Describe a time when you heard a stranger talking over the phone (IELTS Cue Card May to Aug 2019)
Describe a time you heard a stranger talking on the phone in a public place
You should say:
Where it happened
When it was
What the stranger was talking about
And explain how you felt about it
A N S W E R
Let me tell you about my experience last week when I waited for a bus at the bus station in our city. I sat on the bench in the waiting area and read an e-book to kill time. The place was quiet as most people were busy doing something on their smartphones until an old man who was next to me broke the silence. His wheezy voice made me glance at him as I felt curious. His voice reminded me of my grandpa who was a chain-smoker and eventually succumbed to death because of lung cancer.
Bench [noun] – a long seat for several people
Kill time [idiom] – to engage in an activity in order to make time passes quickly
Wheezy [adj.] – has difficulty in breathing
Glance [verb] – to look quickly
Chain-smoker [noun] – refers to a person who smokes one after another
Succumb to death [expression] – to die
i.) The speaker opened his story by describing the situation he was in first. He did not immediately jump in to talking about what the stranger was talking about. This is a very good introduction as he made the examiner visualize the situation.
Anyway, I didn’t have any intention to eavesdrop but I couldn’t help myself listening to the conversation he had on the phone since I was kind of distracted by his voice. He was like catching his breath while talking to that person on the other line and because of him my memories of my grandpa when he was suffering from emphysema relived.
Eavesdrop [verb] – to listen secretly
Can’t help myself [phrase] – can’t stop myself
Emphysema [noun] – a condition in which the lungs are damaged that results in difficulty in breathing
Relive [verb] – live through again in one’s memory
i.) The speaker then transitioned by saying he didn’t have the intention to listen to the stranger’s conversation. And in order to make his story more interesting, he added his memory or experience with his grandpa. In that way, he’s able to make his story coherent.
At that time, I couldn’t concentrate on reading since my conscious mind was drawn to him. I believe he was talking to his wife since he uttered dear. I think it was their endearment. I was all ears then and learned more about their conversation. From what I understood based on their talk, that old man visited his son in the city by himself. He narrated how his son’s life had become – being too busy because of the recent job promotion. I could feel how proud he was of his son’s achievement since he was smiling every now and again and his tone of voice expressed delight.
Utter [verb] – to say
Endearment [noun] – a word or phrase to express love or affection
All ears [phrase] – ready and eager to listen
Narrate [verb] – tell
Delight [noun] – happiness
i.) On this part, the speaker started giving details about what the stranger was talking about. This is the answer to what is being asked in the cue card. Also, notice the words he used and how developed his ideas. Everything’s organized.
To make a long story short, I realized how we sometimes neglect our parents because of our busy days at work and that we don’t realize that we’re no longer spending more time with them. I was taken aback that a simple conversation from a stranger made me learn a valuable lesson in life.
To make a long story short [expression] – used to skip unnecessary details of the story and focus on what is important
Neglect [verb] – fail to care; abandon
Taken aback [phrase] – surprise
i.) On this part, the speaker ended his story by giving his realization. This is a very good way to end the story – expressing his feelings about the situation. A very good ending!
PART 3 (Follow-ups)
Why do you think there are some people who talk loudly in public transport?
I suppose there are two reasons for that. First, they simply want the person they are talking to, to hear them clearly. As we know, when we are on a bus or a train, it is oftentimes noisy because of the engine or the movement of the vehicle that sometimes produces the hissing sound. This makes people become loud unconsciously.
The second reason is culture. Some foreign people naturally speak loudly as it is part of their identity. For instance, some Chinese people are construed as loud by other foreigners whenever they answer the call or when they are just simply talking, however, it is who they are as it is just the way they behave and that action is part of their culture, and I see nothing wrong with that. These for me are the reasons why some people talk so loud even when they are in a public transport.
I suppose [expression] – another way to say ‘I think’, ‘I assume’
Hiss [noun] [verb] – produce a sharp sound
Construe [verb] – understand; interpret
i.) The speaker was very direct to the point. He really knew what he wanted to say and immediately said two reasons. When you say like this, make sure that you can really give two reasons because some students tend to forget and only give one reason. So pay attention to what you always say during the exam.
ii.) The way the speaker explained each reason was very realistic. It is always easy to explain when you relate the topic or the question to your experience or to what you observe in the society.
Do you think people behave badly to strangers?
It all depends on the person, some people enjoy talking to strangers. They treat strangers as normal people – people without any ulterior motive as opposed to what the conventional belief by other people that we should never talk to strangers . Well, those people who have personal biases about strangers may or will behave badly to them. For me, those kind of people are close-minded and they close the doors on the possibility of meeting great people from strangers.
Ulterior motive [noun] – a secret reason; if you say that a stranger has an ulterior motive, it means he has a bad intention to someone
Conventional [adj.] – traditional
Bias [noun] – prejudice; unfairness
Close-minded [adj.] – to have a narrow outlook
Close the doors on [idiom] – to make something impossible
i.) The speaker explained well his answer saying that it did depend on each person’s view or personality. Also he used some good vocabulary words that help him explain his argument in a clearer way. Also, he ended his answer with a very good conclusive statement on what people miss when they behave badly to strangers.
What can be done to people whose behavior is bad? Should you ignore it or should they be told about it?
Well, if someone’s behavior is completely unacceptable such as being racist, then it is imperative to act on it. For me, no one deserves to be treated in an ill-mannered way as we are all humans – we all want to be treated the way we want to.
However, if people are just being arrogant or snobbish, I think the best thing to do is to never care at all. I always believe that we should never be stressed out to things that are trivial since there are more important things that give value to our lives. And those are the things that we should invest our time and energy, not to worthless things.
Racist [adj.] [noun] – to show or feeling discrimination
Imperative [adj.] – crucial; very important
Act on [phrasal verb] – to take an action
Ill-mannered [adj.] – having bad manners; rude
Snobbish [adj.] – describes a person who has the feeling of being superior over those from those low status
Stressed out [phrasal verb] – the feeling of being anxious or very worried
Trivial [adj.] – unimportant; petty
i.) The speaker developed his answer in two categories: first talking about extremely bad behavior and the not-so-bad attitude. He then explained each of them in a more realistic way and ended his answer by stating that people should focus on things that mattered most. Brilliant!
Is it bad to talk on the phone in public places?
Not at all, I do not see any problem with that because every now and again we receive calls from someone and some of them are urgent that need to be answered at once. Also, it is everybody’s right to talk on the phone wherever they are.
However, I believe everyone should be aware of courtesy, which means, everyone needs to consider the people around them when answering calls. They need to make sure that they act decently in order not to disturb others and so as not to be construed as rude.
So as long as you have the right attitude towards answering calls in public, then calling or talking to someone on the phone is not an issue at all.
Every now and again [phrase] – occasionally
Urgent [adj.] – emergency; vital; important
At once [phrase] – immediately
Courtesy [noun] – good manners; politeness
Decent [adj.] – acceptable; respectable
i.) The speaker gave a direct negative answer ‘Not at all’ (use this as an alternative of ‘No’) and explained his argument thoroughly.
ii.) He then transitioned (using ‘however’), talking about the right attitude when talking to someone on the phone in public places. This is a very good way to extend his answer a bit longer. This helps him give a well-discussed answer. Great one!