All About French-Speaking Countries

The French Language

Over 220 million people around the world speak French. This number includes people who speak French as a native language, as a second language and students of all ages who do not live in the Francophonie Française but have learned French. In fact, French as a foreign language is the second most commonly taught language worldwide after English. It is also the only foreign language that can be useful throughout the world, as well as, in the United States. French comes in second after English on the list of the world’s 10 most influential languages. Proof of this is the pivotal role French holds in politics. It is one of the official working languages in dozens of powerful international organisations such as the European Union, United Nations, World Health Organisation, World Trade Organisation and a host of other worldwide institutions. In addition, the Universal Postal Union, a part of the United Nations, together with the worldwide postal system, uses French the official language. English, a working language, was only introduced in 1994.

The French language of today is a direct result of long periods of evolution. France, throughout its long history, had been invaded by different ethnic tribal groups. The most distinguished of these are the Franks. They adopted the Latin language, which was spoken at that time and from which the French language descended. It is also known as one of the Romance languages, which include Catalan, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. They are called such because of their parent tongue, Latin, was the language of the Romans. Of course, this is not to say that French isn’t a romantic language, many a time Paris has been called the city of love. Over the years, the early French language has undergone changes in words and grammatical structures. It has evolved into the global French that is taught today.

French speak – Here, There and Everywhere

French is one of the world’s most influential languages and is the official language in more than 29 countries.

The French-speaking world spans the entire globe as it is heard and used in all continents. Aside from English, French is the only language spoken as a native or first language on five different continents.

In Europe, French is the official language of France, Luxembourg, Monaco, Belgium and Switzerland. France, with a population of more than 60 million, is one of the most modern countries in the world. It is one of the predominant leaders in the European Union. French is also a co-official language in Switzerland. This picturesque country is one of the world’s richest countries and the centre of many international associations. Belgium, in the half past century, has emerged as a progressive European state. Brussels, the capital of Belgium, is home to the headquarters of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

Cote d’Ivoire is a French-speaking African nation with one of the fastest growing economies worldwide, making French an important language in business.
Photo credit: Zenman

In Africa, there are over 20 French-speaking countries include Algeria, Burundi, Benin, Chad, Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Comoros, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Guinea, Madagascar, Morocco, Rwanda, Togo, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Tunisia, Mauritius, Reunion and Seychelles. In the Americas and the Caribbean, French is spoken in Canada, Haiti, French Guiana, Martinique and Guadeloupe (these last three are French territories). In Australia and the Pacific, Vanuatu and the overseas French territories French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Wallis and Fortuna are French-speaking. In total, there 29 countries using French worldwide and the Côte d’Ivoire is one such country often recognised for having one of the fastest growing economies in the world. As such, French is quickly becoming an important language in the business world.

In many other countries, French plays a significant role either as an administrative, commercial or international language. Some of these countries are Andorra, Argentina, Brazil, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Egypt, Greece, India, Italy, Laos, Lebanon, Mauritania, Poland, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom (Channel Islands), United States particularly Louisiana and New England, the Vatican City, and Vietnam. Within the Francophonie Française there are associate members who, despite not being in a French-speaking country, are engaged in promoting the French language and its culture.

Learning French doesn’t have to be boring, especially since it’s a language with such rich history and culture. At Agape School of Education, our language classes are interwoven with culture. We hope to inspire a love of learning and the language through a deeper understanding of the language, be it their culture, their people or even their food! We also provide an executive conversational course for professionals and business leaders, called French Expresso. Our materials are specifically designed for high-level management and CEO’s. The French language is poised to be a key player in future expanding businesses worldwide. Come down today to find out how we can help you learn French for any purpose!

Taking learning language into the future

With the advent of multiple modes of language learning, where is the future for the traditional language class? Today, we have online platforms like Duolingo to help us learn a language whenever we want, wherever we want and however we want. This suits our busy schedules better than the traditional classroom with hard rules, a set timing and little leeway. So is the future of teaching language in the virtual world?

When it comes to teaching a language, the age-old method of focusing on the nitty-gritty aspects of linguistics continues to dominate. Even when we teach the English language in schools, we focus on grammar exercises and sentence structure. This is not to say that these aspects are unimportant, but if we condition our youths to think that learning a language is painstakingly tedious and dry, how can we expect them to place importance in it?

