Monday, January 19, 2009

So you want to excel in English?

Ever since young, people have always been asking us questions like "How on earth did you girls get so good in English?" or "What do you do to be so fluent in the language?"

To be clear and honest, we do not study for this language. Just as the Bahasa Malaysia, English does not need to be studied. For us, English is more than just a subject you learn in the classroom. It is something that revolves in our everyday life. We do not just study it. We feel it. Of course the fact that we had been exposed to the language since ever so young by our parents and surroundings had helped us a lot in achieving what we have and where we are today. Yet that does not mean that ordinary people who were not exposed to this language in their childhood cannot excel in this international language. As saying says, where there's a will, there's a way.

So here we are, sharing whatever we know and whatever we did to excel in English. Are you guys ready? We hope you are because this really is fun and easy. Trust us.

The first step to excelling this language is to realize the importance of learning the English language. Why do you need to learn this language? Why do you want to master English? Of course there are lots and lots of advantages of learning this beautiful language. As we all know, this language is the international language thus making it very important to master this. In this globalized era, it is very difficult to apply for jobs or colleges if you do not even know how to speak English. It will also be very difficult to communicate with other people from all around the world if you do not master this language. Being fluent in this language helps us build more self confidence as we will be able to speak very well in this particular language. We will be able to make more friends from all over the world and of course gain more knowledge as most information nowadays are mostly found in English. Most people still refuse to realize the importance of this language, and they think that learning this is such a waste of time. They say "Why should we be learning a language brought by people who used to colonized us?" This is such a pessimistic attitude because they refuse to see what lies beneath understanding and learning this language.

English is as easy as pie. So we know what you guys are thinking. "It's easy for them to say, they're already good." Please do not assume that we have done our phDs for this subject. We are just normal, ordinary teenagers like you. Maybe even lazier than the lot of you. And this subject just happens to be our best thing because it really is easy. You are able to learn English really fast, if you implicate this to your real, everyday life, not just inside the classroom during English period. Learning this language doesn't mean that you have to read thick English novels or buy dull newspapers everyday. You don't need to buy vocabulary books or dictionaries. We know you guys are thinking that it is very impossible. Don't worry. We're here to help. :)

Learn English the fun, easy and cheap way. Now, as we all know, everybody loves music. So why not take this language and apply it to music? What we mean is, listen to English songs. Well of course not all English songs nowadays are pleasant to listen to, but some are really quite descent. Songs from the 80s and 90s are really simple and suade, whilst lullabies and movie soundtracks are very fun to hear to. Listen to the words, you will be able to learn new words and phrases. you will be able to improve your pronunciation and you will also be able to improve your vocabulary. If you don't really know what the song is all about, why not simply browse the Internet for the songwords and look up whatever you do not understand in the dictionary or ask the English teachers.

Besides listening to music, watching English shows on the television is such a good way to improve our English pronunciations. You can understand more about certain things by listening to their tones, facial expressions and actions. If you need to use subtitles, make sure you listen to what the person on screen is actually saying as you read the subtitles. This helps you understand even more a little something about English. Besides, when watching Malay or Chinese or Indian movies or shows, it would a lot of help when you read English subtitles. It really works for us, so why wouldn't it work for you?

Okay, so we admit, we don't exactly like reading, but sometimes we do entertain ourselves by reading English books, including children's storybooks. Start small and grow big. Reading children's storybooks helps, because simple words makes the beginners understand a lot about the vocabulary and grammar. Then slowly start to develop by reading more books, according to their difficulty level. Reading comic strips in newspapers or magazines are a fun way to learn English too. Try it. It could work.

People all around us know that we are webaholics. Do you know what webaholic is? It is defined as an Internet addict. But being an addict to the Internet pays, because at the same time we get increase our knowledge and English language skills. This is because most articles or news in the Internet are in English, so by always reading them we are able to enhance our grammar and vocabulary, getting brand new ideas for conversations and compositions.

Well, we really don't know what else to type here as these are mainly the things we do to increase our English level. We really hope you understand what we are saying and try to implicate thesetips in your lives as well. Try them, we wish you all the best in excelling in English too. Break a leg (:

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Dialogue - Bargaining at a Flea-Market


(at a flea-market)

Vendor: Hello, Madam, What can I do for you today?
Customer: (picking up a beautiful hand-painted plate) This is quite lovely. Where was it made?

Vendor: Oh, I see you have excellent taste. Yes, that is beautiful, isn't it? It's local pottery. I think it was painted here by a local artist.
Customer: It's really something... do you have anything else by this artist?

Vendor: Well, I'm not really sure who exactly painted which pieces of pottery, but here are some similar pieces.
Customer: No, they're really not the same.

Vendor: Well, how about these here? I had them brought in just this morning.
Customer: Yes, those are quite nice. What about the prices?

Vendor: Obviously, it depends on what you would like to buy. That plate that you were first looking at costs $50.
Customer: $50! That's quite expensive. I can't afford that.

Vendor: Remember these are hand painted pieces of pottery, that kind of handicraft work doesn't come cheaply.
Customer: Yes, I understand that. But I really think that $50 is just too much.

