Archive for the ‘English - learning tips’ Category

Children’s mental health shouldn’t be overlooked: Lee

Monday, June 22nd, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: Mental health issues in children need to be acknowledged and addressed properly, said Befrienders Kuala Lumpur patron Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye (pic).

He said although there have been intensive discussions on mental health in the last few years, most of them focused on adult’s mental wellbeing.

“This is good considering how mental illness is such a taboo subject. It is time for us to acknowledge the importance of mental health for both adults and children.

“According to the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2019, a total of 424,000 children were found to be struggling with mental health issues. This is a great concern to all of us and this issue needs to be addressed properly as children are our future and our hope,” he said in a statement, Sunday.

Lee said the ability to recognise that a child needed help was crucial as early intervention could improve their wellbeing, and with proper care and treatment, most mental health issues could be treated.

He stressed that parents should play their role in ensuring their children’s mental wellbeing, including providing a conducive environment at home which is filled with love and care, and also encouraging healthy conversation by listening actively and allowing them to talk without being judgmental and critical.

“They would be more open to talk about their problems, including difficult and uncomfortable feelings, and reaching out for help whenever they encounter difficulties in the future.

“If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, please reach out for help, speak to a professional, such as to psychiatrist or counsellor,” he said and adding that the Befrienders Kuala Lumpur offers emotional support to anyone feeling distressed or suicidal, by calling their 24-hour helpline 03-7627 2929.

Lee said the healthy environment in the school was also very important as children would spend a long period of time at school and they needed to be equipped with skills on how to manage stress efficiently, problem-solving skills as well as skills to build resilience.

He added by incorporating these elements into the school syllabus could help improve mental health in children while teaching staff could help make school a safer place by keeping an eye on any bullying incident as it could severely affect a child’s mental health and in some extreme cases, could even lead to suicide.

“Children go through many constant changes in their upbringing, such as going to a new school, meeting new friends and all these can make them feel stressful or anxious,” he said, adding that learning about the symptoms and early signs of mental distress would play a part in the preventive efforts.

By: Bernama.

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Learning English through a messaging app

Sunday, May 3rd, 2020

Reading culture: MYReaders volunteers are determined to help B40 children learn English.

IMAGINE what would life be like if you were illiterate.

Simple tasks such as reading a book or the K-drama subtitles, and even ordering food from a text-only menu would be impossible.

That’s why the ability to read, said Tay Sue Yen, the co-founder and executive director of non-governmental organisation (NGO) MYReaders, must never be taken for granted.

“Reading opens doors to a world of possibilities. It is a skill that stays with you for life, ” she said.

Quoting Dr Seuss, she added: “The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go!”

Founded in 2015 by four ‘Teach For Malaysia’ Fellows who taught in high-need secondary schools, MYReaders aims to empower children from underprivileged backgrounds to read English by providing remedial literacy programmes.

To ensure that these children are not left behind amid the movement control order (MCO), the NGO came up with LitHub – a simple and accessible solution which they’ve been using for a month to conduct English reading classes through WhatsApp.

“We chose the most common communication platform that was being used by parents and were able to record both the volunteer (teacher) and the students’ voices as they read.

“We are mindful that most of the children we engage with come from the B40 community and may not have access to the Internet or computers. Most of them share one smartphone with limited data, ” said Tay.

Explaining how classes were conducted, LitHub programme manager Tan Sue Min said an image of a page would be sent to the children together with a pre-recorded video, or a picture, along with a voice note.

“This mimics the ‘I read-you read’ model. Pupils will then record themselves reading via voice notes. The volunteer then provides feedback via text or voice note for each student’s reading before proceeding to the next portion, ” she shared.

At the end of each lesson, pupils will receive activity worksheets to review the words they have learnt.

Pupils can answer using various methods including drawing or typing on an image in the mobile phone, copying it onto a piece of paper and sending a photo of that, or simply responding via text.

“This method, however, still does not beat face-to-face readings where volunteers are able to explain the meaning of words with gestures and gauge the pupils’ engagement through their facial expressions, ” said Tan.

Fellow programme manager Aysha Fateeha said some 37 students and up to 34 parents have been involved with the lessons since it began.

“The class wouldn’t be as effective if it weren’t for the parents guiding their children. It is very nice to hear a parent’s voice in the background in the voice notes, correcting their child’s reading. This motivates and helps students stay engaged in the lesson.”

Aysha observed that students who did not have parental guidance gave up easily, and were often “missing-in-action”.

