Tips when trying to learn a new language

You have decided to learn a new language. Hoorah!

You have picked up a book in the language chosen. Let’s say it’s French.

You love French, their speech with melodious tints of colour. Indecipherable but beautiful. You than progress and read the first few pages and the daunting challenge begins. When does the first word begins and the next one ends? Anxiety begins to creep in as you are at the brink of stopping your pursuit.

Let these quick tips help you with your struggles.


Patience and Time

Understand that you will need to give yourself time. Be patient through your journey and keep reasonable expectations. Be aware that learning a new language may come easy to some and difficult to others. Be conscious of your learning style and mental processes.


Find a Partner or Teacher

Keep yourself motivated by finding a partner or teacher to both practice and learn from. Why is this important? Having a partner or teacher will help you keep motivated in your pursuit. You have someone to practice new phrases and words learnt with.

If you’re not able to get your partner to jump into the pursuit, find a sibling or a friend. Finding someone will help you push the boundaries of language learning.


Make Friends

Make friends who speak the language you have chosen and interact with them. This will open new avenues for you to learn and understand the subtle nuances of the language.


Find your motivation and commit

Realise the reason behind wanting to learn a new language. Your motivation will be crucial to ensure you stay motivated. Could it be you want to impress your business clients with your fluent use of French, German or Japanese?

Whatever the reason for your motivation, it’s important that you commit.


Be reasonable with your goals

Be sure to set yourself attainable goals. Don’t assume to be able to speak a new language within a week. Set a goal for example, start by picking up 50 new words every other week – use them with your partner or teacher.

It is important to keep your goals simple and achievable.


Mistakes are a given

This would be the most common deterrent to learning a new language.

“Oh no! I have made a mistake with my pronunciation.”

Do not have fear of making mistakes when learning a new language. Mistakes are a given. Learn from them.



Let technology help you out. Grab a dictionary on your mobile phone and browse through new words and example usage. This will help build up your vocabulary when learning a new language. We have some suggestions for dictionary apps which can be viewed here.


Have Fun!

The most important of all. Have fun with the new language you have chosen to learn and explore. Practice by singing or hearing songs in the language you have chosen. Watch a movie and try to lipsync with the actors on screen.

Immerse yourself in the languages songs, movies and culture.


At Agape School of Education, we understand that learning a new language can be difficult. We are here to help! Through our experienced educators we ensure that you learn the language you have chosen with ease.

Find a language you’re keen on learning through our Courses and begin your language learning experience with us. Invest in your SkillsFuture credit with us!

Best Dictionary Apps to aid in language learning (Introduction, English and French)

You found a word that you’re not familiar with whilst attending a language course at Agape School. Oh no! Scouring for a heavy dictionary may not be an option and Google Translate may not be as accurate as you’d like.

There are many iPhone and Android dictionary applications. These applications would do the trick in translating or defining an unknown word. How do you choose which one to grab?

With Part 1 of our ongoing series of Dictionary Application reviews, we will be looking into,

  1. Choosing the right dictionary app
  2. Round-up of English Language Dictionaries
  3. Round-up of French Language Dictionaries

Choosing the right dictionary app

The application you choose may depend on what you would like the app to do. Reviewing these questions may help you to decide;

  • Does aesthetics or looks matter? Would a great design matter in researching definitions of words?
  • Do you need to have access to the application whilst offline? Or if your smartphone or tablet does not have a good connection?
  • Do you want to listen to the phonetics of the word?
  • Do you need examples of the words usage or simple definitions?
  • Does the size of the application matter?
  • Are you new to the language? French and some other languages use link words more often that english. This may be daunting if you are a native english speaker.
  • Is the primary purpose for personal fulfilment, business or travel?
  • Once you have answered these questions, you should have a good idea of the application you will need. For example, you may need an app to use whilst in class, that is pretty small, has the ability to keep data offline to save on data usage.

Let us dive right in with some examples of dictionary applications to get you started.



English Dictionary Applications
Price: Free (with premium options)
Available for: iPhone, iPad, Android is a regular dictionary app that looks nice, and is easy to use. It works offline, and lets you save words if you’re making a vocabulary list. It has many other features, such as a word of the day panel, words blogs and more.

Price: Free
Available for: iOS, Android

Merriam-Webster is a well-known dictionary, and has high-quality definitions—all available offline. It lets you save favorites, has a word of the day and keeps track of recent searches you did.


French Dictionary Applications

Price: Free (with premium options)
Available for: Android, iOS

Asnedo is a handy application for new and native french speakers. Ascnedo French English Dictionary provides quick translations and conjugations with many features.


Dictionnaire de français des Éditions Larousse
(Larousse’s French Dictionary)
Price: USD$5.99
Available for: iPhone

Larousse is French only and so best suited for advanced students of the french language. Besides definitions, the application provides idiomatic expressions. As an example, if you look up ‘faire’;

  • you will also find “s’en faire,” “se faire,” etc.,
  • synonyms,
  • usage notes (difficultés),
  • word origins,
  • and, where applicable, quotations containing the word you’re looking up

Technology and Teaching

With the introduction of technology in the classroom, making information easier to retrieve;

  • Answers to questions posed by educators retrievable by querying Google.
  • Incomprehensible words understood by retrieving definitions online through various dictionaries, translators, etc.
  • Maths problems solved by typing formulas on Wolfram Alpha, Google Sheets, etc.

With the ever increasing usage of technology in the proverbial ”classroom”, this poses a definitive point for the role of the educator or teacher.

“What should the teachers role be, if facts and data can be retrieved solely online?”


The Curious Child

The addition whether intentional or otherwise, should be viewed from the standpoint of a curious child who has been provided with tools made available through technology.

Without a guide the avenues for the child to learn and to satisfy his or her curiosity effectively may be hindered. With the addition of tools made available, effective understanding may be even further hampered.

Consider the mishmash of diatribes, data and irrelevant facts through websites, blogs and educational applications which may provide confusion for a student without guidance.

Have you had an instance in which you were searching for a particular subject matter online only to end up viewing or reading on another subject matter entirely?

The Guide

Having a guide (the educator) will help the curious child immensely, providing the tools in an organized manner and relating steps to abate the child’s curiosity.

The child would first understand the various tools available and the context to make use of them.

The child would understand the steps to take to comprehend situations and occurrences which raises his or her curiosity.

This would be beneficial for the child during his learning stages. The guidance and steps learnt will be brought into the child’s adulthood to provide a firm base to further his or her ambitions.

At Agape School of Education, we understand the ever increasing usage of technology in our students day to day activities and learning journeys.

Through our experienced educators we ensure that our students benefit from the tools made available with the wisdom and knowledge from our teachers and educators.

Find a language you’re keen on learning through our Courses and begin your language learning experience with us. Invest in your SkillsFuture credit with us or pick up a new language!

The History and Birth of Languages

Evolution of Language

To learn and understand a new language, you would have to grasp how language evolved. There are various theories encapsulating and speculating how spoken language evolved. One of which was the understanding that a common spoken language began from our ancestors in Africa. This common language has given birth to over 5,000 different languages in the world today.

Spoken human language as we understand it started developing over 100,000 years ago. By 40,000 years, our modern human ancestors, Homo Sapies, could describe the act of hunting in words and in paintings. Since than, most languages has either evolved to modern languages or became extinct. This is the basis of Evolutionary Linguistics inspired by August Shleicher. He was a German linguist who began his career studying the polygenesis of languages.

Birth of Language

Let’s dive deeper into the “Birth of Languages” in the modern world. Let’s journey into how you learnt the language you have grown to speak on a daily basis.

