Monday, September 26, 2011

Video: Musical Punctuation

Dear All,

I've just rediscovered this video from YouTube which showed a 10 minute clip from the Dean Martin show.

The clip is funny and yet demonstrates a creative way to highlight the proper use of punctuation in sentences (in lyrics of the songs).

It's great fun also for our students especially those who have a working knowledge of English to appreciate this clip.


Rodney Tan

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Website & Contest: 10 Websites and Blogs of Punctuation Protectors

10 Websites and Blogs of Punctuation Protectors

Posted: 23 Sep 2011 09:58 PM PDT

In honor of National Punctuation Day, commemorated on September 24 (you didn’t forget, did you?), here’s a directory of Web sites documenting, usually with photographs, egregious punctuation errors.

First, by the way, note that the founder of National Punctuation Day, a freelance business-newsletter writer named Jeff Rubin, sponsors a Punctuation Paragraph Contest. The only rule is that you must write one paragraph, maximum of three sentences, using these punctuation marks:

apostrophe, brackets, colon, comma, dash, ellipsis, exclamation point, hyphen, parentheses, period, question mark, quotation mark, and semicolon.

(You may use a punctuation mark more than once.) Send your entry to the email address at Rubin’s Web site  by September 30, 2011.

*1.* Apostrophe Abuse

Tagline: Links and visuals illustrating an orthographic pet peeve.

*2.* Apostrophe Catastrophes

Tagline: The Worlds’ Worst. Punctuation;

*3.* The Apostrophe Protection Society

Tagline: Examples of misuse of the apostrophe as seen by you!

*4.* The “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks

Tagline: none

*5.* English Fail Blog

Tagline: Public Butcherings of the English Language

*6.* The Gallery Of “Misused” Quotation Marks

Tagline: none

*7.* GrammarBlog

Tagline: Mocking poor grammar since 2007

*8.* The Grammar Vandal

Tagline: Taking it to the streets and correcting America, one comma at a time.

*9.* The Great Typo Hunt

Tagline: none

*10.* Wordsplosion

Tagline: Showcasing the best of the worst of the wide world of words


*Original Post: *10 Websites and Blogs of Punctuation Protectors

*Your eBook*: Click here to download the Basic English Grammar ebook.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

News: Singapore's Language Battle - British ENglish or American English?

Dear All,

Singapore is in a dilemma: to continue to use the Queen's English which  the citizens have been taught all this while or to adopt the American English which is so prevalent in the business and entertainment world.

Lee Kuan Yu seems to have have his mind made up to go along with the current trend of adopting the American style of the English language for all its citizens.

My personal view is Singapore such stick with its British English. The reason being is that Singapore English (and also Malaysian English) is accent less or spoken English which is relatively clear of accent. This has been verified when I meet foreign speakers of the English language who can identify from which part of the world we are from and they will compliment us on the clarity in our speech and communication.

Anyway, here's the write up on this issue.

Rodney Tan

Singapore’s language battle: American vs ‘the Queen’s English’

By reddotrevolver Sep 07, 2011 10:23PM UTC

Known as a country in Southeast Asia with a highly educated workforce, Singapore is also one of the only countries in the region that uses English as a working language, and as a medium of instruction in schools. The ease of communication has established the country as the headquarters in Asia for many multinational companies.

A report by the Educational Testing Services (ETS) based on data from Jan-Dec 2010 shows that Singapore came in third in TOEFL (The Test of English as a Foreign Language) scores out of 163 countries. It is the only Asian country in the top three.

However, students in Singapore are taught in British English, or ‘the Queen’s English’, since elementary school. To Singapore’s former Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, this poses a serious and imminent challenge.

According to Channel NewsAsia, Lee said:

“There is an intense worldwide competition for talent, especially for English-speaking skilled professionals, managers and executives. Our English-speaking environment is one reason why Singapore has managed to attract a number of these talented individuals to complement our own talent pool.

