This blog attempts to share the assential of English Language to meet the needs of pupil in the Secondary School and to whom English is a foreign tongue. While I agree that learning the knowledge of English here is not the highroad to good speaking and writing, it must be acknowledged that English Proficiency is an important element in speaking and writing correctly. Pupils as well teachers should find this blog of some assistence, and those who wish to conduct a more extensive study of English Proficiency, will find it useful as a starting-point.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Common Errors in English Language

Adapted from TESL MALAYSIA Dot Com

The definition of errors can be very complicated and controversial, hence we will not elaborate on this technical term. Rather, we are more concerned with some usual deviations from the standard use of English, especially by ESL students. In this part, we’re looking at the errors in word usage.

When you hear about something in advance, you get notice or information ahead of time. Advance also means to move forward or to make progress. Advance can also function as adjective, as in the case of “an advance payment”, which means payment made ahead of time/before hand. When you say something is advanced, it means “complex or sophisticated” and should not be confused with the past tense form of “advance”. Note: We often see advertisements use “Advance Level”, which should be “Advanced Level”.

A, B and C are called letters of the alphabet, NOT alphabets. Alphabet is a character set that includes letters and is used to write a language.

When “awhile” is spelled as a single word, it is an adverb meaning “for a time” (“stay awhile”); but when “while” is the object of a prepositional phrase, like “Lend me your monkey wrench for a while” the “while” must be separated from the “a.” (But if the preposition “for” were lacking in this sentence, “awhile” could be used in this way: “Lend me your monkey wrench awhile.”)

To “back up” is an activity; “back up your computer regularly”; “back up the truck to the garden plot and unload the compost.” A “backup” is a thing: “keep your backup copies in a safe place.” Other examples: a traffic backup, sewage backup, backup plan, backup forces.

Most of the time the word people intend is “compliment”: nice things said about someone or praise. Complement, on the other hands, means supplement each other or making something complete. e.g. vs. i.e.“e.g.” is the short form for exempli gratia, and means “for example”. “i.e.” is the short form for id est, and means “that is”. Use “e.g.” when you want to give an example (or several examples) of something just mentioned. Use “i.e.” when you wish to explain briefly or to clarify what you just said, or say the same thing in other words.

A principle is a formulation regarded as a basis for thought or action. For example, the principles of liberty. A principal is the person you see in schools, who leads the school administration. As an adjective, “principal” means “foremost, first, primary, main”, as in “the principal reason I am here is …” or “the principal cause of this phenomenon is …”

Contrary to normal rules of English, the single ’s’ in loose is pronounced like an ’s’ – as in wearing trousers that are too loose. Lose on the other hand, relates to loss – for example: “I hope we don’t lose this game”. A good way to remember this is that in the word “lose” you have lost the second ‘o’ from loose.

Students often use “I was very boring at the party”. It should be “I was very bored at the party”. Adjectives that end with -ed talk about one’s own feelings, whereas adjectives that end with -ing talk about a person, a thing or a situation that causes one’s feelings. Examples: The movie was boring (so I felt bored). My boyfriend has a very annoying habit (so I am annoyed).

Irregardless is an informal term, which is technically incorrect. The suffix “-less” in regardless has already indicated the meaning of “without”. By adding “ir-” as prefix (means “not”), it creates a “double negative”, which shows the opposite meaning instead.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Writing Tips