We learn and recognise languages at birth. As described by Avram Noam Chomsky, an American linguist and cognitive scientist, we are born with a “Language Instinct”. It is a scientific understanding that newborn babies are able to distinguish the phonetic sounds “b” and “p”.

Before we learnt to talk at this cradling age, we had the potential to speak any language. We start to babble and make noises based on languages that surround us. This includes languages that are unknown in your native mother tongue. For example, Japanese babies can differentiate the phonetic sounds “ra” and “la”, but most Japanese adults would not be able to do so.

At the age of six months, you would have begun concentrating on the native language spoken. Most adults including parents at this stage would tend to use exaggerated speech. This exaggerated speech (“Baby-Talk”) stresses particular parts of speech attracting attention.

At the age of nine months, you would begin to learn single words and mustered two-word speech. And by the age of three you would have mustered whole sentences.

By the age of eighteen, you would have a vocabulary of approximately 60,000 different words.

Can you learn to speak another language?

Learning more than one language is easier if done before the age of puberty. Up to this age it is predominantly understood that the language areas of the brain can change, depending on the languages you hear. Before this age, it is believed that children employ both hemispheres to acquire language. It can be said, children learn languages three dimensionally whilst adults learn in dimensions.

After this milestone age, your brain is “wired-up” and learning a language may be harder. Some researchers are in the belief that learning a second or even a third language later in life, makes use of a different area of your brain.

Expose your child to a new language at Agape School of Education through our carefully crafted Playgroups. Get your child to say “J’aime le français!” or “Saya suka Bahasa Melayu sekali!”.

15 words from foreign languages that English should adopt

1. Kummerspeck from German

The weight that you gain from emotional eating or overeating.

2. Mamihlapinatapai from Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego

That special look or moment shared between two people. This word refers to a mutual feeling for each other to do something that they both want, but neither want to do.

3. Shemomedjamo from Georgian

When your meal is so tasty that you just can’t stop eating, even though you are stuffed. This word might be best applied to your Christmas feast!

4. Backpfeifengesicht from German

This word refers to someone whose face you want to introduce to your fist.

5. Iktsuarpok from Inuit

This doesn’t refer to any supernatural situation but rather to when you’re anticipating someone to arrive so you keep going outside to check if they’ve arrived!

6. Greng-jai from Thai

This word refers to that reluctant feeling you have when you don’t want someone to do something for you because it would be a pain for them.

7. Mencolek from Indonesian

Probably more applicable to kids, this word refers to tapping someone on the opposite shoulder from behind as a prank.

8. Gigil from Filipino (this is different from Tagalog)

We get this every time we see a cute child. It refers to the irresistible urge to pinch or squeeze something or someone that is adorable.

9. Layogenic from Tagalog

This word isn’t a very nice descriptive word, but it basically refers to someone who is better looking from afar.

10. Bakku-shan from Japanese

Similar to #9, this Japanese slang refers to a woman who is only attractive from behind.

11. Seigneur-terraces from French

This term is the bane of all servers as it refers to people who spend hours at cafes and only buy one drink.

12. Ya’arburnee from Arabic

This word is a rather bittersweet feeling referring to the hope that you will die before someone you love deeply. Literally asking the person to bury you, this word essentially means that you cannot bear to live without the other person.

13. Koi No Yokan from Japanese

In the same vein of #12, this word refers to falling in love at first sight.

14. Boketto from Japanese

The Japanese have many words with very nuanced meanings and this word refers to the act of gazing without thinking into the distance.

15. L’esprit de l’escalier in French

Ever had a really bad argument and you think of the perfect comeback only after the fact? This word embodies that feeling perfectly.


There are many words in foreign languages that don’t have an English equivalent. This is why it is important to learn another language. Not only do you learn new ways to express yourself, you learn about the world and different cultures. Learning a foreign or second language is a rich and rewarding experience, whether it’s for professional, social or personal reasons.

Come down to Agape School of Education and pick a foreign language course that you’re interested in! With over 13 different languages to choose from, you’re spoilt for choice! If you’re a Singaporean citizen above the age of 25, you are eligible for the SkillsFuture Credit Scheme! Our Korean and German classes are claimable via SkillsFuture Credit.

6 reasons you gave up on a language (and helpful tips to get on track)

Many people know it’s important to learn a foreign language. Not only is it good for mental functions, it’s a useful tool in the business world. It’s easy to start learning a new language, because of our motivations. However, many of us have also picked up a new language and then dropped it after a while. If this sounds like you, write down the top 5 most recent reasons you’ve put off practising the new language. We’ve also listed some of the 6 common reasons that people often cite when they put off learning a language.

1. No time

We all have our busy days and some days can overwhelm us. It’s understandable that on days like this spending an hour on grammar, much less foreign grammar, is simply beyond you. But if you use this excuse every day, is it justified? Always remember that if you want to learn a language, you need to put in the effort and make the time. Even if it’s just five minutes a day, make the commitment to your education.

It’s very simple. If you learn best in the morning, dedicate 5 minutes while you brush your teeth, eat your breakfast, make your coffee or even while you’re standing on the MRT. Tie it up with something that you do on a daily basis so that you don’t forget. Research has shown that if you connect a new habit with an old one, you are more likely to retain it.

2. Where do I start?

Languages are a great undertaking. There are many parts and facets that students must grapple with. This only gets harder when you consider the multitude of learning aids available in stores and online. Your phone alone has numerous apps for every language. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and confused with where to start. Agape School of Education provides our students with specialised and in-house learning materials that will guide students on their learning journey. We also use different types of media, including audio-visual materials to help all types of students learn effectively.

Ask yourself what is it you want to do now with your language. Pass an exam? Give a presentation at work? Talk with your friends? Find your reason and then find the materials to help you accomplish just that. Here’s a really great tip: find a resource you love and stick with it. Try to wring as much as you can out of the material which you have chosen. You will progress if you stick with one resource and keep using it. If you switch around, you may progress, but you also might get lost starting over and over again.

3. How do I practice?

Take it one step at a time. Practice grammar one day, syntax the next and spelling on another. Vocabulary is the only part of a language that we would recommend you practice every day. Try to learn 5 new words a day, but if that’s too much, start at 1 and work your way up. Always remember to schedule revision days as well so that you refresh and reiterate the information you’ve already learnt.

4. I’m exhausted after work

School days are longer than ever. Between classes, exams, co-curricular activities and other activities outside of school, there’s barely time to relax let alone schedule extra study time. For adult learners, long work days, after-hour work calls, and juggling work and family responsibilities can easily force practicing a language to take a back seat. Sure, you could stay up later, but sleep is very important for memory and the retention of information. Therefore, we recommend taking a quick nap before you start studying, or scheduling your quick revision or practice in the morning as you wake up!

5. I can’t afford a tutor

Perhaps you just don’t have the drive to study alone? That’s fine but tutors can be an investment that you’re not sure you’re ready to take. However, if you really want to learn a language, we’d suggest you do it the right way. Learning a language haphazardly can create more problems than you expected. Learning the wrong conjugation or syntax can affect the applicability of your language skills. Furthermore, if you’re not studying the right way, learning a language can seem daunting. This can affect your motivation and desire to learn, impacting the way you feel about a language.

At Agape School of Education, we inspire a love of language in our students. We incorporate culture and language in our syllabus so that our students understand the intricacies of each language.