“They find it easy to work and live in Singapore, and remain plugged into the global economy. Singapore is a popular educational choice for many young Asians who want to learn English, and they get a quality education. This has kept our city vibrant.”

Mr Lee said one of the challenges ahead is to decide whether to adopt British English or American English.

He said: “I think the increasing dominance of the American media means that increasingly our people, teachers and students will be hearing the American version, whether it is ‘potatoes’ or ‘tomatoes’. They will be the dominant force through sheer numbers and the dominance of their economy.

“I believe we will be exposed more and more to American English and so it might be as well to accept it as inevitable and to teach our students to recognise and maybe, to even speak American English.”

Lee added that “communication skills” will be one of the most valuable qualities to possess in the twenty-first century.

Be it fashion, music, food or movies, American popular culture has had a pervasive influence on Singaporean society, as the adoption of the American slang has made its way to the lexicon of Singapore English. However, in official documents, and even in text messages, British spelling is used. Yet, a good command of English is a good command of English, regardless of whether it is written in British spelling or spoken with an American accent. Perhaps American investors will appreciate an American accent when speaking to Singaporean businessmen, but Americans have long done business with their British counterparts who have thick British accents. To be able to be understood by the other party is still what remains the most imperative.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Learning the Alphabet : Past & Present

Dear All,

Before learning the English language, we need to learn the very basic foundation of the alphabets.

I recalled what my teachers used as objects to associate with the alphabets. For example, A - Apple,
B - Boy, C - Cat and so on.

But nowadays, students will be learning the alphabets in a contemporary way. It has a lot to do with technology.

Please look at the difference below.

An idea I had was to use this 2 charts as a warmer and get the students to read both charts aloud for fun. As an extension activity, students can write sentences using those words. A spelling test would also be a fantastic activity. The technological alphabets & the objects can be used as a discussion of what is the purpose or the uses of each type of technological innovation. It could even end up as a writing activity. Lastly, the pictures can be a take off point to discuss how technology had pervaded our modern lives.


Rodney Tan

Friday, September 9, 2011

News: English Language Comes Alive

Dear ETs,

As practising classroom teachers, many of us would like to find engaging and meaningful methods to attract and teach English langauge to our pupils.

This news from Singapore shows that story telling and role-playing are two methods used in in their primary schools under their STELLAR programme.

The result is pupils able to speak and read better in English.

Recently, our Malaysian English language syllabus had undergone changes to include the performing arts i.e. drama into the English lessons. The feedback so far is the current approach helps students to be interested and to be engaged in English language learning.

I personally find drama to be an interesting and engaging way to get my students interested in the English language. The lower forms especially, love doing roleplays and dramas.

So, do read the article below to be inspired to try drama, story telling and role-play in our lessons.

Have fun!

Rodney Tan Chai Whatt

English language comes alive

By Nicole Wong | September 9, 2011

New approach to enhancing students' interest in English.

SINGAPORE – Story-telling and role-playing makes learning English interesting and fun for primary school children, according to a study conducted the Ministry of Education (MOE). These are methods used in the Stellar programme. Strategies for English Language Learning and Reading, better known as Stellar, aims to make English more interactive and fun to learn. The program was first started in 2006, with Primary 1 pupils in 30 primary school, and eventually rolled out to all other schools in 2009.

According to The Straits Times, pupils in the Stellar program are able to speak and read better in English. MOE’s program director for literacy development, Dr Elizabeth Pang, who oversees the Stellar programme, explained that the results from the study indicated that the pupils from 10 Stellar pilot schools have consistently scored higher in writing, reading and speaking. Children were randomly selected to eliminate the inherent advantage of an exceptionally bright child or good teacher, so as to conduct a fair study.

Techniques like story telling, and role-playing were used to engage pupils during lessons. Masks, costumes and props are used during role-playing of characters in the story. They are also tasked with writing scripts for segments with reference to radio or television programme as part of the curriculum.

