The reinforcing of Stereotypes


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Much as educators and psychologists have advised against the creations and maintenance of stereotypes, it still exists in societies today as it had always existed years before. In fact, stereotyping has become stronger and more impactful than before.

Psychologists would have attributed this to the fact that the human minds have a predilection of categorizing and compartmentalizing things and people so that understanding comes easier. For instance, when we ask about someone’s profession, wouldn’t it be easier to gain an almost instantaneous impression of them based on their responses that they are lawyers than to spend years knowing them as unique individuals?  This is true in knowing a person as an individual as it is true in knowing groups of people.

It is the same for educators, who often attribute (at times non-existent) qualities on a student when the student exhibits certain behavioral traits that is reminiscent of some students the educators have encountered before. These are not the appropriate ways to assess the personality of students. Nor is it a just and judicious manner in which students should be judged. However, with both the convenience and constraints of time, educators often commit this error. Furthermore, the human mind would have approved.

“While stereotyping in these scenarios may seem problematic, nothing is more problematic than when these forms of mental imprints are developed and imposed on not one individual but a group of individuals who share similar traits. “

I believe that none if not few of us would choose to develop certain impressions on a group of people but this often happens over time at a subconscious level. It cuts both ways. So, when we develop positive feelings towards a group of people, that will be great as we will develop happiness whenever we are with them or even talking about them. A mere mental recall is enough to bring euphoria to one’s mood and dialogue.

Rather, it is when our impression swings the other way into negative impressions that problems will result. This occurs based on our previous life experiences of someone who shares similar traits to certain group(s) of people. For instance, if one has been backstabbed by one’s boss in the office (probable on more than one occasion) previously, one might – over time – develop a certain level of mistrust (or even rebelliousness) towards authoritative figures in the future. This might adversely affect their relationship with their bosses – even if they were to leave for other companies.

“This conflicting and affictive feelings in them may follow them wherever they go in their line of work. Over time, these negative emotions may even develop into biases and discrimination. What compounds this problem is that these individuals may not even be aware of these mental afflictions. “

The longer that these people hold these negative sentiments, the deeper will be the distaste towards certain groups of people. They need to know how these unwarranted sentiments are affecting them and more importantly, they need to know the ways to eradicate or at least alleviate these negative sentiments.

One of the best ways to resolve and unwind these emotional knots that these individuals have tied themselves with is to understand that the human mind tends to project the impression someone makes on us to all other similar individuals. These effect works on people as well as on situations. We have seen above how someone can make an impression on us just by mentioning their profession.  Similarly, a bad experience at an event may also make us hesitant in attending similar social functions in the future. More interesting, the way we perceive the world seems to have already been forged in our childhood days.

“In other words, we often live out our lives based on how we perceive the world when we are very young.”

However, there is a way out of this virtual cycle that permeates human living. We need not be resigned or be binded by our childhood days or any negative experiences that we have encountered with people or situations.

Yes, we are able to walk out of this.

But how?

I feel that the best way is to develop compassion. This includes understanding that others have the same needs and wants as us. Understanding this will enable us to develop empathy. However, to reach the level of compassion, we should also take the additional step of wishing them to be well and happy. This might mean sacrificing a promotion so that they are able to be promoted (which kind of reduces backstabbing occurrences in the office and promotes mutual respect and trust), putting in time to communicate with them on issues that might cause further conflicts, letting them know that they are loved or at least respected by us, as well as putting in the time and effort to see the good in them.

Giving advice is the easy part. It’s the application of the value of compassion in our daily lives that will probably require some practice and patience.

” However, as Lao Tzu said, ‘A journey of a thousand mile begins with a single step.’ “

So, let us all take the step in developing compassion and encourage one another to see the good in others, especially the ones we do not take well to. Always.

Patrick Tay is an English Language and Life Skills Training Specialist  who is based in Singapore. He has been teaching communication studies and international issues in polytechnics and writes regularly on various issues of interest in education, media, business and international affairs at He can be contacted at


The Power of positive influence


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Although social journalism has been highly exhorted in its disclosure of the world’ impoverished community, much of the media content in current times is on the rich and the famous, such as successful celebrities and business professionals. This has somewhat created a ripple effect globally such that some of us might feel that we do not have as much impact as these featured individuals since they have much more influence than most of us. This may, in fact, create a sense of belittlement among some of us and this may result in our indifferent behaviours in our lives, since we cannot really change or impact other people’s lives, can we? Let these movers and shakers of society do the influencing then.