6. There isn’t anyone to practice with

Practicing your speaking skills is an important part of learning any language. It helps you brush up on your vocabulary, learn new phrases and test out your pronunciation. However, if you don’t have that extra support, it can seem like learning the language has been a bit of a waste. At Agape School of Education, our group classes encourage students to communicate and test out their skills. Not only do our students get the opportunity to communicate with their fellow peers, they also gain access to our native- and non-native speaking teachers. This exposes them to a wide variety of language dialects, accents and communication styles!

So – what are you waiting for? Get learning with Agape School of Education! We offer language classes in over 13 different languages.

Chineasy: The best way to learn Mandarin?

The traditional Chinese character for horse features four legs and a tail – later chopped off during the simplification process. Image: ShaoLan/Chineasy

In Singapore, students are mandated by law to learn a second language, their ‘mother tongue’ language. But for most students, rather than being a cultural education, learning their ‘mother tongue’ language is a chore. Mandarin, one of the main ‘mother tongue’ languages, is now increasing in popularity, even among non-ethnically Chinese students. This is due to the increasing role China is playing in the global arena. As an upcoming superpower, Mandarin will be a useful tool for learners, both adult and students, to have.

​However, with over 20,000 characters, 4 tones and multiple variations, Mandarin can be very daunting for the new learner. Aiming to make this foundational process easier is Chineasy. Mandarin is a pictorial language and the characters used today are said to have evolved from a literal representation of the object or thing they describe. Chineasy capitalises on this by using a pictorial means of teaching the language. It also uses storytelling to inspires the student to learn.

Chineasy uses beautiful graphics and fun designs to make Mandarin fun! Photograph: ShaoLan/Chineasy


The founder of Chineasy, ShaoLan, utilises the 80/20 principle which breaks down just 20% of Chinese characters because he believes that is all that is required to meet 80% of basic communication needs. This approach avoids the typical cookie-cutter method often taught in schools, which forces students to memorize thousands and thousands of characters. This is often the reason students become turned off learning, leading to a lack of interest to learn the Mandarin language. Without this interest, students are rarely able to progress past a superficial grasp of the language to a deeper understanding of the basic ‘building blocks’.

Some of the other principles Chineasy focuses on are

Compared to grammar in the English language, which uses past participles, gerunds and infinitives, Mandarin grammar is easy. With the basic sentence structure of Subject + Verb + Object, students will be able to verbalise and participate in simple communication.

  1. There are no verb conjugations in Mandarin as the verb remains unchanged regardless of 1st person, 2nd person or 3rd person. It even remains the same for singular, plural, masculine and feminine forms.
  2. It’s easy to ask a question. By adding “吗/嗎 (ma)”, you can turn any sentence into a question.
  3. Mandarin does not have any articles (“a”, “an”, or “the”)!

Always at the cutting edge of language acquisition and learning, Agape School of Education seeks out new ways to improve our teaching styles. We understand that each student is different and requires a different approach. Therefore, we don’t subscribe to any one way of teaching. Instead, our teachers analyse each student and come up with a specific lesson plan that will benefit them the most. Our class sizes are also kept small to promote quality and quantity student-teacher interaction.

We also run preparatory classes for students who wish to sit for the international Mandarin examination, the Hanyu Shuijun Kaoshi (HSK) exams, levels 1-6. This specialised course familiarises students with all the test, teaches the most effective techniques to succeed at the HSK and provides access to practice papers for the HSK.

Casual learners can also find simple communication classes, or courses for travellers, or for business purposes. We have a variety of classes available for any and every type of student and our courses are modifiable for any purpose. Contact Agape School of Education today to find out how we can help you plan and structure a course that’s uniquely tailored to meet your language acquisition goals!

The difficulty of the French article

The French language has been known to be confusing to foreign language learners, especially student’s whose first language is English. This is because in the English language, the general rule is that sentences require a definite or indefinite article. Articles behave in the same way as adjectives in that they modify nouns. However, in the French language, the rules are different. Articles aren’t fixed like in the English language, they vary in relation to the corresponding nouns that they modify. This makes it difficult to find corresponding articles in other languages.

Therefore, the lack of such articles in French can be confusing for a teacher to explain and difficult for students, especially older ones, to grasp. This very basic linguistic problem can often go undiagnosed or unaddressed even in students who have been learning a new language for several years. This is abundantly clear by the overuse of a substitute of a definite article in sentences.

Definite Articles

For example, in the English language, “the” is the only definite article, however, in French there are four, depending on the gender of the noun, starting alphabet, or if it is singular or plural.

  1. le (masculine singular)
  2. la (feminine singular)
  3. l’ (masculine or feminine but appears in front of a vowel or ‘h’)
  4. les (masculine or feminine but attached to plural nouns)

Exceptions of definite articles

Unlike the English language, definite articles in the French language may be used to indicate an overarching ‘sense’ of a noun. As definite articles are not used similarly in the English language, this can be mind-boggling for native English speakers. In the French language, the definite article can also change if it follows the prepositions ‘à’ or ‘de’. In these cases, the article and preposition contract into a single word.

Indefinite Articles

The indefinite article might be the easiest part of French grammar. In the English language, indefinite articles are “a,” “an,” or “one” in English, while the corresponding plural article is “some.” In the French language, these four articles correspond to are three forms of indefinite articles.

  1. un (masculine)
  2. une (feminine)
  3. des (masculine or feminine but attached to plural nouns)

The indefinite article usually refers to an unspecified person or thing.

Exceptions of Indefinite Articles

In the English language, the indefinite article is used to describe to a person’s profession or religion. However, this is not the case in the French language. In the negative use (ne pas), the indefinite article changes to ‘de’ (pas de), which means “(not) any”.

Partitive Articles

Although often omitted in the English language, partitive articles are used to indicate an unknown quantity of something, usually food or drink. These partitive articles are the English language equivalent of “some” or “any” and have four forms.

  1. du (masculine singular)
  2. de la (feminine singular)
  3. de l’ (masculine or feminine but appears in front of a vowel or ‘h’)
  4. des (masculine or feminine but appears in front of a plural noun)

Like the definite articles, use of the appropriate partitive article depends on the gender of the noun, starting alphabet, or if it is singular or plural.

Exceptions of partitive articles

The partitive article ‘de’, is used after adverbs indicating quantity and in the negative form, similar to the rules that apply to indefinite articles.

The important thing to understand when learning or teaching a foreign language, is that the objective is not a translation. Learning a foreign language is about focusing on the cultural differences and nuances. At Agape School of Education, we use a variety of strategies and materials to cultivate this understanding. Our trained teachers find and employ what works best for their students. Be it providing students with a variety of reading materials, encouraging conversation or using different types of media, our methods are diverse. Our curriculum is unique because we also place importance on the culture of a language.

We do this because we know that inspiring a love of the language will breed passion in our students, which will lead them to succeed at their goals. As a result, Agape School of Education students regularly score in the highest percentile in local and international examinations. Many of our students have proceeded to use their language skills to gain prestigious jobs or educational opportunities.

Come down to Agape School of Education or sign-up and pick a foreign language course that you’re interested in! If you’re a Singaporean citizen above the age of 25, you are eligible for the SkillsFuture Credit Scheme! Our Korean and German classes are claimable via SkillsFuture Credit.

Less is more in foreign language learning

Which would be easier for you to memorize?

  1. The entire Singapore telephone book (yes, they still exist).
  2. A short nursery rhyme.

Scientific studies have shown that we learn best by absorbing small morsels of information, applying them in a practical manner, then building on what we know. As we add more chunks of information our minds correlate, collate, and link everything, referring back to previously learned facts to form a comprehensive sphere of knowledge.