Vendor: Listen, I can see that you are in love with that plate. Let's just make it $45. I'd really like you to take that home with you.
Customer: How about $35. I really can't go any higher than that.

Vendor: I really can't, I mean that would be selling at cost.
Customer: Well, $38 is absolutely the most I can spend.

Vendor: All right. I really shouldn't. The artist is going to have me put out of business for selling his wares at such low prices.
Customer: Come, come. Let's not exaggerate.

Vendor: You're a clever one, aren't you?
Customer: I'm just someone who pays close attention to what I spend.

Vendor: There's no shame in that. Here you are. (hands the plate to the customer)
Customer: Thank you very much.

Vendor: Thank you, have a pleasant day.

Dialogue Comprehension Exercises

Choose the correct answer to these questions based on the dialogue. Each question has only one correct answer. There are 5 questions in this quiz. Try to use only 30 seconds for each question. If you had any problems, try reading the dialogue again.

Q: What's the customer interested in?

Some local pottery
Some hand-painted cups
Some handmade clothes

Q: What's special about the items?

They're handicraft work.
They're produced in Germany.
They're porcelain.

Q: Which price do they settle on?


Q: What does the vendor say the artist is going to do?

Put him out of business
Give him a raise
Provide a refund

Q: Why does the customer demand a lower price?

The customer pays close attention to what he spends.
The customer is very poor.
The customer claims the plates are made in a factory.

Some local pottery

They're handicraft work


Put him out of business

The customer pays close attention to what he spends

Understanding Newspaper Headlines

Many students have difficulty understanding newspaper headlines. This is because newspaper headlines are often incomplete sentences (i.e. Difficult Times Ahead). Here is a guide to the most common exceptions found in newspaper headlines.

Noun Phrases

Headlines often contain a noun phrase with no verb. A noun phrase describes a noun (i.e. around strange, exotic people). Here are some examples of noun phrase headlines:

Under Pressure from Boss
Unexpected Visit
Overwhelming Response of Voters

It's useful to ask yourself questions such as: From what?, About what?, From whom?, To whom? etc. when reading these type of headlines. By asking yourself these questions, you can begin preparing yourself for the article. This practice helps the brain prepare itself by starting to think about vocabulary related to the subject. Here's an example:

Unexpected Visit

The questions I can ask myself are: From whom? Why was the visit unexpected? Who was visited? etc. these questions will help focus my mind on vocabulary related to relationships, travelling, surprises, important reasons for visits, etc.

Noun Strings

Another common headline form is a string of three, four or more nouns together (i.e. Country Leader Question Time). These can be difficult because the words don't appear related by verbs or adjectives. Here are some more examples:

Widow Pension Pay Committee
Landscaping Company Disturbance Regulations
Mustang Referral Customer Complaint

In the case of noun strings, it's helpful to try to connect the ideas by reading backward. For example:

Mustang Referral Customer Complaint

By reading backwards, I can guess that: There is a complaint made by a customer about a referral program for Mustang cars. Of course, you need to use your imagine for this!

Various Verb Changes

There are a number of verb changes made to headlines. The most common are:

  • Simple tenses used instead of continuous or perfect forms. For example:

    Forgotten Brother Appears = A forgotten brother has appeared (after a long period of time).
    Professors Protest Pay Cuts = Professors are protesting pay cuts (at the university).

  • The infinitive form refers to the future. For example:

    Mayor to Open Shopping Mall = The mayor is going to open a new shopping mall.
    James Wood to Visit Portland = (Famous actor) James Wood is going to visit Portland soon.

  • Auxiliary verbs are dropped in the passive form. For example:

    Man Killed in Accident = A Man has been killed in an accident.
    Tommy the Dog Named Hero = Tommy the Dog has been named a hero (by the mayor).

Drop Articles

Perhaps you have noticed in the examples above that both definite and indefinite articles are also dropped in newspaper headlines (i.e. Mayor to Choose Candidate). Here are some more examples:

President Declares Celebration = The president has declared a celebration.
Passerby Sees Woman Jump = A passerby has seen a woman jump (into the river).

Reading Comprehension - Looking for a Pen Pal

Read the following information about different pen pals.

1. Mary, 24 years old, comes from Scotland and would like to find a pen pal who comes from East Europe. She likes playing the piano and listening to jazz music. She is interested in history but does not like discussing politics.

2. Kim Lee, 19 years old, comes from Seoul, South Korea. Kim loves travelling and hopes to visit Great Britain in the future. He would like a pen pal who is interested in discussing the differences between life in Europe and life in Asia. He loves listening to pop music and playing football in his free time.

3. Pietro, 42 years old, comes from Argentina. He is a businessman and would like to find a pen pal who is also a businessperson and lives in North America. He is married with three children and likes using the Internet in his free time.

4. Helga, 31 years old, comes from Germany and speaks French, English and Russian. She would like a pen pal who is interested in exchanging ideas about language learning. She does not like using computers for learning and believes that language learning can only happen in a classroom.