Fiction writers learn to write by writing. Although writing is an art, there are skills, tools, and techniques that can be learned in order to develop talent. And constructive criticism and feedback can help this process.
To be a good writer you need to read a lot, listen and observe everything about you carefully, and write a lot. Writing a lot takes discipline, because writing can actually be hard work- but very satisfying. Setting up a routine for writing is important; it is very easy to find something else to do besides writing. A compulsion to write is very useful.
Fiction writers should have a good grasp of the language, but most of all they must be storytellers. A really good story can compensate for less-than-brilliant writing, but brilliant writing will not save a bad story.
Readers of fiction want very much to find the writer's work to be believable. It is the task of the writer to produce a story that does not jolt the reader into recognizing that the narrative is just the writer talking, just fiction. The writer should write about what he or she already knows through experience or can learn about through research. The narrative should read as if the writer really knows what he or she is writing about.
Major Components of Stories
Plot is the organization of events that will take place in the story.
Characters are the people or animals who will be in the story.
Setting is the physical time and place in which the story takes place.
Dialogue is the spoken words of the characters in the story.
Point of view is the relative identification of the narrator with the characters.
Theme is the main idea or meaning behind a story.
Style is the writer's use of the language
Plot (and characters) carries the other elements of the story. The plot must be believable, plausible, and interesting. It is a sequence of events connected in a cause-and-effect manner. Generally the plot consists of a series of increasingly more intense conflicts, a climax (the most intense part of the story), and a final resolution. The plot must be advanced as the story unfolds. Usually the closer to the end of the story the climax is placed the better. Long works like novels can have many subplots and secondary climaxes and resolutions. Avoid using subplots in order to have cliché characters. Avoid too many coincidences. Flashbacks have been overused. A story is stronger when it runs chronologically.
The reader should be able to identify with and care about the characters in the sense that the characters seem real to the reader. The characters must do something, and what they do must seem reasonable for them to have done it. Characters should be introduced early in the story. The more often a character is mentioned or appears, the more significance the reader will attach to the character. Also, the main character should be introduced before setting, so that the setting can be introduced from the point of view of the character. The nature of characters can be brought out through minimal description and the actions, thoughts, and dialogue of the characters. The writer should allow the reader to make judgments about the characters; the writer should avoid making the judgments for the reader. The feelings of the character should be demonstrated rather than told by the narrator. Yet, there are some very good stories in which much of the narration is about a character's feelings and thoughts or in which the narration goes into great detail and analysis of a character's feelings and thoughts at some point. So one rule about writing is that there are no rules, or maybe: If it works, it works.
Setting includes the place and time in which the story takes place. The setting should be described in specifics to make the story seem real, to set the atmosphere and mood of the story, to place limitations on the characters, or to help establish the basic conflict of the story. Weather can be an important part of setting. The setting can be used for contrast, having something taking place in an unexpected place. Also, the more unfamiliar the reader is with the setting, the more interesting the setting.
Dialogue makes fiction seem real. However, dialogue that copies reality may actually slow down a story. Avoid unnecessary or repetitive dialogue. Dialect in dialogue can be difficult to read. A small amount of it can be used to establish the nature of a character, but overuse will intrude on the story. The level of use of language by the characters- pronunciation, diction, grammar, etc.- is often used to characterize people in a story. Most often the main characters use the best English. Profanity and vulgarisms can be used where they seem appropriate. Overuse amounts to author intrusion and can interrupt the reader's belief in the story. Too much exposition through dialogue can slow down a story. Characters should not repeat in dialogue events which have already happened in the story. Also, one character should not tell another character what the second character should already know just so the writer can convey information to the reader. The conversation will sound implausible: author intrusion. The information can be conveyed in simple narration or by having a knowledgeable character explain something to another character who reasonably should not know the information already. The form of dialogue should be varied to keep the reader interested. However, don't try to find too many different ways to say "said." Interior dialogue is what a character is thinking. Dramatic dialogue is a character thinking out loud, without response from other characters. Indirect dialogue is the narrator telling what a character said. Dialogue should be used to develop character or to advance the story. It should not be used just to hear characters talk.
Point of View
First person point of view has the main character telling the story or a secondary character telling the main character's story. Everything that happens in the story must be seen or experienced by the character doing the narration. The reader's judgment of other characters in the story will be heavily influenced by the narrator. This can be very limiting. Also, a story written in first person usually means that the main character won't die in the story. However, first person point of view gives a sense of intimacy to the story. Third person point of view can be objective or omniscient. An objective narrator describes actions but not the inner thoughts or feelings of the characters. An omniscient narrator can describe all the actions of all of the characters but also all of their inner thoughts and feelings as well.
The theme of a story is often abstract and not addressed directly in the narrative. It is imparted to the story by the concrete events occurring in the story.
Style is the way the writer uses language. The longer the work the less important language becomes. Above all, the writer's work must tell a story. The writer should not be more concerned with the words used than with the story the writer is trying to tell. Don't be a fanatic about words. The language is less important than character and plot. However, a combination of a good story and good English will be a delight to read. Mistakes in English amount to author intrusion and detract greatly from the story being told. The most effective writing uses the active voice. Shorter, concrete words tend to be stronger. Long words tend to be abstract. Avoid wordiness. Write in a concise, precise, concrete, and specific manner. However, recognize that English has an enormous number of words in it, and the words can have very precise meanings. Sometimes no other word will do. And be specific. Don't mention just a tree; say what kind of tree it was. The choice of words can help set the tone of the story. Beginning writers may get defensive and touchy about their style. When offered constructive (or maybe destructive) criticism about their style, beginning writers may tend to say something like,"Well, that's just my style." The implication being that the reader must like whatever style the writer chooses to use. But that is backwards. It is up to the writer to please the reader, not the other way around.
Other Tips
In no particular order.Be specific in your writing. The more specific the detail, the more real the story will seem to the reader. The best fiction can come from the preposterous imaginations of writers who are good storytellers. Becoming a skilled typist (on a word processor) is extremely useful to a writer. Very few people make a living at writing fiction. Revision is important. A writer can always do one more revision. At some point the writer has to stop revising and get the work published. Show, don't tell. Avoid starting a story with dialogue. Don't use clichés. The more detail in the story, the more interesting the story. Revise, revise, revise, revise, . . . Avoid author intrusion. Write what you like to read. Don't use exclamation points. Use surprise and irony. The shorter the story, the more important each word becomes. Descriptions and technical details must be authentic; when the reader suddenly realizes that the writer made a mistake, the reader is jarred out his or her temporary acceptance of the story as reality, i.e., author intrusion. Avoid overused words. Success breeds success. The more published you are, the easier it is to get published again. Every word can be used appropriately somewhere in some story. Don't tell what happened; recreate what happened. The beginning of a story must be interesting. Readers can be lost on page one. Scorning the work of a writer does not make that writer a better writer.
A Final Observation
Whatever rules or tips you read about writing you will be able to find some published work that violates them. Sometimes the violation is glaring and amounts to author intrusion. Other times the violation may actually help the story. Usually the latter occurs when the writer actually is an excellent wordsmith and deliberately, with great specific purpose, violates some rule or tip.

