Category Archives: Jottings

"stationary" vs. "stationery"

There’s no spelling error here. Although both words are pronounced the same way,  “stationary” and “stationery” do not have the same meaning. Yet, you sometimes see mistakes.

  • stationary (adj.) – not moving
  • stationery* (n.) – writing materials like pen, pencil, eraser, exercise book etc.

Therefore, it is incorrect to say:

  • I want to go to the bookstore to get some stationary. (X)
  • Vehicles were stationery for hours on the highway. (X)

Stationery” does not have a plural form, so you cannot add an “-s“. So, it is wrong to say:

  • I’m buying some stationeries. (X)
  • I’m buying some stationery. (√)

About MUET

TOEFL and IELTS are internationally known university entrance assessments that gauge the proficiency level of potential students who are about to enrol into universities. In Malaysia, we have our own assessment specially catered to local students who wish to enter public universities. It’s called the Malaysian University Entrance Test (MUET).

Candidates will be tested on the following components:













30 mins.








30 mins.








90 mins.








90 mins.




This biannual assessment is administered by the Malaysian Examination Council (Majlis Peperiksaan Malaysia – MPM). MUET is usually conducted in June and November.

Fees: RM60 per candidate; additional RM25 if you want to change the test centre.

Forms can be obtained either from the State Education Departments or the school authorities.

If you need some help in MUET, especially if live in Malacca :), please don’t hesitate to contact me here. You may check out my brief profile here (scroll down the page).

British vs. Malaysian English

It’s been a long time since I posted something in this blog. I’ve actually run out of ideas already 🙂 Anyway, someone sent me something humourous recently.

We’ve heard of British vs. American English, but this post is about British vs. Malaysian English (Manglish). Have fun comparing:

British English vs. Malaysian English


I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t seem to have the sweater you want in your size, but if you give me a moment, I can call the other outlets for you.

No stock.


Hello, this is John Smith. Did anyone call for me a few moments ago?

Hello, who call ah, just now?


Excuse me, I would like to get by. Would you please make way?

S-kews, s-kews!


Excuse me, but do you think it would be possible for me to enter through this door?

[pointing at the door] Can enter, ah?


Please make yourself right at home.

No need shy shy one, lah!


I don’t recall you giving me the money.

Where got?


I would prefer not to do that, if you don’t mind.

Don’t want lah.


Excuse me, but could you please lower your voice? I’m trying to concentrate over here.

Shut up, lah!


We seem to be in a bit of a predicament at the moment..

Die lah!!


This isn’t the way to do it. Here, let me show you.

Like that also don’t know how to do!

The conclusion is, Manglish is simple, short, concise but not easy for foreigners to understand 😀


What? Jewery? Yup, that’s what I heard a few minutes ago, and that prompted me to post this article.

My office door is now open because there’s no electricity.  Somehow this PC runs on a different electrical line. Right across my room, I could see a group of students discussing a mock meeting. Well, somewhere along their discussion, one of the group members wanted to know the spelling of the word “jewelry” (jewellery), and her friend confidently said: “Jewery? J-E-W-E-R-Y.”  – she was literally spelling the way she pronounced it!!

I blogged about grammar and phonics recently, and now it’s clearly proven that in some cultures, you can’t simply “convert” them into native English speakers, probably never in their lifetime. What the Ministry of Education could do is to start a speech therapy class conducted by local teachers, if they’re really serious about improving pronunciation. You won’t get 100% success rate, but you’d certainly see some improvement. A friend of mine attended a speech therapy class in the U.S. when she was studying there, and it helped her. Nevertheless, she still has problems pronouncing the “l” in “problem”, for instance. It’s all got to do with the interference of the mother tongue.

It’s really noisy – oh, they’re quiet now as it’s time to start that mock meeting with their lecturer.


Grammar or phonics?

Our government – to be more specific, the Ministry of Education (MOE) – has a bad habit of changing the way things are done in schools as and when they please without getting input from the grassroots (the teachers). First, we have the ever controversial teaching of Math and Science in English. In a recent report in the papers, the MOE plans to recruit foreign teachers to teach English pronunciation because they want students to pronounce the way native speakers do! Check out a comment made by a Malaysian reader and another comment by a foreign reader in response to the first reader’s comment. Both are against what I call “the blatant ignorance” of officials in the MOE.

It really amazes me and everyone else how those blokes at the top think, if they ever think at all. Who are they trying to please at the expense of our children? Are they really qualified to make decisions in the first place? Tax payers’ money is being utilized to hire 365 foreigners to teach our kids how to say words so that they sound like “mat salleh” or “gwailo“. Get real!! In the Malaysian education context, we learn English in schools  so that we’re able to communicate with others whether in the spoken or the written form. The communicative approach to learning a second language has been used in many Asian countries as well, so what’s so special about Malaysia that requires foreigners to be hired? Besides, we have our own batch of teachers who could speak English well. In fact, many foreigners are surprised that Malaysians could speak good English. We have colleges that teach future teachers how to teach English. Therefore, by hiring foreigners, is the MOE implying that they’re doubtful as to the proficiency of our English teachers? If so, that also means lecturers in teacher training colleges have not been well-trained for the job.

What are the implications of hiring foreigners (no offense to you guys, ok)? First, it’s going to cost a bomb; they are definitely not coming if our government pays them the same salary and get the same perks locals get. Secondly, students who are not used to listening to a foreigner speak English would be intimidated, feel uncomfortable, and end up shying away from speaking. Third, in some cultures, it is rather difficult to say certain letters like “r”, “l” and “w” correctly. Forget about pronouncing the “o” as in “boat” and expressing the distinct “k” as in “like”. It’s really common for our students and adults to say “bot” instead of “boat”, for instance. Don’t the MOE officials know anything about sociolinguistics? Obviously not.

