Performance and Appearance

My friends advised me change my performance, so I went to the salon, bought some new clothes and smart shoes. My friends agree that my performance is much better now.

Indonesian flag This looks like an Indonesian student trying to translate ‘penampilan‘!

  1. Appearance
    Before a clown goes on stage, he must first of all change his appearance. This usually involves changing clothes and applying makeup. When he goes on stage, the audience will laugh at the clown because he looks funny.
  2. Performance
    When the clown is on stage, the audience might also laugh at the clown because of his performance. For example he might walk in a funny way, or he might do funny things, like throw custard pies at people.

Notice also that appearance and performance have different meanings in their countable and uncountable forms:

  • appearance uncountable: clothing, makeup, grooming, etc.
  • appearance countable: Let’s say the clown goes on stage in London tonight, and in Jakarta tomorrow night. That’s two appearances.
  • performance uncountable: This is usually for machines, in particular cars. A high-performance car, for example a Ferrari, can move very fast.
  • performance countable: Let’s say the clown goes on stage in London tonight, and in Jakarta tomorrow night. That’s two performances.

You can see that in their countable forms, appearance and performance generally have the same meaning. However, you need to be careful with the uncountable forms of appearance and performance!

Indonesian flag Indonesians usually write performance when they mean appearance.

I’ll give you a text that features these different meanings. For each example, can you guess which meaning I’m using?

Clowns are not usually interested in the performance (1) of cars because that’s not funny. Instead they ride unicycles as part of their on-stage performances (2). They also change their physical appearance (3) before they go on stage to make sure they look funny. A travelling clown makes up to 100 appearances (4) a year in different locations.

Change in graphs, tables and charts

fast food 550

In 2015 sales of all 3 types of fast food increased dramatically.

This is a common error. Unfortunately there is no information about change in 2015, only from 2005 to 2015:

  • Between 2005 and 2015 sales of all 3 types of fast food increased dramatically.

If you are not specific about the time frame then your reporting of data will be inaccurate and you will receive a low score in IELTS for Task Achievement.

Before you write, decide exactly when the change happened and design a suitable time expression. These are the most commonly used:

  1. from time 1 to time 2
  2. between time 1 and time 2

X accounts for Y in IELTS Task 1

The number of students in 2001 was accounted 33,438 students.

This writer has learned, or noticed, that the word ‘account‘ is often used to describe numbers in IELTS Task 1 writing.

Well, that’s a step in the right direction, but he or she now needs to do some more noticing. And to speed up noticing, we need examples! Take a look at (print?) these examples. Then answer the following questions.

  1. What word nearly always follows accounts when accounts is a verb)? (answer)
  2. Answer: ‘Accounts’ is always followed by ‘for’.
  3. What kind of data always follows accounts for when accounts for is describing data? (answer)
  4. Answer: The data that follows ‘accounts for’ is a percentage.

Now that we know more about account (we have noticed more), we can see that the use of account in the opening example is inappropriate because the data being described is the wrong kind of data. We cannot use accounts for to  give an objective description of a number in a graph, table or chart.

We saw in the examples that accounts for is part of the structure:

Something accounts for something.

OR

accounts for Y.

Look at the pie chart below. Refer again to the examples and see if you can make a sentence about Firefox using accounts for. As you write, think also about the time frame and what tense you need to use. If you like what you’ve written, please add it as a comment below this post!

X accounts for Y

I love you because I love you

Yes, I like my job because it matches my education.

In IELTS you will often be required to express opinions about topics that you may not have thought about very deeply or discussed in daily conversation with friends. Not only do you have to give opinions, you also have to give reasoned support for these opinions.

The opening statement can be expressed:

Claim: I like my job.
Support: My job matches my education.

Fine. But let’s say you studied chemistry at university and you now work as a chemist. Then you could say:

  • I like working as a chemist because I studied chemistry at university.

OR

  • I studied chemistry at university because I wanted to work as a chemist.

But then it is possible to say:

  • I enjoy working as a chemist because I studied chemistry at university because I wanted to be a chemist because I was studying chemistry because I wanted to be a chemist.

This is known as a circular argument. You say you like your job, and since you chose to study chemistry, we assume that you like that, too. So we still don’t know why you like chemistry (your job)! You might as well say “I like it because I like it!

circular argument

There are much better reasons why a person might like their job:

  • the job pays a good salary
  • the job involves travelling (which you enjoy)
  • the job involves meeting interesting people
  • the job presents opportunities for career development
  • the workplace is situated conveniently close to your home
  • (other reasons here)

So, when you’re preparing for IELTS, think – more deeply than usual – about the things you like (or don’t like). And then think about why you like (or don’t like) them.

Let’s practice right now. Here is a list of things people either like or don’t like. Choose one item and add a comment below, saying why you either like or don’t like the item. Try to give two reasons, and avoid those circular arguments!

  • travelling
  • shopping
  • reading
  • listening to music
  • preparing for IELTS

Stating subjects in IELTS Task 1

Americans rose steadily, while Indonesians fell dramatically.

Well, maybe. Something like this?

