TOEFL Speaking Section Tips Questions 1-3

Are you taking the TOEFL soon and worried about the speaking section? The speaking section is usually the most difficult part for students. There are basically 6 types of questions on the test; this week we will talk about the first three.

Question One:  The first question is the the most open and usually the easiest for my students. It involves a question about something specific to you, such as “Describe your best friend” or “a person who has inspired you”. You have 45 seconds to respond . I usually tell my students that if they run out of things to say after describing the person or thing, think of a personal detail like “I remember this one time…” It’s a lot easier to describe something that actually happened and you will probably feel more comfortable saying that than something invented.

Question Two:  Question 2 is similar to question one but in this case it asks for an opinion. It is usually an either /or question such as “which do you prefer?”  You are giving your opinion here so it is ok to choose sides. That doesn’t mean you can’t mention the positives and negatives of both options, however. Just keep in mind you have to express your opinion in 45 seconds. 

Question Three:  In question 3 you will read a campus-related situation and then listen to a discussion about that same topic. The question will ask you to describe the opinion of the speaker and their reasons for holding that opinion. They want the speaker’s opinion, not yours. You are simply reporting what they say. The important thing here is your note-taking skills. Brief, concise notes listing the points made by the speaker are essential. You have 60 seconds to briefly describe the text (maybe one or two sentences) and then convey the students opinion (usually 2-3 points).  It’s a good idea to brush up on campus vocabulary as there are a lot of specific vocabulary words that are not commonly used outside of campus life.

The testing centers often use small cubicles in a large room so there may be many other students within your range of hearing to distract you during the speaking section. Try to practice in an environment where you do not have perfect silence so you are prepared. It also a good a idea to practice with a native speaker to correct you. We will discuss questions 4-6 in a couple of weeks,. In the meantime, if you want to take an english course in Palermo with a native speaker, come visit our Spanish school in Buenos Aires at LV Studio.

An Englishman’s struggles with language abroad

I started travelling late in 2009 and like a lot of Englishmen I had had very little experience with foreign languages, especially when compared to other Europeans. There isn’t an emphasis on learning languages in the UK like in other countries. Also, I would be lying if I said I didn´t have a slightly bullish attitude to foreign languages, in that I expected everyone else to speak enough English for me to get by. Travelling throughout India I found communication to be a mixed bag. Most people spoke good English in the southern states (it is the official language) but up north it was either very broken or nonexistent. Getting about wasn’t too hard but it was a shame that due to my lack of Hindi I couldn’t form proper friendships with a lot of the great Indians I met. taj

Last March my wife and I holidayed in Japan and it was the first time I came across such a definitive language barrier. The Japanese were wonderfully polite and you could see that they wanted to help when we asked or enquired, but such distinct and different cultures and languages really did stop any true connection through speaking to one another. As you can imagine there was plenty of body language and pointing from our end and plenty of awkward, polite smiles and bowing from theirs!

taj 2 An impression I got from experiencing India and Japan, to some degree, was that they didn’t expect foreign travelers to understand their languages. That didn’t make it any easier getting around, but there was an: “Ok, so I can’t understand you, you can’t understand me, let’s work this out the best we can” attitude that helped.

Coming to Argentina has been by far the biggest eye opener in the language stakes. My wife is Argentine but we never talk in Spanish and so I came to Argentina with very little Spanish vocabulary. I have been fortunate because my wife’s family all speak English well enough, but of course tend to talk Spanish when we are together socially. My bullish attitude of expecting everyone to speak English around me has been well and truly shot down!

I have so far struggled to pick up Spanish which has made it difficult at times. I get the impression that there is an expectation to know Spanish when you want to engage with Argentines (and rightly so!) and so understanding conversational Spanish is all the more important.taj 3

What I’ve learnt when on the road is that if you want to travel and just do the tourist traps then a limited understanding of that country’s language will get you by, just barely. But, just doing the tourist traps means that you are missing a big part of travelling. Going off the beaten track is how to experience a country’s true culture and people, and this requires you to put effort into learning their language.


Où voyager en Argentine ?

Dans sa longueur, l’Argentine s’étire sur 3 700 km !
Le pays est tres vaste, et les paysages y sont differents a chaque regions. Tout les coins de l’Argentine sont grandiose, et meritent d’etre visites.

Pour ceux qui doivent faire un choix de destination dans leur voyage, on vous detail les cinq grandes regions naturelles du territoire:


 Les Andes du Nord-Ouest, appelées NOA, s’opposent en tout point à la Pampa. Comprenant environ 15 % de la population, cette région, véritable choc culturel, marque la fin de l’Argentine européenne et des grandes plaines. Une population métissée et indienne, des petites villes coloniales, la grandiose Quebrada (vallée encaissée) de Humahuaca située à plus de 2 000 m d’altitude, des champs de cactus, des lamas, des montagnes aux camaïeux de rouge…

 La Patagonie est la plus vaste région du pays (30 % du territoire) mais aussi la moins peuplée (moins d’un habitant au kilomètre carré). Le détroit de Magellan sépare la Terre de Feu du continent. Paysages d’immensités, de plateaux battus par des vents secs et froids. On y trouve une faune d’une incroyable richesse (sans compter les moutons que l’on compte par milliers !) et Ushuaïa, la ville la plus australe du monde.