Reading Comprehension

Reading Comprehension: The REDW Strategy for Finding Main Ideas

REDW is a good strategy to use to find the main idea in each paragraph of a reading assignment. Using this strategy will help you comprehend the information contained in your assignment. Each of the letters in REDW stands for a step in the strategy.

Read: Read the entire paragraph to get an idea of what the paragraph is about. You may find it helpful to whisper the words as you read or to form a picture in your mind of what you are reading. Once you have a general idea of what the paragraph is about, go on to the next step.

Examine: Examine each sentence in the paragraph to identify the important words that tell what the sentence is about. Ignore the words that are not needed to tell what the sentence is about. If you are allowed to, draw a line through the words to be ignored. For each sentence, write on a sheet of paper the words that tell what the sentence is about.

Decide: Reread the words you wrote for each sentence in the paragraph. Decide which sentence contains the words you wrote that best describe the main idea of the paragraph. These words are the main idea of the paragraph. The sentence that contains these words is the topic sentence. The other words you wrote are the supporting details for the main idea.

Write: Write the main idea for each paragraph in your notebook. This will provide you with a written record of the most important ideas you learned. This written record will be helpful if you have to take a test that covers the reading assignment.

Use REDW to help you understand the information in your reading assignments.

Good Listening In Class

It is important for you to be a good listener in class. Much of what you will have to learn will be presented verbally by your teachers. Just hearing what your teachers say is not the same as listening to what they say. Listening is a cognitive act that requires you to pay attention and think about and mentally process what you hear.Here are some things you should do to be a good listener in class.

Be Cognitively Ready to Listen When You Come to Class:
Make sure you complete all assigned work and readings. Review your notes from previous class sessions. Think about what you know about the topic that will be covered in class that day.

Be Emotionally Ready to Listen When You Come to Class :
Your attitude is important. Make a conscious choice to find the topic useful and interesting. Be committed to learning all that you can.

Listen with a Purpose:
Identify what you expect and hope to learn from the class session. Listen for these things as your teacher talks.

Listen with an Open Mind :
Be receptive to what your teacher says. It is good to question what is said as long as you remain open to points of view other than your own.

Be Attentive:
Focus on what your teacher is saying. Try not to daydream and let your mind wander to other things. It helps to sit in the front and center of the class, and to maintain eye contact with your teacher.

Be an Active Listener:
You can think faster than your teacher can speak. Use this to your advantage by evaluating what is being said and trying to anticipate what will be said next. Take good written notes about what your teacher says. While you can think faster than your teacher can speak, you cannot write faster than your teacher can speak. Taking notes requires you to make decisions about what to write, and you have to be an active listener to do this.