5. Jennifer, 18, comes from New Orleans in the United States. She is interested in discussing the political differences between East Europe and North America. She loves riding her horse, Jackie, and listening to jazz music.

6. Alessandro, 25 years old, comes from Rome. He is interested in finding a pen pal who speaks different languages and can exchange ideas on using the computer for learning purposes. He likes playing tennis and football in his free time.

Comprehension Questions

Which pen pal is best for these people? Choose ONLY ONE pen pal for each person.

  1. Petr Vladovic, 18, comes from Serbia and would like a pen pal who is interested in discussing the current political situation in the world. He likes jazz and playing tennis in his free time.

    The best pen pal for Petr would be

  2. Tom Synder, 36, is a businessman from Toronto, Canada. He would like to find a pen pal from a different continent to discuss business practices and differences between his country and others.

    The best pen pal for Tom would be

  3. Olga, 32 years old, comes from Moscow, Russia. She is a historian and would like to find a pen pal who is interested in discussing the history of Russia before the communist regime. She is not interested in comparing different political systems.

    The best pen pal for Olga would be

  4. Jack, 27, is from London. His favourite pastime is learning languages. He goes to evening German and French classes and uses his computer to improve his German and French by visiting Internet sites.

    The best pen pal for Jack would be

  5. Stuart, 22, is from Dublin. He loves travelling and wants to visit Asia in the near future and would like a pen pal who likes playing football and who can tell him about the differences between life in Asia and Ireland.

    The best pen pal for Stuart would be

  6. Elisabeth, 35 years old, comes from Sydney, Australia. She likes learning languages, but does not like using modern technology. She is interested in finding a pen pal who also enjoys learning languages in a traditional manner.

    The best pen pal for Elisabeth would be

Pronounciation Help


Once you've learned to correctly pronounce every word in the following poem, you will be speaking English better than 90% of the native English speakers in the world. If you find it tough going, do not despair, you are not alone.

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.

Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it's written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.

Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.

Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation's OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.

Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.

Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Foeffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.

Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.

Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.

Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.

Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.

Pronunciation -- think of Psyche!
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won't it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It's a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.

Finally, which rhymes with enough --
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Introduction to Short Stories

so hey, we'll start off the blog with literature, so WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF LITERATURE. of course, most of you must think that literature is dull and boring, but once you get into it, learning literature can be really fun and easy. if you open your heart and mind, you'll find that literature:
  • teaches you who you are and how you can relate to those around you.
  • encourages you to reflect on the meaning of life
  • shows you how to accept and appreciate different values and cultures
  • improves your grammar and widens your vocabulary


a plot is a series of events arranged in an interesting manner in time. it has a basic pattern which can be plotted graphically.

  • beginning which answers questions on who, when, what and where.
  • conflicts or problems encountered by the main character
  • the highest point of crisis in the story
  • actions taken to resolve conflicts
  • ending where problems are resolved


place : real or imaginative

time : past, present, future or historical

social background : social rank


the characters refer to the people in the text. they are revealed to us through

  • physical descriptions
  • words and thoughts
  • actions
  • opinions of the narrator
  • opinions of the characters
  • opinions of the authors

point of view

the first person point of view
  • I am the narrator and i am a character in the story too.
  • my view points are limited to my thoughts and experiences.
  • when i speak i always begin with "I"

the third person point of view
  • i am someone outside the story.
  • if i tell you everything that is happening in the story, i am called an omniscient narrator.
  • if i can tell you only certain thoughts and feelings of the characters, then i have a limited point of view.
  • when i speak, i use "He".


the theme carries the central idea, the belief, the message or the moral value of the story.

as an example ; from the short story The Necklace, we can conclude that the theme of the story is "pride before fall".

literary devices

the author uses various imagery to create mental pictures that appeal to our five senses. (well, in order to keep things more interesting and also to keep us from falling asleep when reading them haha)

as examples ;

  • in "the drover's wife", the family dog is "as quick as a terrier."
  • in "Looking For A Rain God", "the rain clouds fled away."
  • in "The Lotus Eater", Wilson says, "He's going to die when he's sixty."

  • no sub-plots
  • only one main point
  • single focus
  • few characters
  • short
  • actions move at a fast pace
  • twist or surprise ending

so that's basically what you guys need to know in understanding literature components. it's not really hard to answer the questions once you actually understand them. trust us. good luck (:

The First Post

A token of gratitude we wish to Madam Zaleha Abd. Rahman, our Malay Language teacher for guiding us through this project. As an introduction, we are Deanna Ishak and Khairunnisaa' Jamaludin, students of 5 al Farabi in SMK Sultan Ismail. We have been assigned to create a blog on the English subject for every Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia candidates, especially the ones living on the East Coast Of Malaysia. To be honest, we're not that excellent in English, but of course we admit that it has been our best subject so far. Therefore, it would definitely be a shame if we didn't share it with other people. And as both of us are webaholics, we thought this blog would be a good way for us to share our knowledge and information with other students. Hope you guys enjoy reading our English blog, and if you have any doubts or questions, please don't hesitate to ask us. We're students too, just as you guys are ;DDD