But then again, are we that powerless?

“The fact remains that we are not that powerless. In fact, we may be powerful beyond measures over time.”

Yes, we are not that famous, so our outreach may not be as vast and wide as famous people. Their tweets (and re-tweets) may number in the hundreds (or maybe even thousands) while ours linger in the tens or fewer. Their books and blogs may have massive number of readers while we may take years to hit a 100,000 readership. Their presentations at seminars may sell out but we may even have problems getting a decent number of audience for a full presentation.

“Nevertheless, each of us have a sphere of influence – no matter how small it is. You impact your loved ones and your friends and through them, you may one day impact the world.”

Now, in a world of instant gratification, this kind of impact doesn’t seem like much but given enough patience, each one of us will built and leave a legacy for future generations in the years to come.

However, this impact may not always be positive. Our impacts on the world – like two sides of a coin – cut both ways. Our effect and impact on others is always “switched on”, whether we are aware of it or not. Our kind responses to our loved ones, our decisions to stop before a zebra crossing instead of speeding off when a pedestrian is about to cross, our choice to eat a vegetarian diet, our commitment to exercise and our resolve to help others in need are all impacting on others who have come into contact with us.

“It is interesting to note that we are influencing others not just through our actions (which comes later, after our decisions have been made), but way before that – through our thoughts and vibes as well.”

The way we think and process information have already impacted on others before they manifest into our actions and behaviours. When we walked past someone along the road, we are already influencing them in a certain way, and depending on what vibe we carry at that point in time, it may determine to a certain degree how they feel about things for the rest of the day.

Some of us may be skeptical about this. I mean, how much impact can we have on someone who just spends a few seconds walking past us? However, think about the times when our lives are brightened up for a day (or even more ) because someone offers us a smile in the midst of a busy day. Or how our mood has changed positively when someone commends on our potentials and talents when we have self-doubts about our capabilities and abilities.

I still remember a scene in my mind of one of my ex-colleagues. We were on our way to work that day and he was walking in front of me. It was a breezy morning and there was a slight drizzle earlier in the day. Out of a sudden, I saw him pause midway in his stride and stooped down to pick something from the ground. Then, very slowly and gently, he took a few steps to the right where there was a grass lawn and placed something down on the ground. He began walking soon after to the company office.

Increasing my stride, I reached the place where he had stopped and looked around the area where he seemed to have placed something on the lawn. I found it within seconds. It was a snail.

“Till today, I still have the practice of looking out for snails when I am walking and placing them on grassy areas whenever they might end up on the pavement. This is the power of influence, and the power of compassion.”

We should all strive to be positive examples to others and even though we might fumble (we should forgive ourselves since we humans are mere mortals and hence, fallible), we should still pick ourselves up again and be a positive force in this world.

“Let us be an eternal force for good.”

Patrick Tay is an English Language and Life Skills Training Specialist  who is based in Singapore. He has been teaching communication studies and international issues in polytechnics and writes regularly on various issues of interest in education, media, business and international affairs at He can be contacted at

Using the internet as an extension of learning

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The internet is not new.

It has been considered as an Information Communication Tool (ICT) for quite a number of years now. Almost everyone knows that there are tons of information online (although only some are credible! This is where media literacy comes in.) and a casual “Google” (even this has become a somewhat chic term) through any internet search engines will often bring you thousands or even millions of websites containing information that you want. Isn’t the internet cool?

“However, years of teaching experiences have taught me that the internet is indeed cool in providing information. But it is not so cool in getting you the precise information that you want.”

There are often two reasons for this:

  1. Information overload: This is an old term that requires no further introduction. Most of us have – in one way or another –  search for information using words, phrases, sentences or questions and be presented with tons of information online. And most of us know that the top few links are there for reasons of which none of them is directed towards our exact query. After all, all if not most search engines are algorithm-based and they cannot read our minds, no matter how precise are our search terms.

“This leaves much room for search engine designers to explore and resolve these issues but this is not what this blog post is about, although I hope to see much improvements in this area in the coming years. We have already seen what artificial intelligence is able to do for mankind, and there seems to be no limits to these technological breakthroughs. It seems to be a matter of time before our lives are permeated with automation, beginning with the eateries at say, Eatsa.”