Meet the Challenge:
Don't give up and stop listening when you find the information being presented difficult to understand. Listen even more carefully at these times and work hard to understand what is being said. Don't be reluctant to ask questions.

Triumph Over the Environment.:
The classroom may too noisy, too hot, too cold, too bright, or too dark. Don't give in to these inconveniences. Stay focused on the big picture - LEARNING.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The New KBSM Literature Component 2010

Lower Secondary: Form 1 to Form 3

1. I Wonder – Jeannie Kirby
2. The River – Valerie Bloom
3. Mr. Nobody – Unknown author
4. Heir Conditioning – M SHANmughalingam
5. A Fighter’s Lines – Marzuki Ali
6. Leisure – William Henry Davies

Short Stories
1. Flipping Fantastic – Jane Langford
2. One Is One and All Alone – Nicholas Fisk

* Rumplelstiltskin – Angela Lanyon

Upper Secondary: Form 4 to Form 5

1. In the Midst of Hardship – Latiff Mohidin
2. He Had Such Quiet Eyes – Bibsy Soenharjo
3. Nature – H.D. Carberry
4. Are You Still Playing Your Flute – Zurinah Hassan

Short Stories
1. QWERTYUIOP – Vivien Alcock
2. The Fruitcake Special – Frank Berman

* Gulp and Gasp – John Townsend

I Wonder by Jennie Kirby

This is the first of TESLMALAYSIA’s “Lite-Fun” Series (Literature: Light and Fun).“I Wonder” by Jeannie Kirby is one of the poems included in the new literature component and it is a very interesting poem.
On first reading, it is rather apparent that the poem seems to be a “lament” by the persona on everything around him or her. There is a strong sense of “deep thinking” and it resembles the typical “small thoughts” that we have when we’re observing our surroundings or wake up in the morning or even when we’re sitting alone, sipping our coffee at the corner of a coffee shop.

The poem is written in an “a a b b” rhyme scheme, a popular scheme used to create a “song-like” poem. In fact, some teachers have spent time changing this poem into a song, to help the students.

“I Wonder” by Jeannie Kirby
I wonder why the grass is green,
And why the wind is never seen
Who taught the birds to build a nest,
And told the trees to take a rest?

And when the moon is not quite round,
Where can the missing bit be found?
Who lights the stars, when they blow out,
And makes the lightning flash about?
Who paints the rainbow in the sky,
And hangs the fluffy clouds so high?
Why is it now, do you suppose,
That Dad won’t tell me if he knows?

This poem is rather straightforward to be taught. The key here is to build up the mood or sense of emotional outburst. One way is to use the Lemon Tree song by Fool’s Garden. The song is essentially similar in terms of how the persona is expressing his or her opinion on things that “just didn’t turn out right” and the sense of disappointment and emptiness. In Jeannie’s poem, the persona laments on human’s ignorance in promoting love and peace. In the Lemon Tree, the persona laments on his long-lost love (perhaps a girlfriend).

It is often good to start a literature lesson with a song, as means to attract students’ attention and highlight salient features of a specific text. In terms of themes, always start with an easy surface theme before going deeper like in “I wonder”, tolerance and acceptance would be ultimate theme.
LEMON TREE - By Fool’s Garden

I’m sitting here in a boring room it’s just another rainy
Sunday afternoon I’m wasting my time I got nothing to do
I’m hanging around I’m waiting for you
But nothing ever happens- and I wonder

I’m driving around in my car I’m driving too fast
I’m driving too far I’d like to change my point of view
I feel so lonely I’m waiting for you
But nothing ever happens- and I wonder

I wonder how I wonder why yesterday you told me
’bout the blue blue sky and all tall that I can see is just a yellow lemon-tree
I’m turning my head up and down
I’m turning turning turning turning turning around
And all that I can see is just another lemon-tree

I’m sitting here I miss the power I’d like to go out
taking a shower but there’s a heavy cloud in side my head
I feel so tired put myself into bed where nothing
ever happens- and I wonder
Isolation – is not good for me
Isolation – I don’t want to sit on a lemon-tree
I’m steppin’ around in a desert of joy Baby anyhow I’ll get another toy and every thing
will happen-and you’ll wonder
I wonder how I wonder why yesterday you told me
’bout the blue blue sky and all tall that I can see is just a yellow lemon-tree
I’m turning my head up and down
I’m turning turning turning turning turning around
And all that I can see is just another lemon-tree