Friday, 29 May 2009

Vocabulary: News Article "Tough questions at rumpus school"

Today, I read an article on the Standard and I think that it was very well written as the author has used a variety of vocabulary which definitely suits my taste.

Of course, there are many many articles you can read in a day and there might be a whole lot of words you need to learn, but I myself enjoyed the moments of checking dictionary for meanings,usage and IPA because,

"One word learnt is one word MORE in your head, LESS in your guess." -- Locky

And after checking each word, don't forget to try to relate the words to something to help you remember them. Such as relating the words to the spelling of the word (if possible) or a story you can think of.

Here is the entire article:
Tough questions at rumpus school


Friday, May 29, 2009

Education chief Michael Suen Ming- yeung has been rapped on the knuckles for remarks about the troubled Pegasus Philip Wong Kin Hang Christian Primary and Junior Secondary School.
According to him, the school in Yau Tong is not equipped to conduct both primary and secondary classes.

Vexed by that view, Hong Kong Education Policy Concern Organization chairman Mervyn Cheung Man-ping said yesterday the Education Bureau should not therefore have approved an application to run junior secondary classes.

This came after officers from the Independent Commission Against Corruption raided the school late on Wednesday. They took away boxes said to contain evidence.

Suen said the bureau did not ask the graft busters to get involved. However, the bureau has appointed three people to the school's management committee specifically to look into the accounts.

They start work on Monday to ensure a transition of operating rights to the bureau before July 14 so a new sponsoring body can be in place by September 1.

On facilities, Suen said the premises were designed as a primary school and could not accommodate a secondary school at the same time. Still, remaining junior high students may be able to finish the curriculum, he added, and the bureau contacted parents over the past few days to canvass their views ahead of selecting a new sponsoring body. A set of criteria will be announced early next week.

But Cheung wanted Suen to explain why bureaucrats gave approval for primary and junior secondary programs if the premises were inadequate. A decision on a secondary program should be made after consultations with parents and students, Cheung added. He fears a hasty decision will cut interest of potential sponsoring bodies and spur students to go elsewhere.

Board member Ada Wong Ying-kay, meanwhile, claimed that when Carmen Leung Suk-ching was principal she failed to provide documents, which led to incomplete audits. And a parent said Leung admitted at a Parents Teachers Association meeting she was being checked by the ICAC.

The school was named after Ada Wong's father, Philip Wong, and she felt disappointed the ICAC was involved.

She also urged the Pegasus Social Service Christian Organization to stop releasing "inaccurate information."

rumpus -- [informal] a lot of noise, especially a loud and confused argument or complaint
to rap sb over/on the knuckles for sth -- to speak officially to someone, in a severe or angry way, because you disapprove of their actions
to be equipped -- to be given someone the skills they need to do a particular thing
vexed by -- Made Angry, annoyed or upset by someone
raided -- (of the police) entered a place suddenly in order to find someone or something
be said to -- [+ to be + noun or adjective] When something or someone is said to be a particular thing, that is what people think or believe about them
graft busters -- officials who fight the act of obtaining money or advantage through the dishonest use of political power and influence
be in place of sth/sb -- instead of sth or sb
to canvass -- to try to discover information or opinions by asking people
inadequate -- not good enough
hasty -- describes something that is done in a hurry, sometimes without the necessary care or consideration
to spur sb to do sth--to encourage someone to do something or make it happen faster
to urge sb to do sth-- to strongly advise or try to persuade someone to do a particular thing

Picture source:


Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Sports: Common Terms in Basketball

Another of my favourite sport when I was in Secondary school. Almost every week, my hostel friends and I would play basketball. Usually, we go by teams of Nation; however, since there weren't enough Taiwanese to form a team, Hong Kong will merge with Taiwan to play against the against PRC, Thai, Vietnameses and Indonesians.

I have to say that we generally played quite well, as we had the "twin towers", two junior boys who were both around 2m tall, but the Indonesians jumped the highest!!!

Anyway, back to the NBA playoffs. It has been playing for awhile now and the Lakers are not as brilliant as many might have expected. I'm no fan of any teams, I just want to see some great basketball, so if you are also interested, I guess you can catch the match on Saturday mornings on TVB Pearl.

