Nanyang Polytechnic’s UNIT14: AMPLIFIED

Earlier this month, I went to check out UNIT14: AMPLIFIED at the National Library. AMPLIFIED is a showcase of the design work by over 160 graduates from Nanyang Polytechnic’s School of Design.

Nanyang Poly unit 14 amplified

There was a mind-boggling number of projects on display. Got a little dizzy after navigating that whole showcase! Some of the projects were pretty impressive, some exceedingly creative, a few of them bizarre, and at least one seemed to be a copy of an actual business.

Leonard Lam Xin Xin Dialect

(above) Leonard Lam’s ‘Xin Xin Dialect’ project is a Hokkien card game which includes common Hokkien phrases and “illustrations that depict its usage”. The card game also comes with a free iOS app that provides audio pronunciation to aid user understanding. Let’s just say I had a similar idea for promoting Chinese dialects among youths but Leonard’s idea is way more cool. :)

Bernice Ong Second Chance

Bernice Ong’s ‘Second Chance’ idea is pretty interesting. “Second Chance is a mediating space for separated couples to reflect upon their marriage before taking further action, serving as a final opportunity for couples to salvage their marriage. Marriage counselling is also offered to them here. However, if they do decide on a divorce, a section of the space is designed to lead them through the process, helping them to end the marriage both physically and mentally”.

I like how she even thought of things like ring disposal! In this age of “conscious uncoupling”, I guess couples do need such a space to reflect on their marriage and whether it is worth salvaging.

Safehike

I like Hayden Goh’s idea of a hiking aid that can also be of help during an emergency. You can even activate a blinking light for SOS signaling!

Tan Pei Jing Connex

Tan Pei Jing’s Connex “allows outdoor camping tents to be connected together seamlessly”. There goes your privacy. But it’s great for families with young kids!

Tan Chien Hui SNooze

I have fallen sound asleep on one of Changi Airport’s chairs before so I know how important it is to have one’s luggage kept secure! Having your luggage attached to your seat is brilliant! One can snooze peacefully now!

Uber

Crystal Ong’s Uber keeps an umbrella inside a walking aid, so the user can have both an umbrella and a walking aid when it is raining. How awesome!

Other great ideas include: Muhammad Aminuddin’s Rollix (an extendable paint roller equipped with a pressure pump), Teo Hun Ing’s PortalDrip which “removes the need for drip stands by allowing users to wear the drip on themselves”, making it easier to tackle stairs, access toilets and frees up more space in hospital rooms, and Tan Wei Ming’s Re-Cap which will “help drivers locate their cars [in carparks] with… visual reminders and mental mappings”. I’m not sure how Re-Cap actually works, but less time required in figuring out where the boyfriend parked his car is always welcome!

Nyssa Tien Recharge Box

Nyssa Tien’s ‘Recharge Box’ idea seems a little bizarre. It is “a series of hanging boxes for napping” and allows tour bus drivers to stretch out and sleep. It is great that she thought of napping as a “strategy for maintaining alertness”. But I’m not sure we need to go to that expense! How much will it cost to construct this whole thing? Plus, it seems rather scary to sleep in a box – I’ll leave that for when I’m dead. Tour bus drivers can simply stretch out in the seats on board the buses. ;)

Nurul Ain Petite Burger

Does Nurul Ain know that her Petite Burger idea is extremely similar to the vegan burger joint, Veganburg? Hmm…

All in all, it was an eye-opening exhibition. I hope Nanyang Polytechnic continues to nurture more of these creative individuals and let their innovative designs be taken to market. :)

The NTU Masters’ Prog Ladies FINALLY Get It? Or… Maybe Not

Interesting how my blogpost about the interview request email I received got me an assortment of comments – mostly offering their own similar experiences.

Anyway… the NTU Masters’ Prog ladies DID send me a reply (I wasn’t quite expecting it so kudos to them)…

Their Email:

Dear Grace

Thank you for your reply.
We appreciate your comments, and would like to apologise for rushing you on an interview request.
On hindsight, we should have explained our project more to our interviewees.
This has certainly been a valuable learning experience for the team.
Thank you once again.
Regards
Priyanka, Elizabeth, Rachael and Truda
~
  1. Theirs is indeed a polite email, offering not just an apology but also thanks. (Though they did not reply to my follow-up email)
  2. I do think they didn’t quite get my point – it’s not the “rushing” me for an interview bit that I wanted to communicate to them. It’s the lack of sincerity bit (the ‘not caring whether an hour of my time is precious to me or not’ bit).
  3. And no, I certainly do not think they should have “explained [their] project more to [their] interviewees”. What’s that saying again? People don’t care how much you know, they want to know how much you care. I don’t want to know every single detail about your project. I want to know whether you care about me as a blogger, whether you care about how precious an hour of MY TIME is. If you care about me and what I do, I’d certainly WANT TO HELP YOU WITH YOUR PROJECT!
  4. If I come across as being overly harsh in my response, it is because I am appalled at receiving such an email from MASTERS’ PROGRAMME Candidates at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication & Information! I had expected better-crafted emails. And it is also because I am brutally honest, sometimes.

