Wednesday, April 30, 2008

How to use 'so that' and 'so as'

Many students find it difficult to use 'so that' and 'so as'. In this post, I would like to show readers how to use them correctly.

1 'so that' is followed by a clause

Example 1:

You must study hard so that you can pass the exam with flying colours.

Example 2:

The fat lady needs to exercise so that she can remain slim all the while.

Example 3:

The teacher speaks slowly and clearly so that her students will be able to understand her lessons.

[A clause consists of a subject and a finite verb.]

2 ‘so as’ is followed by an infinitive.

Example 1:

John works hard so as to earn a lot of money.

Example 2:

She copied the text carefully so as not to make a single mistake.

Example 3:

He studies hard so as to pass his exam with high grades.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The joy of teaching

When I was a boy, I dreamt of becoming a teacher. This dream was realised when I graduated from a teachers' college in 1973.

I really enjoyed teaching in Jerantut, Pahang where I mingled well with students. Seeing improvement in my students really made me happy because all my effort was paid off.

One year, I was asked to teach Form 4 and 5 Science in Malay. It was hard work as I had to translate text from English into Malay for my class because not reference books in Science in Malay were in the market then.

To ensure their success in the SPM exam, I volunteered to give extra class to the hostellites at weekends.

Imagine my joy when the school's results in Sains Am (General Science) improved from 5% to 25% and the Principal Encik Yaakub Isa personally thanked me for doing a good job. This job satisfaction was beyond description.

I was so close to the students that they did not feel shy to ask me questions about Science when they encountered difficulties in their studies.

Although I am now teaching as a free lance tutor, I still enjoy teaching because I like to interact with my students so as to talk about something that interests them to kill boredom in the classroom.

Monday, April 28, 2008

When to use the indefinite article 'an'

The indefinite article is used:

1 to state the occupation of a person

e.g. He is an engineer.

2 in front of words with vowel sounds

e.g. An apple, an elephant, an iron, an owl, an urn, an unused pen, an hour, an honour, an heir, an honest boy

Although the following words begin with vowels, there are no vowels involved.

a university, a uniform, a one-arm bandit, a unicorn

Sunday, April 27, 2008

How to download videos from You Tube

Sometimes after viewing certain clips from You Tube, you would like to save them in order to view them again using media player later. To do this you need to download the video clips from You Tube.

In this post, I will share with readers how to do it.

1 First, you need a downloader. The YouTube-Downloader is ideal for this purpose. Click here to download it free of charge.

2 Next go to YouTube site and choose the title of the video clip you like to download. Right click the title and click Properties.

3 Under Link Properties and beside Address is the url of the video clip. Highlight it and right click. Go to copy and click once.

4 Start YouTube-Downloader and place this url into the box below Enter video URL. [If you have started YouTube-Downloadr already, the url will be entered automatically.]

5 Click OK and the software will download this video file for you.

The software also allows you to convert the flv files to other formats.

Happy downloading video clips from You Tube.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The story of body size

I enjoyed serving as a temporary teacher in Heng Ee Secondary School, Penang for a stint of three months. I was very young then. I was asked to teach Malay, replacing a trained teacher who had gone on a Malay course – a requirement for teachers who were trained in English before as the medium of instruction would be changed to Malay.

Cycling to work was a novelty for teachers because most of them drove to school. The headmaster allowed me to park my bicycle at a designated place away from the boys’.

Came pay day and with the cheque I went to the Malayan Banking (now Maybank) to cash my cheque. The casher, being a busy-body, did not believe that I was a teacher as I looked more like a schoolboy than a teacher. She kept telling people that I was too young to be a teacher.

Even when I was serving as a trained teacher in Jerantut Secondary School in Pahang, one teacher used to tell the others that I was one of the boys when I was running with the boys in Sports Practice session.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Doing dana does not need to involve money

To practise getting rid of greed, Buddhists often do dana in the form of giving food and robes to monks, donations to the needy and so on. If you don’t have much money, can you do dana?