Time for some common terms used by the NBA commentators, taken and adapted from the resource links at the bottom of this entry:

Travelling -- the person with the ball is moving both feet without dribbling the ball.
Double (dribbling) -- the person dribbled once, stop and held the ball, and then dribbled again.
Backcourt Violation -- when a player with the ball crosses the half way line and then back to his own court again.
Goaltending -- when the player attempt a shot and the ball is blocked by the opponent player while the ball is on its downward flight to the basket, that is, has already reached its top point in the air and is coming down.
Foul-Out -- when a player has committed enough fouls to be sent off.
Free Throw -- a kind of compensation for suffering from a foul, a chance to shoot from the free-throw line.
And-one -- when a player is fouled during a shot attempt and is awarded with a 1 point free-throw.

Jump shot -- attempt a shot when one is jumping.
Layup -- jumping from below the basket, laying the ball up near the basket
Slamdunk/ Slam / Dunk -- to put the ball into the basket by slamming the ball in with one or both arms
Goes for 3 / from downtown -- to attempt to shoot from the 3 point line
Air ball -- when the ball hit nothing at a shot attempt
Brick -- a bad shot
Alley-oop -- a player pass the ball high and over the basket and another player receives it in mid-air and performs a dunk.
Fadeaway -- a jump shot while the player is jumping backwards away from the basket
Hook-shot -- a player with the ball swings the arm in the path of the shape of hook and so the ball gently leaves the hand and heads for the basket.

Pick and roll / Screen and roll -- one player blocking the opponent player, acting as a screen for the teammate with the ball and then roll around the opponent to receive the ball.
Double team -- defending one opponent player using two players.
Full-court press -- the defense team apply man-to-man or zone defense for the entire length of the court.
Crossover -- to move the ball from left to right or vice versa.

Picture resources:

Suggested reading:

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Grammar: Singular They

Singular "They"

Following the question I asked you guys in the Learning Psychology: Afraid of Speaking in English? entry, I have decided to post the answer here on a separate entry.

From the title, I guess you have already found the answer you want, but how do we actually use it?

Take a look at the following examples:
  1. "That's always your way, Maim—always sailing in to help somebody before they're hurt." — Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)
  2. "Arise; one knocks. / ... / Hark, how they knock!" — Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

From the above examples, you can see that the word "they" only refers to one person, but we use this to convey the point that:

a) you don't know what the person's gender is.

b) if doesn't matter what the person's gender is.

c) you don't want the readers to know what the person's gender is.

d) you don't want to use generic "he" to confuse others that the person is a male figure because of a) or c).

So, next time, if you are facing the problem of using he/she/it, you can use "they".


Picture resources:

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Animals and Environment: Do Sharks Deserve to Die for Their Fins?


Recently, I bumped into a video of my favourite animal since I was young, a video that showed something that I never would have thought about but appeared to be true, that sharks can really be trained just like dogs, dolphins and seals, that they can even perform tricks for human!!!!

How bizarre (meaning "very strange and unusual") is that!!!!

I have transcribed the script of the movie clips here for everybody to read:


"At Chicago's John G. Shredd Aquarium, scientists have opened their revolutionary classroom, a training program used on dolphins and whales has been adapted for an unlikely subject.

It started about 3 years ago, when I first started aquarium's shark school new exhibits, and we began training them behind the scenes in our holding facilities.

For the first time, Shedd placed all shark species in one big tank to avoid feeding frenzy of wild breed, each specie now answers to its own dinner bell.

All the sharks are given auditory call, and then you put their shape in the water. We do our colour contrast to make sure that if they don't see colour necessary but they do see the contrast so they understand that's their shape. And as they approach the shape, we feed them food on the end of tongs as a positive reinforcement.

The training does more than reduce competition, it shatters stereotype.

The idea that these sharks are man-eaters that don't think is definitely starting to change. These animals are very intelligent, they respond to so many different things and they can learn and they understand when they are doing something right.

