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New Year New Goal

Happy New Year!

I do not have New Year goals for the past few years as my life is “evolving” fast with an infant quickly turns toddler. Now that my toddler is going to school, I want to set a New Year goal for 2018.

The goal is…

(drum roll)

… to pass JLPT N4 examination.

Some readers might have known that I have been learning Japanese. But you might not know that I have failed JLPT examination few years back. I felt discouraged, though I had expected the results because I was doing insufficient self-studying. No classroom learning during that time because the job needed travelling and there was no teacher teaching my level (somewhere between beginner and intermediate).

To make the goal a success, I am making it SMART.

Specific — To pass JLPT N4 examination. I will be self-studying, thus the first step is to get some JLPT N4 books.

Measurable — Results slip will be received. I will know whether I achieve the goal or not.

Achievable — I had failed by a few marks for the previous test. Thus, aiming for a pass is achievable if I can allocate more time for learning.

Results-based — After passing JLPT N4, I will plan a trip to Japan. I find out that I have only been to countries where I know the language. It is because I have phobia of being in an environment where I do not understand a word any person speaks.

Time-bound — The examination is on December. I have sufficient time for preparation.

Steps for achieving the goal

  1. To get JLPT N4 books with CD
  2. Update what I have learnt on Duolingo onto my blog
  3. Target learning hours per day: one hour from Mondays to Fridays

Wish me luck!

What is your new year goal? I wish you all the best for whatever goals that you want to achieve in 2018.

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Happy 51st Birthday, Singapore

It is August again. To wish Singapore a happy birthday, here is a haiku for Singapore:

In a beautiful

breezy rainy eighth-month sky…

shout “Happy Birthday!”

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Once, my student asked me to write a haiku. A haiku is a traditional form of Japanese poetry. The haiku poems consist of three lines. The first and the last lines of a haiku have five syllables and the second line has seven syllables. The lines rarely rhyme.

If you would like to play language game with Primary school students, haiku is a good option. It is short and seldom rhymes, so it is easy for beginners to start making poems of their own.

* * ### Thanks for reading! ### * *


It is November Again

This is my 201st post and it marks another year of blogging for me. The writing has slowed down because I wish to enjoy my pregnancy journey rather than rush through it. I have not decided whether I will change the writing style, I would like to continue to write about language learning and education with added experience in becoming a new mother.

I have an uncompleted task to share my Japanese language learning experience from last year. Thus, there is no new item this year. My wish is to have a happy and healthy baby while maintaining my blog until November 2015 and further.

Wish me all the best! I hope to see you along the way to my next double anniversary.


 * * ### Thanks for reading! ### * *

Happy Birthday, Singapore!

August is a month of celebration for Singapore. 

Happy Birthday, Singapore!

Selamat Hari Lahir, Singapura!



Singapore is 49 years old this year!

As I am learning Japanese, I would like to wish Singapore a happy birthday in Japanese too:


(If you would like to use the Japanese phrase to wish your friend a happy birthday, you may use お誕生日おめでとうございます or お誕生日おめでとう depending on how close you are to him / her.)



Translation of Phrases

I teach my students to use Chinese language idioms or phrases in their composition so that they can get higher marks. Unfortunately, with their English-speaking family background, most of them can write well in English language but not Chinese language. One of my students even told me that there is no equivalent translation of Chinese language for some common English language phrases. (She wants to translate directly from English language to Chinese language). I want to prove her wrong.

1. 狼吞虎咽 → wolf down

狼 = wolf

虎 = tiger

吞、咽 = swallow

This idiom means someone eats hurriedly and hungrily like a wolf and a tiger.

Example: 他已经一天没有吃东西了,一看到食物就狼吞虎咽地吃完。

He has not been eating for a day; once he sees the food, he wolfs down the food immediately.

2. 一眨眼之间 → in a blink of an eye

一眨眼 = a blink

之间 = in between

This phrase means something happens so quickly that it is done before you realize it.

Example: 妈妈一眨眼之间就煮了一桌晚餐。

Mother prepares the dinner in a blink of an eye.

3. 热锅上的蚂蚁 → like a cat on hot bricks

热锅上 = in the hot pot

蚂蚁 = an ant / ants

This idiom indicates an ant in a hot pot, which means a person is anxious or nervous.

Example: 妹妹失踪了,妈妈急如热锅上的蚂蚁。

The younger sister is missing; the mother is like a cat on hot bricks.

There may be no direct translation between the two languages, but we can try to find similar phrases that have the same meaning. Instead of using Google Translate, we can try Google Search to search the phrase, you may be surprised that there is an equivalent phrase. Are there other phrases or idioms in English language or Chinese language that you find difficult to translate?

Creativity for Sales

Singapore is well-known for its education system, especially for Mathematics and Science. Nonetheless, you may have read about critics on lack of creativity at the same time.

During schooling, I memorized English words, Mathematics formula, etc. I thought that was normal. As a student, you do whatever the teacher tells you to do. The teachers nowadays have more tools to help them in teaching, but there is a troubling issue behind. Let’s look at three different aspects below:

1. Composition (作文)

In English language, we have a term called “creative writing”. But for Chinese language, my students have feedback to me that their teachers (from different schools) have a favour towards “happy ending”. If you have a sad ending for your composition, too bad, no matter how well you write, you will not score high.

I always encourage my students to let their imagination runs wild. The students nowadays are exposed to worldwide news and information, why limit their imagination to only “good things”? Writing a composition with a happy ending may help to cultivate an optimistic environment. Nonetheless, when the students grow up, they will find out that this world is realistic, not everything will end happily.

2. Oral (口试)

For Primary school oral, the student is given a picture and he / she needs to say what is in the picture, where is the place and describe the people inside the picture. There is a template, it is good to help the weaker students to memorize and excel in oral. But the whole Singapore is using the same template! Okay, saying the whole Singapore is exaggerating, but different students from different schools have shown me the same template.

If the limitation in composition writing is to cultivate an optimistic environment, what about oral? What type of adults are you looking for? A batch of like-minded students?

3. Mathematics (数学)

I love Mathematics because it is fun. But many students face a problem: The school Mathematics teacher teaches you method A and all other methods are not allowed. This may confuse the students when other methods are introduced to them. Because of limitation on the use of certain method, the “stubborn” student may face problem when they see a different type of question.

To solve a Mathematics problem, the most important part is to understand the question, not to draw a beautiful model. Maybe the emphasis on the model method has been misunderstood by students. Two of my students from different schools, again, can draw beautiful model according to what the teachers have taught. The problem is, they do not understand the question and ask me how to solve. What is the point of drawing a model when you cannot solve the problem?

Furthermore, a different method is helpful in checking the answer. I believe the method introduced at the school is suitable for most students from proven record of the best Mathematics teaching. The question to ask is, how about the minor group who cannot grasp the idea? Shouldn’t the teacher allow some flexibility?



The post is written based on my experience with my students, not from a single student, but from different students from different schools. I am not sure how many people out there realize the underlying problem. I will follow the school template, while at the same time, encourage my students to have some creativity whenever it is possible.