What does this mean to you?

Don’t tackle a huge book of foreign language grammar or prose as an early learning project. Begin with smaller projects.
For example, you could start with a few paragraphs of a novel – memorizing the vocabulary – and proceeding to the next few paragraphs.

Why not choose the most widely published book in the world?

Even if you’re not a Christian, the Bible can be an invaluable tool for learning the foreign language of your choice. It is published in more languages than any other book, and there is a plethora of internet resources with complete texts available for FREE download.

Many foreign language Bible sites have FREE audio clips as well.

‘But the Bible is full of ‘thees’ and ‘thous’ and outdated language that nobody uses any longer.’

You’re right! The King James version would NOT be a good learning tool for anyone trying to learn English. However, there are many translations in modern English – and that is also the case with foreign languages.

Use your favourite search engine to do searches like ‘modern Bible translation French’, ‘modern Bible translation German’, or ‘modern Bible translation Spanish’. Do your research and find out what is available for the language you are learning.

Start with some of the smaller chapters and work up to the larger ones.

Make up a vocabulary list and memorize a few words at a time. If you need help with some difficult phrases, find an online foreign language forum and post a question. Most forums are full of helpful native speakers who will do their utmost to help you understand subtle nuances and connotations.

Download the audio clips, save them to your hard drive, and listen to them repeatedly – either on your computer’s sound system or a portable audio player. Repeat the words softly as you listen, paying meticulous attention to pronunciation. Progress slowly to speaking in a normal voice along with the narrator.

A good method is to start with the Psalms and Proverbs. Each chapter is a standalone piece of prose. Begin with the smallest and work through to the larger pieces.
Students need to remember to take baby steps first. We must walk before we run and although it can be frustrating, taking the time to build a solid linguistic foundation is important. That, and repetition – repetition – repetition. That’s the way babies learn. But even as adults, it’s still the best way for us to learn.

Agape School of Education (ASE) is special because they ensure classes are small to maximise teacher-student interaction. The teachers at ASE are a mix of native and non-native teachers who learn from each other to better help their students. ASE’s unique curriculum includes teaching students the culture behind the language so that they can better immerse themselves in the language and enhance their learning experience.

Spanish Language Teaching Methods

Most people would agree on the absolute necessity of learning a foreign language in today’s society. But what is the most adequate and most effective way to do it? This is where things get a little bit more complicated. Different answers to this question have guided the various methods employed in the language classrooms throughout the years.

Singapore implemented mandatory second language education in 1966 and in 2011, the Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism was implemented to help the Ministry of Education bolster the education of the English and Mother Tongue languages. Therefore, most, if not all Singaporeans are taught to be bilingual. “Taught” is the key word here, because most likely, at the time, you used to complain about the fact that, in spite of hours and hours of study, in the end, you could not use the language at all.

Well, it is time for you to know that this was not your fault. It was the consequence of a traditional approach to language teaching with an enormous emphasis on grammar. At the time, it was thought that the grammatical rules of a language were its most important aspect. Consequently, students were forced to memorize hundreds of verb tenses and word lists. But they were never taught to use the language.


The writing and reading skills were also given precedence under the traditional method in detriment of the listening and speaking ones. As a result, the overall communicative competence of the students was very poor. Think about this: after several years of studying, let’s say, Spanish, were you able to follow a film or a television program in that language? Did you feel comfortable speaking Spanish? Or did you panic at the thought of having to travel and encountering native speakers? This is what having a poor communicative competence means, and it is typical of traditional students.

Later on, you may have decided to attend a language school. There you probably found a radically different approach: you spent hours and hours repeating sentences after the teacher, without even knowing how they were spelt or what the individual words meant. You were told that this was not necessary.

That communicating was the important thing. Most likely the motto of the school was that learning a second language was as easy as learning your native one. This is a typical example of the audio-lingual method, a response to the traditional one. Speaking and listening are the skills stressed here, so students almost never write or read. Unfortunately, most of the conversations drilled are not even near to a real conversation with a native speaker. When you as a student are old enough to understand this, it will be almost impossible to be motivated, and who can blame you?

You’ve probably guessed by now that the most comprehensive method to learn a foreign language should be a combination of traditional with new techniques. This approach would try to pay equal attention to and combine the four different skills by, for example, trying to present the grammar in a conversational format. Students also need meaningful activities that correspond to what they do in the real world. In other words, language teaching needs to be oriented towards a context that is relevant for learners, with materials that engage them and make them become active in their learning.

With the rise of blended teaching and learning, we Agape School of Education are currently researching how to best incorporate this into our school program so that our students can maximize their learning efficiency. It gives students the opportunity to practice their skills, outside of the classroom, on their own time, at their own pace and in their own space. When properly implemented, blended learning can result in improved student’s success, satisfaction, and retention.

We are sure blending learning using technology in and beyond the language classroom can become a powerful force for you. If you want to enhance your learning strategy and ability, please contact us today to find out how we can help you reach your language goals. Learning a new language doesn’t have to be boring or tedious, let us show you how it can be fun and fulfilling!

Learn Korean: Hangul

Korean is spoken by over 63 million people in South Korea, North Korea, China, Japan, and even Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Russia! Grammatically, the Korean language has many similarities to the Japanese language while 70% of its vocabulary is a derivative of the Chinese language. The key to learning Korean is Hangul, the Korean alphabet. Although generally similar to the English alphabet, Hangul groups characters into syllables and does not have lowercase or capital letters. A rather short alphabet, it consists of 19 consonant letters and 21 vowel characters. Characters are grouped into blocks to form each syllable. In fact, the word “hangul” consists of the syllables han (한) and gul (글).

The Korean alphabet is unique as the shape of the letters are modelled after the phonetic features they represent. For example, consonants follow the shape the mouth creates when pronouncing the letter while vowels are made up of horizontal or vertical lines. The character “ㄱ” is roughly the shape your tongue forms when we pronounce the “g” sound.

Another fact about the Korean language is that every word, noun and syllable begins with a consonant. This is always followed by a vowel on the right or below the character. Having the vowel below the first consonant is the most common way of creating syllables. In this case, the third character will always be placed below the second.

Apart from the basic consonants and vowels, Hangul has several irregularities. This is important for reading Hangul. Reading Korean can be simpler than reading English! This is because of the relative pronunciation of sounds in English. This does not occur in the Korean language. Luckily, most irregularities are small and not common. Generally, irregularities are specific to a single character rather than a group of characters.

The most important part of the Korean language are the verbs. Unlike English, the Korean language does not have a subject. Instead, it is assumed from context. However, like the French language, the verb can take different forms depending on who you are conversing with. So, speaking to a respected elder is different from speaking to a friend.

There are many aspects to learning the Korean language, however, with proper guidance and a variety of methods, Korean can be easy to learn. This is especially true in Singapore, where the majority of the population has some knowledge of Mandarin. Even those who do not can easily pick it up as the alphabet is small and the linguistic rules of this language are very straightforward.

The key to success for any student is perseverance and positivity. After all, if you don’t enjoy doing it then what is the point? Learning Korean could be one of the most amazing and fulfilling experiences that you have ever had. Considering the area of the world that Singapore is located in, learning Korean could open new doors in your life that you had never before thought possible. For example, students seeking higher education can use this skill to apply to higher education institutions such as INSEAD.