To the people who posted comments expressing their indignation at my response:

  1. KAM: “Grace means doing something and expecting nothing in return”. Er… ok! Why don’t you give these ladies one hour of your time for nothing in return? And how does my name have anything to do with this? LOL! So a lady named “Rose” has to smell floral/good all the time? Please post something sensible, or don’t post anything at all. Thank you. :) 
  2. Nicky: You say that you are my “1st and never again reader”. Ok, goodbye!
  3. Anne: Again, the name argument, like KAM’s. Alright, how about I change my name to ‘Fierce’ then? Would it make better sense to you?

I DO admit that I can be BRUTALLY honest at times, I dislike receiving template emails, and I certainly cannot stand the way some people behave as if I OWE THEM SOMETHING WHEN I MOST CERTAINLY DO NOT!

What might have happened if I had been “graceful” enough to reply to their email with my answers to their interview questions:

Here’s what a fellow blogger shared with me. He received the SAME email from the PERT ladies, and he actually spent half an hour crafting a reply to them. He is also one of Singapore’s top food bloggers:

 “Just to let u know. I replied them, by email. Only becos they are from my same school. I got a reply… These are not the answers we want because we have more questions but thanks. Somewhere along that line. Regretted wasting 30 min of my life typing a reply.”

I do not regret what I did, simply because the ladies DO NOT APPRECIATE our time.

And I will try to blog about them gracefully, if possible.

Another friend who saw the comment by the blogger who wasted 30 minutes of his life typing a reply to PERT, has this to say:

Especially of late, I’m receiving a couple of requests for meet-ups or phone interviews from the universities students. Hardly any one of the emails shared how the interview can benefit me in a tangible manner. It’s not that I’m stingy with time but I value my time than to give it off in a frivolous manner. I mean even if you 1) can’t offer anything tangible or 2) don’t know what’s tangible to me, at least 1) make intelligent guesses or 2) make an offer to find out how they can help me in my work. Cheesy as it sounds, it’s the small things that matter. None of the students did that and they just expect a standard copy-paste email template will get them the responses they need, when they need and how they need.

I think they have to learn it younger la. If not, when they go to the workplace, then they see our Western or other counterparts who are more adept at social intelligence and this kinda basic stuff. Then they get jealous and say, “hey, why i work so hard but i don’t get recognized but the (put in the nationality) knows how to (put in acts of social intelligence) get all the credit and opportunities”.

If you get it now, great. If not, too bad.

My Eye-Opening Visit To The Siglap Homestay For Foreign Students

About a week ago, I set out to discover what it is like for foreign students to live in Singapore. And I concluded that some of them have it pretty good here.

I visited the Siglap Homestay at 653 Changi Road and met the students’ guardian, Sharene:

653 Changi Road

Guess how many people stay in here?

Sharene and students

Besides Sharene and her family, plus two maids, there are 11 students currently staying in this 4-storey house! That explains the amount of laundry out in the front. :D

The students are currently paying S$1300 per month for their stay at Siglap Homestay, and this flat fee covers guardianship, 3 meals a day, housekeeping, laundry, etc.

I took a photo of what the students got for lunch:

Lunch

Seems like wholesome fare! I’d like some chili sauce for the nuggets, please! :D

What I appreciated most were the little corners in the house that were so tastefully decorated and exactly what I’d enjoy as a student:

melting clock

lots of greenery

chair

But most interesting of all were the notices pasted on every bedroom door, regarding the Rules and Regulations:

Rules

I found at least one rule pretty mind-boggling: meals are not allowed in rooms (to prevent any spillage/mess) but snacks are allowed. Hmm…

In any case, I think the students will definitely develop some measure of discipline from staying here and their parents should feel very confident that their kids are in good hands.

I wish I’d gotten a chance to intimately experience what it is like to live in this homestay… Maybe next time. ;)

To view more pictures and retrieve the necessary contact details, click HERE.