In Singapore, students often don’t understand or appreciate the benefits of learning a mother tongue or foreign language. This is surprising considering the emphasis the government and education syllabus places on students to encourage them to learn new languages. Perhaps one reason for this is the way it is taught in schools. One approach is used for the multitudes of students, all of whom learn in different ways. If learning one language becomes that difficult for a child, what’s the point of learning another? Another cause of this gap could be due to the ‘Asian mentality’, which places more emphasis on subjects such as maths and science, and relegates language to the backseat.

At the age of 9, Eitan used YouTube videos to teach himself different languages. He could read simple text, speak and write in 14 different languages. At Agape, Eitan gained the help he needed to go further in his language goals.

So perhaps the way forward is to emphasise teaching of the culture of the language. This is where the aspect of human interaction comes into play. Where virtual programmes have difficulty corresponding the nuances of culture, a teacher can excel. Of course, this change in teaching syllabus or style cannot happen overnight. It is important for schools to adapt and innovate according to the times. But does this mean we should embrace the idea of the virtual classroom, such as those on coursera or those conducted over Skype?

In theory, this is a good idea, but in practice, it runs into many problems. What is the one thing we depend on when learning a new language? Communication. Language is learnt for the whole purpose of communication, therefore when we take that out of the mix, the crux of learning a new language is lost. While courses conducted live over the internet do have an aspect of direct communication, it is usually very limited as these teachers often teach numerous students at the same time. Not to mention the issues related with breakdowns in technology. Small class sizes are crucial to learning a new language because it gives the teacher and the student quality interaction time. Learning a language in a class is also beneficial because students get the opportunity to test their theoretical knowledge in real time and can learn off one another. Another plus point is that their fellow students will be able to communicate at the same level of complexity.

Perhaps the final plus point of the traditional language class is the fact that it is a responsibility. Often, it is easy to forget or postpone an online class simply because you can determine when you want to do it. For many of us, this is a slippery slope to picking up that app or reviewing that course material once every six months. When progress is slow and irregular, it is easy to lose interest and give up. The traditional class, however, presents as a necessary appointment. It reflects the responsibility to yourself to complete what you have started.

Our Japanese teacher, Yuko, is well-known for inventing, and applying diversified approaches and pedagogy in her classrooms.

Therefore, although we can agree that teaching approaches must change and adapt to the times, the traditional classroom is not in danger of being overshadowed by the virtual domain. Rather, the virtual domain is a good supplementary resource to the traditional classroom method, being under the circumstance of ‘Blending Learning’ method. Blending learning is an education program that combines online digital media with traditional classroom methods. It requires the physical presence of both teacher and student, with some element of student control over time, place, path, or pace. While students still attend “brick-and-mortar” schools with a teacher present, face-to-face classroom practices are combined with computer-mediated activities regarding content and delivery.

As the rise of digital blending learning has grown so rapidly, we Agape School of Education have been trying to adopt it to our school program to allow students to maximize their learning efficiency. It will give 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, blending 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!

​Learning the Arabic Language

The Arabic language is an ancient tongue that dates back to earlier than the 6th century. It is a language steeped in history and shrouded in mystery. Today, Arabic is the 5th most spoken language on the planet, and it is the official language in many Middle Eastern countries, such as Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Israel, Morocco and Saudi Arabia.

If you are interested in the study of ancient Near Eastern history, modern Middle Eastern history, religion, or foreign language, learning the Arabic language will help you in your academic pursuits. In Singapore, learning Arabic is especially important because students can also gain extra points for taking Arabic as a third language. Furthermore, the Quran, the Islamic holy book is written in Arabic and is the holy text for one of Singapore’s main races, Malays. There are several ways you can go about learning how to read, write and speak Arabic.

Arabic is very useful for those in academia, particularly for students of religion, history, archaeology or even art history. Arabic will help you to translate ancient documents and literature, which could give you wonderful research capabilities in Singapore and overseas.

At Agape School of Education (ASE), we teach Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), which is the language of written Arabic. Not only is it used in the Holy Quran, it is the language of newspapers and is also widely heard on the radio and television.