To solve the issue, the volunteers prepare a timetable so parents can be available to guide their children.

“The children became more engaged after that. After a month, they interacted more comfortably with us and were brave enough to answer questions in English.

“A lot of them get excited when they were given homework, ” she said.

Noting that parents play the biggest role in cultivating the love of reading, Tay said parents themselves should set a good example for their children.

“Children who see their parents read will be more inclined to pick up the habit.

“Reading should not be limited to just books. Parents can also encourage their children to read newspapers, recipes, instructions on how to play a board game or simply any text they come across, ” she said, adding that the experience of reading out loud can strengthen the bond between parent and child.

MYReaders co-founder Alex Lim said the NGO also conducts classes for parents to engage with children in English.

“Parents are introduced to a suitable vocabulary list prepared by the Education Ministry so that they can use these new words with their children.

“They would also be taught story-telling techniques and reading strategies to engage their children when they read at home.”

For more on MYReaders’ programmes and English language toolkits, log onto


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Promoting English usage among students via High Level Empowerment Programme

Saturday, November 23rd, 2019

SANDAKAN: English teachers should implement ideas through the High Level Empowerment Program (HIP) to find the best way to promote and encourage the use of English among students both in and outside the classroom.

Sabah Education director Dr Mistirine Radin said students should also be proficient in the use of English as well as participate in English language activities in schools, to enable them (students) to access language learning.

She said this is because English is a master language for students to ensure that they are able to communicate in the language as well as to prepare them for future challenges.

In this regard, Mistirine said schools, especially educators, play an important role in ensuring that students can master and be proficient in the use of English.

Her keynote address at the opening of the “Sabah High Level Empowerment (HIP) Carnival, Best Practice Sharing” programme was read by English Language Officer to the State of Sabah, Muarifin Sufian Mochoeri at the SMK Merpati here on Wednesday.

Also present were Sandakan Education Officer Haji Sharif Mahada Haji Sharif Attar and Elopura Assemblyman Calvin Chong.


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Interactive ways to use newspaper during English lessons.

Monday, May 20th, 2019
Dass (in pink) says using the NiE pullout will make lessons more engaging in general. — ZAINUDIN AHAD/The Star

Dass (in pink) says using the NiE pullout will make lessons more engaging in general. — ZAINUDIN AHAD/The Star

THE use of newspapers in classrooms can be done in a creative manner and need not be dull.

Teachers could make lessons more engaging by using The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (NiE) pullout, as well as other sections of the newspaper.

Lucille Dass, Star-NiE freelance consultant trainer, said this form of teaching would make lessons more engaging in general.

“We get students to bold and highlight parts of the newspaper.

“Teachers could also have a quiz and have students go through the newspaper in search for the answers,” she said during a recent workshop for teachers at Disted College in Macalister Road in Penang.

She said it is also important for teachers to give clear instructions when conducting lessons involving the newspaper or other resources in class.

“The instructions should be crisp and clear instead of repetitive explanations.

“Teachers should start the lesson by stating that the instruction will not be repeated and this would encourage students to listen carefully and pay attention,” she said.

These were some of the many tips shared during the workshop involving more than 30 English school teachers.

Also present was Star Media Group circulation (north) assistant manager Eileen Ooi.

Teacher Aqilah Nasuha Abdullah Sani (from SMK Pondok Upeh) said the approach provided during the workshop was practical.

“It is a challenge to teach English in class as some students get easily bored. That’s why the lessons have to be conducted in a creative manner,” she said.

For teacher Lim Seng Leong from SMK Bukit Jambul, this is the first time he has attended the workshop although he has been teaching English for almost three decades.

“The tips shared are definitely in line with my teaching methods.

By Intan Amalina Mohd Ali
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UMS students learn English the Fun-tastic way

Friday, November 17th, 2017

KOTA KINABALU: Much to the surprise of the first year students participating in the Fun-tastic race at UMS recently, learning English tenses and parts of speech actually turned out to be ‘good fun’.

The students were all from Communicative English Grammar, a foundation English course offered by the Centre for the Promotion of Knowledge and Language Learning (CPKLL).

The 35 challengers tried their best to communicate in English as they undertook ten challenges at ten stations located in the vicinity of CPKLL. Examples of the communicative challenges were ‘describe and draw’, charades, relaying a message, and riddles. The participants also enjoyed solving clues to find ten ‘treasures’ and taking wefies with these ‘treasures’ along the way to different stations.

