I Need Sincere Comments

March 15, 2007

Hello there, there’s definitely quite some time since I last posted up any English News or Exercises. I am currently writing my final year thesis for my Geophysics course. Of course, I am very sorry for those who always had the time to stop by and check on this site.

Now I really need a few sincere comments.

Can anyone who stopped by this page, or by sheer luck stumbled upon this posting, please do give me a good definition of “democracy” and how do we delegate “veto” or power so those in certain positions doesn’t misuse them?

Thank you all for your time. I will definitely response to your posts. Thanks.

David Hng


English – The Wine Language

February 6, 2007

It’s a fact of life: Competition is ever more intense, and a producer gains an advantage if he can use English to communicate and market his wine.

My friends, you can relax. The wine world speaks English now. Even in Europe, more and more producers communicate in English. They might prefer to speak French, Spanish, Italian, German, Portuguese, but their English is fluent, and the message gets across.

Once upon a time, to communicate to even a major producer in the Loire, Burgundy or Tuscany, the local language was essential. So what happened? The generation that saw the changeover to modern (i.e. careful and hygienic) winemaking techniques is, increasingly, in charge today. These men and women have often studied abroad, know their way around the world and understand not only wine production, but wine marketing as well.

One of the most famous wine courses in the world is based in Adelaide, Australia. It’s a wine marketing course. It teaches not only wine production and how to run a winery, but also how to sell the wine once it is produced (note that Australians have been phenomenally successful in promoting their wines around the world). It has become the model for other courses—there is one in Toulouse, France, another in Bordeaux. Some of these marketing classes are in English.

As a consequence of courses such as these, one of the important things that the new generation understands is that it no longer works to make fabulous wines and then sit back and wait for the world to come knocking. Producers have to get out, get on a plane, go and relate to their importer, even—shock, horror—talk to consumers. (Seem unfair? That is still a latent attitude you find among a few of the really snobby Bordeaux chateau owners.) To do that, you need English.

It’s not only the producers themselves who speak English. So do their brochures, their Web sites and their back labels. The vast majority of wineries in Europe, and not just the biggest, now have Web sites, just as their wines have back labels: it’s all part of the marketing.

So what does this mean for the wine drinker? It means that wine is more accessible. It’s possible, and easy, to learn more about a wine, and about a winery. It’s possible to talk to a producer, it’s possible to arrange a visit to a European winery and expect to find someone who speaks English there to welcome you.

This is all good. Maybe some of the ancient impenetrable mystique has disappeared as a consequence, but frankly I don’t miss that, and neither will you. The logic, after all, is obvious: If a producer makes wine, he or she needs to sell that wine in a world where competition is ever more intense. And if the producer can sell in English, his world just got so much bigger.

I don’t think the widespread use of English is itself a danger to the individuality of the wines being crafted by Old World winemakers. The fact that the producer of Bodega X in Rioja or Château Y in Bordeaux speaks English doesn’t change the wine. (It may, in fact, be one signal that the producer is making decent, clean wine.) The land, the grapes and the tradition won’t have changed. Admittedly, there was a time when some Old World wines tasted as if they were pretending to be New World in origin. That trend is waning. Increasingly, producers are traveling and studying other regions; the best return to their wineries more determined than ever to keep and develop their own identities. What this slow, steady adoption of English means is that we can find out about their wines more easily.

Is pride of craft giving way to the urgency of sale? Maybe with some brands, but I have not noticed this with wines that have a proper sense of place. It’s important to remember that it’s always been necessary to sell wine.

The use of English is good for European wine in general. It puts it on an equal level with American or Australian wine as far as consumers are concerned. There is no language barrier to interfere with understanding and experiencing the wine fully. This new generation that can talk to us in the language of our currency is keen to explain, and to persuade us to drink European wine.

While growers in the south of France continue to burn wineries, destroy tanks of wine and generally protest the facts of wine life in the 21st century, there are producers in the same villages who can sell their wine because they can market. This is nothing new. They are doing what their cousins in Champagne have been doing successfully for decades. What is new is how marketing has become essential at all price levels and wine regions.