As the MSA is also used in the GCE ‘O’ level examinations, our course enables students to read and write at an acceptable academic level; although it can also be customised for business-centred, couture, and religious study.

If you have plans to travel extensively to an Arabic-speaking country such as Egypt or Morocco, consider taking ASE’s accelerated foreign language courses for travel. By learning the basics of their language, travellers can ensure that they remain culturally sensitive and make travel easy as they can communicate with locals. Without the worry of communication, travellers are free to have a greater appreciation for the culture and people they meet.

There are several advantages to learning how to read and speak the Arabic language. At ASE, you can modify your course to suit your specific goals and schedule so that your studies won’t interfere with your work and personal commitments. Our group classes provide many opportunities to interact with qualified instructors and other students, to help students improve their conversational skills.

Singapore government agencies and private sectors have realised the tremendous business opportunities available in the Arab world, which comprises of 22 countries. There are now several hundreds of Singapore companies operating in Arab Countries, especially the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. Furthermore, the Singapore government has recognised the Arab world as a potential emerging market and set up several embassies and government agencies, such as the International Enterprise Singapore in the region.

Dubai alone hosts around 350 Singapore companies operating in many sectors. Within a few years, Singapore employees in the Arab world have managed to establish their reputation and they are recognised as honest, sincere and hard-working employees. All these factors will open many opportunities for those who learn the Arabic language to secure jobs in these promising markets of the Arab world.

Whether you are a student of ancient history, religion, or archaeology and you feel that learning the Arabic language will give you a leg up in carrying out your research, or you are making plans to travel to an Arabic speaking country like Egypt or Morocco in the near future and want to be able to ask where the bathroom is or order dinner from the menu in their language, learning Arabic will help. Taking the time to learn the Arabic language will allow you to immerse yourself into an interesting new culture, perhaps help to change a few stereotypes, enhance your travels and supplement your academic pursuits or career goals.

Learn or pickup an Arabic Language Course now!

The fast and effective way to learn a foreign language

Learning a foreign language is never easy for the simple reason that it is exactly that, a new language. 99% of the time and, barring the existence of congenital speech defects, the difficulty in learning a new language is due to the learners’ adherence to the conventions and practices of their first language. We often, wrongly, try to fit a new language to the rules of our native tongue. Conflicts in pronunciation, vocabulary, usage, intonation, the manner of expression and even understanding of concepts, arise as a result. The perfect way to test this fact is to make someone from France, Italy, Russia, Japan, Portugal and Germany say a simple statement in English. See how many English versions of the same statement you get!

The quickest way to avoid this complication when learning a new language, therefore, is to start fresh. Try, even temporarily, to suppress whatever conventions you are used to in your native tongue, and learn from scratch. While this is easier said than done, it is crucial to the process of learning a new language. You may also apply the following proven techniques:

  1. Understand the basic sentence structure of the language. Regardless of what language it is, its basic unit of thought will always be the noun-verb combination we know in English as the sentence. Learn some nouns and verbs to convey your thoughts and you’re on your way. That said, do not concentrate on learning the rules alone. Remember, to know a language means being able to put it into practice.
  2. Read, read, read! Reading will help you get acquainted with the common terms and expressions used in that language. Read simple materials like newspapers and magazine articles, which can be easily understood and will help you slowly build up your vocabulary. As a student, the goal is to be conversant in this language one day. Therefore, the importance of vocabulary cannot be stressed enough. Bear in mind that, to be effective, your vocabulary must be made up of words you can understand and use, and not just words that you recognise and understand but cannot use.
  3. Write, write, write! As you acquire more confidence, start writing your thoughts down on paper. Write about things you have read or any experience you may have encountered. The best way to practice your writing skills is to maintain a personal journal of your thoughts and things going on around you. This will also hone your skills in narrating and describing events.
  4. Learn the art of listening. The best way to acquire skills in correct pronunciation and intonation of a language is to listen to how a native speaker speaks. It is necessary for anyone who wants to be an expert in any language to develop his listening comprehension.
  5. Learn to use the dictionary. Whether you are writing, reading or merely listening, it will serve students well to study the dictionary. This will not only help you widen your vocabulary, it will also increase your confidence in choosing the correct words for particular situations.
  6. Learn the culture. Language is often influenced by and influences the culture of those who use it. When you can understand and accept the culture, you can better immerse yourself in the language. It’s often said that immersion in a language will help students learn it quickly and effectively. This is because those students develop a love and passion for that language and therefore are better at picking up its nuances.