Many of the participants said that they learned more about English language and teamwork from taking part in the race. When asked to comment on the event, one participant responded, “It’s really fantastic! Love it! It can improve our communication skills in English, team spirit, and problem solving skills.”

Judging from the positive responses from the participants, this event evidently transformed the shy low proficiency students into active users of English as the constraints of a formal teacher-centered classroom gave way to experiential learning and gamification strategies.

The fastest team completed the race in 1 ½ hours and won the first prize of RM200. The Chairperson of Funtastic Race 2017 committee, Ms. Loh Yoke Len pointed out that “The Fun-tastic Race made every participant a winner as they all contributed to the challenges and overcame them together as a team.”

The race was jointly organised by CPKLL ‘Say it in English’ Campaign’ headed by Mr. John Mark Storey in collaboration with the Chairperson of Communicative English Grammar Course, Ms. Brenda Margaret Wright. She commented, “Having fun with English in a communicative context can spark motivation for all levels of learners.”

In addition, the collective endeavour of 29 second and third year TESLstudents from the Faculty of Psychology and Education was a key factor in the success of the race.

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The point about English

Monday, October 9th, 2017
If graduates applying for a job have poor English communication skills, potential employers can’t gauge their character to see if they are a good fit for the job.

WHEN hotel manager Long Cheow Siong recently interviewed a university graduate for a position at his establishment in Johor Baru , the latter’s weak grasp of English baffled him.

The interview with the youngster, who walked in with several others to pitch for an administrative position, was a dampener.

Long was not looking for a worker with impeccable English, but he noticed that the young man could not convey who he was as a person in simple English

“This youngster has a diploma in hospitality and was applying for an administrative post at the hotel.

“But his basic communication skills in English were poor and that is very disappointing,” Long said.

“The interview ended with me not knowing who the interviewee really was. He couldn’t express what his career goals, hobbies and interests were.

“Employers want to know more about a person’s character to see if they have the right attitude for the position they applied for.”

This is a constant lament of Malaysian employers about English proficiency among local job applicants.

They have often complained about the standard of English not only among school leavers, but also university graduates.

As English is an international language widely used in various spheres, not being proficient in the language is something hard to accept.

The issue of poor English proficiency among Malaysian job seekers gained prominence recently when Permaisuri Johor Raja Zarith Sofiah Sultan Idris Shah called for concerted efforts by academicians, non-governmental organisations and corporations to provide opportunities for youngsters to learn the language.

She said serious and urgent intervention was needed to resolve the “dramatic and drastic” decline in the proficiency of written and spoken English among Malaysia’s younger generation.

Raja Zarith Sofiah’s suggestion spurred much discussion on social media and even earned brickbats from Facebook users who claimed that a focus on English would erode the use of the national language.

Such opinions prompted Raja Zarith Sofiah to write a posting on Facebook, in which she related her personal experience of how English had helped her engage with western thinkers and policymakers to correct misconceptions about Islam.

She said communicating with academicians and policymakers in English helped her get her message across during a talk she gave at Somerville College, University of Oxford in the United Kingdom five years ago.

She mentioned two other instances when English helped to bridge the gap between eastern and western thinkers: once, during a talk about Islam and science by former Universiti Teknologi Malaysia vice-chancellor Datuk Zaini Ujang at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, and the other during the World Islamic Economic Forum, which she attended a few times.

“In all the three examples, it is the use of English which had made it possible for those of us here in the east to express our opinions and concerns with those from the west.

“That is why I believe our young people should be given the chance to learn the language,” she said on her official Facebook page.

Raja Zarith Sofiah said speaking English did not make a person less Malaysian.

She said she spoke to and wrote letters to her parents and siblings in her mother tongue when she lived and studied in the UK.

She recalled her cravings for Malaysian food during weekly cookouts with her siblings in the UK, during which they would warn their English neighbours before they began grilling belacan to make their favourite condiment, sambal belacan

“During the 11 years I lived
in England, I did not for even
one second forget that I was a Malaysian.

“I did not dye my hair blonde or wear blue contact lenses (although I see there is a trend in Malaysia now for ladies to look ‘pink-skinned’ and wear coloured contact lenses),” she said.

By Ahmad Fairuz Othman

Gaining diverse perspectives and skills through literary studies

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

THE term “wordsmith” often comes to mind when referring to someone who is pursuing a degree in English Language and Literature — one who is on his way to becoming an expert in the use of words in the language, spouting passages from Shakespeare’s plays, for example.

