The good-read way to learn

  • Education
  • Sunday, 13 Apr 2003


FOR years, young and old have been entertained by Reader’s Digest various publications – from the popular monthly magazine to its periodicals, like the World Atlas, book of Quotable Quotes: Wit and Wisdom for All Occasions, and Word Power dictionary. 

As a child, I remember looking forward to the postman delivering the monthly magazine so I could read the jokes and real-life humour chronicled in my three favourite sections – Laughter the Best Medicine, All in a Day’s Work and Life’s Like That.  

As I grew older, my scope widened and I appreciated the heart-warming, true stories the magazine is famous for. Today, Reader’s Digest is still a staple in many homes, especially urban English-speaking households.  

Through its “bilingual selections”, Reader’s Digest is expanding its readership in Malaysia. Entitled Always by Your Side/Sentiasa Di Samping-Mu, the book in English and Malay has three sections – Short Stories (seven stories with a comprehensive glossary at the end of each story), Situational Dialogues and Perfect English.  

In the first section, both versions of the stories are juxtaposed – the English version on the left-hand pages and the Malay version on the right. While it is a given that Reader’s Digest stories are a good read and often inspirational, I was a bit doubtful whether the translated version would be as good, let alone accurate.  

My fears were compounded as I was going through the first story – Seconds to Live/Nyaris-nyaris Disembar Maut – a true account of two sisters who missed death by seconds. Midway through the story, “Even as children, Joanna and Lauren were athletic ?” is translated as “Semasa mereka kanak-kanak lagi, Joanna dan Lauren sudah menjadi atlit?”  

Don’t mean to nitpick, but isn’t the meaning somewhat altered? And if a student or reader were to compare both versions, he would be either misled or confused. 

Details aside, the essence of the stories is maintained in the translated versions (Tip: Don’t do word-for-word, line-by-line comparisons). The parallel setting of the text makes it easier to compare and refer to both versions, and the glossary at the end of each story is comprehensive.  

The book also comes with a CD-ROM of the seven stories, which is useful for pronunciation and intonation.  

The second section, Situational Dialogues, is the one I like best. Readers and language learners are presented with a various situational dialogues in two broad themes – Making Home Where the Heart is (Rumahku Syurgaku) and Shopping for Food (Membeli Makanan).  

Though this section is small, it serves its purpose and is an effective way of learning both languages. The situations are everyday situations that people can relate to.  

The last section, Perfect English, gives useful tips on vocabulary, public speaking and pronunciation. Basic things like using a dictionary, the differences between British and American English etc, are touched on but not elaborated on, so don’t expect a comprehensive guide to improve your language proficiency! 

Always by Your Side/Sentiasa Di Samping-Mu is a welcome addition to the series of Reader’s Digest publications. However, at RM49.90, it may be a tad too pricey, even with the two CD-ROMs that come with it. 

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