What did you study in history lessons when you were at school? What did you study in history lessons when you were at school? What did you study in history lessons when you were at school? What did you study in history lessons when you were at school? What did you study in history lessons when you were at school? What did you study in history lessons when you were at school?
  • Rise (noun) - the process of becoming very famous, powerful, or popular.
  • Bizarrely (adverb) - in a strange and unusual way.
  • The franchise (noun) - the right to vote in an election, especially in order to elect a parliament or similar law-making organization.
  • Obscure (adj.) - not clear and difficult to understand or see.
  • Epic (adj.) - a film, poem, or book that is long and contains a lot of action, usually dealing with a historical subject.
  • Suffragette (noun) - a woman who campaigned for the right of women to vote, especially a member of the early 20th century British group of activists led by Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst.
  • To put a spin on something (idiom) - to twist a report or story to one's advantage; to interpret an event to make it seem favourable or beneficial to oneself or one's cause.
  • Antebellum (adj.) - relating to the time before a war, especially the American Civil War.
  • Postbellum (adj.) - relating to the time after a war, especially the American Civil War.
  • To read up (about/on) something (phrasal verb) - to spend time reading in order to find out information about something.
  • Start/starting point (noun) - a place or position where something begins.
  • To wander (verb) - to walk around slowly in a relaxed way or without any clear purpose or direction.
  • Lacuna (noun) - an absent part, especially in a book or other piece of writing.
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Questions and answers
M: What did you study in history lessons, when you were at school?

R: I can't remember all of the periods covered. But we definitely did The Roman Empire and the rise of Imperial Germany. Oh, yeah, bizarrely enough, the development of Scottish agriculture. That was not very interesting. Oh, and we did the 19th century, or, like it was Victorian policy developments, which sounds boring. But it was actually really cool. It was all about the different social movements and sort of laws that were made at the time to expand the franchise. That was cool.

M: Did you enjoy studying history at school?

R: Well, I absolutely loved it. Apart from the agriculture stuff that was like really obscure and totally random in, like, it was a really weird thing to study in a Scottish school. I think the one I liked the most was studying German nationalism. That was particularly interesting, because it read like some sort of historical epic. And then there were all these revolutions and battles that were involved in it. And also, there were things that were connected to the suffragettes and the extension of the franchise, when we looked at 19th-century Britain. And that was quite interesting as well.

M: How often do you watch TV programmes about history now?

R: Well, I don't as much as I used to, but I still listen to things on YouTube from time to time. The History Channel used to have all these documentaries about Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. So it's... And I quite like those. So it's interesting and good for me that other people have picked up this banner and put their own spin on it and added these videos to YouTube so that I can listen to them.

M: What period in history would you like to learn more about?

R: I'd have to think about that for a moment. Oh, I quite liked reading about the American Civil War. But I don't know much about the antebellum and postbellum period. So that would be interesting to read up on.

M: Do you think you will learn more about history in the future?

R: Well, I hope so. Because I've just had that realization that I need to read more about the American past. So I definitely know what my start point will be.

M: Where do you go to learn about history where you live?

R: Well, there's the local library across the road from where I live. And there are various cultural and heritage centres with everything that's attached to them. And there's also lots of older people wandering around who might like to share their time and knowledge if they, if they want to. So yeah, this place is, is rich in, I guess, lacunas of historical knowledge.

M: Hey, thank you, Rory, for your answers!

R: Yes. Hopefully, you didn't find them boring. Did you find them boring?
M: So you talked about the periods you covered at school. So these like historical periods of time. Right? And the question could be like, what's your favourite period? Yeah? Meaning like the time in the past. Maybe about the Roman Empire, about, Rory mentioned the 19th century. So Victorian Age. Yeah? And you said like, bizarrely enough, we talked about Scottish agriculture. So what is this strange word bizarre? Bizarrely?

R: Bizarre, just means strange. And then bizarrely enough, is like emphasizing the strangeness. Because, of course, you have like, wars and social movements. And then it's like agriculture. So really, like niche thing to study when you're in high school. I don't know why we did that. And I would love to know what the idea behind that was.

M: Yeah, that's bizarre. Meaning that strange. And like, an adverb is bizarrely enough, right? So bizarre - bizarrely. Like quick - quickly. Right? So bizarrely.

R: Bless you.

M: Whoa, I'm allergic to history. So guess what?

R: What?

M: I have two books here. Encyclopedia. They're... History, historical, encyclopedia.

R: For kids. It says "для детей".

M: Yeah. For kids. Oh, look at your Russian. Wow.

R: Look at me. I can read.

M: Yeah, for kids. This is for kids. You know, this doorstopper is for kids. Oh my gosh.

