Do you often use maps? Are you good at reading maps? How often do you use maps on your phone? When was the first time when you used a map? Did you learn to use maps when you were a child?
  • Time management (noun) - the practice of using the time that you have available in a useful and effective way, especially in your work.
  • Sense of direction (noun) - the ability to find places or to know which direction to go.
  • To navigate (verb) - to direct the way that a ship, aircraft, etc. will travel, or to find a direction across, along, or over an area of water or land, often by using a map.
  • Journey (noun) - the act of travelling from one place to another, especially in a vehicle.
  • Atlas (noun) - a book containing maps.
  • Orienteering (noun) - an activity in which you have to find your way to somewhere on foot as quickly as possible by using a map and a compass.
  • The Boy Scouts (phrase) - an international organization that encourages boys to take part in activities outside and to become responsible and independent.
  • Cartesian coordinate system (noun) - a system of describing the position of points in space using perpendicular axis lines that meet at a point called the origin.
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Questions and Answers
M: Do you often use maps?

R: Well, I use the online version. So if this counts then all the time. I like to check out how long it's going to take me when I'm going to a place, whether it's new or whether it's not. It's really helpful for time management.

M: Are you good at reading maps?

R: Reasonably. I think I have a pretty good sense of direction, though I, usually, well, by prefer to navigate by site, rather than by specific street names. I've never been very good at doing that kind of thing.

M: How often do you use maps on your phone?

R: At least once a week for journey planning? Probably more if I'm travelling to a new place because I need to, well, find out more about the environment.

M: When was the first time when you used a map?

R: Oh, God, about 27 years ago. I was looking at some old atlases and it was interesting to see how much the world had changed from the time the maps were created until now, really. Although if we talk about navigation, then I did some orienteering in the Boy Scouts. But that was also quite a long time ago, like for physical maps.

M: Did you learn to use maps when you were a child?

R: Yeah, like I said, we had orienteering and the Boy Scouts when I was about 12 ish. And, oh, in school, we learned about Cartesian coordinates, which unfortunately wasn't very fun or interesting.
M: So maps. How often do you use maps, dear listener? Rory told us about online versions. So I often use online maps or online versions of maps. But there are also paper maps or printed maps. And you know, I used to use paper maps. When I was travelling by bicycle, we had paper maps of Italy, of Greece, like paper maps. So we were kind of like... We were following our route. Route? Like your way. Like where to go. It was so cool. But now everything is like inside a smartphone. So online maps, Google maps. What maps do you use? Or apps.

R: Not everything because I just looked in the library very quickly. And I found a copy of the 1973 version of Lord of the Rings. And inside is the paper version of what Middle Earth looks like. So there you go. That is a demonstration of what a paper map looks like.

M: The Lord of the Rings, Rory. We're discussing maps.

R: Yeah, The Lord of the Rings, it looks like that. But there's a map inside the book. I couldn't find a proper atlas. I'm sorry.

M: Atlas, dear listener. What is an atlas? Atlas.

R: It's a book with maps. There we go. But the Lord of the Rings is a novel with a map in it. You don't look very happy about Lord of the Rings.

M: Yeah. Because we're talking about maps. Like as travelling. When you navigate.

R: No, no, no. You can have maps everywhere. You can have maps anywhere you like. You can have it in a book for a story or you can have it for traveling in a real place.

M: I use a map to check out how long it takes to get to a place, okay? Or you can say that I use a map to check out my route.

R: Yes.

M: Right? So route, the way. My way. Where to go.

R: And you can check out how long it will take you to get to a place because, well, the online versions of maps often have an estimated time of arrival.

M: I'm good at reading maps, or I'm good at what? Navigation? At navigating?

R: Well, navigating doesn't always involve using a map, it involves following some kind of route, but the route could be in your head to following directions from a person or reading the map to find your way.

M: I have a very good sense of direction. Okay? So if I tell you to go left, go right, go there, you are good at following directions. Right? So, oh, Rory, where's your house? It's kind of it's in Scotland, go left.

R: It's in Scotland. That's enough.

M: Directions. So you can say that I have a very good sense of direction. So I can just open a map and... Okay. And I know where to go. Right? Or I don't have a good sense of direction.

R: Do you have a good sense of direction?

M: Oh, yes. Yeah. Very good sense of direction. Sometimes I can mess it up. But still, generally, I'm quite good. And I remember things in the city, even in a new city, I can remember things. And then I just can find my way around. Okay? Yeah. Because I lived in... One month I lived in Bangkok, in Brussels, in Baku. You know, so I've been around, and I was quite good.
R: Nice. You're probably better than I am at it.

M: I usually navigate by site. So navigate? Like find my way around, right? By site?

R: So for me, I don't use a map, I just have an understanding of the area where I am. And I can find my way. Usually. Sometimes I need a map.

M: But what about a new place? If you are in a new city, so you do need to open a map to see where things are.

R: Well, it's interesting you should say that because I briefly stayed in Berlin, and I was able to work out where I was by the position of the TV tower, which is a huge structure in Berlin. And because it stands over everything, it was a good, fixed point to find my way around. But usually, that would not be the case. Usually, you would need a map.

M: I can find my way around. You see? So I usually can find my way around with a map, without a map. I navigate by site, and Rory has a direct connection to space. He moves around very well.

R: Oh, I think statistically speaking, men have a more developed sense of spatial awareness compared to women, normally. But you lived in different countries, and you found your way around really easily. So it's not all the time.