A star pupil named 'Seamour' not only responds to touch, he performs like a trained seal.

My favourite is looking for Zebra sharks. They are the most responsive to the training, they are sort of like puppy dogs, they love to have their noses rubbed, they loved to be rubbed on their bellies, it just have been so enlightening and very rewarding to see a shark do something that know you normally see a dolphin do. I enjoy every day coming in and seeing these guys just knock my socks off. They amaze me every day."


I have loved sharks all my life. I despise the eating of shark fins and I never eat it myself. In fact, sharks being at the top of the food chain, carry so much mercury that anyone who eats sharks is prone to mercury poisoning. After watching the movie clip, I understand that sharks are indeed way more clever than we thought. If sharks can do what dogs can do, and we are eating them, doesn't that make you feel like eating dogs?

Looking up on the internet and you can easily find cruel photos of many shark massacres. Like the photo above, the sharks are killed with their fins removed, also known as "finning", while they were still alive and then thrown back into the sea when they eventually died agonizingly of blood loss and suffocation. Have you ever put salt on your wounds? Guess how the sharks feel in the salty sea water?

According to an article on Encyclopedia Britannica -- Advocacy for Animals, "about 73 million sharks are killed each year in this (finning) fashion.

Sharks are not always man-eaters. They are in fact monitors and monitresses of the sea. They helped to clean up injured fish and sea animals thus maintaining the ocean's eco balance. Just like too many sea stars will do very bad harm to mussels and beautiful corals, thus some sharks consume these sea stars to keep the balance.

The tiger sharks are famous for their unbiased appetite, that they eat anything they come across, and it is not hard to find tin-cans, boots, car license plates, plastics, etc. inside their bodies. Who throws all these into the ocean? Man does. Who cleans them up with their body? The tiger sharks do. Who is doing more for the environment? I think you have the answers.

Let me introduce some sharks I like to you next time. Till then, please go to this WWF website for further reading and take a look at the leaflet they published.

Please love the sharks. Will you?

revolutionary -- completely new and having a great effect
frenzy -- uncontrolled and excited behaviour
shatter -- to end something
stereotype -- a fixed idea that people have, especially one that is wrong
knock sb's socks off -- to surprise sb very much
despise -- to dislike sb or sth very much, to hate sth or sb
be prone to -- tending to suffer from sth
agonizing -- causing extreme pain
suffocation -- death due to lack of oxygen

picture sources:

Monday, 18 May 2009

Learning Psychology: Afraid of Speaking in English?

Occasionally, I do get some emails from my diligent ex-students sharing their problems with me and asking for advice, and of course, I can’t welcome more. It is a great signs of improvement and the first step is always the hardest to make, especially asking someone how to do something. Today I have selected a case that maybe some of you are also facing now, and I will then offer you some mental training to help you overcome this problem.

I have this student who felt more comfortable chatting through email rather than face to face or over the phone. Like many working for foreign companies, English is an essential part of their daily work. The problem was, the more they have to use, the more fearful they grew due to the lack of self-confidence, and so they did whatever necessary to avoid the communication with the foreigners.

Most of the time, a lot of the problems are created not by the foreigners, but by oneself. It is obvious to me. Why? Maybe you can ask the person working immediately beside you, ask them if they have the same problem as you do. It is not hard to find someone who does not share your fear despite working in the same environment. And why is this the case? Because trouble is a feeling generated by your brain, by your mind, and not by others.

If you are having the problem mentioned above, first of all, ask yourself,
“Can you not eat but feel full? Can you not drink but feel not thirsty? Can you not work hard and become rich?”

I think you would say "no". Then can you not try but speak good English? Often, you just have to bravely and boldly face the problem because you just cannot escape from it.

If you ask me which is the most important in learning English, I will say, "Passion, Confidence, Practice". If you don't have Passion, meaning your love for English; Confidence comes second, because with confidence, at least you would be active in speaking; Practice comes third, because without Passion and Confidence, Practice will ensure enough training.

What do you think about yourself? Which of these three do you have?

Since the problem comes from your mind, you must ask your mind to fix it. Try putting yourself in a dangerous situation. Man fights back at the very last moment.

