Looking back at the “recent posts” section of this website, I see that I haven’t posted much since before Christmas! I am very sorry about that. As many of you know, I quit my job in China and returned to Scotland to spend Christmas with my family. It was a wonderful time and I’m so glad that I could go home. It had been eleven years since I was last home for the holidays!!! Can you believe that?

Here is our Christmas tree:

A Christmas tree with presents underneath.

After Christmas and New Year, I decided to take off travelling for a while. Now I’m in Italy, where I have visited Venice, Florence, and Rome. You can follow my travels here: www.davidswills.com

Visiting Venice gave me an idea for a post. I thought that I would talk about historic places. So here we go.

First, is it a historic, or an historic?

Interesting question!!

In English, some people say “a historic” and others say “an historic.” Both are correct and have exactly the same meaning.

The difference comes from the pronunciation. For some people, words starting with “h” are considered to start with a vowel, and should take “an” instead of “a”.

This is not for all “h” words; only ones with a very soft “h” sound.

In this case, the “h” is almost removed and the two words come together, so it sounds like “anistoric”. Don’t be fooled by this strange pronunciation!

Describe a Historic Place

For the ease of understanding, we shall go with “a historic” and choose an IELTS speaking part 2 cue card:

Describe a historic place that you know about.

You should say:

– what the place is

– where it is located

– what is the significance of the place

and describe your experience of the place.

First of all, you need to analyse the question and make notes on it. Don’t take too long at this; you only have one minute. Look for key words that restrict your answer, such as historic. You cannot talk about any place.

Note the details you must discuss. For this, you should pay attention to question words: what, where, and so on. Also, remember the final line, as it is usually an important one: describe your experience.

My answer is going to be on the ancient city of Venice, which I mentioned having visited. Here is one of the photos I took. My own answer to the question is below.

The Grand Canal in Venice

Sample Answer

I recently visited the historic city of Venice. Located in the northeast of Italy, Venice is a popular tourist destination with people from all over the world. It has a long history going back many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years to when it was a city state with great power.

Venice has had a huge impact on the world, and I had wanted to see it since reading books about the ancient spice trade. Power traders in Venice helped connect Europe and Asia by opening up trade routes to bring in luxurious spices. The made Venice incredibly wealthy, and the leaders of the city state spent that money making Venice one of the most attractive cities on earth.

Venice is unusual because it doesn’t have many roads, and in fact has no cars. It is built on water, and most of the business and transport is conducted on the canals that lead around it. The biggest of these is called the Grand Canal.

I spent two days walking around Venice, taking in the incredible sights. The narrow streets and beautiful, turquoise canals really inspired me. I loved the old buildings and stunning artwork that could be found everywhere. I would go back to Venice in a heartbeat if I had the chance.

Let me know what you think. If you want, I can record the answer and post it on YouTube.

Harder Questions

For part 3, you may be asked further questions about historical places, or the importance of history. Here’s a possible question, and a sample answer:

Do you think that governments should be required to pay for maintenance of areas of historical significance?

Yes, I think that it’s important that governments take this responsibility, otherwise the sites could fall into disrepair, or be demolished by land developers. It is up to a government to look after historical sites, and if they need to raise funds to do this important work, they can open it up to tourism to pay for the maintenance.