On the other hand, with the boom of Korean songs (K-Pop), dramas and news, it is not unreasonable to learn the language to better connect with these aspects of the culture. Furthermore, learning a foreign language is one of the highest personal intellectual goals one can achieve. The learning process is not always easy and you’ll have many small issues and problems to tackle along the way. You’ll have to focus on various aspects of the problem, such as spelling, grammar, reading, pronunciation and so forth. However, if you keep the problem in sight and don’t lose interest, the chances of success are extremely high and the intellectual fulfilment that you get at the end is incomparable to anything else.

Come down to Agape School of Education or sign-up and pick a foreign language course that you’re interested! If you’re a Singaporean citizen above the age of 25, you are eligible for the SkillsFuture Credit Scheme! Our Korean and German classes are claimable via SkillsFuture Credit.

Using similarity to learn a foreign language (like German)

Even if you don’t know a single word of German, you can probably read and understand the following German text. Did you know that the English and German languages descended from the same Proto-Germanic tongue? Many words in both languages are the same or similar.

For example, can you read this story in German?

Guten Tag! Mein Name ist Monika. Ich bin Autorin. Ich habe einen Bruder namens Bob. Bob ist auch Autor. Ich bin Bobs Literaturagentin. Er schreibt interessante Artikel und Bcher. Er schreibt im Moment ein neues Buch. Der Titel ist: Das Telefon klingelt fr Dich. Letztes Jahr hatte er 2 Bcher auf der Bestsellerliste.

Bob lebt in Kanada – in Montreal. Er ist 30 Jahre alt, mit blondem Haar und blauen Augen. Er hat ein altes Auto. Freitags fhrt er mit dem Auto zum Supermarkt.

Im Supermarkt findet er Kaffee, Tee, Mineralwasser, Milch, Zucker, Butter usw. fr Mutter. Er findet auch Frucht wie Bananen, pfel, Orangen usw. Dann geht er zur Bank und wartet eine Weile auf Mutter. Er fhrt danach mit Mutter nach Hause und parkt sein Auto.

Das Haus ist wei und blau. Es hat einen Garten mit wundervollen Blumen und luxurisem grnem Gras.

Im Haus sitzt Bob auf dem Sofa und trinkt oft ein Glas Bier oder Wein und hrt Radio (laut). Mutter sagt: Bob! Das Radio ist zu laut! Bob lacht und geht in den Garten.

Im Sommer, wenn die Sonne scheint, sitzt Bob im Garten. Wenn Mutter will, mht Bob das Gras.

Im Winter schaufelt er den Schnee oder sitzt im Haus beim Feuer.

Meine Mutter hat eine Katze namens Lwe. Lwe ist braun, grau und orange. Sie miaut, wenn sie Bob sieht, springt auf Bobs Knie und schnurrt laut. Mutter hat auch einen Hund – namens Br. Br ist ein Dachshund.

Ach! es ist spt – Mitternacht. Ich muss zu Bett gehen. Gute Nacht! Ich schreibe mehr morgen frh.

How did you fare?
Maybe you didn’t understand the German text completely. However, after reading the story a couple of times, you will be able to spot trends and similarities to the English language.

Here are some rules to help decipher the story,

  • In the German language, ‘K’ instead of a hard ‘C’ is commonly used: Canada=Kanada, Monica=Monika.
  • The English ‘ph’ often becomes ‘f’: telephone=Telefon.
  • Nouns are capitalized: fruit=Frucht, milk=Milch, butter=Butter, sugar=Zucker.
  • Possessives are not formed with an apostrophe + s: brother’s=Bruders.
  • The English ‘sh’ becomes ‘sch’: shines=scheint, shovels=schaufelt.
  • Many words are exactly the same: Winter, November, Finger, Party, Wind, Hunger, Film.

With these hints, read the German text again and check yourself to see if you comprehend more of the text. Think of the words in the context and allow your mind to fill in the blanks. Related words, like the ones above, with common ancestral roots, are called ‘cognates’. English and German are some of the few languages that share many cognates. Over the years, however, many words that used to mean the same thing in both languages have evolved and have acquired different connotations. For example, the old German word for ‘wife’ (‘Weib’) is nowadays generally applied in a deprecating manner. Similarly, the German word ‘gift’ does not mean a present, it means ‘poison’!

Although this technique is not applicable to all foreign languages, the use of similarities is a useful technique for students. Over time you will discover the exceptions. You will feel comfortable with the similarities and form a foundation on which you can build. The learning task then becomes less daunting – and even enjoyable. It is also a nifty trick that can help a student in a pinch or during an exam!

Over the centuries the world has become a melting pot of cultures and languages. Many words and phrases have crossed borders. Globalization, spurred by newspapers, radio, TV, the internet and travel, has accelerated the process. We often use foreign-derived words without a second thought. For example, angst, soup du jour, cafe au lait, poltergeist, bona fide, carte blanche, nom de plume, savoir-faire just to name a few.

Every time you come to a new text passage, scan it to find what you already know (or can guess) for a general sense of what it means. Only tackle the unknown bits after gaining a general sense of the piece. As a student, the learning process will advance rapidly and it will alleviate the tediousness of learning language semantics.

At Agape School of Education, we use a variety of strategies and materials to coach our students to succeed. Our trained teachers find and employ what works best for their students. Be it providing students with a variety of reading materials, encouraging conversation or using different types of media, our methods are diverse. Our curriculum is unique because we also place importance on the culture of a language.

We do this because we know that inspiring a love of the language will breed passion in our students, which will lead them to realise their goals. As a result, Agape School of Education students regularly score in the highest percentile in local and international examinations. Many of our students have proceeded to use their language skills to gain prestigious jobs or educational opportunities.

Come down to Agape School of Education or sign-up and pick a foreign language course that you’re interested! If you’re a Singaporean citizen above the age of 25, you are eligible for the SkillsFuture Credit Scheme! Our Korean and German classes are claimable via SkillsFuture Credit.

Test yourself: Are you fluent?

Some people take years to learn a language, some months and others decades. So, what are we all chasing? What is it that exams test students for? Fluency. However, given the different complexities, intricacies and even structure of languages around the world, how do you know if you’ve really become fluent? Is it that 100% score on an exam? Students (and parents) certainly think so.

Linguists, on the other hand, argue that fluency is achieved when your subconscious takes over the linguistic process. When you move from controlled linguistic processing to automated, that’s when you’ve achieved fluency. In short, it means when thinking in a foreign language becomes as easy as thinking in your natural language, you’ve achieved fluency. But how do we measure this so that we’re sure?

1. You have dreams in your foreign language
When we say you dream, I don’t mean a student of the French language dreams of a croissant, or that you hear one word of the language in your dream. I mean that you really have active use of the language within your dream. This is an excellent indicator of fluency because when you are sleeping, your subconscious takes over. If your subconscious speaks a foreign language, it’s a clear sign that you’ve switched to automated processing.

2. You can’t help but eavesdrop on conversations in that language
While we are not condoning eavesdropping, when you become fluent in a language, it’s very hard to avoid listening into private conversations. It’s hard to even ignore background conversations in that language. For example, imagine that you’re in the midst of a crowd of people, speaking in a language you don’t understand. Even within that crowd, if someone says something in your native tongue, your ears will pick it up easily. It’s the same for any fluent language, because your subconscious processes the input so even if you’re not listening out for it, the language becomes hard to ignore.

3. You don’t have to concentrate all of your energy to speak the language fluently
In controlled processing, learners have to focus the majority of their energy to fluently speak in their foreign language. Language is inherently a complex task, involving several different areas of the brain. When you throw in the different levels of processing needed for vocabulary, grammar and syntax, it’s not hard to see why it requires so much brain power.