2.  Finding the hook to getting information we seek: Not getting the exact information that we want or need online (just imagine trying to find an online solution to a technical glitch for your mobile phone. It will be interesting to have a game on this to find out who resolves it first!) acknowledges the fact that we know what we are looking for in the first place.

Now, there are instances whereby we do not know exactly what we are looking for in the first place. For instance, you may want to travel to Japan. All right, maybe you know it’s Osaka that you want to go to. Many of us may just “google” Osaka to get the specific destinations but that means that we will have to plough through tons of websites to decide on the exact destinations that we want to go to. And in the process, you get confused by repetition of information on numerous websites, or different information on the same place. “

This is also why I have advised students to read newspapers, magazines and other textual resources widely such that they build up a larger repertoire of knowledge and information to work with when sourcing for information online. For instance, using the same example above,  if they chance upon places in Osaka such as Osaka Station City or Grant Front Osaka, wouldn’t a search using these words be more effective than merely searching with the word “Osaka”?

But to chance upon these words, one needs to have awareness of their existence in the first place. So, the most ideal starting point of learning is still traditional media. New media works best as a learning medium if they serve as extension arms of traditional media.”

Hence, there is still an important use of hard copies of newspapers and magazines, contrary to the argument that online content is king. I still subscribe to the hard copies of TIME magazine, and when I chance upon a word that I am interested in, I will look for more information online by “googling” that word. Say, using the automation example mentioned above, the eatery Eatsa is mentioned. Eatsa has no outlet in Singapore yet, but I am able to use the hard copy magazine as a springboard to search for more information that I want online to learn more about this eatery.

“In other words, newspapers, magazines and other news content should be used as a basis for gathering news content but readers and learners should do better by furthering their research and learning online – through credible and reliable websites. Furthermore, I find that there is better information retention and reduced eye strain when one reads on paper. The desire to gather and read more news when reading online may have contributed to reduced concentration and focus, as well as diluted attention span.

To conclude, I will say that we can enhance our learning not by discarding hard copies of news content and wholly embracing the internet and online news content.

“We should – instead – use traditional media as a springboard to further our learning online. We should wed the information we have gathered from the hard copies with what we will find online through selected search terms sourced from traditional media.”

Only then will we optimise our learning in the current times.

Seen in this light, online content is only king only when serving as an information repository.  When it comes to learning, online content is subservient to traditional media.

Is it any wonder that some feel that online courses do not pose a threat to brick and mortar universities?

Patrick Tay is an English Language and Life Skills Training Specialist  who is based in Singapore. He has been teaching communication studies and international issues in polytechnics and writes regularly on various issues of interest in education, media, business and international affairs at He can be contacted at

Introducing Quizlet

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I am in the midst of studying the Japanese language when I chanced upon a mobile app Quizlet a few days ago. It is a very beautifully designed learning app that enchants me the moment I started using it. This app is very useful for language learning and its primary strength lies in the various features of vocabulary compilation and testing. Quizlet is probably not a new app and it should be around for quite a while now, but it’s apparent that the Quizlet team has not let up their effort to enhance their app over time.

Quizlet enables user to set up an account and create vocabulary lists soon after. The main feature of the app uses flash cards as the primary learning tool. For my personal use, I usually place the English word on one side of the online flash card, with the same word in kanji, Hiragana/Katakana and romaji on the other side. For instance, while the word “book” is featured on one side, “本/ほん/hon” will be indicated on the other side.

Once you have finished compiling your vocabulary list (note: there seems to have very high word limit which is great, as I have a set which goes as high as 41 words), you can start to test yourself once you have familiarised yourself with the words in all its forms and variations. There are three features on the app which you are able to use:

  • Flashcard: This is the typical online equivalent of the hardcopy flash cards language users often use in their language learning.
  • Learn: This “Learn” feature provides you with the content on one side of the card and you are supposed to figure out the word on the other side. For my Japanese learning, “本/ほん/hon” will be shown while I have to type its corresponding word “book” to get this correct. The app has a tracking device on this feature such that it will re-test you if you get the word right. Of course, all humans err, so if users happen to mistype, they can always click on the “I mistype” button, and the app will disregard the mistake. The test completes in intervals within the sets, so users is able to rest or even leave the app. When they return, they are able to choose to continue the test, so just start all over by tabbing on the “restart” option.
  • “Match”: This “match” feature allows users to match one side of the flash card with the other with numerous flash cards shown to the users simultaneously. Users then match the flash card as and when they find a match. For those who like a greater challenge, a timing is always provided at the point of completion, so users are always able to improve themselves. After all, competing with ourselves is much better than competing with others, right?