At Agape School of Education, we follow these tips and coach our students to success. Using a variety of methods and training materials, our 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 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.

Se habla Español: Pronouns and Verbs

Grammar is the cornerstone of perfecting your skill in a language. Nothing is worse than using an informal term when talking to that very important client and potentially offending them during a business meeting! Last week we explored the nouns and adjectives in the Spanish language. As important as these grammatical units are, it is only half the battle. Pronouns and verbs are equally important in any language.

Pronouns:
Pronouns substitute for nouns. For example, you can say La niña está aquí (the girl is here) or Ella está aquí (she is here). In this case, Ella is substituting for La niña. The subject pronouns in Spanish are yo (I), t/usted (singular you), Él (he), Ella (she), nosotros (we), Ustedes (plural you), Ellos (they masculine) or Ellas (they feminine).

The singular and plural forms of ‘you’ are used differently depending on the dialect of Spanish. It is important to remember that subject pronouns are frequently omitted in Spanish since the ending of the verb is already indicative. Thus, native female speakers would say Estoy aqui (I’m here) rather than Yo estoy aqui.

Verbs:
Verbs indicate actions. Usually, when you enumerate a verb, you use what is called the infinitive, for example, hablar (to speak). In Spanish, there are three different types of verbs, depending on how their infinitive ends. These different categories are called conjugations.

Thus, there are verbs ending in ar, such as hablar, in -er comer (to eat) and in ir dormir (to sleep). As mentioned before, verbs in Spanish have different endings depending on the subject of the action. These endings will vary from one conjugation to the other. For example, with the verb hablar, the singular you is (t) hablas, whereas with comer it is (t) comes. This can obviously be complicated for learners at the beginning, but once you get used to it, you will have no problem communicating effectively.

At the end of the day, even though you may speak Spanish and practice your grammar on a daily basis, a qualification could give you that extra boost when it comes to professional or educational opportunities.

The Diplomas of Spanish as a Foreign Language (DELE) are official titles certifying your competence and mastery of the Spanish language. It is an internationally recognised qualification granted by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport of Spain. It could help you get that transfer to a Spanish-speaking branch of your company, help you gain a better foothold for business in Spain or help you enter the university of your choice in a Spanish-speaking country.

Invest your time in getting the proper guidance you need to excel at your DELE examinations with Agape School of Education. Our Spanish courses are specially modelled after the standard set by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

If you want to learn conversational Spanish or Spanish for personal goals, we have Spanish language courses for your every goal. For example, did you know that there are two types of Spanish used around the world? One form used primarily in Spain and another that dominates in Latin America. Fortunately, our teachers teach both! Our courses go the extra mile to ensure students are always one step ahead! So be it for an exam or for work, you can get that A+ or impress your new client. Contact us today or come down to our branch to find out how we can help you reach your goals today! Book online now.

Part 1 of our Se habla Español series can be found here.

Se habla Español: Nouns and Adjectives

When learning a new language, it is always useful to be familiar with its main grammatical units.

This constitutes the first necessary step in order to understand and create meaningful speech.

Here are the main grammatical elements in Spanish and some useful information about them:

Travelling to exotic places like Machu Picchu are easier when you can speak the language and richer when you can relate to the culture. Views of Machu Picchu tours © Matthew Barker, Peru For Less 2009

Nouns:
A noun is a word which is mostly used to refer to a person or thing. All nouns in Spanish have a gender, meaning that they are either masculine or feminine. For example, niño (boy) is masculine and niña (girl) is feminine. The best way to identify gender is undoubtedly through experience, although here are some general guidelines, which may be useful at the beginning: usually, nouns ending in ‘o’ are masculine and nouns ending in ‘a’ are feminine. As with most rules, there are always exceptions.
For example, mano (hand) and radio (radio) are feminine. On the other hand, words of Greek origin ending in ‘ma’, such as dilema (dilemma) or problema (problem) are masculine. When you are learning new vocabulary, it is recommendable that you learn nouns with their corresponding article. This will help beginner learners to remember their gender. For example, la niña, la mano or el problema and el niño.