Till next time! And Happy Lunar New Year, everybody! :)

 

Spell some words and win $5000? Count me in!

If you haven’t already read from the Straits Times yesterday, it’s great being a student these days! If you take part in the National Spelling Championship 2013, organized by RHB bank and The Straits Times, you stand a chance to win $5,000 and a trophy for your school! The first runner-up gets $3,000 and the second runner-up gets $1,000! The spelling championship is only in its second year, so this explains how I totally missed out when I was in primary school. XD

National Spelling Championship Singapore

Thanks to Omy.sg, some bloggers (including myself) got to attend the media launch on Friday afternoon.

And there were some oh-so-cute mascots to greet us:

*The luckiest lion in the whole of SG that day*

RHB mascot

*Want to score an A+ for your exams? Hug this mascot!*

Cute mascot

Oh heck! Hug all three of them! :D

3 mascots

Friends from the media were also treated to a ‘live’ spelling competition between students from Yu Neng Primary and Tampines North Primary. And my goodness, the student supporters went wild with the clappers they were given as they cheered for their schoolmates.

Participants

Yu Neng and Tampines North Primary

Online Spelling Game

The students had to spell the words ‘arithmetic’, ‘monstrous’, ‘diction’, ‘meditate’, ‘zoology’, and ‘hygiene’. Each letter was represented by a football which had to be shot into the net – not an easy task as there were some monkey defenders and a goalkeeper to get past!

These days, a spelling app cannot simply be a spelling app. It has to be an interactive game which not only has a countdown timer (that gets your heart racing) but also music, colors, and a lot of fun. I think all kids will love this app!

In the end, the team from Yu Neng Primary won and went home with a huge hamper of goodies plus a digital camera each. Tampines North Primary also took home an equally large hamper.

Winners

After the excitement of the contest, we were also treated to a screening of the movie ‘The Lorax’ – it was fantastic! Who knew that people could be taught to save the trees without getting bored? Ahhh… now, if only all trees looked all fluffy and cotton candy-ish. :D

~

ACS Junior was a big winner last year, winning both the champion and first runner-up titles – can they retain the titles this year? Jordan Foo, then aged 12, won by correctly spelling the word ‘jodhpurs’ (horse-riding pants that fit tightly from knee to ankle). <- Who knew there was such a word?!

I look forward to this year’s championship and more mind-boggling words that primary school students can spell. Are YOU better at spelling than a primary six student? ;)

The iSpell app will be available for download by Jan 31, so watch out for it.

Head over to http://www.straitstimes.com/bigspell for more details about the National Spelling Championship 2013.

Interview with Jared Fogle, The Subway Guy

Jared Fogle

Spokesman for Subway Restaurants

http://jaredfoundation.org/

1) What was it like physically and emotionally to be “an obese child, an obese teenager and an obese adult”? How did obesity begin in your childhood? And what did your parents do?

For me, each stage of development being obese was harder and harder.  There is never a good time in one’s life to be heavy but as a child, it was especially tough.  I dealt with it by withdrawing more and more from my family and friends.  I could always seem to find solace in food.

It became harder for me to do everyday things like fit into my school desks, go to a movie theatre, sit in the back seat of a car, and took much more effort to walk even a block down the street.

My unhealthy lifestyle started when I was 8 years old when my dream of getting my own video game system became a reality.  I quickly stopped exercising and became very sedentary.

My parents were very concerned but the more they approached me about changing myself, I would push away from them and continue eating and not being active.

This continued getting worse each year until I was 20 years old and weighed over 425 pounds*.

*425 pounds = 193kg

2) What exactly prompted you to embark on your weight loss plan that allowed you to shed 245 pounds (111kg)? How did you suddenly find the motivation to shed so much weight? 

I finally had enough when I was 20 years old and over 425 pounds.  I had developed a severe case of sleep apnea and was always exhausted because of it.  I would wake up throughout the night gasping for air, which was a very scary situation.  At that point, I had had enough I think.

3) Many people have difficulty keeping to a weight-loss plan. What do you think is the reason they are unable to lose weight like you have? 

I tried many different ways to lose weight but struggled to find a way for me to do it.  I finally happened upon the idea to eat Subway sandwiches from their low-fat menu.  I ate Subway twice a day everyday and also started walking everyday.  It started to click and I continued with it under the supervision of a physician to make sure I was doing everything in a healthy way.

As long as I stuck to that plan, I continued to drop weight and it took me just under a year to lose 245 pounds!