A few days after using the app, I begin to wonder if there is a desktop version, so I searched online and found it!  I realise that the desktop version contains a much more comprehensive set of features than the mobile app version!

On top of the three features as mentioned above, below are the primary features available on the desktop version:

  • Speller: This “speller”  feature reads out a word and users are to type in the correct word. Users are free to play the pronunciation of the words again and again. Should users type in the wrong word,  the system will reveal the answers, repeating the word slowly with a strikethrough over the wrong letters, while inserting the missed letters – highlighted and underlined for greater visual emphasis.
  • Test: This “test” feature is an overall test on how proficient users are with the use of these words. It  comes in four sections:

i.   Fill in the blanks

ii.  Matching questions

iii. Multiple Choice Questions

iv. True / False questions

The number of questions that are answered correctly and the respective percentages will be shown upon the completion of the test. Should users fail to answer some questions correctly, they have the option of starting all over again or just testing themselves the questions they had gotten wrong. By default, the test contains a maximum of 20 questions but users are able to select to test themselves all the questions in the set should they decide to do so. Users are also able to remove any specific testing component.

  • Scatter: This “scatter” feature is the equivalent of the “Match” feature for the app version. However, the spatial distance is greater for the desktop or laptop version so the learning experience is – to me- much better. Once again, a time is given upon completion of the test for users to do better next time.
  • Space race: This is not an original creation when it comes to word games but it’s probably the first or among the first when it comes to learning tools. Users are asked to type the corresponding words as  their counterparts in another language floats across the screen, and the words speed up as the users “level up”. When users type the right word for the tested words, the latter disappear and pints are scored. The game will stop once all the lives are used up (Lives are lost when words successfully floats across the screen when users failed to key in the correct answers).

Besides the learning tools, there is also the results collation page whereby users are given a preview on how many times they got certain words wrong per vocabulary list (where they are able to “star” these items together to study later),  group these words together (yes, even alphabetically), create folders for all the various vocabulary lists, share their vocabulary lists with online users, search for other relevant vocabulary lists (only if other users have placed their lists as “viewable by everyone”), and many more functions that I have yet to explore.

One of the most impressive Quizlet features I have come across for the desktop version is the capability of the system to print out a PDF version of the word list after users have completed compiling and editing the lists. The layout is very professional and looks very impressive! Please have a look below for a preview:

Japanese Train station words (Quizlet)

I will highly recommend Quizlet to anyone who is interested in learning a foreign language.

Have fun using Quizlet!

Patrick Tay is an English Language and Life Skills Training Specialist  who is based in Singapore. He has been teaching communication studies and international issues in polytechnics and writes regularly on various issues of interest in education, media, business and international affairs at He can be contacted at

Discussing the significance and joys of teaching

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Why would anyone choose teaching as a profession?

There are different reasons why someone would like to choose teaching as a lifelong career. But before we discuss this, let’s have a look at why teaching may not be an attractive profession for some.

In Singapore, the Ministry of Education has always encouraged working professionals to enter the teaching sector, and this includes professionals who are making mid-career switches. This open approach to teacher recruitment is not indicative of a lack of teachers but more in terms of how educators are valued in the country. The employment market within the country is competitive when it comes to talents recruitment and the teaching profession may not have one of the strongest pull factors. On the contrary, there are many tertiary students who look to professions with greater prospects of a higher monetary remuneration, such as banking, accounting and finance.

This is not a local trend. In fact, it could well be a global one. In Singapore, the number of literature student intake is dropping. In Japan, some universities have closed their social studies and humanities programmes to “serve areas that better meet society’s needs”. All in all, there have been a trend of a drop or loss of emphasis on the social sciences and humanities. Of course, there’s no direct indicator that the loss in interest in the social sciences and the humanities is in any way, linked to people’s aspirations for greater monetary remuneration but the possible of a causal relationship exists.