As a matter of fact, Buddhists can do dana without involving money if they do not have extra money to spare. There are a number of ways this can be done.

1 If someone is organizing a donation campaign to collect money to help some fire victims and you have no money to donate, what you can do is to wish that the campaign will be successful. That very thought that it will succeed constitutes dana.

2 Someone is too scared to walk through a dark alley. You can do dana by accompanying him or her to walk through it. Your help in overcoming his or her fear is a form of dana too.

3 If someone is so sad until he wants to end his life and you manage to talk him out of it through your knowledge of Buddhism, you do dana too – saving a life through dharma.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

American English

My country Malaysia was once colonised by the British. Hence the English that is taught in school has been British from then until now. With the advent of television, students in this country are exposed to more American films than British ones. As such, American English creeps into their essays as they don't know how to differentiate between British English and American English.

In this post, I hope to be able to enlighten local students on the differences between the two. For one thing, they differ in the spelling of certain words.

These include colour/color, favour/favor, favourite/favorite, sulphur/sulfur, and travelling/traveling.

For another, pronunciation differs too. For example, 'chance' is pronounced as 'chair ends' and 'can't' is sounded like 'care endt'.

The terms referring to things also differ. The following are some the words which mean the same, the former being English and the latter American.

1 biscuit - cookie

2 lift - elevator

3 lorry - truck

4 aeroplane - airplane

5 petrol - gas

6 break - recess

7 holiday - vacation

8 mobile phone -cellphone

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Everyone of us has Buddha nature

When Gautama Buddha achieved enlightenment, he uttered, "How strange! All beings have Buddha nature but unfortunately they are clouded by avarice, hatred and delusion."

If all human beings are able to get rid of the three states of the mind, they can achieve Buddhahood.

We tend to ask for more, when we are given something. This is reflected in the proverb 'Given an inch, want a yard.' The Chinese proverb is even more fantastic. A greedy person is likened to ‘a snake who wants to swallow an elephant’. Hence our greed is insatiable.

As for hatred, it will never end as hatred begets hatred. It is only through forgiveness that one can get rid of hatred towards others. If we treat the one whom we hate as the one who has done something so horrible to us in his last life that we hate him when we meet him again in this life, then we should exercise forgiveness and pardon him. From then on, don’t hate him anymore. It will lighten your mental burden too if you rationalize in this way.

Delusion has to do with not having a true picture of life. Everything in this world is not constant. The atoms in all things are always in a state of motion. It explains the three states of water. When heated, the atoms move faster and turn into the gaseous state, assuming the form of steam. On the other hand, deprivation of energy by subjecting water to very low temperatures, turns it into ice. It explains why Buddhists offer flowers to the Buddha as they represent things impermanent. Getting rid of delusion means not placing too much attachment to ‘I’ or be too egoistic. If we always place others above self, we will not be placing too much importance to the self. In this way, we will be too willing to help others, to donate things or money to help the needy and so on.

Walking the Buddha’s path is not easy. It entails determination and will as well as self-sacrifice.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Acupuncture aids healing

I have gone for physiotherapy to treat my tennis elbow five times till now. Most of the time, the lady would apply acupuncture points to help in the healing process besides the usual electrical current, ultrasound and cold compress.

One day, he inserted two pins into my elbow side and lower arm near the elbow, I had this feeling of sharp pain when she was twisting the pins. According to her, this was the feeling I should get as she had poke at the right acupuncture points. The pain after the insertion of the pins lasted two days and on subsequent trips to the clinic she only used pressure to massage the meridian points.

Frankly speaking acupuncture really aids healing.

Monday, April 21, 2008

How to express the same situation in English

In English, we can use 'so' followed by 'do', 'does', 'did' or verbs to be to express similar situations.

The following are such examples.