Adjectives:
Adjectives are used to qualify a particular noun or to say something about the noun. It is important to remember that in Spanish they are usually placed after the noun. Since adjectives are always related to a noun, they have to agree with them in gender and number.

This means that if you want to say something about the noun nio, which is masculine and singular, the adjective that you use will also have to be masculine and singular. Thus, you can say niño alto (tall boy) or niño pequeo (small boy). If, on the other hand, if you were talking about a girl, you would have to say niña alta (tall girl) and niña pequea (small girl).

 

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and similarly, you can’t learn Spanish overnight. Prepare yourself for the challenges ahead. Learning a new language should be fun and there is no reason why it shouldn’t be as long as you realise your limitations.

At Agape School of Education, we teach two types of Spanish, the form taught in Spain and that in Latin America. Our courses also cover Spanish for business purposes and preparation courses for all levels of the Spanish language certification, Diplomas de Español como Lengua Extranjera (Diplomas of Spanish as a Foreign Language; DELE). We have tailored our course materials to follow the standard set by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

Come down to our school today to find out more about our Spanish courses, be it for travel, business or educational purposes! Book online now.

Part 2 of our Se habla Español series can be found here.

Learning the Challenging Chinese Language

Mandarin is a language, or part of a group of languages, spoken by 1.3 billion people worldwide. If you define Mandarin as one language, rather than a grouping, it is the single most spoken language on the planet. Outside of Singapore, it is also spoken widely in China, Taiwan and Malaysia. If you are interested in learning Mandarin as your mother tongue or as a third language, it can be intimidating and challenging. But learning Mandarin can also be rewarding, and knowing it can have benefits for your career, during your travels or in your relationships.

Even if it is not your mother tongue language in school, there are still many ways to learn Mandarin. As a university student, you can study Mandarin and earn a degree in it. Earning a university degree in Mandarin will provide you with a solid knowledge of formal Mandarin that you can use to further your studies or gain employment. You will also be proficient in reading and writing the alphabet, which is a standard alphabet throughout the Mandarin-speaking world. If you are established in your career and find it necessary to learn Mandarin for business dealings or business-associated travel, Agape School of Education offers the flexibility to modify your course to suit your specific needs. Learning to speak Mandarin this way is convenient if you need to learn the basics before an important business trip or for an upcoming test.

If you are a student of Mandarin or a tourist with a desire to travel within Asia, an ideal way to learn the intricacies of Mandarin is through participation and engagement with the culture. By doing this, you will not only learn how to speak Mandarin but also how to respect their traditions and develop a love for the language. By studying Mandarin in a small group situation like that at Agape School of Education, you are given quality interaction with the teacher and other students. This encourages communication and you may just find learning to speak Mandarin becomes much easier than you thought. You will grow to understand and recognise the value of the ancient Chinese culture: the history, the art, the architecture, the food and the people.

If you are fluent in Mandarin, not only could it help you establish yourself in a career, but it could also open doors to new careers. For example, you could take a job as a foreign language translator, where you would be responsible for translating websites, training documents and other important business documents while helping to bridge the communication gap between two very different cultures. You might also consider a career as a teacher of English as a second language in another country, allowing you the opportunity to travel to different countries. You also have the capability to relocate to a Mandarin-speaking nation and teach the English language to their students. Being fluent in Mandarin will definitely make relocation less stressful.

Learning how to speak, read and write Mandarin has many advantages. It gives you the potential to enhance your career by working or travelling abroad and gives you opportunities to embark on new careers. Take the time to learn Mandarin and open your eyes to a new and often misunderstood culture.

Let Agape School of Education help you on this exciting, new journey! Contact us today for information on available class timings.

Writing Japanese: What is Kanji, Hiragana and Katakana

The Japanese language is intricate and fascinating. The tonal qualities of the language are quite unique and the inherent politeness of the Japanese people translates well into its language, which is, in turn, elegant, stylish and drips with respect.