 La Pampa, immense plaine monotone de 600 000 km², soit plus de 20 % du territoire, est le centre économique du pays. C’est la région des bifes etchurrascos, ces succulentes viandes de bœuf cuites au gril ou au feu de bois. Dans la région de Córdoba, ces immenses plaines laissent place à une chaîne de montagnes (las Sierras de Córdoba).

 Les Andes centrales (Cuyo) sont la région qui possède les plus hauts sommets (Aconcagua), dont certains sont des volcans, et le plus de vignobles. Les grandes villes de cette zone sont Mendoza, San Juan et San Luis.





Les plaines du Nord-Est se caractérisent par de vastes zones de marécages et de savanes à l’ouest, et par la région humide et forestière des grands fleuves, Rio Parana et Rio Uruguay à l’est, que les Argentins appellent la Mésopotamie. La province de Misiones est connue pour ses ruines jésuites (notamment San Ignacio) et ses spectaculaires chutes d’Iguazú (voir photo). La forêt tropicale atlantique que l’on y trouvait a été réduite à une peau de chagrin.



Crowdsourcing New Language Skills with Memrise

Looking for a unique and fun way to learn new vocabulary? Memrise is an online learning tool that uses flashcards augmented with mnemonics partly gathered through crowdsourcing and the spacing effect to boost the speed and ease of learning.   memrise

It was founded by Ed Cooke, a Grand Master of Memory, and Greg Detre, a Princeton neuroscientist specializing in the science of memory and forgetting. It works like planting a seed and watering the plant until it has grown into a plant with flowers. After certain periods of time (working alongside the science of how our short, medium and long term memories work) you must water and harvest new seeds to keep learning new vocabulary. You can follow friends and see how they are getting on with their flowers and you gain points which puts you onto a leader board.

It is a great and fun way of learning a new language as well as learning
other things too!




¡Ojo con los gestos! – Dictionary of Porteños’ Gestures

Cuando nos comunicamos, no sólo usamos las palabras; también hacemos gestos que pueden tener tanto significado como lo que decimos. Algunos son universales (como por ejemplo el pulgar para arriba), otros significan diferentes cosas en diferentes lugares. Acá, te enseñamos algunos gestos muy útiles para entender a los porteños.

When we talk, we use more than just words. We also do gestures that can be as meaningful as the words we say. Some of them are universal (such us “thumbs up”), some others mean different things in different places.
People from Buenos Aires are known for “speaking with their hands”. You might feel that we are making senseless chaotic movements but many of them are very meaningful and clear among locals.
Here, some of them.



¡Ojo! – Be careful!/Watch out!
[Pull down your lower eyelid with your index finger.]



¡Ni la más pálida idea! – I don’t know./I have no clue.[The chin flick: tilt your head back a bit and sweep the back of your fingers forward from under your chin.]


¡Ma sí, andá (a cagar)! – Get outta here!
[Throw your arm back toward your head.]



Montoncito – What the hell are you talking about?!/Just who do you think you are? [Bring all of your fingers and your thumb together with your hand pointing upward. Move your hand up and down at the wrist.]



¡Hambre! – You’re totally in the dark, out of it. You don’t know what time it is. [Bite your lower lip with your upper teeth and say: “mmmh!”]




20 de enero: 5º aniversario de lvstudio palermo, nuestra segunda oficina!!

20 de enero: 5º aniversario de lvstudio palermo, nuestra segunda oficina!! (ENGLISH VERSION BELOW)
Gracias comunidad LV por apoyarnos. Ya pasaron 5 años de nuestra segunda oficina en Palermo y diez desde que comenzamos en Buenos Aires y vamos creciendo de a poquito, con paso firme. Ojalá que las metas de cada uno de uds. también se hayan cumplido, y que hayan logrado comunicarse en inglés, español, francés, o portugués en sus viajes de placer, de trabajo o exámenes!
Esperamos verlos nuevamente en algún evento de lvstudio o en clase! Até mais! Hasta pronto! See you soon! A bientôt!

January 20, 2013: 5th anniversary of lvstudio palermo, our second office!!
Thank you LV community for supporting us. It has been 5 years now since we opened our second office in Palermo, and 10 since we started, and we’ve grown little by little, at a steady pace. We sincerely wish that each of you have also fulfilled your goals, and have succeeded in communicating in English, Spanish, French, or Portuguese on your trips for pleasure, business, or on your exams!
We look forward to seeing you again soon at lvstudio or in class!
Até mais! Hasta pronto! See you soon! A bientôt!

lvstudio palermo, buenos aires: clases de inglés, clases de portugués, clases de francés con profesores nativos. Spanish lessons in Argentina

lvstudio palermo, buenos aires: clases de inglés, clases de portugués, clases de francés con profesores nativos. Spanish lessons in ARgentina