This is a reflection of how wine has changed. It is no longer a purely agricultural product. It now has what the economists call “added value” through its image. And if that image is portrayed in English, then the next step-the sale-is much more likely to happen.

David Hng


New Math Program Designed To Help English Language Learners

February 6, 2007

SPRINGDALE — An estimated 1,800 secondary students or more, all English language learners, in Rogers and Springdale will get additional help in math because of a new partnership between the two school districts and the Walton Family Foundation.

The Bentonville foundation has given the two school districts $100,000 to purchase new classroom computers for an online curriculum designed to remove the language barrier in mathematics. The new curriculum also shows promise as a tutorial for English-speaking students who are behind in math, school officials said.

The two school districts purchased the software, “Help with English Language Proficiency-Math,” from Digital Directions International, a Colorado-based company.

“Math involves a lot of words,” said Tricia Todd, director of migrant and English language learning programs in the Rogers School District. For example, the word “table” in math has a different meaning than the piece of furniture.

“You don’t talk in mathematics the way you talk in daily life,” she added. She estimates about 600 students in eighth through 12th grades would participate in the program.

Also, Todd noted, Arkansas Benchmark exams in math require problem-solving skills, not just the computation to arrive at an answer.

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“Problem-solving means students must be able to read,” Todd said.

The program will be implemented in 14 schools, eight in Springdale and six in Rogers, according to Barbara Freeman, chief operating officer for Digital Directions. The program is aligned to national standards and some state standards in mathematics and was developed with a grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

Freeman said the program has been tested by the University of Colorado in New York, Texas, Colorado, California and Oregon. In the first phase of testing, a group of sixth- and seventh-graders increased their knowledge of math by 70 percent based on the pre- and post-tests that were conducted.

Judy Hobson, director of English language learning programs in the Springdale School District, said the new curriculum will be used as a supplemental tutorial in which students can work independently. She estimates about 1,200 students or more will use the program.

The district hopes to start seeing positive results from students showing an improvement in their math skills by the middle of the next school year, Hobson said. The additional classroom computers purchased by the grant will provide greater classroom access to the program.

“We’re hoping to get kids in the mainstream classroom more quickly,” she noted.

David Hng


ELiTE To Double And Add A Little More To English Lessons

January 30, 2007

Year One pupils to get 18 English lessons a week, instead of the present eight, under a pilot project with emphasis on getting pupils to understand and be more comfortable with the English language Mathematics and Science classes will be effectively turned into English lessons.

The objective: To help illiterate Year One pupils as they are the ones who struggle with their studies in subsequent years.

Last year, 163,835 Year One pupils had trouble reading and writing.

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: A plan to double the periods for English lessons will be tried out in schools in a bid to boost the pupils’ proficiency in the language.

A pilot project to give Year One students 18 English lessons a week instead of the present eight would begin soon in 50 schools, said Education Ministry director-general Datuk Dr Ahamad Sipon.

The year-long project, called “ELiTE or Early Literacy Through English programme”, will see the Mathematics and Science lessons, of which there are seven and three periods a week respectively, effectively turned into English lessons.

The Mathematics and Science teachers will continue teaching their pupils but their focus will be to get the seven-year-olds more comfortable with the English language.

“We have selected schools with poor results in the English language, especially those in the rural areas. We want to give them a strong foundation so that the pupils can grasp the subjects better in the following years. This means giving them greater exposure to English from the start,” Ahamad said.

He said pupils would still study Mathematics and Science but designed to familiarise them with spelling, reading and writing in English.

“Mastery learning” would be the approach, he said, and short phrases and simple sentences would feature heavily in the classroom.

“We will teach them how to spell ‘eye’ or ‘nose’ and get them comfortable with English terms, such as plus, minus and numbers,” he said, adding that this would better prepare them for heavier lessons in Science and Mathematics in English later.