Tell yourself, if you don't speak English to those foreigners, you will definitely lose your job. There is no more time for ‘later’. Would you try your very best to speak now?

Or, if you don't speak English, you can never get to earn a single dollar more because you will never get a promotion. There are so many others who can speak better than you and thus your job is not secure. If you want to prevent all these from happening, would you open up yourself and try more?

Many others are taking actions while you are still feeling miserable, and time doesn’t wait for anybody.

Remember, your character decides your destiny, so start now!

“Your future starts today, not tomorrow.” – Pope John Paul II

Picture source:

Why did I use "they" when I am talking about 1 student only?

Friday, 15 May 2009

English For Young Learners: The Student Standard Website

Hi there! My dear blog chasers!I suppose that many of you from my classes know that I give huge credit for their free English news service and the appropriateness of their level of English used. However, just as I thought that was about all for the website, I realized that I was only half way through my feast of knowledge!For those of you who have children in primary and secondary school, you have got to check this part of the Student Standard out! 

Here you can find listening and reading practices for your children relating to the latest news, so you can kill “three” birds with one stone!

There is also the VIEWPOINT section which you can read what some of the students have to say about the new articles from the previous issues, thus your children will get to know the English level of some other children and hopefully motivate them to learn better English after seeing what others can write.

The VOCABULARY section will allow you to revise some of the words that appeared in certain selected article. It comes with meanings and you can even listen to the pronunciation of the word by the click of a button!The Goodies page is more or less another linking page to the previous one, but a bit more colourful, and it also comes with the a selected article on Liberal Studies. Why not getting your children to learn a bit about the politics of Hong Kong? That should give them more ideas as to what social responsibility is!

Here is one example of the listen and read from the goodies page.

You will realize that the pace is slow for the speaker and it is suitable for children even at a young age. It is advisable that you can read it with your children instead of letting them practise on their own so that you can provide them with a bit more information of the topic. It also enhances your bond with your children and you both can learn English together (trust me, there are things you can learn from there too), why not?Enjoy the fun of learning!

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Science & Environment: How Sea Shells Clean Water

Oyster Shell Mountains
Image by Ari Brown

Recently, I read a news article from Discovery News and it unveiled the magic that unwanted seashells can actually help us clean up the heavy metal in the water and thus partially solving the aftereffect of the human pollution to waters.

I wonder if the government knows anything about this.

In brief, the chemical that made up the seashells, aragonite (a form of calcium carbonate CaCO3), can swap out the calcium for the heavy metal pollutants and locking them into solid form, thus not floating around in the water anymore.

I was both totally stunned and impressed by the art of work by the nature. That to me, it seems like every problem has a potential method or remedy to solve the problem. I would like to believe that there are cures for every environmental problem in this world, and it is up to us to find it and apply it.

Tuna killing, is it worth it?
Image from The Guardian
Do you like to eat salmon?I like it, especially from Japanese sushi restaurants, but do you know that most of the deep water fish that we eat nowadays are polluted by heavy metals such as Mercury (Hg)?

Mercury, according to Wikipedia, has a tendency to concentrate in the body of fish and shellfish often in the form of methylmercury, which is highly toxic. Species of fish that are high in the food chain, meaning bigger and eats smaller fish, such as shark, swordfish and albacore tuna, contains higher concentration of mercury than others. So, anybody still wants to eat sharkfins or swordfish in Japanese restaurants?
According to the above news article, "said McLean, heavy metals have accumulated in the environment and animals, which are more likely than humans to feed off plants and insects, remain at risk."
Another article on Medical News Today dated on 04th June 2008, said that the level of Mercury of the salmon in the wild "was three times higher than the farmed salmon".
A high dose of mercury exposure or consumption can cause Mercury poisoning. Toxic effects include damage to the brain, kidney, and lungs. Mercury poisoning can result in several diseases, including acrodynia (in children characterized by pain and pink discoloration of the hands and feet.), Hunter-Russell syndrome, and Minamata disease (symptoms include ataxia, numbness in the hands and feet, general muscle weakness, narrowing of the field of vision and damage to hearing and speech. In extreme cases, insanity, paralysis, coma and death follow within weeks of the onset of symptoms.).