Generally, local educators in the civil education service are paid well for the teaching positions but there are other commercial and industrial sectors that offer higher pay. Hence, the teaching position – while attractive to those who find a calling in teaching – may not be alluring enough to those who have different life aspirations.

You have not answered the question yet. Why would anyone choose teaching as a profession?

To choose teaching as a profession, there are several qualities that one should possess. The most important quality in teaching, is a passion for it. Now, “passion” is a tricky word. To me, “passion = interest + ability“. This is something that some might not be cognizant about. What I mean is that some people may lack certain factors in the equation. For instance, one may have a passion for teaching but lacks a certain set of skill sets. On the other hand, one may have the capability to excel in teaching but their interest may be lost if some of their expectations within the teaching environment are not met.

“Hence, it’s only when the interest of the person matches their teaching abilities – coupled with the fact that they are able to thrive in an academic environment – that they will truly shine as an educator. And this is often not easy to realise until they find themselves teaching so as to see the truth for themselves. “

Taking the first step to try out as an educator requires stepping out of one’s comfort zone, where courage is called for. Thus, bravery is the second quality of an educator, because it is required not just in entering the teaching profession but also in the fact that it is an essential quality that must be employed in the classroom.

“An educator must be able to take the initiative in evoking insights from students in in-depth discussions and play the lead role in discussion issues from various perspectives.  An educator must be avant-garde in proposing thought-provoking questions, and innovative in lesson design to truly make their lessons shine.”

This is not an easy task and it often takes years to master. Whether one is willing and prepared to take the plunge into this challenge again requires bravery.

The third quality is patience.

As educators, they must be prepared to be patient. They should not hold the expectation that all students will have the same learning pace (which is almost an impossibility, especially in a class of 35-40 students, as can typically be seen in local classroom settings at the primary and secondary level at this point in time). Some students will inadvertently fall behind while some students race ahead during the course of the lessons. Having some students asking educators to teach more within the same lesson duration with some putting forward requests  to slow down the lessons has been a dilemma for most educators in the classrooms. The trick to maintaining a balance is tricky and requires patience on the part of educators.

“There are numerous essential qualities of an educator, and I have only named three which I find to be the most essential. Educators are all different and they vary in personalities and teaching approaches. Nevertheless, the abovementioned qualities are important criteria to assess the suitability of an educator in the teaching profession.”

What makes you decide to join the teaching profession?

I love teaching. Straight and simple.

The path isn’t easy for me either. Teaching doesn’t occur to me as the first choice, unlike some teachers who have decided on teaching since graduating.

This is because my interests are very diverse. I love many things, such as reading, writing, design, photography, the Japanese language, Buddhism, travelling, cultures, psychology, research, editing, social media, analytical thinking, creative writing, communication studies, media literacy. literature, journalism and many more.

It has come to a point where an interviewer once asked me during an interview if I know what I want.

“There might be an expectation among some interviewers that one should be more of a specialist than a generalist but I cannot change my innate preference. I am a generalist, and I am proud to be one. “

So, when I first entered the teaching profession, I have the most enjoyable time of my life, which has lasted till now.

“I realise that I am able to integrate my varied interests into my teachings, employ my writing skills to guide my students and interest them with my thoughts on contemporary happenings. And because every lesson is different with varying class dynamics, I am able to put both my adaptability (did I mention I love variety and changes?) and my understanding of human psychology into work.”

This is something I couldn’t do in some workplaces, due to bureaucratic management, rigid work schedules and work responsibilities, lack of flexible and innovative autonomy, office politics, or a combination of the mentioned.

I really love teaching. Because I find teaching very empowering.

Schools are a golden land of learning, and it still is – in spite of the Internet. In fact, the internet has become my ally in my teaching, what with Information Communication Technology (ICT) entering the education landscape and of course, the “flipped classroom” approach.

To wrap it up, do you have any advice for teachers or professionals aspiring to be teachers?

I will say that teaching is a very fulfilling career.

