‘How we became better at English’

“While I am raised in a household where English is the main spoken language, I didn’t start out with an amazing vocabulary. I had to learn my way through it. How? By reading. Still, I can’t possibly learn everything on my own; I need guidance. This is where my English language teacher steps in. Her name is Puan Prema Devi.

Before meeting her, I thought my English was flawless. But did she prove me wrong! I like Puan Prema’s determination and genuine care for her students, inside and outside the class. You don’t understand something?

Don’t worry about it, because she will be there to walk you through it from A to Z. Without her, my English language command would have been average, and I wouldn’t even be writing this. Why?

Well, she’s the reason I got into the BRATs programme in the first place. Thank you for everything you’ve done for me, Puan Prema.” – Shasmeen Amirah, 17

“WHEN I was younger, I found the English curriculum at school overly simplistic and turned to more advanced reading material. As a result, my English language skills – on paper – were excellent and I was very much ahead of my peers.

However, when I transferred to an international school, I realised there’s more to learning English than just writing and reading. I struggled to speak English in an articulated manner, especially since I was more comfortable conversing in Mandarin.

However, as time passed, I improved. I listened to the news, podcasts, interviews and so on, and was mindful of my pronunciation. My wonderful English language teacher also helped me appreciate and gain a deeper level of understanding of the language through analysing literature.” – Hayley Poh, 16“

WHEN I was young, my mother drilled the English language into me. She spent a lot of money sending me for tuition and buying books for me.

Growing up, she had few opportunities to learn English and due to that, she couldn’t get good grades for university, pursue different careers or participate in activities she was interested in.

She always tells me that English is crucial to living a fruitful life and that she does not want me to miss all those good opportunities. In my early years, she would tell me to read to her every day and that cultivated my love for reading. She also sought many opportunities for me to be immersed in an English environment in school.

Now, I speak fluently, have no trouble understanding different texts, and can write without agonising over grammar or vocabulary. This is all thanks to my mother and all the opportunities she has created for me.” – Elly Goh, 15“

READING has played an integral role in improving my English language. From novels to fairy tales, it has proved beneficial to me time and again. Being an avid reader boosts my creativity, allowing me to shift perspectives, use complex vocabulary and explore a variety of ways in which to string words together.

The world of literature introduces a plethora of fresh ideas and unlimited possibilities. Besides reading, I try to speak English more often, for instance, when conversing with friends and teachers at school.

My teachers are very encouraging. They particularly stress the use of English during lessons and correct our mistakes in both our spoken and written communication. Like picking up any skill, learning a language takes diligence and patience to master.” – Navena Srie Viswam, 15

All students featured here are participants of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) team. To join Star-NiE’s online youth community, go to facebook.com/niebrats.

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