I wish that this mercury problem can be solved with natural means, but so far, there is none. So take care of yourself and mind the food that you eat. Think about the danger before consuming.


Thursday, 7 May 2009

Question Page: Post your questions here!

Dear all blog-readers,

As suggested by Adky, I am starting this entry and you can throw all kinds of questions to ask question regarding English or anything else you would like to know, and I will try my best to give you the answers or guidance as comments of this entry, or new entries in the future to share with everybody. You can always recover this page from the labels list on the right side of the blog.

Thank you to Adky for this great idea!

So, what are you waiting for? Bring it on!


Picture resources:

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Sport: Common Terms in Football

Since I am going to get lazy and give myself time to prepare more quality blog entries this week, in conjunction with the UEFA Champions League Semi-finals (Arsenal vs Manchester United) tonight in HK time, I am going to upload this entry sooner than I should. And what am I going to talk about? Football vocabulary!

I was never a big fan of football, even when I was studying in primary school in London, I couldn't really feel the enthusiasm of football among my classmates. Maybe we were too young at that time. There was only one classmate who was seriously into football and his all-time favourite team was Westham United. That was the good old times.

I remember that I only played football a couple of times, generally trying to help my classmate Farack to show off his charm by tackling the ball from me. Even if it wasn't for the sake of flossing ("to show off" in US slang), I was not that fond of it and I always took up the most unwanted position of the game, the goalkeeper......I picked up this sport unbelieveably in Singapore, when I first got to know my scholarship-mates John and Preston, who later became my best friends in life. I was engulfed , (surrounded and covered by sth or sb completely) by their love in football, and thus I started to learn a little by little.

It all began with a game against Vietnamese Trio, Nam, Binh and Traom. Binh was the best one but I didn't know their level or mine, so my possession was taken in my first run and ...... and I realised that I knew zero about playing football.Well, enough of the reminiscene /ˌremɪˈnɪsənts/, let's go back to our topic. Apart from the games we played in ACS(I) Boarding School, I also learnt English words from a very dull-looking yet exciting PC game once called Championship Manager, developed by Eidos, now Football Manager, developed by SI Games.

The classic game showed nothing much during gameplay than plain word commentary flashing over the screen. You don't see players, you don't see graphics, you don't see the ball, just words. It was exciting enough for us at that time, and John and Preston could play the game overnight.

The gameplay was not the most crucial in terms of my learning, although the commentary was quite interesting and creative at times. It was the profiles and attribute page that provided rich vocabulary for me.

Right above is the screen capture of the Football Manager 2009 player's profile page of talented Lionel Messi. It does not only provide you with the position he is able to play, but also technical, mental and physical attributes of the player, with 20 being the full mark.

When I play football with the students in the secondary school now after work on Tuesday, they also spoke some English to me, but they had very little idea of the terms we use in football. Here I will provide some explanations of the terms that may have different meaning from those in the dictionary, and I hope that you can learn them too even if you don't have strong interest in football.

