Monday, 7 April 2008


Ok, Guys, here's the continuation of my article on presentation.


I’m facing writer’s block. ‘What can I say that you don’t already know?’

There are tons of books on “How to Improve your English” which you can find at the local bookstore, hundreds of articles of the same on the net. And you’re probably sick of all the grammar and comprehension advice received during your school days. What can I say here that you will find useful for the day---about 5 weeks from now---when you stand before the external critics to talk about your scheme?

I’m not worried about those of you who are already fairly confident in this area. As for those who do face some difficulty…. perhaps I may be of some help. My observation is that the majority of these went through the vernacular primary school—some even all the way to Form Five. The obstacles you face are common. Those who didn’t go through the vernacular schools (VS) have a different set of problems, if at all. To make this article useful I’m going to address the problem along the VS tributary. Someway along, the other tributary (the National School, or NS, one) will join in naturally.

I’ll have to draw from my own experience. I taught a year of the Remove Class sometime back—classes of VS primary kids on the changeover to NS; I still retain a lot of the ‘smalltown-Chinese-PostEmergencyNewVillage-Muhibbah soul in me…(gulp!) Mine was not your typical KL-PJ middle class urban upbringing; after that it was 4 years trying to adapt to precisely that at St. John’s Inst. Bukit Nanas, KL; then, it was 6 years of total immersion in the English culture; before an immediate return to Here to spend many years squatting around muddy construction sites explaining details to contractors in Cantonese; and hanging out with VS musicians of the erhu, pipa, dixi and yangqing sort—and all for my ability to speak and write clear English. And of course, I kept up ongoing relationships with ppl. who spoke perfect English. So I guess I kinda know what the problem is.

THE GREAT DIVIDE: The main problem vernacular school students (VSS) face is that they think in their V language (VL) as default. They translate their thoughts from VL into English EACH time they have to say something. Although with practice this can be a “workable” system, it faces the disadvantage of a lack of the smooth musicality of English. It just doesn’t flow so well.

You can’t really blame the VSS. All their formative thoughts, emotions and expressions have been in the VL, and to retain their personality in conversation, they have to draw from all these formative substances; and hence the (sometimes tiresome and discouraging) need for translation. It’s like you’re so eager to cross over but the ferry is always late.

And time is so short to overcome it.

1.) TOTAL IMMERSION is easily the most effective way to improve your language. And that means (short of going to England/Australia/NZ/US/Canada) you make a decision now to speak only English, listen to only English, read only English, and—take a load of this—hang out (more) with ppl. who do that...haha. The nearer you can get to doing this 100% the faster you will improve. You will have to consider the practicalities, and make your plan. Is this strategy practicable for the forthcoming finals? A little. Maybe some…depends on how quickly you plunge headlong into it. Whatever, start now for the long term. It basically needs a change of attitude…a resolve to Just Do It!

You will find it funny at first. Your friends will think you’ve gone crazy—“You think your Engran very good ar?”—but that’s the price you’ll have to pay. How badly do you want to improve? But know what? You’ll discover new friendships opening up where you least expect it. There are many bananas in Malaysia.
Cont:- part 2/4

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