This is because the programme generally requires the analysis of the workings of the English language in all forms and contexts as well literary texts from different periods throughout history.

English Literature as a major in a Bachelor of Arts programme has been offered here since 1959 when University of Malaya (UM) was established at Lembah Pantai in Kuala Lumpur.

Professor Sharmani Patricia Gabriel, head of the Department of English at UM’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, said the history of the programme can be traced back to 1949 when UM was first formed in Singapore, and even further back to the establishment of Raffles College in the opening decades of the 20th century.

“If you consider carefully UM’s development over its long history, you will notice that though remaining distinctive in the country in terms of the range of courses it continues to offer — from the medieval era to the 21st century, from the UK to other English-speaking regions of the world — the contents of its BA programme have always been in a state of flux,” she added.

“This is necessary for the study of English Literature to remain relevant to our understanding of who we think we are as Malaysians and how we see ourselves as Malaysians in relation to the wider world. This insight on our part means that in addition to teaching British Literature, we also teach Literature in English from Malaysia, Singapore, Africa, India, the Caribbean, Australia and the US. Our curricular offerings have also expanded to reflect both contemporary approaches to the study of Literature and the breadth of staff expertise and interest.”

In terms of student intake, the department annually accepts 20 to 25 students for its BA English programme although it receives applications in the hundreds. “Our undergraduate student size is deliberately kept small so as maintain a favourable student-to-staff ratio and to reflect the shift in emphasis from undergraduate to postgraduate training and education.”

At Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Literature in English is offered at the undergraduate level through the BA English Language Studies programme as well as the Bachelor of Education (Teaching English as a Second Language/TESL) programme.

Dr Shahizah Ismail Hamdan, coordinator of the Postcolonial Literature in English Programme at UKM’s Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, said: “We also have several Literature courses — also known as kursus citra universiti — open to all undergraduates as part of UKM’s liberal education efforts. The average intake for BA English Language Studies is 60 students and 30 for B.Ed TESL.”

UKM used to offer a BA Literature in English Studies programme, which ran from 2005 to 2014, with an average intake of 25. “Due to changing university policy — which is to increase postgraduate intake — several programmes deemed less marketable were put on hold. To date, that is the status of the BA Literature in English programme. At the Master’s of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy level, UKM offers the Postcolonial Literature in English degrees.

Both UKM and UM were placed in the 51-100 band in the 2017 QS University World Rankings by Subject for English Language and Literature, making them the top two universities in the country for the subject. UKM was in the 101-150 band last year.

“The rise in ranking for English language and Literature can be attributed to the method in which QS University World Rankings by Subject is done — i.e. via global surveys of academics and employers on an institution’s reputation for the subject as well as evaluation of research impact based on citations per publication and h-index,” said Shahizah.

For Sharmani, recognition of the discipline’s international strength is a sign that the faculty’s programme is designed on a model comparable to that of UK and the US universities, which are still widely perceived as canonical centres for the study of Literature in English. “More importantly, our world ranking offers a much needed context for bringing to national visibility the role played by the department as a centre for scholarly thinking and inquiry.”


But how relevant is an English language and Literature qualification in the modern world today, where expertise in areas like technology for example is deemed more critical?

“To declare that the study of English language and Literature is no longer relevant in today’s modern world is inaccurate. The discipline in its traditional sense may not be 100 per cent relevant but the critical and analytical skills involved in literary studies are highly valued in the industry. The ability to state an argument and communicate its relevance are also developed through literary studies,” said Shahizah.

As such, students of the programme are actively involved in many research projects related to making Literary Studies relevant. “One of the ongoing projects includes an effort at branding the skillsets developed in Literary Studies as something that can help differentiate UKM graduates from the rest, increasing their employability as a result. This is done through exposing students to the nuances of language, history, culture, ideology and real life issues that are portrayed in literary works,” she added.

Sharmani remarked that those who say that the study of English Literature is no longer relevant in today’s world must be made to study it. No one who has studied Literature will ever question its usefulness or relevance, she emphasised.

“As a Humanities subject, Literature helps us conceptualise our world from broader and more diverse perspectives, beyond our immediate and often parochial experiences. Reading and writing are, of course, among the most valuable skills one can have. But there exists a purpose for reading and writing beyond the immediate and practical purposes of communication.

“We need Literature to help us interpret our world. It is the combination of reading and writing with analysis that make the study of Literature uniquely important. Literature also helps us understand ourselves as imaginative and creative beings. Though this is found in all disciplines, it is especially nurtured in the Humanities. It is not so much knowledge that is privileged in Literature, though that too is important, but the notion of the idea.”