However, when a student becomes fluent, the automated processing frees up the brain to focus on other things, whilst speaking fluently. A good test of fluency is to see if you can multitask and speak at the same time.

For example, can you dance, eat a cookie and have a conversation in your foreign language at the same time?

These are some simple ways to measure your fluency. But don’t be disheartened if you find that you’re not as fluent as you would have liked to be. At the same time, don’t become complacent if you find that you are fluent. Fluency is fluid and it can come and go if the learner doesn’t practice their skills regularly. In the same vein, language is a constant learning process. Even in our native tongues, we learn new words and phrases every day.

At Agape School of Education (ASE), we keep our classes small so our teachers can connect with their students on a personal level. This helps them tailor their lessons and teaching approaches to the individual student. We also combine the technical aspect of language with the cultural. This reinforces the love of the language and helps the student better grasp the language. Our goal is to impart knowledge and inspire passion in our students, and our coaching approach helps our students deal with the emotional aspect of learning a new language. View and register for our available language classes and courses here.

Why Should I Learn a Foreign Language?

More and more software programs, electronic devices and websites devoted to foreign languages are being developed daily. Why all the excitement? Why would YOU want to learn a foreign language?

Job Advancement – Get the Competitive Edge

Many large corporations and government agencies have positions requiring a second language. In a country like Canada, which is officially bilingual, someone who knows both French and English will have better employment prospects. This also applies for many fresh grads and students who want to work in multinational companies like INSEAD.


Travel to a foreign country can be exciting – and also very exasperating if you can’t understand the local speech. Many North Americans are somewhat egocentric in this regard, expecting to find English spoken no matter where they are. Although this is sometimes true in larger cities, don’t expect to find English-speakers in small communities.


The world is a melting pot of cultures and languages. You probably have living relatives in other countries with whom you could communicate more effectively if you took the effort to learn at least a few words.

Genealogy Research

Some of your ancestors probably spoke a different language. If you plan to search old genealogical records, you will be more successful with at least a basic understanding of your ancestors’ language(s).

Understanding Your Own Language

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said, ‘Wer fremde Sprachen nicht kennt, weiß nichts von seiner eigenen’ or ‘Those who don’t know foreign languages know nothing of their own.’ Learning a foreign language will give you a much better understanding of English. Your knowledge of English grammar, vocabulary, verb tenses and sentence construction will improve when you tackle another language.

Self-Actualization and Challenge

If you’ve already been everywhere and done everything – perhaps it’s time to tackle something new. What could be more challenging and rewarding than immersing yourself in another language?

Opera, Poetry, and Prose Appreciation

Artistic works were written in a different language and often cannot be fully appreciated when translated into English. This is especially obvious when listening to poetry. If poetry is translated into English with a preserved rhyming scheme, the meaning of the poetry is almost always altered. Being able to listen to the original language – with its subtle tones and nuances – will lend to a greater appreciation of the artist.

Culture Appreciation

One can only truly comprehend a foreign culture if the language is also understood. Exactly what is ‘Bratwurst’ or ‘Calvados’? And what about foreign films? Wouldn’t you like to be able to watch something with subtitles – and skip reading them?

Invigorate the Brain

Adults benefit from the brain stimulation produced by language training. Seniors who tackle a foreign language show improved brain function over a period of time. Students who learn foreign languages as children score better on academic tests. There is also evidence to suggest that they may be more creative and resourceful when faced with solving complex tasks.

Learning Teaches You How to Learn

The self-discipline and study habits acquired through the successful acquisition of a foreign language can be applied to many other aspects of your life.

Studying Abroad

What better way to learn about a country’s culture than to study there? This requires an excellent command of the local language.

Communicate With Someone Secretly in Public

Imagine chatting in public with a friend about something private, knowing that only your friend understands!

Make Online Penpals and Friends

The internet is transforming our world into an intimate global village where you can chat via e-mail, forums, live chat sessions, and audio/video feeds.

Impress a Date?

In closing – male or female – you will make points with your bilingual date by learning a few important words. If your date doesn’t speak a foreign language, he or she will be impressed by the enchanting allure of intimate expressions in one of the ‘romance’ languages.

So – what are you waiting for? Get learning with Agape School of Education! We offer language classes in over 13 different languages.

7 habits of highly efficient students

The one thing young students, casual learners and advanced learners of a language have in common is the desire to learn efficiently. Students have to grapple with very different concepts, cultures and even script – depending on the language. It’s not as simple as picking up reading, writing, listening and speaking skills. To learn effectively, grammar rules, vocabulary and pronunciation are equally important. So what habits or actions can students use to gain that extra head start above the rest of the class?

1. Say it like the native speakers
Talk to native speakers to learn pronunciations, cultural backgrounds and even well-known slangs or phrases. Agape School of Education (ASE) has a variety of teachers who teach their native tongue.

2. Engage with the class
Strike up conversations with your fellow classmates or even those who have learnt the language as a second or third language. They will understand better than anyone else what you might be struggling with. ASE has a healthy mix of teachers who are native and non-native speakers of the language they teach. If you’re looking for relatable tips on how to study or memorise, you’ll find no better resource than our teachers.

3. Dear Diary
Write in the language you want to learn regularly. Daily even, if you want to maximise your learning efficiency. It doesn’t have to be complicated. You can start with listing out simple daily tasks then progress to feelings, ideas, thoughts and phrases you’ve recently learnt.

4. Take writing online
Scout out online language forums or discussion rooms where you can e-converse with people, express ideas or exchange thoughts about particular topics. It’s always a bonus if you can converse in another language on a topic that interests you. This ensures the vocabulary you learn is relevant and that you’ll remember it because you will use it.

5. The Fridge method
Every week, pick 5 items in your house that you want to focus on. Start with items that you use regularly, for example, your fridge, your cupboard, your laptop or even your dog! Attach vocabulary lists to these objects, but make sure that the lists have new and challenging words that you want to memorize. This method ensures that you test yourself every day. Of course, you must remember to refresh the list once you’ve committed the vocabulary to memory. As a bonus, see if you can formulate sentences or situations using the vocabulary you’ve chosen!

6. Listen to a story
Sometimes the best way to commit something to memory is to attach a song or a story to it. Research songs or folk tales in the language you are learning and go through the words, sentence structure and phrases that they use. That catchy tune that’s stuck in your head for days doesn’t need to be annoying! Use it to improve your skills!

7. Ban your native tongue
Once you’ve garnered enough vocabulary, start implementing hours, days or events where you only converse in your newly learnt language. Give yourself rewards and punishments for sticking to it or breaking the rules! It’ll not only force you to use the knowledge you’ve learnt, but also to alert you to gaps in your knowledge!

These tips can help you enhance and maximise your learning capacity. However, as with learning anything, be it a skill or a language, repetition and familiarity are always the most important key factors to success. Come down to ASE today to find out how we can help you succeed in learning a foreign language! Or register for a course online now!

18 Strategies for Enhancing Language Skills

Learning a language is not always effortless. To maximise your learning and efficiently progress, students must adopt strategies. Here are our best tips for enhancing language skills and managing language challenges.

This list is not exhaustive, it’s simply a place to begin.

1. Take the mystery away.
The first and perhaps most important strategy is to teach students about the components of language, common language challenges and language strategies, and to help students understand their own language strengths and challenges. This process is sometimes called demystification – taking the mystery away.

2. Simplify directions.
Students with receptive language challenges may need directions broken down into their simplest form. They may also benefit from a comic book-type illustration of steps to take for the completion of a task.