1 They like to dance. So do we.

2 She goes to market daily. So does he.

3 John attended the meeting. So did I.

4 An acid is sour in taste. So is vinegar.

5 She was absent yesterday. So was I.

6 We were there last Sunday. So were they.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

How to use 'whom' in English correctly

The use of 'whom' usually poses problems to students of English.
In this post, I would like to show readers how to use 'whom' correctly.

1 'whom' is used to ask for the object in a sentence.

Example 1

Statement: He gave a present to John.

Question: To whom did he give a present?

Example 2

Statement: I scolded her yesterday.

Question: Whom did you scold yesterday?

2 'whom' is used in front of preposition in a compound sentence.

Example 1

He is my friend. I usually discuss things with him.

He is my friend with whom I discuss things.

Example 2

The teacher is here. You gave your address to her yesterday.

The teacher to whom you gave your address yesterday is here.

3 'Whom' replaces the object in a compound sentence.

Example 1:

The man is my uncle. You saw my uncle just now.

The man whom you saw just now is my uncle.

Example 2:

The lady is an air hostess. You met the lady in the lobby.

The lady whom you met in the lobby is an air hostess.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Some Differences between Malay and English Grammar

1 Position of Adjectives

In Malay, the adjectives are placed after nouns instead of in front of them as in English.

e.g. Rumah besar (Big house)

2 Countable nouns in Malay must be preceded by numerical coefficients (penjodoh bilangan) after counting words (kata bilangan) such as dua (two), kedua-dua (both), beberapa (several), and berpuluh-puluh (tens of) but there are no numerical coefficients in English. e.g.

a) Dia membeli dua buah buku.

(He bought two books.)

b) Kedua-dua biji buah epal ini sudah masak. (Both apples are ripe.)

c) Beberapa orang pelajar sedang dimarahi oleh guru mereka. (Several students are being told off by their teacher.)

) Berpuluh-puluh pucuk surat permohonan jawatan sudah ditulisnya. (Tens of application letters for jobs have been written by him.)

In the above four sentences the words in bold are penjodoh bilangan which must be used in front of countable nouns which appear in italic.

3 There are no pronouns for things and animals in Malay but in English they are ‘it’ for singular thing or animal and ‘they’ for plural ones. You have to repeat the name of the thing or animal if you want to mention it for the second time in Malay.

e.g. Saya memelihara seekor kucing. Kucing itu sangat comel. (I rear a cat. The cat is very cute.)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Some differences in spelling between American and Standard English

1 ou is spelt as o in American English

e.g. color (colour), favor (favour), favorite (favourite)

2 ph is rendered f in American English

e.g. Foto (photo), sulfur (sulphur)

3 ll is spelt as l in American English

e.g. Traveling (travelling)

4 ae is spelt as e in American English

e.g. pediatrician (paediatrician),

5 tre is spelt as ter in AmericanEnglish

e.g. center (centre), meter (metre)

[Words in brackets are Standard English.]

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Something about English pronunciation

As I live in Malaysia, I notice that most Malaysians are influenced by Malay pronunciation when they pronounce English words. The following are some examples of how Malaysians utter words in English as influenced by Malay.

1 c [soft k] in cat is pronounced as k [hard k] in dekat [near in Malay]

2 p [soft p] in pan is uttered as p [hard p] in depan [front in Malay]

3 k [soft k] in kit is articulated as k [hard k] in sedikit [a little in Malay]

4 t [soft t] in tap is pronounced as t [hard t] in tetap (fixed in Malay).

5 p in stop is uttered without parting the lips as in p in tutup [close in Malay]

N.B. Soft k is pronounced as k as in kick with air coming out from the mouth. So are soft k, soft t and soft p. Hard k is pronounced without no air coming out from the mouth. So are hard t and hard p.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Homophones are words that sound alike but are spelt differently. In other words, they are pronounced exactly the same but have different spellings. The following are some examples of homophones:

1 straight [not crooked] – strait [narrow waterway]

2 right [correct] – rite [ritual]

3 acts [things done] – axe [chopping tool]

4 very [extremely] – vary [change]

5 heal [to cure a disease] – heel [hind part of shoe]

6 plain [not fancy] – plane [a flat or level surface]

7 idle [not working] – idol [object of worship]

8 more [additional] – moor [swampy coastland]

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Hidden Talent

One year, on the last day of the school term, I allowed my boys to show their talent in drawing.

