Monthly Archives: August 2009

Disabled Parking

“The disabled” refers to people who are unable to walk or have some physical or mental disabilities. They were previously called the handicapped. I was at a local shopping mall when I came across this signage at a parking space.


The Problem

The word “disabled” is wrongly used. “Disabled” means two things:

  • disabled (n. / adj.) = a person who has difficulty moving around
    (e.g.: Facilities for the disabled are available at the airport.
    The disabled child was assisted by a nanny.)
  • disabled (v.) = to stop something from being used / accessed
    (e.g.: The alarm was disabled, so the thief stole everything.
    After 30 days, some of the software features will be disabled.

Therefore, based on the above explanations and examples, “Disabled Parking” is wrong because a parking spot is not human, and it’s not possible to disable the place used for parking a car.

The signage wants to tell shoppers that the parking space is for the disabled (people). Therefore, the signage should be correctly labelled as “Parking for the Disabled“.


About Food

If you think that learning about food is only for kids, think again. Watch this 33-minute video and you’ll be amazed at the amount information that you could get. Take note that this is an English lesson but you’ll alsoย  learn a bit of Science and Health. Watch how sentences and words are used as you enjoy the video. You’ll learn some new words too ๐Ÿ™‚

There’s an error at 15:44, the word “desert” should be spelt as “dessert”.

Order of Adjectives

As what you already know, adjectives are words that describe (or modify) a noun. It tells you something extra about that noun. In addition to that, more than one adjective could be used before a noun. However, the additional adjectives need to be arranged in order.

Do you know why we say:

“The clear blue sea.” (โˆš), and not “The blue clear sea.” (X)?

That’s because when you want to use more than one adjective preceding a noun, you need to follow the Opshacom rule. Here’s what the opshacom rule means:

Opinion: clear, good, useful
Shape: big, fat, long, round
Age: old, new, young
Colour: blue, black, yellowish
Origin: Italian, ancient, western
Material: wooden, metal, paper, cotton

By looking at the opshacom rule, do you know why “The clear blue sea.” is correct?

The clear (opinion) blue (colour) sea.

In the opshacom rule, opinion comes before colour, so the order of adjectives is correct. This makes the sentence correct, too.

Summary Guidelines

The purpose of the summary essay is to convey to others an understanding of a text you have read without their having to read it themselves. You cannot write a good summary of a text that you do not understand.

An Introduction to Summary

  • A summary is a shorter version of a longer piece of writing. The summary captures all the most important parts of the original, but expresses them in a [much] shorter space.
  • Summarising exercises are usually set to test your understanding of the original, and your ability to re-state its main purpose.

Some Tips to Remember

  • Read the piece for understanding first. Never summarise as you read the article for the first time.
  • Keep the relevant details, remove the irrelevant ones.
  • You may use a highlighter to underline key ideas if it makes things clearer for you.
  • You need to use your own words to re-write a sentence or paragraph without changing its meaning. This is called paraphrasing.

Steps to Follow

  1. Read the instructions
  2. Read the text to get the general idea.
  3. Underline the major points / keywords.
  4. Look for specific details.
  5. Leave our unnecessary examples, illustrations & repetitions.
  6. Include definitions of key terms and concepts (if any).
  7. Prepare an outline. List the main points in order.
  8. Write a draft of the summary.
  9. Paraphrase as you write the draft.
  10. Write in one paragraph.
  11. Be concise / brief.
  12. Donโ€™t add your own opinion.
  13. Use transition words.
  14. Check the number of words as stated in the instructions.
  15. Read through to check for errors.

Learn Phonetics

If you have a printed dictionary, you’ll notice that beside every word, there are weird symbols. Those symbols represent sounds in the English language. The study of speech sounds is called phonetics. By knowing a little about phonetics, you’ll be able to pronounce those symbols correctly, thus pronouncing the words correctly too. In this video, Mr. Duncan, the teacher, will tell you a bit about phonetics. Listen and watch how the teacher in this video pronounces each symbol.

How to Compose a Poem

There are many who still believe that poetry is reserved for the talented. I say that poetry is for all. In fact, anyone who knows to use a language to write has the potential of writing a simple poem. After all, we are not asking you to write the way Shakespeare or Wordsworth has written. Each of us have our own style. Furthermore, you have the poetic license to break grammar rules. You love that don’t you? ๐Ÿ™‚ Let’s look at some tips on writing a poem.

  1. Step 1

    Be inspired. Inspiration may come at any time very unexpectedly. It may be a specific person, place or situation that invokes your emotion.ย  You could be sitting alone at the patio and suddenly a colourful little bird flew past, perched on a tree and it made you wonder of the beauty of nature.

  2. Step 2

    You’ve found the inspiration. Now, brainstorm. Write down everything that comes to mind. Don’t think much; let instinct take over. Be uninhibited in what is written down and let all feelings pour out. Remember everything can be thrown out later.

  3. Step 3

    Think about form and begin to organise thoughts. Since you’re mostly likely not write it for performance at a theatre, opt for the free verse where there are no restrictions. You’re free as a bird to write as many lines as you want in a stanza, or merely one stanza.

  4. Step 4

    Remember rhythm and metre. There is a difference between the two, and both are equally important in poetry. Metre is the established pattern of the poem, that is, the arrangement of syllables, while rhythm refers to the sound when it is spoken. Take both into consideration while writing a poem.

  5. Step 5

    Use a lot of descriptive words. These words arouse all the senses. Use symbolism, and metaphors. To add more life and interest into your poem, use alliteration, the repeating of similar sounds in a sentence or phrase.