The plan is part of the ministry’s efforts to help illiterate pupils in Year One, who then struggle in their subsequent years in school.

Last year, 163,835 Year One pupils who had trouble reading and writing were enrolled into the Early Intervention Programme for Reading and Writing (KIA2M), later taking “exit tests” to determine their entry into normal classes.

The programme managed to halve the figure and in a surprise result, detected 6,000 pupils with special educational needs.

Educationists have noted that pupils with reading and writing problems often ended up with disciplinary problems or dropped out of the educational system.

Ahamad said ELiTE would be paired with KIA2M and other remedial programmes to nip that problem in the bud.

The programme will be conducted in 20 schools in Kelantan, 20 in Terengganu, five in Bentong, Pahang and five in Sembrong, Johor. The teachers involved will be trained in a special module this month.

Ahamad said there would be a test for the pupils under the programme at the end of May, to see if they required additional help.

“We will monitor the programme closely. The pupils will not have a problem completing the syllabus because once they grasp the language, they can learn better.”


Concerns Raised Over English Skills Of Foreign Students

January 30, 2007

Reporter: Jennifer Macey

LISA MILLAR: Employer groups have sounded a note of caution about new research showing that the English language skills of foreign students on graduation aren’t good enough to get them full time work.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is concerned Australia may miss out on much needed skilled migrants if the standard of English language skills is set too high.

But the man behind the study, Monash University’s Dr Bob Birrell, says it’s more worrying that students are missing out on professional jobs because of their poor English.

Jennifer Macey reports.

JENNIFER MACEY: The Prime Minister John Howard says he’s concerned about new research that shows more than a third of foreign students are leaving university with inadequate English language skills.

JOHN HOWARD: I will be getting some advice from the vice chancellors and be getting some advice from my education minister as to how accurate they and she believe the research to be.

Bob Birrell is a very good researcher, he’s got quite a reputation when it comes to immigration and demography, but I’d like to look below the headline of that research before saying other than that, on the face of it, it’s concerning.

JENNIFER MACEY: Dr Bob Birrell, from Monash University, who conducted the study of more than 12,000 overseas graduates, says a large proportion can’t function at a professional level.

He recommends increasing the entry standard for foreign students from a band five to a band six on the international English language testing system, or IELTS.

BOB BIRRELL: Because of the importance of good English in professional settings we recommended that those students who could attain level seven, which is about the point where people are able to think in English and follow a sophisticated professional discourse, that they should get additional points for that standard of English and that it should be an important factor in decisions about whether to allocate a skilled migration visa.

JENNIFER MACEY: However these recommendations have triggered alarm bells among some employer groups.

The Chief Executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Peter Hendy, warns Australia may miss out on valuable overseas labour if the level of English required for the skilled migration program is set too high.

PETER HENDY: We have a skills shortage across basically every sector of the economy. Industry, business is crying out to fill these skill shortages across Australia and we just need to be careful when debating this issue about English language proficiency of migrants, that we don’t deny ourselves some very skilled migrants by raising the bar too high.

JENNIFER MACEY: Mr Hendy says different jobs require vastly different language skills.

PETER HENDY: What we need to do is ensure that the level of English proficiency relates to the job that these people are eventually going to do in Australia and there are different levels of that.

If you’re a tradesman there is a certain level you need. If you’re a professional, say in the health profession, a doctor or a dentist or something like that, you would expect a much higher level of proficiency.

So, when the Government sets the mandatory requirements it needs to be tailored to what profession or trade people are doing.

JENNIFER MACEY: But Dr Birrell says migrants who can’t communicate on the job aren’t going to plug gaps in the country’s skills shortage problem.

BOB BIRRELL: My discussions with employers and the survey work done by DIMA (Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs) itself, indicates that students with poor English skills are simply not gaining professional managerial positions. I mean it’d be very surprising if they did, given the importance of communications even for accountants and information technologists.