I told them that it would be a competition. Hence I ruled 3 columns on the board and asked those who wanted to draw to come to the front.

I was surprised to see the pupils who were very quiet and looked innocent in class could draw very well. There was untapped hidden talent among them. It was really an eye-opener for me. To show appreciation of the works on the board I gave grading according to my liking.

They felt happy to have spent their time doing some creative work than listening to boring language lessons.

Monday, April 14, 2008

To Uncle Tee's House We Went

Teaching in a small town in the seventies could be boring at times. However, we had good rapport with parents whose children studied in the school I taught in - Jerantut Secondary School.

During weekends, my housemates and I would usually go to one student's house to watch television. Mr Tee, her father, was a Social Welfare Officer. He always welcame us to his house. Hence going to Uncle Tee's house was our weekly routine. I still remembered how we enjoyed watching Rocker File, a series about private investigation in black and white as there was no colour television then. Jackson Five of which Michael Jackon was a member was also our favourite.

One year I did not go back to Penang because I had fracture of my left wrist and I spent my Chinese New Year Eve in Uncle Tee's house, savouring the sumptuous dishes prepared by Mrs Tee.

Later the Tee family moved to Kuantan as Mr Tee was transferred there and I missed the family very much.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

How to write a journal

In my earlier post, I suggested keeping a journal as a way to improve one's English. Some people don't know how to go about it. Well, in this post, I will show readers how to write a journal.

As I mentioned in one of my posts, a journal is different from a diary in that it expresses the writer's feeling and opinion about some current events or issues. Hence, try to think of something to write when an important event happens in your house, area or country. If nothing is important enough for you to write about, turn to the television program that you watch. Think of something to comment about in the program that you have watched. There will certainly be something that you can say about. Read letters to the editor in your newspaper to see how readers comment about issues that concern the public and nature.

Writing a journal is good in the sense that it makes us think and put words on paper or in electronic media.

The following is an example of a journal:

I really could not bear looking at the anguished look maid who was abused by her employer - a bad-tempered homemaker. She had subjected her to such inhuman humiliation as the maid’s body was full of bruises. Some kind soul had brought her to lodge a report with the local police station when she managed to flee the 'hell' she was in. The police had detained her employer for questioning and the woman would be charged in court soon.

To me, the above incident should not have happened at all. The homemaker could very well have returned the maid to the agent and asked for another one that would serve her better. Besides, we have no right to inflict pain on others, let alone foreigners who come to country to serve as maids.

In the above example, I related a newspaper about tha case of abuse of a maid and give my view about the incident.

Happy writing journals regularly to improve your English.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The past tense of 'must'

How to you express the meaning of ‘must’ in the past tense. Well, it is ‘had to;.

Look at the following sentences.

Sentence 1: [Present Tense]

I must wake up early in order not to miss the train.

Sentence 2: [Past Tense]

Yesterday I had to wake up early in order not to miss the train.

Actually, ‘have to’ can be used to replace ‘must’ in the present tense. Hence, instead of saying “You must hurry as they are waiting for you right now.”, we can express it as “You have to hurry as they are waiting for you right now.”

Friday, April 11, 2008

The difference between 'famous' and 'notorious'

When a person is famous, he is well-know everywhere. The word ‘famous’ refers to being well-known for good things done, such as performing an operation to separate Siamese twins successfully or inventing something very useful to us.

On the other hand, if a person is known to have done something bad and everybody knows about it, he is notorious, that is famous in a bad way. A notorious robber is one who robs a lot of shops and all shop-owners know about him and is very wary about him.