Compare these two poems, and see which one gives more impact. Why?

Poem 1

Poem 2

Love is blind
It sounds like the thunder before the storm
It feels like the earth after the first rain
It smells like red roses
It tastes like saccharine strawberries
It lives everywhere
Love is blind
Rumbling thunder before the storm
Fresh like the earth after morning rain
Smells like roses
Tastes sweetness of strawberries
Love is blind, surrounds the heart

Need more information? Read up on poetry. There are many books in the library and the bookstore. The more you read, the more ideas you’d get.

Learning English the Chinese Way

It’s rather pathetic that our flip-flop government has been undecided about the implementation of teaching and learning of certain subjects in English.ย  I’m not in the position to comment on whether their decisions are politically motivated or not, but what I’m sure is that the ultimate victims are the students.

One of the hot issues is the teaching of Math and Science in English in order to improve the English language proficiency of our students. This idea was mooted by Dr. Mahathir, our former Prime Minister, and was implemented in stages from 2002. Scholars and some teachers were fine with this policy as they saw the benefits, but in 2009, the new administration decided to abolish the policy as they claimed that it has been unfruitful. This is indeed sad. On one hand, we have scholars who are with this policy. On the other hand, we have politicians and non-political organisations that believe the use of English would jeopardise our National Language. I’m not going to waste my time debating on this, but I’d like to show you how the Chinese in China learn English.

In the two video clips below, you’ll see how much resilience, determination, courage and patience the Chinese have in learning a second language which they’re not even accustomed to. The Chinese government had imposed a regulation that English must be used in preparation for the Beijing Olympics in 2008. The result is what you see in the videos below:

Don’t you think that we should feel ashamed of ourselves for looking down on the importance of English when a country that has never been a British colony has taken the trouble to get its people to learn it, and successfully doing so? Take note that the Chinese in the video clips learnt English for a specific purpose – to be able to communicate with tourists; they’re not learning it to write business reports or seek corporate jobs. Therefore, the method is not suitable for academic purpose. Nevertheless, it clearly proves that English is important, and China has proven that with everyone’s participation, English can be learnt by all walks of life. Are we bold enough to make this change?

Faulty Modifiers

Modifiers are words, phrases or clauses that give more information about another word in the sentence. Modifiers most often are placed next to the word it modifies. Modifiers answer the questions where, why, when, who, how and what. Here are some examples. The modifiers are in red:

  • There is a little boy at the bus stop (where).
  • Because Jimmy was late (why), he missed the last bus.
  • Jane went jogging after doing her chores (when).
  • My neighbour, who is a policeman (who), is not a helpful person.
  • The boy cried loudly (how) when he was hit by a sharp object.
  • The aardvark, a tame animal (what), feeds on ants and other insects.

Notice that in all the examples above, the modifiers are placed next to the phrase it modifies.

Faulty Modifiers

(a) Dangling modifiers

Now, look at this sentence:

  • While talking on the phone, the doorbell rang. (X)

The sentence appears to be correct, but it’s not. What is wrong with that sentence? Who is talking on the phone – you or the doorbell? The sentence above shows that the doorbell was talking on the phone. It doesn’t make sense! The phrase “while talking on the phone” appears to be dangling, and does not correctly modify the phrase “the doorbell rang”. This error is a dangling modifier.

Here is the correct sentence.

  • While I was talking on the phone (who), the doorbell rang. (โˆš)

So, in this sentence, who was talking on the phone? Me.

(b) Misplaced modifiers

Sometimes, modifiers are wrongly placed in a sentence. Therefore, the sentence does not convey the message correctly, or it could be humourous. Check out these sentences:

  1. We read that Janet was married in her last letter. (X)
    In her last letter, we read that Janet was married. (โˆš)
  2. I almost listened to the whole album. (X)
    I listened to almost the whole album. (โˆš)

In Example #1,ย  it seems that Janet was married in her letter. This is ridiculous; it’s funny because you cannot marry in a letter.ย  In Example #2, the sentence “I almost listened…” means that you wanted to listen but you did not in the end. If this is not what you are trying to say, then you have to correct it.

In both examples, the modifiers at at the wrong place, thus modifier errors like these are misplaced modifiers. To correct misplaced modifiers, just move the modifiers next to the words or phrases that they modify.

Phrasal Verbs Redundancy

There are many words in English, when combined with a preposition, give new meanings. Such phrases are called phrasal verbs. For instance:

watch (v.)

  • watch over = look after
  • watch out = be careful, caution

put (v.)

  • put on = wear
  • put up = stay
  • put up with = tolerate something unpleasant
  • put off = cancel
  • put out = extinguish (the fire)

… and the list goes on. However not all verbs can be followed by a preposition. It is common (but wrong) to make the following mistakes:

  1. To avoid from overspending, we have to cut down on unnecessary expenses. (X)
    To avoid overspending, we have to cut down on unnecessary expenses. (โˆš)
  2. I think we should discuss about the event that we’re having next week. (X)
    I think we should discuss the event that we’re having next week. (โˆš)

In Example #1, the word “avoid” means to stay away from something, so the word “from” is not necessary. Similarly in Example #2, the word “discuss” means to talk about something, so just omit the word “about”. Can you think of other phrases where it is redundant to put a preposition after a verb?

Learning a Second Language

Watch this short video clip and tell me what you think ๐Ÿ˜€ To ensure smooth viewing, let the clip download completely first. Enjoy!