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This IELTS Writing Task 2 sample answer is from a past paper and was published in Cambridge 13.

The topic is foreign languages and it falls in the ‘social problems’ category of IELTS.

Read on for a sample answer from a former IELTS examiner (that’s me, Dave!), analysis, vocabulary practice, notes, links and more!

You can read my other sample answers here.

IELTS Examiner Sample Answer: Foreign Languages (by Dave)

Living in a country where you have to speak a foreign language can cause serious social problems, as well as practical problems. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement?

One of the biggest social and practical challenges that people living abroad face is the language barrier. I believe that this can lead to very serious social problems in many countries but technology has made the practical issues less relevant over the last several decades.

The main reason that having to speak a foreign language can cause social problems is through the breakdown in understanding between people of different cultures. The most salient example of this is in the United States where there has been an influx of Hispanic immigrants, especially along the Southern border. These immigrants are typically able to integrate well if they learn English but those that have not learned have provoked social problems and even violent reactions. Many English speaking residents resent the immigrants failure to integrate and this has resulted in discriminatory practices and widespread racism towards Hispanics. This in turn has caused many Hispanics to develop an antipathy towards other residents and segregate themselves in homogeneous neighborhoods.

There are comparatively fewer practical problems caused by not knowing the language of the country where you live because of the development of technology in general and smartphones in particular. Computers have made it much easier to look up directions, find important information and get quick translations. Smartphones have made this even easier. If someone doesn’t know the language of the country where they live, they can still find restaurants to their liking on Facebook and get simple directions through Google Maps. They can even order food online without having to use another language at all. If they need to communicate with someone who does not speak their language they can simply take out their phone and use Google translate to slowly, but effectively, convey a message. The problems that not knowing the language of the country where you live causes are therefore minimal and easily overcome.

In conclusion, I only partly agree with the statement in question. Not knowing a language when living abroad can cause social unrest but pragmatic concerns have been mitigated by recent technology. In the future, it will become even less important to know the language of the country where you live although there is great potential for increased social unrest and heightened tensions in many parts of the world.

 

IELTS Examiner Sample Answer Analysis

One of the biggest social and practical challenges that people living abroad face is the language barrier. I believe that this can lead to very serious social problems in many countries but technology has made the practical issues less relevant over the last several decades.

  • My first sentence simply paraphrases the question and topic. Write this sentence fast as it isn’t that important.

  • My second sentence states my opinion and includes the main reason why (technology).

The main reason that having to speak a foreign language can cause social problems is through the breakdown in understanding between people of different cultures. The most salient example of this is in the United States where there has been an influx of Hispanic immigrants, especially along the Southern border. These immigrants are typically able to integrate well if they learn English but those that have not learned have provoked social problems and even violent reactions. Many English speaking residents resent the immigrants failure to integrate and this has resulted in discriminatory practices and widespread racism towards Hispanics. This in turn has caused many Hispanics to develop an antipathy towards other residents and segregate themselves in homogeneous neighborhoods.

  • My first sentence is a topic sentence that states why not knowing the language of the country where you live can be a problem.

  • My second sentence gives an example in the United States.

  • My third sentence further explains this example.

  • My fourth sentence states the results of this (in the United States).

  • My fifth sentence further describes the results and continues to develop the same example. Pick one great example and develop it with 3 – 4 sentences.

There are comparatively fewer practical problems caused by not knowing the language of the country where you live because of the development of technology in general and smartphones in particular. Computers have made it much easier to look up directions, find important information and get quick translations. Smartphones have made this even easier. If someone doesn’t know the language of the country where they live, they can still find restaurants to their liking on Facebook and get simple directions through Google Maps. They can even order food online without having to use another language at all. If they need to communicate with someone who does not speak their language they can simply take out their phone and use Google translate to slowly, but effectively, convey a message. The problems that not knowing the language of the country where you live causes are therefore minimal and easily overcome.

  • My first sentence is a topic sentence that states why not knowing the language of the country where you live isn’t much of a problem anymore because of technology.

  • My second sentence explains how computers have made it easier to get translations.

  • My third sentence extends this to smartphones.

  • My fourth sentence gives two specific examples of Facebook and Google Maps helping people.

  • My fifth sentence gives another example – ordering food online.

  • My sixth sentence gives another example of using Google translate to have a conversation.

  • My seventh sentence concludes that technology has made it easier to communicate with people who speak another language.

In conclusion, I only partly agree with the statement in question. Not knowing a language when living abroad can cause social unrest but pragmatic concerns have been mitigated by recent technology. In the future, it will become even less important to know the language of the country where you live although there is great potential for increased social unrest and heightened tensions in many parts of the world.

  • My first sentence summarizes my position and makes it completely clear. It can never be too clear!

  • My second sentence summarizes my argument that technology has done enough to overcome this problem.