3. Give written copies of directions and examples.
Students with receptive language challenges may need directions given to them at a relatively slow pace. They may need directions repeated to them. They most often benefit from having a written copy of directions that are given orally. Examples of what needs to be done are also useful.

4. Provide frequent breaks.
Students who have receptive language challenges may use up a lot of energy listening, and, therefore, tire easily. Consequently, short, highly structured work timed with frequent breaks or quiet periods may be helpful.

5. Give additional time.
Students with receptive and expressive language challenges are likely to have a slower processing speed and should be allowed additional time for written work and tests.

6. Sit Close.
A student may want to sit close to the teacher so he can watch the facial expression of the teacher when s/he is talking. This may also help to diminish interference from other auditory distractions.

7. Allow voluntary participation.
Students with language processing challenges should not be put on the spot by being required to answer questions during class discussions, especially without being forewarned. Rather, their participation should be on a voluntary basis.

8. Teach summarising and paraphrasing.
Reading comprehension is often enhanced by summarising and paraphrasing. This helps students to identify the main idea and supporting details. It may be helpful to provide key words such as who, what, when, where and why to orient attention to the appropriate details.

9. Teach a staging procedure.
Most students find a staging procedure beneficial when writing paragraphs, essays, poems, reports and research papers. First, they should generate ideas, and then they should organise them. Next, they should attend to spelling and grammatical rules. They may also list their most frequently occurring errors in a notebook and refer to this list when self-correcting.

10. Encourage renewed investment of energy in older students.
Older students who have experienced reading failure from an early age must become convinced that a renewed investment of energy will be worthwhile. According to Louisa Moats, an expert in the field of reading, older students who are very poor readers must have their phonological skills strengthened because the inability to identify speech sounds erodes spelling, word recognition, and vocabulary development. Phonological awareness, spelling, decoding, grammar, and other language skills can be taught as a linguistics course in which instructors use more adult terminology such as phoneme deletion and morphemic structure. Phonemic drills may include games such as reverse-a-word (Say teach; then say it with the sounds backwards cheat.)

11. Give Foreign Language Waivers
Students who have experienced problems with their primary language are more likely to have difficulty with a foreign language. Foreign language requirements may need to be waived for these students.

12. Use echo reading for fluency development.
For fluency development, it is helpful to have a student in the lower grades echo read and also read simultaneously with an adult. The adult and the student may also take turns reading every other sentence or paragraph. Additionally, the adult may model a sentence and then have the student read that same sentence.

13. Amplify auditory input.
Multisensory techniques can be used to increase phonetic skills and to memorize sight words. For example, a student may sound out a word or write sight words on a dry erase board using different coloured markers, all while using Hearfones, a Phonics Phone or a Toobaloo device to enhance auditory input. These devices amplify and direct the student’s own voice straight back to his ears, causing increased auditory stimulation to the brain. These devices can be purchased from CDL’s A+ WebStore.

14. See, say, hear and touch.
Multisensory strategies are helpful for learning letter names. Examples include: 1) spreading shaving cream on a table top and having the child write letters in the shaving cream while saying the letter name out loud; and 2) cutting out letters from sandpaper and having the child “trace” the sandpaper letter with his or her finger while saying the name of the letter.

15. A picture is worth a thousand words.
The expression, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” may become especially important for the visual person who has difficulty expressing himself verbally. For example, a student may make diagrams, charts, or drawings to help him remember what he has read. If he is good at art, the student may draw or paint pictures to explain his ideas.

16. Teach active reading.
To help with comprehension, it may be helpful to underline key words and phrases with a pencil or highlighter and to paraphrase them in the margins, thereby making reading more active. If the student is not allowed to write in the book, he can write the main words or ideas on Post-It notes.

17. Guide students to read between the lines.
When first teaching students to infer while reading, the teacher should first guide the thinking by using a whole class activity. After the class as a whole has identified a logical inference, the teacher should facilitate the examination of the process by which they arrived at their inference. Leading questions may be, “What is the author saying to us? How do we know the author meant this?” Remind students that authors provide clues (imply) so readers can infer.

18. Provide individual evaluation and intervention.
Many students with language challenges benefit from individual evaluation and remediation by highly qualified professionals. It is critical to use assessment tools designed to pinpoint specific skill deficits and to provide individual or small group remediation/intervention using explicit, evidence-based strategies and methods that directly address each student’s individual needs.

These strategies can help you enhance and maximise your learning capacity. However, as with learning anything, be it a skill or a language, repetition and familiarity are always the most important key factors to success. Come down to ASE today to find out how we can help you succeed in learning a foreign language! Or register for a course online now!

Chinese reference information to help you study

Chinese characters seem to be the most difficult part for foreign learners of Mandarin. One likely reason may be that Chinese characters look very different from their Roman language counterparts. Each character in Mandarin represents not only the pronunciation, but also possess a certain meaning. A common complaint is that Chinese characters are so unlike each other that you have to learn them individually. Unfortunately, there are so many to memorise and that when encountering a new character, previous knowledge of other characters rarely helps because you can neither pronounce it directly nor guess what it means. However, this is not always true. There are connections between Chinese characters, composed in a defined way and learning these connections can help learners score better.

Chinese characters form the pictorial writing system used for recording in ancient China. With a history dating back over 8,000 years, it is one of the oldest surviving writing systems in the world. Inscriptions of Chinese characters were found on turtle shells dating back to the Shang dynasty (1766-1123 BC). Known as the Oracle bone script, 1,000 of the 4,600 known bone logographs can be identified with characters used currently. An old Chinese legend credits Cangjie, an official historian under the legendary Emperor Huangdi in 2600 BC, for the invention of the Chinese characters. Although attributing its creation to one person is more likely to be an exaggeration, it is thanks to contributors like Cangjie that we have a complete and well-developed writing system.

Xu Shen, from the Eastern Han Dynasty (121 AD), was a distinguished scholar who attained unparalleled fame for his etymological dictionary, “Shuo Wen Jie Zi”, which explains the written language and parsing words. In the book, Chinese characters are classified into six categories, namely pictogram, ideograph, logical aggregates, pictophonetic compounds, borrowing, and associate transformation. However, Chinese characters generally fall into the first four categories as per their origin.


Pictograms are the earliest characters created and they usually reflect the shape of physical objects. From this pictorial method, other character-forming principles were subsequently developed. Over time, pictograms evolved from irregular drawings to a definite form. Most were simplified by losing certain strokes for ease of writing. However, only a small portion (less than 5%) of Chinese characters fall into this category.


Also called simple indicative, ideographs usually describe an abstract concept. It’s a combination of indicators or the addition of an indicator to a pictograph to connote meaning. For example, a short horizontal bar on top of a circular arc represents the concept of “up” or “on top of”. Similarly, placing an indicative horizontal bar below the pictogram for “wood” is an ideograph for the word “root”. However, like pictograms, the number of this category is also small, less than 2%.

Logical aggregates

These are a combination of pictograms that represent a meaning, rather like telling a story. A pictograph for “person” on the left of one for “wood” connotes “rest”. This story-telling formation is relatively easier to learn as most aggregates have been reformed into or replaced by phonetic compounds.

Pictophonetic compounds

Also called semantic-phonetic compounds, they combine semantic elements with phonetic ones, taking meaning from one and phonetics from the other. For instance, the character for “ocean” (“yang”) is a combination of the semantic classifier of “water” with the phonetic component “yang”. On its own, “yang” means “goat” or “sheep”. This last group of characters is the largest in modern Chinese, making up around 90% of all Chinese characters.