I looked at losing the weight as phase one and keeping it off is a continual struggle that I will fight my entire life!

Now I practice eating in moderation and staying active.  I still eat Subway several times a week but learned to eat most things, just not as much as I used to.
4) How has life changed since you became Subway’s spokesman?

It changed in every way.  I’m recognized a lot these days and it’s great to be a positive role model for others who fight with obesity.  It makes me feel great to give hope to others who are in a similar situation I was in.

 5) What’s a day in your life like? 

I travel almost 200 days a year for Subway and also doing work for my foundation to fight childhood obesity, called The Jared Foundation.

When I’m on the road, I’m usually up early doing interviews for radio and TV then on to some school visits to encourage children not to go down the same road I went down and ever wind up weighing 425 pounds.  I try to empower kids with education to take the healthy road to life!

Grace says: You may have set a New Year’s Resolution to lose some weight so take heart, it IS possible to shed those extra pounds and maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle. For the sake of your own health and happiness, and for your loved ones, make those lifestyle changes and choose to eat in moderation and stay active, like Jared advises.

You can read the story behind ‘The Subway Guy’ here.

Also, visit The Jared Foundation’s website and make a donation so the Foundation can reach out to more kids and help them lead healthier, happier lives.

Stay healthy, stay happy! :)

Come back again soon for the next exciting interview!~

Interview with Yao Shih Lien from Genius Mind Academy

Yao Shih Lien (pictured with Grace)

Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director

Genius Mind Academy

Visit GMA’s Website HERE

I got to know about Genius Mind Academy (GMA) this year. It was one of the companies which received the SME1 awards and I had the privilege of interviewing the CEO and Managing Director, Mr Yao Shih Lien. Check out the interview video below:

I was very impressed when I met the children who had undergone the activation. They were blindfolded and could do things like color a picture:

The end-result looks better than what other kids can do with their eyes open:

Even the little red tongue got colored! How awesome is that?!

And this other girl could differentiate cards and categorise them into living and non-living things, just using her sense of smell! *The cards aren’t scented!*

Honestly, I was quite skeptical initially when I came to know about this company which uses their proprietary sound to activate childrens’ mid-brain, helping them take “The First Step Towards Genius”. Then I met the kids and got blown away. What really sealed the deal for me was meeting the PARENTS of these kids and hearing what they had to say.

You won’t see this in the video but the parents were moved to tears as they related to me their experiences of raising their kids before and after sending them to Genius Mind Academy:

If you want to activate your child’s mid-brain and potential, I would recommend Genius Mind Academy. These parents have sent their children to other enrichment courses but nothing worked. It seems the missing first step can be found at GMA.

Check out their website HERE and you can register for the upcoming free previews. You’ve got to see the kids in action to believe!

Genius Mind Academy can also be contacted at enquiry@geniusmindacademy.com.sg or 65925638.

Interview with Lorenzo Ang www.universaltuitionlink.com.sg

Lorenzo Ang

Educator, Universal Tuition Link

1) When and why was Universal Tuition Link set up?

Universal Tuition Link was set up in 2005. 

Prior to 2005, I had been a private home tutor since 1998 and I’d worked for tuition agencies as both coordinator and manager.

After I realized how these agencies operated and their model of “hit-and-run” business, I felt that the market needs more good and responsible agencies.

Therefore, after analyzing the market, and equipped with parents’ & educators’ feedback, I decided to set up Universal Tuition Link.

My mission is to help parents source for reliable and qualified educators and to ensure the parents get the best service possible.

As for educators, we will safeguard their interest in all aspects and ensure they are fairly treated.

2) What are the challenges you faced in starting and now managing this business?

At the start, we encountered an overcrowded market full of competitors, including a lot of ‘black sheep’ in this industry.

To gain our customers’ trust and business, we only recruited reliable and experienced educators.

We started off with a small database but along the way, we have recruited a pool of reliable educators, and served very supportive customers.

In order to improve our efficiency and understand the needs of educators and students even better, we conduct market research and surveys regularly.

3) This is a very competitive industry. So how do you stay ahead of your competition?

We continuously improve our matching service by upgrading our operations through our customized matching software program. We also send our staff for computer courses regarding our new operation software.

Through our regular research and analyses, we ensure our tuition rates are the most affordable & competitive in the market.

We strive to give our best support to parents, students and educators. For example, for the past five years, we have been providing free downloads of past year exam papers for our students, educators and the public.

4)  What are the benefits of choosing your agency instead of other agencies? And what can parents do on their part to ensure a good experience with hiring a tutor?

