Towards better English

Sunday Star, Star Education, August 17, 2003
Story by Karen Chapman


IT is never too late to improve your language skills, so how about spending two days learning English from experienced teachers as well as discovering the art and science of using simple body movements to accelerate and enhance performance?

Sounds interesting? Well, the De La Salle Institute (DLSI) is organising a workshop on SPM English during the school holidays next month that will allow you to do just that.

According to Dr Goh Cheng Teik, deputy chairman of DLSI’s board of directors, the institute is gathering experienced retired English teachers to help participants at the workshop.

”We want the Form Five students to learn from these teachers, who had been teaching before the medium of instruction was changed to Bahasa Malaysia in the 1970s.

”The teachers will go through the SPM English paper with the students and give them tips on how they can do well,” he says.

Dr Goh says DLSI wants to play a part in supporting the Government’s call to bring English back to schools and universities.

”We welcome this move and would like to offer our services to the nation. We feel we have something to offer as many of our staff as well as some of the La Salle brothers are experienced teachers of the English language and literature,” he says.

The DLSI was founded in 1994 by the La Salle Brothers to conduct English courses for students and working adults. It is managed and driven by a shared mission between the order and the alumni of the La Sallian schools.

”It is the DLSI’s mission to continue the La Salle tradition of quality education in the context of holistic human development.

The La Salle legacy is over 300 years old and in Malaysia , the brothers have been operating in more than 60 primary and secondary schools over the last 150 years,” observes Dr Goh.

Many Malaysians, he added, have graduated from La Salle schools such as St Xavier’s Institution in Penang, St George’s Institution, Taiping, St Michael’s Institution, Ipoh , St John’s Institution, Kuala Lumpur , St Paul ‘s Institution, Seremban, St Francis’ Institution, Malacca, and St Joseph ‘s School, Kuching.

To be held on Sept 10 and 11, the ”power-packed” workshop promises to help students perform at their best, avoid blunders in the exam, and score in the English paper.

In addition to DLSI lecturers Gerard Rozario, Dr Mable Marian and Mak Joon Kong, presenters will include SM Assunta’s founder-principal Sister Enda Ryan, certified brain gym instructor Bro Dominic Chong, DLSI principal Bro Andrew Loke, former teacher and examiner of English Antony Gomez, former Universiti Malaya English and Literature lecturer and DLSI English Language coordinator Leonard Wong.

Irish ambassador to Malaysia Daniel Mulhall will also be at the workshop to speak on The Power of English/Words.

Sister Enda will be giving a motivational talk aimed at encouraging students to do their best without being over-anxious.

”There should be a happy balance as children nowadays tend to get very uptight and disappointed when they don’t do well,” she says.

Also known as the “singing nun” as she is always being invited to sing tunes such as Danny Boy and When Irish Eyes Are Smiling, Sister Enda says she and Wong are likely to work together and present a few songs as well.

Wong believes in using music to keep the students interested. Even during the interview, he was strumming his guitar and singing several songs, including Wham’s Careless Whisper.

”Sometimes understanding the various aspects of English grammar is not easy but when you use music, you can get the students involved. Before long, they will be singing along, so that once you start explaining, it seems very simple.”

For instance, he adds, the question “Would you know my name if I saw you in heaven?” – which is part of an Eric Clapton song – can help to illustrate why certain tenses are used in a sentence.

Wong says he tries to adopt a different approach too when teaching literature.

”When I say to a class, read chapters one to eight of Emma, it would seem so dull. But when I ask, ‘Do you remember Emma in a particular incident?’ then the book comes alive and it makes the students excited and more interested to learn,” he explains.

For his part in the workshop, Gomez will identify and correct common errors in English as well as go through the section on narrative.

”I want to help students on how best they can tackle this part. As a former examiner, I can help the students understand what the examiner is looking for,” he says.

Meanwhile, Bro Dominic, who is a certified brain gym instructor, will be conducting a session on the technique during the workshop.

“At my session, students will learn to get the mind and body ready for learning, to create a relaxed, calm and positive frame of mind when taking tests and to enhance creative thinking and writing,” he says.

The workshop will be held at SM St John, Jalan Bukit Nanas, Kuala Lumpur , with sessions on both days running from 9am to 5.30pm. The RM95 fee covers materials and meals.

For more information, contact the De La Salle
Institute at 03-20312599/ 2754, fax: 03-2301 2758, and
e-mail: info@delasalle.edu.my or log on to www.delasalle.edu.my.

Pix: DR GOH: The La Salle Brothers have been providing education here for over 150 years.

Pix: SISTER ENDA: It is important to motivate the students and advise them not to be over-anxious.

Pix: DIFFERENT STEPS: Wong says using music helps to keep students interested while Gomez (left) will identify and correct common mistakes at the workshop.

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