Corners -- the ability to take a good corners, part of the set-pieces.
Crossing -- the ability to "bend it like Beckham", to kick a ball that will curve in the flight, a kind of long pass.
Dribbling -- the ability to move the ball forward while running, players like Messi, C.Ronaldo and J.Zanetti can dribble the ball past many players.
Finishing -- the ability to score goals, the final touch, Brazillian Ronaldo was my favourite player in terms of finishing skills
First Touch -- the ability to control the ball well when the player first touches the ball. It is very crucial to any player who wants to speed up their attack with shorter time and better control of the ball.
Free Kick Taking -- the ability to score goals or perform nice passes at the chance of free kick, a fix spot kicking opportunity. Players such as Sinisa Mihajlovic, Beckham and Roberto Carlos are experts of freekicks.
Marking -- the ability to guard the opponent player, who else other than Fabio Cannavaro at his peak?
Passing -- the ability to pass the ball to your teammates, players like Zidane, J.Riquelme and Beckham can pass the ball to their teammates from over 30 yards with pin-pointing accuracy.
Penalty Taking -- the ability to score from the 12-yard point after a player is fouled by the opponent inside the penalty box of the opponent side, my call is Paolo Di Canio.
Tackling -- the ability to kick the ball away from the opponent player, it takes accurate timing to avoid a foul when tackling, mostly a job of the defenders.
Technique -- the ability to play the ball with the feet in a clever way. Many players have the ability to do magic with the ball, as you can see from the TV commercials. So far, the best technique player in my opinion is Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United because he can use both feet and he shows his techniques even when he is playing in big matches. Not ever player will dare to do such thing as the opponent defenders will most likely give them a hard kick to stop them from showing off too much.
Anticipation -- the ability to wait for the ball to arrive at the right spot at the right time. It has to do with the ability to read the game.
Composure -- the ability to stay calm in big matches and be in control of the player's temper, usually the captain will have their composure at a higher level, but not all the time.
Creativity -- the ability to do the unexpected yet great things on the field. Zidane and J.Riquleme once again, but Messi and Iniesta is the new era.
Decisions -- the ability to make the correct move in the game, that will include the timings, the angle of pass, etc.
Flair -- the tendency to attempt shots on goal. Eto'o of Barcelona!.
Influence -- the charm of the player, refers to the leadership, mostly high for captains. My pick is of course, Roberto Baggio, the magician.
Off the ball -- the ability to know where to go and what to do when a player doesn't have the ball on feet. Again, it is how well he reads the game.
Positioning -- the ability to know where to stand and foresee where the ball will go. Game-reading.
Work rate -- how hard a player runs and moves on the field.
Acceleration -- the ability to increase the running speed.
Agility -- the ability to move body quickly and easily while playing. It is how smooth is their movements.
Balance -- how well does a player balance his left and right body movement, his tendency to remain on his feet even when being tackled.
Natural fitness -- how fit the body is even when they are severe lacking in match practice.
Pace -- the speed of running, do not mix up with acceleration.
Stamina -- the ability to last long with the movements and work rate they put in the game. Edgar Davids was called the pit-bull because he never seemed to get tired.
Strength -- the strength of a player when kicking the ball, tackling someone, bumping the opponent players, etc. Legendary players such as Roberto Carlos, Gabriel Batistuta were famous of their kicking strength.

Hope you enjoy the movie clips I linked up and the learning of some football terms!

Picture sources:

Monday, 4 May 2009

Vocabulary: Swine & Scapegoat

I guess everybody is very worried about the spread of the swine /swɑɪn/ flu to Hong Kong. With the World Health Organisation (WHO) announcing the raise of alert signal to "global pandemic could be imminent", meaning 'worldwide existence' of the flu could be 'likely to happen soon', I believe the masks industry is already reaping /ri:p/ huge benefits.

The word "swine" does not only refer to a pig, it is also used when scolding somebody, when you want to say that they are extremely unpleasant or unkind. Examples include the one offered by Cambridge Dictionary, "You filthy (means dirty) swine!" or from my favourite movie, Tropic Thunder, when the head of drug dealer who happens to be a kid said, "Act! Monkey swine!"

Swine also appears in a proverb that I have been teaching in my lesson, "to cast pearls before swine", which means "to offer something valuable or worthy for someone who does not know how to appreciate it".

So the overall impression of swine for human is that they are dirty and stupid, and so we eat them. Now, human has to pay their price for their lack of respect for the animal.

Another animal is also common in the newspapers, they are the goats.

On the 22nd April, I read a news article from the, titled: "Sex photo accused `a scapegoat-'". The content is of course on the Edison Chen again but that is not my concern. I am only interested in the meanings of the words to do with goat.

According to Cambridge, "Billy goat" is a male goat and "Nanny goat" is a female one. A UK slang "to act/play the goat" refers to someone who behaves in a silly way, and another slang "to get sb's goat" refers to greatly annoy someone, and the worst of all, "Scapegoat" which refers to a person who is blamed for something that he didn't do, but somebody else has done.

So looks like goat is just a little better than pig.