Stellar’s program is structured to increase pupils’ ability to express themselves confidently and clearly. These areas were identified as weaknesses among local pupils. As such, principals and teachers noticed the difference it has made to the pupils’ grasp of the language before the study findings were released. Dr Pang said that the study confirmed that the Education Ministry was on the right track to teaching English more interactively. With these results, existing methods of teaching English could be refined. While Stellar pupils outperform their peers in writing in the early years, they do not seem to do the same later. This is one question that has not been answered by the study.

Bukit View Primary’s Stellar programme teacher-in-charge for lower primary pupils Mrs Brenda Siew, 42 said that Primary 1 students these days are more vocal and would proactively ask questions. This is in contrast to non-Stellar students in the past.

According to Ms Rezia Rahumathllah, 33, an English teacher at Da Qiao Primary, for children from non-English speaking homes, Stellar increases their exposure to various reading material that has helped in cultivating a love for reading and also increased opportunities to speak.

The difference has not gone unnoticed by parents. Mrs Maggie Ng, 44, housewife, whose son Willard is a Primary 6 student in Bukit View, noted that her son writes with descriptive phrases and speaks with clarity. Willard said he and his classmates always look forward to English lessons. He adds that they learn a lot more due to effort spent on research to create props and write scripts.

St. Andrew’s Junior was one of the 30 schools involved in the pilot Stellar program. Its former principal, Mrs Wai Yin Pryke, who now heads the newly launched English Language Institute of Singapore, recalls how the pupils on the programme simply stood out. The institute aims to raise teachers’ proficiency level in English by running courses, and research in language-teaching strategies.

Would this approach pave the way for children to express themselves in a clearer and proper English? How do you teach your children English at home?

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Dear Readers,

I've taken this grammar book review from a Filipino online business news portal.

After reading the interesting review, I've learned a number of new things about grammar.

For example, glamour and grammar are related words. Next, the actual origins and meaning of the F-word and the difference between an acronym and an intialism.

English is also gifted with short words compared with many other languages and the word "├źnthusiasm" has God in it.

Do note that the author of  this book: Roy Peter Clark is the mentor of many Pulitzer Prize winners as well! This speaks volume about the calibre of the author.

After reading this engaging review, I just can't wait to get a hold of this grammar book which is definately different than many of the normal textbook style grammar manuals!

Rodney Tan Chai Whatt

Discover the magic power of language

Everytime I pass the South Luzon Expressway, northbound, I read this billboard of a finishing agency, John Robert Powers, which reads: “Don’t let bad grammar come between you.” It is catchy for two reasons.

One, it’s good to know that an organization wants to propagate the correct use of grammar in spoken and written English (or, maybe, in another language like Filipino), even among those whose business is to be “socially correct.”

Two, “bad grammar” – I prefer “wrong grammar” – focuses on the need to properly use the language with the right principles and rules. I said, here’s an agency pre-occupied with form, which is also concerned with something of substance that, yes, makes for good form.

Here’s a book, “The Glamour of Grammar,” that invades not only the classrooms, but the spheres of chic and sophistication, that presents itself as a “Guide to the Magic and Mystery of Practical English.”

To the classroom English teacher, it is a complete guide to animate discussion and to make grammar teaching exciting once again, because the book brings you to the thrilling experience of looking at words, sentences, and punctuation marks as your tools for writing superb English, and for telling a story, painting story with words and harnessing the wonder and might of wordplay.

To the professional – in the arts and sciences, even in the ritzy world of fashion and showbiz, learning from the author – who, by the way, is the mentor of many Pulitzer Prize winners, aspiring or accomplished.

Quoting “The Word Detective,” the Roy Peter Clark tells us that “glamour” and “grammar” are essentially the same word. In classical Greek and Latin, “grammar (from the Greek “grammatikos,” meaning “of letters”) covered the whole of arts and letters, i.e., high knowledge in general.