“It might not be the most fulfilling professions financially, and the work(load) can be heavy and time-consuming. But at the end of the day, when you look back, you will see a lot of smiling and appreciative faces, thanking you for your dedication and hardwork to teaching. And you will see for yourself, over time, the learners you have accepted and developed into full-fledged talents. This is something that money cannot buy. This sense of satisfaction is invaluable and it stays with you beautifully  throughout the times you continue teaching – knowing in your hearts that talents are nurtured and groomed in every teaching moments, and feeling grateful in your heart.

If you feel an increasing sense of elation as you are reading this, then I say, ‘Join me in the teaching profession. It will be worth your while.’ ”

Patrick Tay is an English Language and Life Skills Training Specialist  who is based in Singapore. He has been teaching communication studies and international issues in polytechnics and writes regularly on various issues of interest in education, media, business and international affairs at He can be contacted at .

Discussing change and stability

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Much have been discussed about change and stability. Are we able to achieve both?

This is an interesting question and much have been discussed in both academia and the business circles. I will say that this question transcends both areas such that the very choice that we make encompasses life itself.

“To make a choice between change and stability is usually very heavily contextualised within the domain of one’s life circumstances and ever-evolving happenings globally. It also has much to do with the cultural characteristics in which one was engaged in. It also has to do with one’s innate personality. The last factor may be the pivotal point in which one makes a decision between change and stability.”

So, there really isn’t any hard and fast rules on whether it is possible to merely achieve one or both. It’s a blend somewhere between personality, culture and changing circumstances. Currently, TIME magazine has reported on the intrusion of tourists on certain tourist attractions such as Lombard Street in San Francisco. But gradual adjustments have been made to accommodate the influx of tourism while still ensuring minimal disruptions to the residents in the area. Besides striking a balance, I feel that another crucial factor lies in the decisive moments when one makes one’s decision. What’s challenging is that most of us often miss these decisive moments, as well as the fact that the decisions that we make are often relative and subjective.

It seems that there are more people who prefer to be where they are than to make changes. Are there any reasons for this?

It’s primarily psychological.

If you move, you have to deal with changes. And these changes could be as trivial as making room in a corner of your bedroom for a pet, or as drastic as ensuring that there is enough budget for food, accommodations and transport in the event that you choose to accept an overseas posting for a few years.

“Such changes could be social, economical, political, financial, educational or it could a combination of all these – on a national if not global scale. “

The “if it’s aren’t broke, don’t fix it” mantra has a stronger emotional and mental pull on almost anyone. It all comes down to self-preservation. If you make changes, you incur cost in terms of allocating resources and facing any changes that might be disruptive to your lives. If you stay where you are, you are safe – at least for now. It usually takes a whole lot more than a mindset to cause attitudinal or behavioural changes in someone. However, this is not how our forebears survive. They change their habitat, their lifestyle, their preferences, their habits – in the hope of a better life and a better world. You also observe these in animals, in insects. A chameleon is an obvious example.

But there is an interesting aspect to these changes. Humans have always strived to strike a balance between being competitive and collaborative through change. You see this in politics, in office politics, as well as parental and marital relationships. You also see this in carnivorous animals that hunt, such as the wolves.

“The Chinese novel “Wolf Totem” (which had since been translated into English) carries a strong message in its tale: that should the wolves be wiped out by the hunters, their preys will increase in number and the crops will suffer as a result. In a very provocative manner, the themes of change and renewal is prominently brought up in almost every aspects of the book. “

But humans did progress after all, didn’t we?

We did, but often not fast enough. We probably pay a price for this – in the form of a lost job opportunity, maybe. Or maybe something more costly.

What you are saying is probably mankind’s progress on the whole. On that count, yes we are progressing progressively. But if you were to look at the societal or national levels, the progression are of a different pace because people have different views, as well as being born in different circumstances. And in these disparities and differences in progression rate, we see opportunity costs borne by the people.

So, to expedite change, sometimes we have to change the circumstances for the better, which cannot be accomplished by any single individual. Of course, another way is to relocate. Nevertheless, there is no perfect place on Earth and one at times have to make do with things that one is unfavourable about. There is also a cost in relocating oneself. Families and loved ones are left behind.

Yes, you are right. It is often better to regard progression on a wider scale rather than just on an individual level.  Life is relative and the media often aggravates this tendency. It is human nature to want to better one’s life and often, we use others’ materialistic possessions and achievements as yardsticks to measure our own well-being, instead of using our current achievements as benchmarks to do better next time.