So, the reality of what’s happening at the moment is that the Government has increased the migration program significantly, reflecting employer pressure, and rather than training Australians, turned on the immigration tap in the hope of filling these positions, but because a significant proportion of these migrants have limited English skills, they’re not actually working as accountants. So we’re just chasing our tail.

JENNIFER MACEY: International student organisations acknowledge that some students’ English skills may not be up to scratch. But they blame universities for accepting overseas fee-paying students anyway due to funding pressure.

Julian Ochoa is from Colombia and studying a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Western Sydney. He’s the General Secretary of the University’s Student Association.

JULIAN OCHOA: That’s the other problem. That universities bring the international students and then they just let them loose and sometimes they don’ t know what to do so they just look for the people that can speak their own language because they just feel a bit isolated here. So that’s when they actually don’t practice English as well.

JENNIFER MACEY: Mr Ochoa says some international students simply come to Australia to study and return to their home countries to work.

He says these students are less interested in improving their English and shouldn’t be included in the statistics.

LISA MILLAR: Jennifer Macey with that report.

 

David Hng


Hello English Speaking People Of The World!

January 30, 2007

Sorry for being absent and not updating the site for a while. I am hands full with interns servicing and an event namely B.U.D.A.Y.A [Building Unity and Developing Awareness through Youth of AIESEC]. It is a huge project, yes!

With two interns namely Geertje from Netherlands and Tomo from Japan working with us in AIESEC USM, Penang, there was a whole lots of activities carried out and we still have the B.U.D.A.Y.A Concert this weekend with an estimated attendance of 1500 PEOPLE!!!

It is hard to describe B.U.D.A.Y.A in a sentence so let me just make it short and simple. The acronym BUDAYA in Bahasa Malaysia [Malay Language] actually means CULTURE in English. This mega project was executed to spread the awareness of the importance of culture in our daily lives. It started with a roadshow in the many schools of Penang and now an International Country Exhibition and will be ending with a blast of cultural performances in The B.U.D.A.Y.A Concert.

Sorry guys and I shall be at your service to provide the latest news and articles of English once again.

David Hng

p/s: Visit another newly launched site of mine – Tech News As Demanded


Learn English: PM To New Citizens

January 26, 2007

Prime Minister John Howard has used a citizenship ceremony in Canberra to remind immigrants of the need to embrace Australian values and to learn English.

Several thousand people made their way to Canberra’s Commonwealth Park for a flag raising and citizenship ceremony on Australia Day.

Among those gathered to receive their citizenship certificates were nearly one hundred immigrants from around the world.

“You may be drawn from the four corners of the earth but you are united by a common love of this country of ours and you are united by a common commitment to its traditions, its values, its triumphs as well as an acknowledgement of its failures, it successes as well as its mistakes,” Mr Howard told the group.

Turning to the values that characterise the nation, Mr Howard said Australians believed passionately in the equality of men and women, but also in the importance of a being able to speak English.

“I think most Australians think it’s very important that we embrace as our common method of communication with each other a single language and that is the English language,” Mr Howard said.

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This, he said, was “because citizenship and interaction with each other is impossible unless we can effectively communicate with one another.”

“We don’t ask you to forget your homeland, we recognise that from now until the day you die you will have a special place in your heart for the country in which you were born.”

Mr Howard said Australia was one of the great democracies of the world, though he conceded not everyone in Australia had always been given a fair go.

“It was one of the countries that earlier in time gave full voting rights to women, although it lagged sadly in some parts of the country – I stress some – in giving voting rights to the first Australians, the indigenous people,” Mr Howard said.

“We believe very passionately in the equality of men and women.

“It is something that Australia strives very hard to practice and it’s something that Australia believes in very strongly,” he said.

Mr Howard presented certificates to each new citizen before mingling with the crowd.

Earlier in the ceremony, an honour guard fired a 21 gun salute and an F/A-18 fighter jet made a deafening low pass over the crowd.

Brought to you by AAP

David Hng

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