First and foremost, I am a private educator with 10 years of experience and I know intimately the needs and wants of parents, students and educators.

For parents/students, they can be assured that we screen though the educator’s qualification thoroughly to ensure they are qualified for the tuition assignments. We always brief all the educators beforehand about the needs and requirements of our students.

With regard to the educators, communication is very important. We follow up with every educator regularly to understand their schedule, rate of progress with our students and also ask if they need our help in any aspect. Therefore, we have come to understand our educators very well.

Parents should ensure these 3 things are present:

1) Trustworthiness
Check whether the tuition agency is a registered one. Check the educator’s certification.

2) Monitoring
Monitor the progress of the student. Communicate with both the student and the educator and follow-up with them after each lesson.

3) Feedback
Give feedback to the agency on the performance of both the student and the educator.

5) I’ve noticed from your Facebook pictures that you are someone who believes in doing charity work. Does that extend to your company as well?

Yes, it is our firm belief that it is everyone’s duty to contribute to our society. Currently, Universal Tuition Link is contributing a dollar to charity associations with every successful tuition assignment.

We hope we can inspire more people to help those who are less fortunate!

Grace says: I spotted some of Lorenzo’s Facebook photos showing the donations to Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home, Grace Lodge and Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital. He has been the organiser for a number of such activities and his friends and business associates contribute most of the donations. I hope they go on to inspire even more people to contribute to society! :)

*All pictures courtesy of Lorenzo Ang http://www.universaltuitionlink.com.sg

Check out Universal Tuition Link’s Facebook Page here to find out more about them and learn how you can contribute to a charitable cause too. :)

Learn-A-Thon 2011 – The Best From 14 Of Asia’s Top Wealth Creation Experts

If you’ve missed Monday’s Learn-A-Thon at Kallang Theatre and did not get to hear from the 14 Wealth Creation experts, you’re in luck. :)

Here’s what I took away from their presentations of 3-minutes each:

Adam Khoo: get yourself to take action; buy that stock or start that business!

Wendy Kwek: There’s no great success by focusing on making a living; only way to create sustainable success is by making a difference in other people’s lives.

Jerome Tan: Have faith. The more you give, the more you receive.

Jim Khoo: Learn to give. Give of your time, talent, thoughts. Live your life for others.

Boyd Au: Be diligent and skillful. Persevere to achieve your objectives, be passionate and believe in what you are doing. No shortcuts. The more you sow, the more you reap. Sow into your brand. Make yourself known – What you stand for; Your brand promise. Sow into society.

Dave Rogers: Stillness will guide you. Listen. The heart, the ear, the honor of being able to give.

Ken Sapp: 1)Passion; find what you love; what you are created for. 2)Knowledge, expertise. 3)Market- find out what people want; their desires.

Andrew Chow: Social Capital. HAM. Hand – hold other people’s hands and work with them. Attitude – be genuinely interested in people. Mindset- be creative.

Jaz Lai – take action. The more you do; the easier it becomes. Perseverance.

Arthur camazzi – Outsourcing with odesk, elance, etc

Tan Yang Po- ‘Cash Your Passion’ written in 7 days. You don’t have to know everything. You just need the willpower to want to do it. Put your mind and soul into doing. Focus and make it happen.

Ken Chee- Buy good assets undervalued.

KC See – Discover and follow your passion. Rich people don’t work hard for money; they make money work hard for them.

Mike Handcock – Have a “playground” instead of a network; where friends like to turn up and play games. Great questions lead to great answers, which provide great information and lead to great decisions. Know what questions to ask. Know why you are doing what you are doing.

*Disclaimer: These notes were taken by me and based on what I heard. I take no responsibility for their accuracy though, as I was seated right at the back of the room! XD

Learn-A-Thon managed to raise $132,850 for the victims of the recent floods in Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines. It is the brainchild of Patrick Liew, CEO of HSR International Realtors Pte Ltd. The Guest-Of-Honour was Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Defence and National Development and Mayor of the South-East District.

Please contact Mercy Relief (www.mercyrelief.org) if you’d like to do your part in helping the flood victims.

Here are some of the wishes that participants of Learn-A-Thon put up on a board, including mine :)

Interview with Carol Chiam

Carol Chiam

News Presenter, Principal

(*Note: Grace did the English translation of Carol’s replies in Chinese and takes sole responsibility for any meanings lost in translation.)