  • My third sentence extends my opinion by talking about how in the future this will be even less of a problem. I add the caveat that I may be wrong about certain parts of the world.

Sample Answer Vocabulary

What do the phrases highlighted below mean in your own words?

One of the biggest social and practical challenges that people living abroad face is the language barrier. I believe that this can lead to very serious social problems in many countries but technology has made the practical issues less relevant over the last several decades.

The main reason that having to speak a foreign language can cause social problems is through the breakdown in understanding between people of different cultures. The most salient example of this is in the United States where there has been an influx of Hispanic immigrants, especially along the Southern border. These immigrants are typically able to integrate well if they learn English but those that have not learned have provoked social problems and even violent reactions. Many English speaking residents resent the immigrants failure to integrate and this has resulted in discriminatory practices and widespread racism towards Hispanics. This in turn has caused many Hispanics to develop an antipathy towards other residents and segregate themselves in homogeneous neighborhoods.

There are comparatively fewer practical problems caused by not knowing the language of the country where you live because of the development of technology in general and smartphones in particular. Computers have made it much easier to look up directions, find important information and get quick translations. Smartphones have made this even easier. If someone doesn’t know the language of the country where they live, they can still find restaurants to their liking on Facebook and get simple directions through Google Maps. They can even order food online without having to use another language at all. If they need to communicate with someone who does not speak their language they can simply take out their phone and use Google translate to slowly, but effectively, convey a message. The problems that not knowing the language of the country where you live causes are therefore minimal and easily overcome.

In conclusion, I only partly agree with the statement in question. Not knowing a language when living abroad can cause social unrest but pragmatic concerns have been mitigated by recent technology. In the future, it will become even less important to know the language of the country where you live although there is great potential for increased social unrest and heightened tensions in many parts of the world.

 

Answers:

that people living abroad: people who live outside the country where they were born

language barrier: the challenge of talking to people who don’t speak your language

less relevant: not as important or related

breakdown in understanding: inability to understand

the most salient example: the best example, the one that stands out the most

influx: big rush of something

Hispanic: relating to Spain or to Spanish-speaking countries, especially those of Latin America

to integrate well: to become part of a group, community, or nation

provoked social problems: causes social problems

resent : feel angry towards

failure to integrate: inability to join a group, community, or nation

discriminatory practices: doing things to keep certain genders or races out/away

widespread racism: lots of people disliking an ethnic group or race

this in turn: this causes

antipathy: hatred

segregate: to separate or stay apart

homogeneous neighborhoods: communities with only 1 ethnic group

comparatively fewer: less of something compared to something else

in particular: this one area emphasized or standing out

look up directions: find the way to get somewhere

at all: in any way or completely

take out: to remove something from a pocket or somewhere else

convey a message: communicate something

minimal: negligible or little impact

easily overcome: not hard to get over

I only partly agree: agree to some extent but not 100%

pragmatic concerns: practical issues/questions

mitigated: make less severe or serious

great potential: a very good chance or possibility

social unrest: social problems

heightened tensions: stressful relationships between people or groups of people

 

Vocabulary Practice

One of the biggest social and practical challenges ____________________ face is the ____________________. I believe that this can lead to very serious social problems in many countries but technology has made the practical issues ____________________ over the last several decades.

The main reason that having to speak a foreign language can cause social problems is through the ____________________ between people of different cultures. ____________________ of this is in the United States where there has been an ____________________ of ____________________ immigrants, especially along the Southern border. These immigrants are typically able ____________________ if they learn English but those that have not learned have ____________________ and even violent reactions. Many English speaking residents ____________________ the immigrants ____________________ and this has resulted in ____________________ and ____________________ towards Hispanics. ____________________ has caused many Hispanics to develop an ____________________ towards other residents and ____________________ themselves in ____________________.

There are ____________________ practical problems caused by not knowing the language of the country where you live because of the development of technology in general and smartphones ____________________. Computers have made it much easier to ____________________, find important information and get quick translations. Smartphones have made this even easier. If someone doesn’t know the language of the country where they live, they can still find restaurants to their liking on Facebook and get simple directions through Google Maps. They can even order food online without having to use another language ____________________. If they need to communicate with someone who does not speak their language they can simply ____________________ their phone and use Google translate to slowly, but effectively, ____________________. The problems that not knowing the language of the country where you live causes are therefore ____________________ and ____________________.

In conclusion, ____________________ with the statement in question. Not knowing a language when living abroad can cause social unrest but ____________________ have been ____________________ by recent technology. In the future, it will become even less important to know the language of the country where you live although there is ____________________ for increased ____________________ and ____________________ in many parts of the world.

Links

Overcoming the Language Barrier Tips

 

Comment below – are there a lot of people who live in your country who can’t speak the national language?

Well, where I live…

It’s a bit of a mix actually in …

Honestly, it’s a huge problem in …

Frankly, we don’t really have to deal with this issue much in ….


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