The Japanese script evolved from its original Chinese script beginnings to become something that is intrinsically Japanese and embodies the elegance of the culture. What is unique about this language is that there are different types or ways of writing Japanese characters. This has often been a source of confusion for new learners or those unfamiliar with Japanese culture.

The three main ways of writing Japanese characters are Kanji, Hiragana and Katakana. The Romaji version of writing is often reserved for special purposes and is not often seen in daily communication.

Kanji

The word kanji is a Japanese derivative of the Chinese word “hanzi”, which translates to Han characters. The word “Han” pertains to the Han Dynasty and is also what many Chinese people today identify with. Kanji employs between 5,000 to 10,000 Chinese characters, which makes writing in this form very difficult. In 1981, the Japanese government, as a means of simplifying written and read Japanese, introduced jōyō kanji or ‘List of Chinese Characters for General Use’. This list includes 1,945 regular characters and 166 special characters that are used only for writing peoples’ names. All official documents, as well as newspapers, textbooks and other publications, use this form of written Japanese exclusively.

Hiragana

Chinese characters are considered to be the source for Hiragana syllables. Hiragana which means ordinary syllabic script was originally referred to as “onnade” or ‘women’s hand’ because it was most commonly used by women. Although men were known to write in Kanji and Katakana, usage of Hiragana evolved through the centuries, and by the 10th century, it was being used by both men and women. The earliest versions of Hiragana had diverse characters that represented the same syllable. However, the whole system was eventually simplified in order to make it easier to use by establishing a one-to-one correspondence between the written and spoken syllables.

Katakana

The Katakana alphabets have a very storied history. It was taken from abbreviated Chinese characters that were originally used by Buddhist monks. They used Katakana in order to illustrate the correct pronunciations of Chinese text in the 9th century. Initially, many different symbols were used to represent just one syllable and the script became quite confusing. But over time, Katakana has become more streamlined. Although initially thought of as men’s writing, Katakana has been used to write onomatopoeic words, foreign names, telegrams and non-Chinese loan words. The script itself contains about 48 syllables.

Romaji

The final and rarest script used in the Japanese language is called Romaji. It is used to transcribe the Latin alphabet into Japanese characters. It is especially important for English or Latin words that do not have a direct Japanese translation. As such, it is not often used and typically reserved for very special uses.

 

At Agape School of Education, this is the sort of cultural grounding in which we base our language lessons. It is important to understand the history behind linguistic schematics to facilitate a better understanding of the language. Our unique approach to teaching languages is what has led our students to success. Inquire about our available classes today!

Singapore: A unique case study

Singapore is a multicultural and multilingual nation with a unique approach to language. Although we have four main languages, English is the unifying lingua franca and is the language in which children are taught. In school, it is compulsory for students to also learn a mother tongue language. There are several reasons for this. After the war, schools were brought under government control who realised that a common language was needed to facilitate communication among the different cultural and dialect groups. Furthermore, not only does it help students connect with the culture and traditions of the language, it also helps them master the English language.

Their government’s belief in this benefits of multilingualism is seen in their own personal lived. The late Mr Lee Kwan Yew, who was born to English-speaking parents, motivated himself to learn Mandarin and Malay. His son, the current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also learnt Mandarin and Malay. During both their terms in office, they used to give their national day speeches in English, Malay and Mandarin.

Today, the range of languages spoken in Singapore has increased drastically. This is not all due to the diverse population in Singapore. In secondary school, students are given the opportunity to study a third language, such as Mandarin (for non-Chinese), Malay (for non-Malays), Indonesian (for non-Malays), Arabic, Japanese (only for Chinese), French or German. We have also increased the number of mother tongue languages deemed acceptable in lieu of the three main languages. The newly recognised mother tongue languages include Urdu, Hindi and Malayalam.

The improvements to Singapore’s language policy don’t just stop there. The way languages are taught and used are regularly revised so that students stay relevant. The government has also provided more funding for mother tongue initiatives. In 2011, the Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism began. Its aim was to aid the Ministry of Education (MOE) in promoting the teaching and learning of the English language and the Mother Tongue languages.