R: That is the most Russian thing ever. It's like this is for children, you could hit them over the head and kill someone with it.

M: And tell me do we call it a historical encyclopedia or a historic?

R: Historical encyclopedia. Because historic is... It's used to describe major events. For example, like a historic victory or a historic event. Those things, it's like something will last and be recorded as a significant thing in history. So we have to be careful with that kind of thing.

M: Yeah. When we talk about places, so do we call them historic places or historical?

R: I would call them historical places. Yeah. Unless maybe it's a very significant place. In which case, you could say like, this is the site of the historic battle between two sides.

M: You can say that I absolutely loved history at school, or I hated it.

R: Say you loved history at school. It's good.
M: No, but maybe our listener didn't. So like I couldn't stand history. Like I couldn't stand. Like no, no. Right? Or, remember this like "L" word? Not love, no. Loathed. I loathed it. And you know, like, I was asked a question like, loathe is a little bit like, it's a sophisticated word. It's a formal word. So can I still use it in IELTS speaking, which is informal?

R: Yes.

M: So it's okay. So I loathed history, I hated it, I disliked it. And you can say, for example, I absolutely loved it apart from the topics about agriculture, or I absolutely loved it apart from the teacher. So blame everything on the teacher.

R: Why not?

M: Sorry, teachers. And then like, some topics were particularly interesting or engaging. So the period of, I don't know, Egyptian history was particularly interesting. And you can say that it read like a historical epic. So what's a historical epic?

R: Well, like an epic is a really long, well, the way I describe it, is like a really, really long story. And so with it it's got, like, lots of ups and downs and twists and turns. And that's how I looked at the rise of Imperial Germany. It was like this very small Prussian state, and then slowly expanding, and all of this political manoeuvring, and at the end, they have a massive Empire, and then they lose it all in a big world war. Why not?

M: You can talk about revolutions and battles. So battles when, you know, there's an army, there's another army and they fight. It's a battle. Like the Battle of Waterloo. Waterloo?

R: Waterloo.

M: Waterloo. It's loo. Like loo, ha-ha, loo paper. Waterloo. And what's this word like...

R: Oh, suffrage. That's like the ability to vote. So the suffrage movement was about gaining the right to vote. And the extension of the franchise is the legal measures that were taken to give people the right to vote.

M: TV programs about history, or you can call them TV shows or just shows. Yeah, you can talk about shows on YouTube. So sometimes I watch shows on YouTube, and it's a good one to use I used to. I used to watch different programs. But, yeah, now maybe some documentaries on YouTube. So on YouTube, on the internet. You can say that I used to watch endless documentaries about... And then something.

R: That's true though. Like on the History Channel, they would always have documentaries about the 1930s and 40s in Germany. Always. Every day. I don't know how they managed to, like, constantly churn out this, the same thing again and again and people watched it.
M: Rory, tell us, what did you mean by saying, like, pick it up, and pick up that banner and put their spin on it?

R: Oh, right. So, well, what happened was the History Channel, I mean, it's still around, probably, but I think not nearly as many people are watching it as they used to. So that kind of fell by the wayside. And other people picked up the banner of producing these documentaries, but they did it on YouTube. And now people are watching that instead. So you pick up the banner, you take on the responsibility, and you put your own spin on it, you're talking about it in your own way. Put your own spin on it.

M: Okay, so if somebody, if one of our listeners, like decided to make their own podcast, so they watch our episodes, they take kind of like, our content, but they do it in their own way, so they, they pick up that banner, and put their own spin on it?

R: Yeah, they already do that. When people put their example answers in the comments, like, and people comment on that. That's taking our answers and putting your own spin on it.

M: Could you give us a sentence? One more sentence with some context. How do we use this? It's strange. Bizarre.

R: Well, we take, we take IELTS questions and we put our own spin on them.

M: Dear listener, you should know what period of history interests you for the purposes of, you know, the IELTS exam.

R: You should know what's interesting.

M: And Rory talked, well, surely, he said something like...

R: Antebellum and postbellum. That just means before the war and after the war, but that's specifically for talking about the American Civil War. But interestingly, at the same time, the Abraham Lincoln was freeing the slaves in America, there was a tsar in Russia, I think it was Tsar Nicholas the first or Alexander the second, I can't remember. But they were freeing the serfs and introducing land reforms. So these two sort of conflicts about human rights and freedom and the ability to move around and control your own life and destiny were happening at the same time. And I think that's really cool. There's lots of parallels between Russia and America this way.

M: It's interesting that Rory wants to learn more about the American culture, not Scottish culture. He's had enough about Scottish agriculture in school. So, you know...
R: I don't think like, maybe it's just me, and if you disagree, then feel free. But I really don't think teaching children about agriculture is a great way to interest them in history. I think that's...