In every page, you will note that Roy Clark has fallen hopelessly in love with the English language. And when you begin to read his 294-page book, you will start falling in love to with the still generally undiscovered magic and mystery of the written and spoken word in English.

A master of the language, Roy Clark even gives us interesting facts about words and how they become acronyms. Scuba, he reveals, is the acronym of “self-contained underwater breathing apparatus. Radar is the shorthand for “radio detecting and ranging,” and “laser” is the abbreviated “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation.” Pardon, dear readers, but the F-word, comes from a log book in a police precinct, which is the acronym of “for unlawful carnal knowledge.”

The author asks the reader to distinguish between an acronym and an “initialism.” AIDS is an acronym, while HIV is an initialism. This rule was already taught me by professor of Journalism, Jun Icban, who said an acronym is a set of initials that are pronounced as a word. An initialism must be spoken still as initials like IBM.

That’s just for the tail-enders in this book, which is rich in a master’s guide to using the English language. The author also volunteers that English, an Anglo-Saxon language, is gifted with short words – compared to Latin, French (and even Filipino), which use long words to express the same meaning. Roy cites many cases of the “short word economy of English.”

This example from an airplane’s instruction says it all: “… y mientras la luz de abrocharse el cinturon esta encendida,” is translated in English as “…and while fasten seatbelt light is on.” He observes, “It takes ten Spanish words and forty-nine letters to convey what we can say in English in seven words and thirty-one letters.”

Even up to this point, you will know that, through this book, you are having a conversation with the most interesting mentor on the mightier use of the language. This is not only for journalists who must enrich their style from the “inverted triangle” formula to the magical mix of “particularity and abstraction” in telling a story. This must also be true for magistrates who must surround their legal points with the necessary truths about human strength and frailty, about moral anchors and ethical frailties.

He offers only four parts in this book: Words, Points, Standards, and Meaning. In every part, however, is a treasure of themes and topics that instantly brings out new ways of using words where he counsels: “Enjoy, rather than fear, words that sound alike.” He deals with punctuations as if they are human, with this advice: “Embrace the three amigos: colon, dash, and parentheses.” On standards, “Be certain about the uncertain subjunctive and other ’moody’ subjects.”

“Switch tenses, but only for strategic reasons,” he counsels us on how to convey meaning. The examples presented are long paragraphs, so I will leave the reader to take note of the “strategic switch.” He invites masters of the language do “learn how expert writers break the rules in run-on sentences.”

I noted two suggestions that should remind us to be free to mix the abstract and the concrete. It’s really about “showing and telling,” he says—and we know “show and tell” since kindergarten, right? He cites the “ladder of abstraction” popularized by linguistic professor S. I. Hayakawa. At the low end should be concrete language like “grass, fruit, littered bottles,” and at the higher end could be “abundance, abandonment,” etc.

A chapter, titled “Harness the power of particularity,” focuses on why some prose are unforgettable, while other compositions are, well, easily forgotten. Get details, first, and make abstraction later. Get the name of the dog, the plate number, the car’s description, the bag’s contents—to reveal a character.

Roy Clark, the mentor of many Pulitzer Prize winners, says at the start, that he identifies of lovers of language like Bryan A. Garner, editor of A Dictionary of Modern American Usage. The one who Clark calls the apostle of grammar is quoted: “The reality I care about is that some people will want to use the language well… They want their language to be graceful at times and powerful at times… They want good grammar, but they want more: they want rhetoric. They want to use the language deftly so that it’s fit for their purposes.”

After reading this book, I intend to keep, not only to consult it every time I need it – and that would be frequent – but also to share the enthusiasm of a few like Roy Clark, who defines “enthusiasm” as “to have God in you.”

(Send comments to )

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Inspiring Video: Race of Life

Dear All,

I must share with you this incredible video of a runner who fell but managed to get up and win the race in the nick of time.