M: I have a sense of spatial what? Space, spatial.

R: Spatial awareness. It's like just understanding where things are around you.

M: So could you give us the sentence again? I have a sense of spatial awareness.

R: Well, yeah, I should have a good sense of spatial awareness if Vanya includes the blooper of when I turned around and knocked my microphone off the desk, thus ruining the first half of the recording, then you will see that that's not true all the time.

M: Or I can get my way around through specific street names. So you remember the names of the streets. And then you can just find your way around. Or I can't usually move around in a new city without a map or without a person with a map. What do you call this person who kind of reads the map very well and who tells you where to go?

R: A navigator.

M: A navigator? A navigator is a program. No? It's a person?

R: No, no, navigator can be a person too. I mean it's what you would call the person on a ship who would give directions or work out the directions.

M: So, dear listener, you can say I prefer to have a navigator with me. And that's my friend who is always with me. And he just tells me where to go. And I follow.

R: You could say I prefer to be told what to do.

M: I can use a map on my phone. So what do we call it? An online map, an electronic map? A Google Map?
R: Yeah, an online version. This kind of thing.

M: But usually you use a specific application app, right? So for example, Google Maps, or what kind of apps do you use?

R: Well, I use Google. But it's important to point out because I discovered this recently with some of my students. The word in the first language for maps is map. Singular. But in English, it's Google Maps or Apple Maps. So if you say the direct translation to the examiner, they might think that you're making a mistake. So be careful when that happens, because I only realized it the other day, but two of my students are from very different countries, and they had the same issue.

M: So like I say you use Google Maps, they are helpful.

R: Yes.

M: Or I use a paper map.

R: Well, you could say I use Google Maps, it's helpful. Because Google Maps is the name of the app. In English. I imagine in Russian or Chinese it's probably the singular version.

M: I use Google Maps, it's helpful. Because a program is helpful.

R: Yes.

M: I did a little orienteering. Rory?

R: I'm going to really oversimplify this. So I'm really sorry if there are any people who do orienteering on a regular basis, but orienteering is basically using a map to find your way around a route. There we go.

M: Maybe they taught you this at school, right? Or you can say, well, I wasn't taught how to use a map at school. I didn't have any orienteering. You see? So you can use it the negative. I did orienteering in school. Like as a subject, right? Or I didn't have any orienteering classes. Did they take you to the forest?

R: I think it was in the forest, actually.

M: They left you there. And, Rory, like you have to find your way around.

R: I don't think they left us anywhere. I think they put us there. And we were like monitoring the edge of the small thicket. Which was just like a small forest. But it wasn't a very interesting experience. It was very boring.

M: You can say like we had a kind of Boy Scouts, or I was in Boy Scouts, but even if you did it. Okay. So when I was 12 ish, like 12 years old. Well, about 12 years old. When I was 11 ish, about 11 years old. I was in Boy Scouts. You know, Boy Scouts? Like those who go to the forest, they do things, they learn to navigate with a map, with a compass. So you can say we had orienteering in Boy Scouts. Or I didn't have orienteering in Boy Scouts.

R: If you're not sure what the equivalent would be in English, you could just say a youth group. Because that's what Boy Scouts is.
M: Oh, youth group. Oh, okay. What about coordinates? Did you learn coordinates?

R: Oh, Cartesian coordinates. Oh, God, I can't think of a really easy way to explain this. It's being able to understand the grid position on a map. So it's like you use the X-axis and the Y-axis to find where you are on the two-dimensional space of the map. I'm sorry, there's no way to explain this without having a map in front of me that has these things. And even the Lord of the Rings map doesn't have it. But it's a really cool thing to be able to, to use because it means that you can give the coordinates to another person, they can find where you are, and they could meet with you. It's used by people in the military to work out the coordinates of targets, and it's used by people on ships to find out where they are in the sea. Are you looking up Cartesian coordinates now?

M: No, I'm looking at a phrasal verb.

R: Oh, there's a phrasal verb.

M: Which is map out.

R: Did I say that?

M: No, no. But we can use it. Like map out.

R: Oh, okay. This is something extra.

M: About maps. So map out is to plan something in detail. For example, our future is all mapped out ahead of us. My IELTS future is all mapped out ahead of me. So it is all planned out. Rory, so when we talk about maps, how can we use this phrasal verb? Map out.

R: If the question is directly about maps and you probably couldn't use it, but if it's about how do you find your way around? Then you could say, well, I map out my route to work using Google Maps, for example.

M: I map out my route to work using Google Maps. Beautiful. Band nine phrasal verb. And, dear listener, if you want more phrasal verbs in your life, okay? Band nine-level, check out our phrasal verbs course. The links are description.

R: Can I also advertise? Because I've just realized that we're talking about maps, and you have maps in your IELTS exam? For writing and for listening.

M: In writing, yes, you can have a map. So if you want to know how to describe a map, in writing in IELTS graphs, you can get my IELTS Writing course. Yes. Where I, Maria, tell you how to write about maps, line graphs, essays. Everything is very nice and beautiful. The links are in the description. Thank you for watching! Please share our videos, and write in the comments. Are you good at reading maps? What map apps are you using? Do you use online maps or paper maps? Okay? See ya! Bye!

Get exclusive episodes on IELTS Speaking parts 1, 2, and 3
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