USD_IDR

With a sentence like the one above you are unlikely to communicate anything meaningful about a graph, table or chart. If there was a rise or a fall, then you need to state precisely what it was that rose and what it was that fell – What is the subject?

For example:

divorce rate

  • The divorce rate in America rose steadily, while the divorce rate in Indonesia fell dramatically.

Here there are 2 subjects:

  1. the divorce rate in America
  2. the divorce rate in Indonesia

Some of you will complain about the repetition in this sentence (‘the divorce rate‘). However, it’s better to repeat words and phrases and communicate something meaningful than to avoid repetition and communicate nothing.

Actually in this example repetition can be avoided:

  • The divorce rate in America rose steadily, while that in Indonesia fell dramatically.

* Many thanks to Diro, Nando and Ari for the ‘falling Indonesians’ photo – You guys rock! 🙂

Used to using ‘used to’

I’m not used to invite visitors to my house.

Used to‘ can have more than one meaning:

  1. I used to invite visitors to my house. (= I don’t invite them any more.)
  2. I’m not used to inviting visitors to my house. (= I don’t do it very often.)

If you’re talking about something you did regularly in the past, but don’t do now:

used to + V1

On the other hand if you’re talking about an activity that you don’t do very often and as a result find difficult or awkward:

used to ___ing

Let’s contrast these meanings one more time:

  • When Europeans visit Bali and eat in a restaurant, the staff assume that these visitors do not want to eat spicy food because Europeans are not used to eating spicy food.
  • On the other hand I have a Balinese friend who used to eat spicy food but had to stop because he developed stomach ulcers.

Ouch!

When ‘s’ is not enough

When you add an ‘s’ to some spoken words, you may need to do more than simply add ‘s’. Sometimes you have to add ‘Iz’, instead.

This happens to words that in their normal form end with these sounds:

/s/ – /ʃ/ – /ʧ/ – /ʤ/

  • box (/bɒks/) becomes boxes (/bɒksɪz/)
  • wash (/wɒʃ/) becomes washes (/wɒʃɪz/)
  • church (/ʧɜ:ʧ/) becomes churches (/ʧɜ:ʧɪz/)
  • language (/læŋwɪʤɪ/) becomes languages (/læŋwɪʤɪz/)

Try reading the following sentences aloud!

  • Bosses sit in offices filling pages with percentages.
  • Boxes, faxes and packages are all sent by businesses.
  • Nurses apply bandages and cure viruses.
  • Sausages and sauces stay fresh in fridges.
  • Witches make sandwiches from leeches and eyelashes.
  • An artist mixes paint and brushes it onto canvases.
  • Oranges grow on branches in the gardens of cottages.
  • Men who repair watches wear glasses with thick lenses.
  • People enter races to win prizes.
  • Foxes hide in bushes to avoid surprises.
  • People of both sexes sunbathe on beaches.
  • Birds in cages face disadvantages.
  • Noses of all shapes and sizes detect gases emerging from ashes.
  • When he’s away, he misses her kisses.
  • Students in colleges follow classes in the sciences. They write sentences using tenses in different languages.
  • People buy cars from garages, then drive inches from the edges of bridges.
  • Musicians of all ages appear on stages.
  • My friend washes dishes to earn wages and pay taxes.

Below is a recording of these statements made by a native English speaker.

Listen, pause, repeat. Try to sound like the speaker in the recording, especially at word endings – /Iz/!

Nothing ‘needs’ high cost

Studying abroad needs high cost!

Indonesian flag This one does not translate directly from Indonesian. In fact the meaning changes dramatically!

In English if you say something ‘needs high cost‘ then you are saying:

  • It is better if this thing is expensive!
  • If it is not expensive I’m not interested!
  • Indonesian flag I am ‘gengsi’!

This is like the king who is building a palace that is bigger and better than all of the other palaces owned by all of the other kings.

High cost‘ is used in English as part of a longer noun phrase:

  • the high cost of living
  • high cost housing
  • cheap clothing’s high cost

The preposition phrase (‘of blah blah’) is probably the most common:

  • the high cost of studying abroad

If you are writing about the cost of studying abroad then you might say:

  • The high cost of studying abroad needs to be taken into consideration. Studying abroad is expensive.

The price is expensive (2)

The price of natural pearls is more expensive than the price of man made pearls.

Indonesian flag This is an Indonesian student translating ‘harganya mahal‘!

We see what you mean. But in IELTS if you want a better score for vocabulary (LR)1, and if you want to be more accurate with meaning (FC, TA, TR, CC)1, then you need better collocation (LR)1.

First of all ‘price‘ can be ‘high‘ or ‘low‘:

  • The price of natural pearls is higher than the price of man made pearls.

Products and services, meanwhile, can be ‘cheap’ or ‘expensive’:

  • Natural pearls are more expensive than man made pearls.

We can use the same collocation to talk about this bottle of wine:

price

  • Penfolds Grange Hermitage 1951 is very expensive. Only a rich person can afford to pay such a high price for wine!

If you say the price is expensive, strictly speaking you are saying that a sequence of numbers (in this case $38,420) is expensive! The wine is expensive, not the numbers!

Here’s a song illustrating common collocations involving ‘price’.

(See IELTS public band descriptors)