1) What prompted your change in career from newscaster to principal? And what do you love most about the work you do now?
什么原因促使您不当主播当校长?目前所从事的工作,最乐在其中的是什么?
答:很多人有七年之痒。
从1990年算起至第7年的某夜,犹记收场乐中棚内渐暗,孤身只影的我低头整理新闻稿,一边自问:果真喜欢报新闻吗?还要报多久?自那以后,除了继续对着镜头传达信息,也推动自己学习更多技能,去过很多部门参与各类节目的制作。第14年,装备得差不多了,却每天忙得晕头转向,回家对着两个念小学的儿子,再自问:长时间把孩子交给女佣,不妥吧?考虑许久,主动终止全职合约。
喜欢目前的自由自在,有多些时间参与国内外事奉、陪家人孩子,还能吃老本,经济上无后顾之忧,平时想做什么就做什么,订单接得多累了想休息就放假,偶尔回去跟老同事见面叙旧,甚是开心!
Many people get the “seven-year itch”. After the 7th year, I asked myself then whether I loved presenting the news, and how long I wanted to continue doing it. With this in mind, I learnt new skills and was involved in the production work of other departments.  At the 14th-year mark, I was well-equipped but overworked. Coming home to 2 kids still studying in primary school, I wondered if it was indeed a good idea to leave them in the long-term care of the maid. I tendered my resignation. I love the freedom now, and have more time for church activities both locally and overseas, and the luxury of time with family.

I continue doing what I’m trained in, and without financial woes, I do as I please. When I need a break, I take a holiday and I visit my ex-colleagues to reminisce. Such joy!
2) (According to what I’ve read online) You’ve done many interviews previously, with former President Ong Teng Cheong and celebrity Gong Li, among others. Which interview was the most memorable, and why?
(根据网上所阅)您访问过前总统王鼎昌及国际影星巩俐,哪位留下的印象最深刻,为什么?
访王鼎昌之际他还是部长不是总统,很匆促记不得了(前总统和第一夫人浪漫深情的电视画面倒是令我至今难忘)。至于巩俐,那天在酒店里,摄像队用半小时安置器材及调好拍摄角度,她才从对房走过来,只准访15分钟,领教了国际红牌的架势!过程顺畅,有个问题问得很直接,好像是关于成熟女星在电影界的地位是否容易动摇,她怔了怔、神色不以为然。当然,后来她在《满城尽带黄金甲》的出色表现,算是强有力的反驳吧!

Mr Ong Teng Cheong was a Minister when I interviewed him, and not a President yet. I’m hard pressed to recall how it went though. (But I cannot forget how the ex-President and the First Lady seemed so in love on screen)

As for Gong Li, our filming crew took 30 minutes to get our equipment set up for the interview. She emerged from her room and allowed us to interview her for only 15 minutes. I came to understand what it meant to work with an international celebrity. The process was smooth though there was one question which was perhaps too direct – something along the lines of whether the position of female movie stars would become shaky with age. She was taken aback but did not reveal any unusual facial expressions. Of course, her subsequent awesome performance in ‘Curse Of The Golden Flower’ was a credible retort.

3) You are fluent in both English and Mandarin, so why the particular fondness for the Chinese Language (over English)?
您的双语很流利,为什么独爱华文?
并非独爱华文,或许是运用的机会较多吧!不知为何自小对语言便兴趣极浓,跟很多新加坡人一样,仅仅通过聆听便能说几种方言。事实上父亲把我从华小转入英文中学之初,功课一落千丈恨死英文,但后来进步了就爱上英文。大学主修日文3年也学得兴致勃勃。去年到泰国宣教,用3个月学简单泰语,听懂40%。每一次有机会掌握新的语文就很来劲!
眼看新加坡年轻一代不看重华文,传承华文文化的使命感渐增。每当遇到刻意炫耀英语却把讲华语的教员或长者排挤于话题外的年轻人,便立刻用英语跟他们对答。他们通常会相当惊讶,个人用意在于传达:能驾驭语言无甚了不起,善用语言为建立和谐社会和造福人群才是学好语文的最终目的!

It’s just that I’ve had more opportunities to utilise Mandarin in communication. I’ve been interested in languages since young and like many Singaporeans, I learned to speak a few dialects just by hearing them being spoken. I studied in a primary school where the language of instruction was Mandarin but my father had me transferred to a secondary school which taught in English. Initially, my grades suffered but subsequently, I got better grades and began to love the English Language. I then had a most fulfilling 3 years learning Japanese in University. Last year, I was in Thailand for missions work and spent 3 months to learn basic Thai, and could understand about 40% of the spoken language. I find opportunities to master new languages most exciting!