The superiority of phonetic-compounds in the first three categories lies in its unique phonetic components. Many objects and concepts are hard to express through photographs or ideograms, therefore, the association with character pronunciation helps Chinese vocabulary extend faster than logical aggregates. Therefore, newer Chinese characters tend to follow this format.

Over the centuries, the Chinese language has undergone great change. Knowing the origin and evolution of the characters can help learners understand its formation. For example, the phonetic-compound for “cargo” or “goods” uses the character for “shell” as the semantic element because shells were a form of currency in ancient China.

Agape School of Education (ASE) is special because we ensure that our classes are small to maximise teacher-student interaction. Our mix of native and non-native teachers learn from each other to better help students. ASE’s unique curriculum includes regular revisions and testing to ensure students truly understand the concepts and to enhance their learning experience. Find available courses here.

Quickly Learn A Language By Thinking In It

It can be tedious to learn a language. There will always be a certain amount of raw memorization required. However, there are also many little techniques to help students learn a language efficiently. Labelling things around the house in the language you want to learn comes to mind. Listening to tapes while in the car is another. I used several techniques to quickly learn Spanish.

How I Quickly Learned Spanish

My journey through Spanish started before my trip to Ecuador. I first studied Spanish books for six weeks before leaving but I didn’t speak a word of the language during this time. This was a big mistake. I was just able to converse with the locals in the hostel in Quito the day after I arrived. However, within a few days, I was discussing philosophy, politics and more.

How did I learn Spanish so quickly? I didn’t really. I had a very limited vocabulary when I arrived in Ecuador, and a very limited vocabulary when I left. However, I could use what little Spanish I knew to express myself. This I credit to a habit that fortunately is also a great technique for learning a language.
I have conversations in my head. I think of what I am about to say, and play out future discussions in my imagination. I found myself doing this in Spanish too. The result was that I learned how to speak the language quickly, and say a lot with few words.

Learn To Think In A Language

People imagine that they have to be fluent to think in a language. This just isn’t true. You can choose to think “I am walking to the store,” so there is no reason you can’t think “Yo estoy caminando a la tienda,” as soon as you know those six words. If you don’t know the word “caminar” (to walk), this also helps you recognised words that you use regularly so you can look them up as you get stuck.

One reason this is a great way to learn a language is that it helps you remember the words. Repetition works, and saying the words, even if only in your mind, works better than reading or hearing them. When you make a point of translating your thoughts into your new language, you are always practising.

It is more than just good practice, though. Putting your thoughts into your new language forces you to learn not just words and rules, but also specific ways to express what you want to say. We all talk about different things and have different interests, right? A doctor might want to know how to say “where does it hurt?” while I may want to ask where the toilets are. Often, you learn what others think you should know. This helps, but your thoughts are uniquely yours, and when you think in your new language, you are learning exactly what YOU need to learn.

Speaking a language is perhaps the best way to learn it, and thinking it is just speaking it in your mind. You’ll learn your most important words, expressions and sentences quickly if you are thinking them continually. To help you cultivate this habit, carry a language dictionary with you to use whenever your thoughts stop flowing. There are many apps that you can download, completely free! This is a powerful way to learn a language and start speaking it quickly.

At Agape School of Education (ASE), we keep our classes small so our teachers can connect with their students on a personal level. This helps them tailor their lessons and teaching approaches to the individual student. We also combine the technical aspect of language with the cultural. This reinforces the love of the language and helps the student better grasp the language. Our goal is to impart knowledge and inspire passion in our students, and our coaching approach helps our students deal with the emotional aspect of learning a new language. Find available courses here.

3 Places to Watch Foreign Films in Singapore

While Netflix, Amazon and Itunes have made watching movies at home convenient, the experience of going down to the movies with friends is one that is not readily replicated at home. Here are some places you should head down to for that awesome movie experience.

1. Ciné Club
Okay, so this is not a cinema- rather, it is a movie club hosted by the Alliance Française de Singapour. However, I would argue that it being a movie club is even better for those among us who are flying solo- after all, what could be better than watching awesome films and perhaps making a new friend or two?
Address: Alliance Française de Singapour , 1 Sarkies Rd, Singapore 258130

2. The Projector
One of the only independent theatres left in Singapore, The Projector shows both box offices successes as well as smaller, indie films. They also occasionally host film festivals, which can be quite valuable to foreign language students since they get to experience overarching themes in films that are produced within a language.
Address: 6001 Beach Road, #05-00, Golden Mile Tower, 199589

3. Carnival Cinemas
Located at the Second floor of Shaw Towers, Bombay Talkies exclusively screens Hindi movies- presumably for Indian foreign workers. That said, if you’re learning Hindi, you might as well go take a look. While the tickets are more expensive, you’re getting more bang for your buck, given the long duration of Bollywood movies.
Address: 100 Beach Road, #02-00 Shaw Towers, 189702, Singapore

The different types of learning styles

There are many reasons teachers are unsung heroes, not least of all because every student has a different learning style. If they don’t understand the most effective way of teaching their students, teachers will be stuck, unable to help their students reach their maximum potential.

In this article, we will explore the 7 different learning styles:

1. Visual Learners
These learners use pictures or images, and their spatial awareness to learn. Therefore, they need to understand the relationship of the other and themselves. This includes the use of mind maps and other visual cues. These are the students who learn best through film.

2. Aural Learners
These learners require sound and music to learn effectively. Although it is quite difficult to incorporate music into every lesson, sounds also include the use of their own voice. Repeating their notes to themselves or use of audio books and audio material can help these students maximise their learning potential.

3. Verbal Learners
Learners in this category need the aid of speech and writing. However, this is not as simple as getting them to recopy a textbook. Mnemonics, acronyms and even acting out a situation can help these students strengthen their verbal learning techniques.

4. Physical Learners
These students learn through using their sense of touch or by doing. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they need to jump around while they learn. The use of puzzles or objects that accompany their learning, including writing or drawing are the best ways to teach these students.

5. Logical Learners
These students like organisation and following a structure. Reasoning is the main skill used when learning, although this can often be tough when learning a foreign language. However, they generally also have the aptitude to be challenged to think of different ways of learning.

6. Social Learners
As the name suggests, these students learn best with others, in groups or an open, communicative environment. These students are inquisitive and learn by asking questions, presenting or participating in dialogue.

7. Solitary Learners
These learners prefer the quiet and learning independently. However, they also require clear guidance and distinct explanations as they rarely ask questions. However, to guide these students, teachers will need to ask active questions and find out the gaps in their students’ learning.

While these are the main modes of learning, this is not a set figure. The beauty of learning is that it’s always changing and adapting. Furthermore, students can have a mix of learning styles. Most traditional schools focus on the linguistic and logical means of teaching, using textbooks, repetition, and impressing the importance of exams as a final means of assessment. Unfortunately, this has created and reinforced the belief that there are “smart” students or “dumb” students.

At Agape School of Education, we believe that the key to success is to maximise our students’ potential to learn. To attain this goal, our teachers individually identify their students’ learning techniques and adapt their teaching styles. We also use a range of teaching materials, from textbooks to videos, and even games and puzzles. While there are a good variety of textbooks out in the market, there is rarely a textbook that fits our in-house curriculum. Therefore, we have specially designed in-house textbooks and materials to help our students learn efficiently and effectively. Finally, while we have numerous courses spanning different languages, for students and adults, our curriculum is always modifiable. So, should you require an MOELC-based course or one for business, we are here to help! View our available courses now!