In short, ‘famous’ means ‘well-known for good things’ whereas ‘notorious’ means ‘noted for doing undesirable things such as robbing, kidnapping,etc.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The good habit of maintaining cleanliness starts from school

In Malaysian schools, every class has a duty roster for keeping the classroom clean and tidy. Each day, certain pupils are assigned jobs such as rubbing the board, sweeping the floor, arranging the desks and chairs.

The surprising thing is there will always be paper and sweet wrappers on the floor for the duty boy or girl to clear the rubbish.

One year, in my former school, a new Principal came. He was so fed up of pupils dirtying the floor with pieces of paper and tissue papers and sweet wrappers. What he did was to take away the waste-paper basket in each class. The pupils were told that the school would go paperless as far as classrooms and the school surroundings were concerned. Each pupil was responsible for the rubbish he or she was going to throw. He or she could pocket the paper and threw it into a big rubbish tong placed at a specific place in the school. Hence, in the duty roster no one would be assigned the job of sweeping the floor.

To me the above measure is a good method to make the pupils realize the importance of not dirtying the environment, classroom included.

If pupils know how to maintain cleanliness, it will be easier for them to do so when they out in public places. That is why I say that the good habit of maintaining cleanliness starts from school.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Watch your steps

These past few days, my legs seemed to knock into something such as the leg of a stool, the side of the bathroom and other objects and suffered pain and bruises. One thing in common when it happened was that my mind was on something then and I did not watch my steps. In Buddists' term, I was not mindful.

Being mindful of what we are doing is very important as it prevents accidents such as what I had encountered above.

So readers, watch your steps wherever you go.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Chanting the name of Amitabha Buddha

According to a recourse by Gautama Buddha, one of the Buddhas who made a vow to receive us to his Buddha land called the Western Realm of Supreme Happiness was Amitabha Buddha. There are three conditions for us to go there after death, namely have faith in what he has vowed, believe that Amitabha Buddha exists and chant the name of Amitabha Buddha daily as many times as possible.

Besides being able to be with Amitabha Buddha after death, chanting Amitabha Buddha will render our bodies strong and healthy. According to the CD that I obtained and mentioned in my earlier post, there was one man whose leg had to be amputated to save his life suffered from bleeding all the time. The hospital told his family to take him home and get ready for funeral. However, the man was advised to chant the name of Amitabha Buddha. After a few days’ doing so, bleeding stopped miraculously.

Those who chant the name of Amitabha Buddha faithfully and sincerely sometimes will be able to smell fragrance and see illumination in the chanting hall.

If you want to practise chanting the name of Amitabha Budda, you can chant ‘Amitabha Buddha’ or ‘Namo Amitabha Buddha’. When you chant, you must say the words clearly and you yourself can hear them clearly too.

Chanting the name of Amitabha Buddha is one of the ways to practise Buddhism. One can attain utter peace of mind and maintain good health through this form of practice.

Monday, April 7, 2008

How to use 'raise' correctly.

Look at the following sentences.

Sentence 1

The teacher said, 'Raise up your hand if you know the answer to this question.'

The above sentence is wrong because 'raise' means 'lift up' and the use of 'up' after raise' is redundant here.

Sentence 2

The brave single mother raised up her two children all by herself.

As 'raised' in the above sentence means 'brought up', this sentence is

Wrong because the use of 'up' is redundant here.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The difference between ‘stop’ followed by infinitives and gerunds

Look at the following sentences.
1 I stopped to buy newspapers from the shop. [‘stop’ followed by infinitive ‘to buy’]
2 I stopped buying newspapers from the shop.[‘stop’ followed by gerund ‘buying’]

The above two sentences are different in meanings.

In sentence 1, it means ‘ I stopped ( my car) and went into the shop to buy newspapers.’ whereas sentence 2 carries the meaning of ‘I did not want to buy newspapers from the shop anymore and so I stopped my action of doing so.’

