it is today.  Moreover, newer rules have been introduced to make it more appealing to television audiences.  I think the speed of the game has considerably increased.  There is much more money in sports and games today, so more and more young people are interested in making it a full time career.  That was not the case when I was a child.

Do you think this has been a positive change? Why?
Yes, it has definitely been a positive change in all ways.  Games have become more popular and players get much better rewards.  Televised games have made it possible for people to watch games in the comfort of their homes rather than going to a stadium.  Watching games has become a very easy affair.  Overall, the standard of the game has improved.

Why do you think children like playing games?
Children are physically very active and you can’t keep them idle for a long time.  They always like to be with their friends, playing some games.  Psychologically, at their age they can’t think of engaging in a serious activity for a long time.  Playing games would occupy them time in a very effective way; otherwise they are going to create some mischief at home.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Speaking 002 (Healthy Lifestyle)

Part 1

Musical Instruments

Which instrument do you like listening to most? (Why?)
My favourite musical instrument is the flute.  (I love listening to the flute, the most).  I have always wondered why I like flute.  May be, it is because of its simplicity or because of it sweet sound.  Flute has a very soothing music and it goes directly into your heart.  I think it is very easy to learn flute, but I am not sure.  Anyway, I like it.

Have you ever learned to play a musical instrument?
Not really, I don’t think I have the talent for it.  So I have not seriously tried.  When I was small, I just used to play with the harmonium, but actually, I could never play any proper notes.  Even now, I love to press the keys of the electric keyboard and I like to hear the sound.  But I have never learned to play any musical instrument.

Yes I play the keyboard.  I started leaning it at a very early age.  My mother bought me a toy piano when I was a small kid.  I started playing it on my own.  Later, I went to a music school, where I leaned to play the electric organ.  Now I play it quiet well.

Do you think children should learn to play a musical instrument?

It is good in one way.  As children, you have the time and interest in learning a musical instrument.  In think learning a musical instrument can give a lot of confidence to children.  They will learn to perform before other people.  They can be proud of the fact that they know how to play a musical instrument.  It is the best way to know whether a child had the taste for it.  However, we should not force a child into it, especially if he doesn’t have the talent for it.

No I don’t think children should learn a musical instrument.  It is the time for them to play and enjoy games.  Playing a music instrument is a very serious job.  It requires a lot of patience and discipline.  So I think it is better not to force children into it at an early age.  If they have the taste and talent they will learn it later.

How easy would it be to learn to play an instrument without a teacher?

I think, it is not easy to learn a musical instrument without the help of a teacher, because you have no one to clear your doubts.  Not only that, you can never learn it, systematically.  There are people who learn musical instruments like guitar with the help of a book or through the internet.  But, I don’t think you go can very far, in this way.

Why not!  There are a lot of people who learn musical instruments without the help of a teacher.  You can get books and lessons from the internet.  The advantage is that you can learn at your own pace and convenience.  Then why go for a teacher.

Part 2

Describe something healthy you enjoy doing

You should say:
What you do
Where you do it
Who you do it with
And explain why you think doing this is healthy.

Playing sports, cycling, exercising

I have been playing badminton for the last few years.  This is something that I really enjoy.  When I started I wasn’t a good player.  Over the years I have improved tremendously.  Every day I wait for the evening to play badminton. 

I play it in our college campus.  We have an indoor court and so the wind doesn’t disturb our game. 

I play with my colleagues at work.  There are about 6 to 8 people who play regularly and if you don’t reach the court in time, you don’t get to play the first game.  After a game is over, usually the losers have to give chance to the other players, who wait outside. 

I think this has definitely kept me fit.  I have lost about 6 kilos in the last 2 years, just because I play this game.  I have no other exercise and I don’t need any.  I can eat anything I like and I can burn my extra calories in the game.  Now my body has become very flexible and I have improved my stamina.  My movements have become easy and my body is much more flexible now.  I can even run up steps without panting.  My cholesterol and blood sugar levels are much lower than before.  So this is something healthy that I enjoy doing.

Part 3

Keeping fit and healthy

What do most people do to keep fit your country?
Most people, in my country do some kind of manual labour and that keeps them fit.  They don’t need any other exercise.  The farmers work in the field and there are a lot of people who work in constructions and similar manual jobs.  The middleclass white collar workers and the rich people are also very health conscious and do regular exercises like jogging, walking in the morning or playing some games. There are some people who work out in gyms to keep themselves fit.

The most common exercise, that people in my country do, to keep themselves fit, is to go for a walk.  If you get up early in the morning and look at the streets, especially in cities, you can see a lot of people walking by the side of the road.  There are also a lot of evening walkers as well.  Some jog or cycle or do some exercise or play some games.  There are a lot of people who visit gyms to be fit.  Yoga is another popular exercise that people are interested in.

How important is it for people to do some regular physical exercise?
It is extremely important for people to engage in some kind of regular exercise, especially after 30 or 35.  Otherwise we will be prone to common lifestyle diseases like, high blood sugar or blood pressure.  Heart ailments are very common among people who have no physical exercise.  Regular exercise can give your body a lot of immunity against such diseases.  It can burn your extra fat that causes all these ailments.  So, regular exercise is essential for people to keep themselves fit.

Health and modern lifestyles

Why do some people think that modern lifestyles are not healthy?
See, people have a valid reason for thinking so.  People today love comfort and luxury and they want to satisfy their appetites at any cost.  Rather than cooking at home, they love to eat out, at restaurants and fast food joints.  Fast food may be tasty but contains a lot of fat that is not good for health.  Previously people used to walk or engage in some kind of manual work.  That is not the case today.  Personal vehicles and modern devices have made their life easy and people have great aversion towards sweating their body.  This lifestyle naturally invites diseases.

Why do some people choose to lead unhealthy lives?
The simple answer is laziness.  Today many people do not have the discipline to lead a healthy life.  They love comfort and convenience in everything that they do.  In fact, they don’t realise that their comfort and luxury are going to end soon.  They need to face the reality sooner than later. 

Should individuals or governments be responsible for making people lifestyles healthy?
It is the individuals themselves who are responsible for making their lifestyles healthy.  It is one’s personal freedom to lead a healthy lifestyle.  Government has nothing to do with it.  No government can interfere into such personal affairs.  Government can’t ask people to eat this or that.  The only thing that government can do is to spread awareness about this issue.  Nothing more than that.

What could be done to encourage people to live in a healthy way?
The best way to encourage people to live in a healthy way is to spread awareness about the consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle.  This can be done through the media like television and newspapers.  At an early age, children should be given education about the importance of a healthy lifestyle.  It should also be included in the curriculum.  Moreover, sports should be made compulsory in schools.  Another effective way is to give gym and sports facilities in factories and offices.