M: That's strange.

R: Yeah.

M: No, you know, depends on how you teach them about agriculture.

R: No, I feel like it would not matter. How else are you gonna teach them? Grow your own potatoes?

M: Yeah, you know, go out there, get your hands dirty and just do stuff, you know.

R: Interestingly, though, potatoes come from South America.

M: Yeah.

R: But not many people know that. People think they come from Ireland, but they don't.

M: No. South America. When I was in South America. I saw different shapes of potatoes, different colours of potatoes. It's crazy. They have purple potatoes, yellow, red potatoes. They kind of this... The square potatoes. Okay? Sweet potatoes, not sweet potatoes. It's amazing.

R: And also, there is a huge crisis at the beginning of the 20th century, because you could only get a special kind of fertilizer for soil from South America and isolated places in the world. And they were running out of it. So people were worried that 10s of millions of people were going to starve to death once they run out of this fertilizer. Until, I think it was a German scientist called Fritz "Faber". I think that's his name. Fritz Haber? Came up with the "Faber" or the Haber process. And that is, that was used to create ammonia. And after that they could, they could make fertilizer anywhere in the world and it stopped millions of people from starving to death. How cool is that?

M: Dear listener, are you okay? Are you okay? Are you with us? Are you... Yeah. It's this IELTS podcast, you know. We give you gorgeous grammar.

R: We learned about this in science though as well. So it's not just a history thing. It was all about how you can create ammonia to fertilize crops. It's awesome.

M: Right. So you can say like that would be really interesting to read up on. So to read up on is a phrasal verb. And it's not just like to read up, but to read up on. So on something. Like about something. Yeah?
R: If you read up on something, it's like you're researching further into something because you don't know much about it.

M: I'd like to read up on the Russian history. Or I'd like to read up on Scottish agriculture. Why not?

R: Nobody wants to read up on Scottish agriculture, like that's a surefire way to traumatize people. If you are interested in Scottish history, though, and you don't want to die from boredom by reading about agriculture, you could read up about my hometown, because there's this book called "The Law Killers", and it's all about murderers in my hometown. And they were like murdering people around the extinct volcano that my hometown is based near.

M: That's exciting.

R: Yes, it is. There's an extinct volcano right in the middle of my hometown. And people were murdered there, and people still get murdered there. It's fascinating.

M: Wow.

R: Yeah.

M: That's why our Rory is, you know, like, tough and strong.

R: I'm not tough or strong. And I also don't live there anymore. So what does that say about me?

M: So about the future, you can say, I'd like to read more about this, or I don't think I'm gonna read anything about history in the future. When you do know what you want to read about, you can say my start point.

R: Or starting point.

M: Oh, the starting point. Yeah, my starting point would be like, the Russian history, I don't know, the 13th century, or the 20th century. So the 20th century. Where do we go to learn about history? You go to the local library. So Rory goes to the local library.

R: I do. I need to go there again to return a book.

M: Like a dinosaur.
R: No, I have to, we're doing a project or we're going to do a project in school next term. And it's all about local authors. So where else am I going to find this information out if not the local library?

M: Different museums are dotted around the place. So a dot is like, we write the sentence, and then we put a dot. So and here, museums are dotted around the place. So they're kind of like scattered around the place. They're around the place?

R: Yes. Just in different parts of the local authority. We're very lucky actually, we've got a whole load of museums in the, oh, I don't know what you would call it. The regional capital? It's not really a capital city, though.

M: So in the middle of nowhere?

R: It's the regional capital of the middle of nowhere. Yes. But then there's also visitor centres, like the distilleries have visitor centres. And you can go there and learn about the history of everything that's involved.

M: Whiskey. Distilleries.

R: It's part of, I think they call it the whiskey trail, or at least whiskey country. And that's why, because all the distilleries are here.

M: Nice. We also have cultural heritage sites. So if a place has some historical value, so there are different museums and cultural heritage sites or places. And also Rory mentioned that lots of elderly people or older people wander around. So they can share some things about history with you. So wander around, they just go like... Around the place so they wander around, so you can catch them and ask them things. Okay, can we finish this episode now?

R: Why do you not like this episode? I like talking about history.

M: Oh, just... I'm gonna now read some history about my own country, you know. For children.

R: I'm gonna read the murder book, and then I'm gonna send it to you. And that will be more interesting. Well, I had fun.

M: Bye!

R: Bye, everybody!
Get exclusive episodes on IELTS Speaking parts 1, 2, and 3
Get exclusive episodes on IELTS Speaking parts 1, 2, and 3
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