Knowledge on its own means very little, Sharmani added. “It is the idea that helps us explore, frame our questions, inquire into knowledge and move it forward. It is these creative and imaginative aspects inherent in the pursuit of knowledge that Literature and the Humanities in general help us address. This is all the more urgent, an antidote even, to our hypermodern, technicised 21st century lives.”

Having said that, Sharmani said she is aware of the department’s responsibility to engage with the trends and needs of various professions.

“The BA in English offered includes courses that combine the skills of literary analysis with job-oriented skills and applications of English for career options in advertising and journalism, for instance. We offer these courses as electives in our main BA programme. But we are also entrusted with the greater responsibility of not diluting our courses or modifying them to the extent that they no longer meet the principles of academic inquiry,” she added.


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Aye to English Language roadmap.

Sunday, September 4th, 2016

IF the roadmap benefits the teachers and ultimately the students, then we’re all for it, said Malaysian English Language Teaching Association (Melta) president Prof Dr S. Ganakumaran.

“I think anything that’s proactive and forward-looking in a strategic way is good.”

Prof Ganakumaran was commenting on the English Language Roadmap 2015-2025 launched by Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid on Tuesday.

Mahdzir said the ministry has come up with a roadmap to continue enhancing English proficiency among teachers and students.

“The roadmap will serve as a guide for teachers to ensure students achieve proficiency levels aligned to international standards,” he said.

The roadmap, he said, focused mainly on the country’s 40,000 English teachers.

However, Prof Ganakumaran warned that although the roadmap looks good on paper, “delivery is the one that lets us down.”

There should be adequate support to ensure the programme can be carried out properly on the ground, he said.

“It will be interesting to see how the ministry ensures that the people who are going to receive the training are motivated and driven to be trained,” he said, adding that this will be the biggest challenge in terms of implementation for the authorities.


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Choral reading will improve English speaking skills

Monday, July 18th, 2016

WE often lament that Malaysians are not sufficiently fluent in speaking English despite the many years spent in carrying out programmes that are expected to enhance their skills in the global language.

Speech, as we all know, is the most basic of language acquisition skills.

Early man responded to his surroundings in the most primitive way of satisfying his needs by communicating in the only natural way he knew. And that was to utter sounds which were familiar and decipherable to others in his group.

That was the kind of communicative speech in the early days of our civilisation.

Speech, of course, works hand-in-hand with its twin, listening. One simply cannot exist without the other.

But it is quite unfortunate that learning programmes that are executed by the Education Ministry, have always been met with negative responses and criticisms by certain quarters with vested interests.

Language mastery encompasses four universal steps, one leading to the other – listening, speaking, reading and writing.

Decades ago, there were always teachers in schools who were known for their skills in teaching Oral English, namely listening and speaking.

Times have changed. Our children are not taught English from the basics.

The only English they get to listen in the classroom is perhaps the teacher’s instructions to carry out tasks. Beyond that, daily exposure to the language is minimal.

Common sense tells us that if students are not exposed to listening to the basics of a language, how can they possibly even try to speak it?

Students who fall into this category are mostly those from rural areas.

Since English is hardly spoken at both primary and secondary schools, it is perhaps time to look back at some of the practices our local schools adopted decades ago.

Teachers made their students read out sentences and sometimes an entire passage in unison – it was called choral reading.


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MELTA Helps To Enhance English Language Education In Perak

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

News Pic

IPOH, May 30 (Bernama) – The Malaysian English Language Teaching Association (MELTA) International Conference is the best platform to enhance english among students and teachers in Perak.

“The state government will continue to improve the command of English among students in rural areas,” said Human Resources, Youth and Sports Committee chairman Datuk Shahrul Zaman Yahya after the opening of 25th MELTA conference by Permaisuri Johor, Raja Zarith Sofiah Sultan Idris Shah, here Monday.

At the ceremony, Raja Zarith Sofia presented the Raja Zarith Sofia Award for Corporate Social Responsibility in English Language Education to the New Straits Times (NST) newspaper.

The three-day conference with the theme “21st Century Learning in English Language Education: Embracing Technology and Progressive Pedagogy was attended by delegates from 25 countries.

Meanwhile, MELTA president Prof Dr S. Ganakumaran said they would launch MELTA Perak branch in an effort to enhance English education in the state.


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