To a certain extent, this is human nature – which often does not change.

Patrick Tay is an English Language and Life Skills Training Specialist  who is based in Singapore. He has been teaching communication studies and international issues in polytechnics and writes regularly on various issues of interest in education, media, business and international affairs at He can be contacted at .

Effective ways of learning a foreign language right in your home!

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In recent years, with the pace of studying and working picking up tremendously, there is a decline in the number of literature students in Singapore.

This may imply a loss of creative culture in the country since literature is the inspiration behind the endeavour to explore human nature , and to understand life itself.

Regardless of the causes behind the diminishing number of enrollment in literature lessons, it is important that students recognise the importance of self-expression using the written word. At this point in time, it is hard to foresee if the passion in literature will be re-ignited but a weakening interest in the creative arts is apparent.

Moving along the same line of thought, it can be observed that there are also not many students taking up foreign language in their schools. Only one student in my class of fifteen raised her hand when I asked if any of them had taken up a foreign language in the school. Another one or two have indicated interest in this pursuit but has not enrolled themselves in these lessons.

Unlike literature studies, learning a foreign language is a longer journey, and it involves a longer investment since learning a new language is more sophisticated than literature in terms of its linguistic and grammatical syntax, as well as the fact that foreign language learners have to continuously expose themselves to the new language.

There are some who have advocated immersing oneself in the country to expedite learning. That is a feasible way (if affordability, accessibility and feasibility are not serious issues) but there are other ways to learn. Accessing online learning platforms, enrolling in an online course, having formal lessons in one’s country, as well as forming study groups are some great ways to learn a foreign language.

If you are someone who will like to learn in the comforts of your own hometown, here are some effective ways where you are able to do that.

Attend formal lessons: Now , some may argue that this is not necessary since the internet provides much learning content in almost every common foreign language. While this is true, what beginners of a foreign language should be looking for are structures.

Beginners should look for teachers who are able to give a structure to their learning.

This is something that is almost non-existent in an online platform, unless learners subscribe to online learning platforms such as Of course, the lesson notes that you received from these lessons are also invaluable.

Purchase Textbooks that are used in formal language schools: It’s almost impossible to learn a foreign language without some textbooks to give one the foundations. Do visit your bookshop frequently to note any updates to the titles.

I am currently learning Japanese and one title I will recommend is “Mina No Nihongo” . It comes in two books (which constitutes one set of four ) with its own set of vocabulary lists, sentence structures, conversations in writing, and numerous practices and exercises in each chapter.

Leverage on mobile technology: With the rapid development of mobile technology, our mobile phone is currently much more than a communication device. It is also a learning device, specifically the learning of foreign language in this context.

There are tons of foreign language apps in Apple Play Store and I will personally recommend “”.

If you are interested in some interested features of the app, they are here. Have fun learning a foreign language!

Watch dramas and movies of that language: It’s important that we keep in constant contact with the foreign language that we are learning.

And one of the best ways is to watch programmes in that language, as what we learn in textbooks may not be the equivalent of what is spoken by the native speakers in their daily lives.

Once we have gained a certain level of proficiency, I suggest reading literature of that specific foreign language we are learning.

Learning content compilation: With the increasing amount of learning content, it’s inevitable that our learning content gets increasing complex and sophisticated. We are looking at everything from vocabulary to grammar to sentence expressions to commonly used phrases. I personally  form a list of vocabulary (which I find it to be the most important since we require a vast range of vocabulary words to form sentences, alongside verbs) and a verb list, and my valued textbooks as well as learning materials.

Putting in an effort to revise these list of vocabulary words and verbs regularly is very useful in learning the language. Writing short sentences and paragraphs are equally effective. This is especially so if you are crafting sentences around your daily living since by doing so, you are inadvertently using commonly used sentences.

To wrap it all up, I will say that it’s possible for almost everyone to learn a foreign language in their own homes. However, this should be complemented with external formal lessons since pronunciation will probably be an issue in any form of independent foreign language learning.

Have fun learning a foreign language! And do not forget to communicate with your foreign friends speaking the same language!

Patrick Tay is an English Language and Life Skills Training Specialist  who is based in Singapore. He has been teaching communication studies and international issues in polytechnics and writes regularly on various issues of interest in education, media, business and international affairs at He can be contacted at .