A lesson from this video that I can share with my students is falling down in life does not necessarily mean that we are out of the race.  Training, a focussed mind and a strong will power will help us along the way.


Rodney Tan

Poem & Video: Heart of A Teacher

Dear Teachers,

This is another well-done video poem to uplift the teacher's heart.

The video is 3 mins 6 seconds long.

This video is from

Hope you like it!

Rodney Tan

Song: A Song Just for Teachers

Dear Teachers,

This song is an original song specially written for teachers everywhere.

Its lyrics are meaningful and seeks to thank and show appreciation to the teacher.


Rodney Tan Chai Whatt

Inspiring Video: If I Had A Life To Live Again

Dear All,

Teachers are humans! We need to be inspired and not take ourselves to seriously.

The late Erma Bombeck (I'm a fan of hers) has written this beautiful and inspiring poem about living life meaningfully.

The Flash Video comes with very nice pictures and meditative piano.

The voice of the female reader is soothing and encouraging.

An idea for using it with our classroom is to discuss what we'll do if we could do anything we wanted to and achieve fulfilment in our lives.

As a Christian, I believe in the assistance of an all-knowing and almighty God who has our best interest at heart.
I hope you'll enjoy this inspiring video as much as I did.

Rodney Tan

Inspiring Talk: Taylor Mali on What Do Teachers Make?

Dear All,

You may have read an inspiring anecdote : "What Do Teachers Make?"

Its about a teacher's worth and role in society which has been frequently undervalued or even sneered at by others.

The reply to this put down by a comedian named Taylor Mali is powerful and direct.

He passionately states what teachers are so powerful that only they can make students do what other revered professions such as lawyers can't.

Enjoy the video of the original ocassion where this point was brought out by Taylor Mali.

The video is 3 minutes 8 seconds long.

Rodney Tan

News: Ministry ropes in private varsities to help train English teachers

Ministry ropes in private varsities to help train English teachers

PETALING JAYA: The Education Minis­­­­try has roped in private universities to help train English language teachers.

Deputy Education Minister Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong said that with the Upholding Bahasa Malay­sia and Strengthening English policy, the hours for teaching English in primary schools would increase and more language teachers were needed.

“For this reason, we need help from private universities to help train more English teachers, including Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (Utar),” he said after the signing of an agreement for Utar to train Korean students in English with Coree Corp Sdn Bhd yesterday.

Sealed deal: Wee (centre) witnessing the exchange of documents between Prof Chuah (left) and Choe in Petaling Jaya yesterday.

Dr Wee said the pioneer batch of 25 trainees recruited by the ministry had begun the programme in Utar last month.

The Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia students would undergo a five-year programme and graduate with a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) degree.

Dr Wee said that in the past, the Government used to send students to Australia and Britain but the tie-up with private universities would cut Government spending by at least 70% .

Meanwhile, Utar will also be taking in South Korean students to learn English through an immersion programme.

The first batch of 50 students will begin the intensive English Immersion in a Multicultural Society Programme at Utar’s Perak campus, Dr Wee said.

“Malaysia is an ideal place for South Koreans to learn English because it has a cost advantage compared with other English-speaking countries,” he said.

Utar president Prof Datuk Dr Chuah Hean Teik said he hoped the programme would contribute to the Government’s edu-tourism initiatives.

Coree Corp managing director Choe Geonil said South Korean students wanted to learn English because it was an important asset.

“They used to go to the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and recently the Philippines.

“I think Malaysia offers a conducive environment,” he said.


Video: Inspiring Singapore MOE Advertisement for Teachers

Dear All,

Attached below is an inspiring and touching video based on a true story.

It is an advertisement video to encourage it's citizens to be a teacher.

The video is about 3 mins long & it can be viewed in YouTube.

Enjoy & be encouraged teachers!

You can make a difference in someone's live!

Rodney Tan