Watching as the younger generation here places less emphasis on Mandarin, my mission of keeping this language and culture alive gets ever more important. Whenever I meet a young person who flaunts his/her command of the English language while ostracising the Mandarin-speaking educator or elder and keeping the latter out of the conversation, I immediately converse with this young person in English. The person is usually surprised. To use language well in order to increase social cohesiveness and be a blessing to the masses should be the ultimate aim of mastering a language.

4) What is your opinion about the standard of Mandarin spoken by candidates at the election rallies?
您觉得大选候选人的华语表达水平如何?
刘程强和沈颖的华文用语措辞得当,表达传神,偶有佳句。

MPs Low Thia Kiang and Sim Ann used highly appropriate Mandarin expressions, were engaging in their delivery of the speeches and occasionally used excellent phrases.

5) How would you go about helping a young student who is from an English-speaking family, and who has consistently flunked Chinese as a subject in school, gain a passion for the language?
您如何帮助来自说英语家庭、华文科目总是不及格的学生热爱华文?
公式化的教导、单调的复习会扼杀学习兴趣。教学大纲固然要紧跟,但甩掉课本、走出课室,有时反倒能激起学习兴趣,并有助学子们通过不同途径探索华族母语的卓拔精奥!

Rote-learning will kill the student’s love for learning. There should be structure and adherence to the syllabus but we should ditch the textbooks and take lessons out of the classrooms. This could inspire greater interest in learning, and spur the children to use alternative ways to discover Mandarin’s outstanding qualities.

Grace says: Wow! You cannot begin to imagine my relief at finally being done with translating this. What a daunting and challenging task! I am in awe that Carol is so outstandingly bilingual but more so that she is such a kind and generous soul.

I apologise for any misinterpretations of what she has written. I have done my best to help my non-Chinese readers! This just goes to show that I have a lot more to learn.

A big thank you to Carol for being an inspiration and spurring us young “English” folk to start looking for our Chinese roots and getting reinitiated back into the culture. Let’s not miss out on what is rightfully ours! :)

Stay Tuned for more exciting interviews and updates.

Are you new to this site? Enter your email address in the subscription field and you will automatically get the blog updates in your email inbox. Shout out if you like a particular interview. :)

*This weekend, I’ll be blogging about my Batam missions trip (helping out at orphanages, painting a church, among other things) & introduce you to a group of very special people. So come back and enjoy the weekend with me!

p/s: If you have not signed up for Wednesday’s ‘How I Made 114K At Age 24′ Sharing Session, email gracemg@gmail.com now! See you there!

Interview with Samy Rajoo

Samy Rajoo, and 3 of his students

Manager, English Department (Jiang Education Centre)

1) Why did you choose this profession and what do you love most about your job?

I am now 43 and as long as I can recall, I have been involved in teaching, training and coaching for more than half of it either directly or indirectly. But I have come to realise that Life is indeed strange for you need to shuffle the cards you are dealt with.
And even though I have always been keen to share, exchange, and learn from others, it took me the better part of 15 years to arrive at the place I find myself now in – in the interim, I worked in privilege card sales,  insurance sales, the supreme court, a training centre and now a tuition centre :)

I have also volunteered extensively in the grassroots, toastmasters where I met you and am an active guidance volunteer counsellor with SANA and the HINDU CENTRE.
So in a sense, I feel that the profession chose me for on hindsight in almost all of my full-time previous jobs, and volunteer stints, I inevitably ended up conducting training and mentoring than in the scope I had been originally recruited for.

2) What is your mission in Life?

Ha ha what a lovely breathtaking question.  But I’ve come over time to realise that it is simply to pass on what I’ve learnt and to have the opportunity to learn from all those I have shared with.  Especially so now that I have a four year old at home, I am chuffed at how many of my students have adopted her as their baby sister.  I think that reflects why once a friend of some 20 years standing once said that I was someone who wanted, “to build people who build people.” That observation from that dear friend made me realise that that in a nutshell was what I had been chasing all along – to be in a position where I could ‘pay it forward’ so to speak :)

3) How do you create a work-life balance for yourself?

Ha ha I would be the first to hold up my hands and fess-up that in my opinion there is truly no such thing. I say this because as I truly enjoy what I am doing – it, all sniggers and cliches be darned, what I do really does not feel like work – why do I say this?  Well, Grace, as you well know, I work long week days and full weekends but when I am in class, sharing, teaching, guiding, learning, inspiring, I feel that I am in my element - I am in that space between real and surreal – where I truly feel fulfilled and time truly flies.  How fast?  Well, I teach weekends 9am til 7pm and I can go on all night if needed. In fact, I had an amazing cohort of students last year and the weeks before their “O” Levels, we would pull marathon sessions up to 11pm even.