So, what the heck are the objectives of teaching English in schools then? Is it to enable students to speak like a native English speaker a.k.a the Queen’s English variety? If, so, we’re heading the wrong direction. What about grammar then? Don’t you think it’s more critical to be able to construct sentences correctly than to be able to pronounce words like a native speaker?

What English is this?

A while ago, as I was browsing the Net, I came across an advertisement for Home Tutors. On the front page, a list of tutors recently registered with the tuition service is shown. I randomly clicked on a name, and I saw this description:

I have finished my degree in Accounting and will further my MBA in UPM.I have teaching experience for primary students during my uni life time. Furthermore, I am a full scholarship holder in my university and responsible to teach the weak students in their studies for 3 years. My education background as below ….. Do you want your children/yourself Study Smart? Just Follow Me, I will lead them/u with caring. I understand the life of being a student, let me share my studies experience with the children. Let them understand: ‘Try the Best, No Regret”.

You know what? This tutor offers English, Math and Malay Language tuition to primary school kids. Now we know why the standard of English amongst our students is deteriorating.  Sad huh?

The Power of English

If you have a very strong command of the English language, you could easily come up with strings of sentences and phrases that not only challenge the readers or listeners but also tickle their bones. More importantly, you’re able to send very strong messages in a very subtle manner. Of course you could do the same with any language, but we’re now talking about English 🙂

Here are some statements that someone has just sent me:

  • Advertisement in a Long Island shop
    Guitar for sale. Cheap. No strings attached.
  • An ad in a hospital waiting room
    Smoking helps you lose weight – one lung at a time.
  • Graffiti on the wall
    – Success is relative. The more successful you are, the more relatives.
    – When I read about the evils of drinking, I give up reading.
    – My grandpa is 80 and still doesn’t need glasses; he drinks straight out  of the bottle.
    – You know your kids have grown up when your daughter puts on lipstick and your son wipes it off.
    – Behind every great man, there’s a surprised woman.
    – Laugh and the world laughs with you; snore and you sleep alone.
  • Sign in a bar
    Those of you who are drinking to forget, please pay in advance.
  • Sign in a driving school
    If your wife wants to learn to drive, don’t stand in her way.
  • Sign at a barber’s shop
    We need your heads to run our business.
  • A traffic reminder
    Don’t let your kids drive if they are not old enough or else they will never be.

"-se" vs. "-ce"

Here comes another bummer. 😀

How many times did you have to wonder if a word is spelt with an “-se” or a “-ce“? Many students and even adults are unsure if there is a difference between:

  • advice” and “advise
  • practice” and “practise

Yes, there is a difference but it has nothing to do with them being American English or British English.

  • advice (n.)an opinion that someone offers to you about what you should or should not do
  • advise (v.)the act of giving opinion to someone about what you should or should not do


  • practice (n.)regular action to improve your skill
  • practise (v.)the act of doing something regularly to improve your skill


advice vs. advise

  1. I gave him some advice ( = opinion ) before he left abroad.
  2. Take my advice and get a doctor to look into your health problem.
  3. Could you please advise ( = give opinion to ) your students on the importance of consultation hours?
  4. Dad had advised me to stay away from bad hats, but I refused, so now I’m in deep trouble.

practice vs. practise

  1. To do well in grammar, you need plenty of practice ( = regular action ).
  2. The coach said there is a football practice this afternoon.
  3. Practise ( = do regularly ) makes perfect, so keep practising until you can play the piano well.
  4. You have to be serious when you practise, or else you’ll not improve.

So, good people, I’m advising you to practise using verbal and written English as much as you can because without practice, you’ll not be good at it. Take my advice 🙂

Spot the Mistakes

I was given this flyer not too long ago. There are some mistakes. Can you spot the mistakes? No prizes for guessing the right answers, sorry 😛 Using English incorrectly in advertisements may not be appealing to customers. It shows the lack of professionalism.


The Grammar Dilemma

As I was looking for some teaching materials for my grammar class, I came across the following paragraph:

“Many English learners worry too much about tense. If you stopped 100 native English speakers in the street and asked them about tense, one of them might give you an intelligent answer – if you were lucky. The other 99 would know little about terms like “past perfect” or “present continuous”. And they would know nothing about aspect, voice or mood. But they can all speak fluent English and communicate effectively. Of course, for ESL it helps to know about tenses, but don’t become obsessed with them. Be like those native speakers! Speak naturally!”


The fact is, not only students worry about tenses. Teachers too find it difficult to sustain their students’ interest in learning grammar especially when English is taught as a foreign language and second language. Native English speakers obviously need not know grammar at all as these come rather naturally – but they still learn it.

The problem is, not every one is a native English speaker. It’s hard not to be “obsessed” with grammar when you want to express something in the future but end up using the wrong tense (especially), thus causing some confusion to the person whom you’re talking to. 

Languages like Mandarin, Arabic and Malay do not have tenses to show the differences in “time”. Having tenses merely makes learning English far more complex.  It would be great if we could say:

  • I eat rice today.
  • I eat rice yesterday.
  • I eat rice tomorrow.

… and I’m talking only about tenses minus the sentence structures and exceptions to so many rules that linguists have created.

Wouldn’t Simplfied English be more fun and less taxing on the learner?