See whether you can explain the meanings of the following pairs of sentences.
1 a) John stopped to smoke.
b) John stopped smoking.

2 a) She stopped to exercise in the garden.
b) She stopped exercising in the garden.

3 a) I stopped to talk to him.
b) I stopped talking to him.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

How I converted video files into mp3.

I obtained a free set of ten VCD’s about how chanting the name of Amita Buddha enables people to go to the Western World where Amita Buddha is . Many accounts of those who practiced this form of Buddhism really passed away peacefully to join Amita Buddha in His realm in Western World are narrated. They are so interesting that I want to listen to all of them.

As I am quite busy with my work and can’t afford to spend so much listening to them at home, I decided to extract the audio files in mp3 format so that I can fit all the ten video files into a CD which I can play with my car’s CD player with capability of playing mp3 files.

First I searched through the Internet and found this file , a free video-to-mp3-converter. It is really very easy to use. After installing it, I started to run it. There are only two boxes for you to enter the location of your source file and that of your output mp3 file. Since mine is a VCD, I clicked ‘Browse’ and navigate to Drive G and click the right subdirectory to find the dat file. This becomes your source file. As for the output mp3 file box, I browse to the directory where I want to save the converted mp3 file.

I named disk1 disk_a, disk2 disk_b and so on. Do not name them disk1 until disk10 because when you ask Nero Burning Rom to burn them to a CD, disk10 will head the list.

I burnt all the ten mp3 files to a CD and now I am listening to them while driving. It will take me quite some time to finish listening to them.

Friday, April 4, 2008

How to treat a minor burn instantly

When you are not careful, the chances are you hand may get scalded when you pour hot water from the kettle into a cup or some other container. What do you do? Do you let running water bathe the scalded hand?

Here is a method to return minor burn such as scalding. Cut the tip of aloe vera. Apply the juice over the scalded part of your hand. The burning sensation will go off after some time and the burn will heal in a day or two.

Hence start planting some aloe vera plants for such use.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

How to use 'bear', 'bore', 'born' and 'borne' correctly

The word ‘bear’ as a verb means to produce, to tolerate, to carry, etc.
Examples of its use in sentences are as follows:
1 The tree will begin to bear fruit after three months.
2 I couldn’t bear the noise there and moved elsewhere to study.
3 Devotees will bear kavadis on Thaipusam Day.

The past tense of ‘bear’ is ‘bore’.
An example of its usage in a sentence is:
The boy bore resemblance to his father when young but not now.

The past participle of ‘bear’ is ‘born’ and ‘borne’. Note their usage in the following sentences.
1 A boy was born on board the plane and the mother was attended by a doctor.
2 The bag borne by the boy was so heavy that he staggered every now and then.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Qing Ming Jie

Qing Ming Jie or Cheng Beng in Hokkien is a time for showing respect to the departed. For this year it falls on 4th April as this year is a leap year. For a normal year it falls on 5th April.

10 days before and after this date, descendents of the dead will go the graves to do some cleaning up and pray there. Usually grass will grow all over the graves after a year's lapse and they will do weeding to make them clean and look tidy again before praying and burning paper money there.

The purpose of Qing Ming is to remember our late parents or relatives. One way of doing this is going to the graves to do some service - weeding and cleaning up as well as praying there.

Qing Ming Jie has become part of the Chinese culture here.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Question Tags

The question tags used are determined by the subject, verb and tense of a question.

The following sentences will make these clear to you:
Example 1: He comes here every day, doesn’t he?
Example 2: She came here yesterday, didn’t she?
Example 3: They will come here every day, won’t they?
Example 4: Susan can spell well, can’t she?
Example 5: It is cheap, isn’t it?
Example 6: John didn’t work there, did he?
Example 7: She won’t be coming, will she?
Example 8: You don’t like it, do you?
Example 9: Christiana doesn’t play badminton, does she?
Example 10: It isn’t my idea, is it?