Whilst I do try to make time for my family, to be completely honest (just in case my wife does read this) I am somewhat too selfish and happy to reduce the hours I spend doing what I love.  Trust me, I love my wify and daughter and family but I realise that I need to be happy before I can spread that joy around.  So at best, it is a compromise.  Not ever truly a balance in my case.

4) What makes you happy?

The simple things.  Being able to wake up completely from sleep.  NTUC marketing with my angel.  Being able to get what my wify wants on that very day.  Sending my mum on holidays. But what truly makes me happy is being able to hang around people who are keen to learn, who have a yearning to improve themselves and who are fearless enough to take that leap of faith – for I warn them – the reward for hard work is more hard work and once you’ve accomplished good results, it is an addiction, a drug that will keep you dragging back for more and more.. hard work.  It is as much blind faith partly in me and partly in them that if they truly try, they’d envision and realise vistas never before imagined.
I must share one of my fondest memories – that of a student who is now himself a teacher in a junior college doing what he loves best.  Teaching.  I first got to know him when he was in Pri 6 but his attendance at the weekend tuition centre (it was a volunteer managed centre) was terrible at best.  His father approached me the following year to assist him in his secondary one work.  As I was then self-employed, I took the effort to accompany him to his school and spoke to his teachers together with his parents.

My student, who had been posted to one of the weaker neighbourhood schools, was shocked when he realised that even amongst such academically modest students, he had the third lowest aggregate in the entire cohort - I used this to shake him up and over the months that followed, we worked together tirelessly on setting, smashing and targeting new accomplishments.
Thanks to his strong work ethic, his family’s support and the mutual partnership we shared in helping him be the best him he could be, over the years he went on to top every exam from Sec 1 onwards.  I was pretty chuffed when during his valedictorian speech at NTU, he mentioned a friend who had inspired him to study.  It was truly a gratifying moment for me.

Apart from all this, my daughter Visalini and wify Lakshmi complete me :)

5) How difficult is it to teach English to foreign students, and how do you manage it?

As I have often shared with friends who teach in MOE schools, it is a joy to teach, coach and work with students who come pre-inspired, ever ready to hang on to your every word and who have discovered that one of the secrets of success in life hinges on academic success.

In that aspect, foreign students are no different from local students and I consciously try my best to NOT draw a distinction between students based on school, age nor nationality.  How do you interest teens to read and acquire grammar?  How do you cause them to get interested in language?  What can you do to keep them going?  Well, I leverage on what they like and would read even without my prompting. I allow them to sample flavours of different materials, writing and sources - I distill articles from 8 days, Time magazine, The Straits Times, Today, gossip rags, Yahoo News and the excellent info graphics from The New Paper. I painstakingly highlight, explain and clarify issues, content and vocabulary covered in the materials.

I do offer additional conversation time to all my students outside the class sessions.  And not just the foreign ones so that they have the opportunity to read, answer and clarify issues in a more informal environment.  I do keep in touch with many of my students via facebook, emails and smses - I try and more often than not, it does let them know that I am there – even if it is to verify a word that they came across somewhere and are too lazy to check a dictionary for - I tell them “Ask me – for when you learn, so do I.”

The best lesson I have learnt from my students is this -
“Students don’t really care how much you know,
Students want to know how much you care.”

Which is why in these past five fantastic, fun, fulfilling years, I have taught more than three thousand students at the centre where I coach and during MOE enrichment programs. It is indeed a blessing to be where I am now and I stand guided by these lovely words:

“All human beings have a place inside which is filled with treasures; be still and you will find it. “

Grace says: Samy promised me a masterpiece of an interview. And boy, what an interview! I’m glad I asked him. He’s such an awesome friend that I just HAD to interview him for this blog. THANKS, Samy! :D

I think his students are all extremely blessed to have him as a teacher.

It’s been an awfully long time since I last met Samy (workaholic *ahem* that he is) but my most vivid memory of him is, and hope this doesn’t embarrass him, of him lugging his purchases of baby diapers and milk powder to Toastmasters meetings, so he can bring them straight home afterward. I think he’s an amazing father, and hope his daughter realises that while he may often be busy with teaching, his heart’s still very much at home with his wife and kid too! :)

Come back next week for: The interview with Celest Chong, whom Samy is a fan of. ;)