Sujatha: Test 3 – Part 2 Commentary
Test 3 - Part 2 Individual Talk/Long Turn
Sujatha is asked to describe a wedding she's attended.
The topic chosen by the interviewer is a description of a wedding, and in particular
a wedding that the candidate, Sujatha has either been to or heard about. So,
Sujatha is obliged to describe an event, and in particular, a traditional custom, in
A wedding is generally a traditional custom, and is usually celebrated in different
ways in different cultures. Describing a custom would normally require
generalisations – using words such as “usually”, “normally”, “traditionally”,
“typically” and so on. Particular vocabulary is required – in English, to describe a
typical wedding in our culture, such words as “bride”, “groom”, “wedding
breakfast”, and maybe “bouquet”, “bridesmaids” and more.
When recounting an event, it is important to set the time – a particular day, at a
particular time, in the past. It would be expected that most verbs would be in the
past tense form. Then, each activity is treated in order – the night before, on the
morning, finally at the end of the ceremony, with a series of time phrases and
transition signals such as “first”, “then”, “next” and “finally”.
The prompt card which the examiner gives the candidate has the topic embedded
in the task – “Describe a wedding you have been to or heard about”. There is a
series of additional questions listed in bullet form. It is helpful to address these
sub-topics in the same order as they are presented on the prompt card, because
this will help you organise your response in a logical and coherent way. Sujatha
does this, and the result is a well-structured answer.
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Fluency is a measure of the ease with which the speaker answers or responds to
the prompt. Sujatha manages this task quite easily. She is able to speak at length
about the day and the events without having to pause and think, without having to
stop or reformulate what she wants to say. There are few pauses in her response.
There are few occasions when she has to start again and repair false starts.
Coherence is achieved by using transition signals, tense choices, time phrases,
pronouns, articles, and of course correct word order.
Sujatha chooses to describe an Indian wedding, and in particular, her sister’s, the
only wedding that she has actually participated in.
The whole topic should be introduced first to establish the overall context – a
wedding in India in this case. This is called the orientation. There should also be a
conclusion or appraisal of the day and its significance.
Sujatha achieves this:
the only wedding that I was really closely observing was of my
sister’s. It was a very eventful day that day
The listener knows what to expect – a description of the day and what made it so
eventful, or special and interesting.
Then the event is concluded, at the end of that special day:
That’s when the ceremony actually ends, so it’s a long day.
Verb choice is most important. Sujatha has problems here. Her choice of verb
tense is confused and confusing. To describe a tradition, it is appropriate to use
the present Simple Tense. To describe a particular event in the past, it is
appropriate to use Past tense verbs.
Sujatha does this. She begins by describing weddings in general:
In the evening, what happens is that the bride is traditionally taken
to the groom’s house, so usually it happens in a car these days.
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However, suddenly she moves into a description of what happened on her sister’s
We just started early in the morning, Simple Past
dress her up in the traditional sari Simple Present
and wear all the golden jewellery. Simple Present
We just took about two or three hours Simple Past
just to decorate the bride and then
we went to the main ceremony Simple Past
This is good. A series of verbs in Past Tense – took, went. However, to mix tenses
without clearer indications that we are now talking about what happened to a
particular person on a particular day is confusing, and would require the listener to
pay particular attention.
It becomes confusing when she returns to generalising, and then suddenly to
describing what is happening these days.
where the bridegroom also comes along Simple Present
then we have a lot of holy rituals happening Present Continuous
where you perform some kind of rituals Simple Present
around the fire and then you exchange garlands Simple Present
and then you kind of shower each other with rice Simple Present
Then we have the lunch happening Present Continuous
when everyone sit together and eat Simple Present
they are wearing all this heavy clothes Present Continuous
and they’re sitting through all the rituals Present Continuous
and they can’t eat and they watch everybody Simple Present
Coherence is supported when verb tenses are consistent and are managed logically
It is always important to try to make sure you minimise repetition to avoid overuse.
The listener will appreciate variety.
Sujatha tends to overuse the word “just”.
Sujatha: So just wear a lot of golden jewellery and flowers in her hair and
We just took about two or three hours just to decorate the bride
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It is not easy to describe or explain traditional customs and ceremonies which you
are familiar with and translate details into a foreign language. Particular
vocabulary is required, and if one does not have this then it becomes necessary to
use synonyms, to paraphrase or approximate. When speaking, this skill is called
“circumlocution” – to talk around the topic. This is a high order skill, and Sujatha
is able to do it.
Sujatha has most of the technical language for describing what happens at a
wedding, and how to describe participants, details and activities:
1. the participants: bride, groom, bridegroom
2. ceremony: ceremony, customs, wedding, holy rituals
3. clothing: traditional sari, jewellery, garlands, rice
4. actions: decorate, exchange, shower, fast
When one is not sure of particular language choices in English, it is possible to
generalise. Sujatha does this when she says “other interesting stuff and funny
stuff”, but the word “stuff” is quite informal. It would be more appropriate to say
“things” instead – “other interesting things”.
The word “decorate” is used with inanimate objects – such as “decorate a room”,
“decorate a cake”, “decorate a Christmas tree”. For a person, it is more
appropriate to say “dress the bride”, or “prepare the bride”. If you say “decorate
the bride” it sounds like the bride is an inanimate doll.
Knowing the right word in a language for a particular context or use is called
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Sujatha has no problem constructing long complex sentences, using subordinate
conjunctions, relative pronouns, or participles. She can easily use a variety of
sentence types – Simple, Compound and Complex. What is important to be able to
do is make these types of sentences sharper and tighter. Sujatha tends to join
sentences and parts of sentences together, when it would be better to break them
Sujatha: We just took about two or three hours just to decorate the bride
and then we went to the main ceremony where the bridegroom also
comes along and then we have a lot of holy rituals happening where
you perform some kind of rituals around the fire and then you
exchange garlands and then you kind of shower each other with rice
and other interesting stuff and funny stuff.
Correction: We took about two or three hours just to decorate the bride and
then we went to the main ceremony where the bridegroom also
At the ceremony a lot of holy rituals happen where you perform
some kind of rituals around the fire and then you exchange garlands.
Following that you shower each other with rice and other interesting
Sujatha is also able to use Passive Verb constructions. These constructions are
quite difficult in English:
the bride is traditionally taken to the groom’s house
Something that is also quite difficult in English is being able to move words around
– to change word order, to make what one says more interesting.
Sujatha: In the evening what happens is that
Another way of saying this might be “What happens in the evening is that …”
Sujatha: the bride is traditionally taken to the groom’s house
This might also be constructed as “traditionally the bride is taken …”.
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It is not unusual to make mistakes when speaking. Sujatha makes some.
Example: when everyone sit together and eat
Correction: when everyone sits together and eats
Example: they are wearing all this heavy clothes
Correction: they are wearing all these heavy clothes
Example: me and the bridegroom, all of us we went to the groom’s house
Correction: the bridegroom and I, all of us we went to the groom’s house
Example: it’s very difficult on them
Correction: it’s very difficult for them
It is sometimes common to hear speakers of English repeat the subject. Sometimes
we hear “my son, he …”, or “many people, they …”. Sujatha does this when she
says “all of us we went”. This is not wrong, but unnecessary.
The pronunciation of “the” changes depending on whether it is followed by a vowel
or a consonant.
Examples: the only, the end, the evening
the morning, the traditional, the golden, the bride, the main
When “the” is followed by a vowel it is pronounced as /ði/ and when followed by a
consonant it sounds like /ðә/. Sujatha pronouns “the” the same way, as /ðә/ no
matter what sounds follow.
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