Currently, foreign languages are taught outside of normal school curriculum. Every week, students commute to one of the two MOE Language Centre campuses. It’s a unique institution as it not only complements normal secondary and post-secondary education, it is also an MOE institution that focuses solely on teaching foreign languages. The MOELC also caters to different types of students. Namely, those who are learning a third language and those who are learning a foreign language as their mother tongue in lieu. The alumni of this school are poised to be powerful instruments and players in Singapore’s globalisation policy simply because they have widened their communication capabilities.

Agape School of Education understands the importance of learning another language. Our unique teaching approach incorporates language skills and culture to facilitate a better understanding of the language. Our curriculum is tailored to follow the MOELC curriculum and we adhere to their linguistic standards. This way, our students are always in sync with their school work and there is no gap in their learning process. Our small group sizes ensure the students get the quality time and interaction they need in class. We also offer private classes that are customisable to the individual student’s needs. Contact us today for more information!

3 things you need when learning a new language

When I found out that my family would be moving to Singapore, I realised that I would need to pick up a ‘mother tongue’ in secondary school. Growing up in America hadn’t exposed me to the Singaporean system, but I knew enough from stories that my cousins told me to know it was tough. Scary and tough. I had to put on my battle gear and prepare for the war!

Unfortunately, my actual ‘mother tongue’, Malayalam, was not offered as an acceptable language then, as it is now. In those days, most of us picked from the typical Mandarin, Bahasa Malay or Tamil. Luckily for me, because I entered the local system much later, I was exempted from the three main languages and allowed to choose a foreign language in lieu.

I was thrilled and most people who have taken Tamil will understand why. The alphabets alone can give you a headache. The choice between French and German was a no-brainer. I had always loved the French language, the culture and the croissants. Laissez-faire, you might call it.

Even then, a year before I would have to start French lessons, I wanted to learn it on my own. Such was my naivete. I borrowed an old audiobook (a cassette audiobook!) from the library and tried very hard for the 2 weeks that I had the loan. Needless to say, 2 weeks is not enough and an old audiobook from the 80’s is not a good reference. Still, to this day, I remember the first and only thing I learnt from that audiobook: “Mon anniversaire est le 12 Juillet”.

Basically, I wanted to tell everyone when my birthday was so I could get lots of presents. That never happened, but I did realise that French was MUCH harder than I had expected and that I needed a book from this century.

When I started French at the Ministry of Education Language Centre, the curriculum was gruelling and the language seemed more foreign than ever. I started to fail at a subject that I genuinely found interesting and loved! I realised I needed to truly immerse myself in the language. I was on a mission. Here are some tips that really helped me:

  1. Une tasse pas un verre.
    I translated my house. I put up French translations for items and rooms all over my house. For a good three years, each room in my house, every kitchen item and every piece of furniture had a sticker with its French translation. Thanks to this nifty trick, I was constantly revising my vocabulary!
  2. I watched movies and listened to music
    This was probably the most fun part of learning a new language. I got to use it as a reason to watch TV or listen to music! Granted most of the French shows I managed to rent or CDs I bought were extremely old, but it was very useful when it came to getting pronunciation and inflection in my speech. Since then, my oral exams have always been my forte.
  3. Aidez-moi!
    Most of the students at the MOELC are top students from the top schools who qualified to take a foreign language as a third language. Therefore, mother tongue-in-lieu students were rare. So, the gap between the learning ability of the top students and myself was, many a time, wide. It was understandable that my class teacher was busy catering to the needs of many students and couldn’t always explain to me why they say “J’ai chaud” instead of “Je suis chaud”. I knew it would be important to get a teacher who could focus their attention on me and, more importantly, motivate me to learn my verbs.

Like all happy endings, I improved, but took a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Through my journey in French, I have discovered that:

  1. My true love is not a croissant, but brioche.
  2. The French movies and songs I used to listen to were probably older than my mother.
  3. The francophonie Français is so huge that French is spoken on almost every continent.

I have used my French knowledge to help me get exchange opportunities during my university, apply for jobs and even land clients, even though I don’t work for an international company. I have found that learning a foreign language has helped me understand my own mother tongue and even the English language better. Apart from the undeniable benefits to brain function, learning French helps me think more logically.

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.