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!

The Problem of Illiteracy

In general terms, illiteracy is an inability to use language, namely an inability to read, write, listen and speak. Today, it is usually taken to mean being unable to read and write at a level adequate for written communication or at a level that will allow an individual to function at certain levels of society. In the simplest of terms, illiteracy is the opposite of literacy.

In some societies, the standards for what constitute literacy are different from others. For example, some cultures believe that only people with skills such as computers skills and basic numeracy may be considered literate. This takes into account the fact that there are people who can add and subtract but can’t read letters as well as people who can learn to use a computer to a limited extent but may still not be able to read the text. One example is Scotland, which defines literacy as: “The ability to read and write and use numeracy, to handle information, to express ideas and opinions, to make decisions and solve problems, as family members, workers, citizens and lifelong learners.” That’s probably as specific as you can get in defining what literacy is all about.

On a global level, analysts and policy makers consider illiteracy rates as an important factor in a country’s or a region’s “human capital,” and with good reason, as it turns out. Based on numerous studies into this area, they conclude that literate people are easier and less expensive to train and have broader job opportunities and access to higher education. In Kerala, India, for example, female and child mortality rates declined dramatically in the 1960s, after girls who had been schooled to literacy in the education reforms after 1948 began to raise families. There are recent findings, however, that raise questions on correlations such as the one listed above, arguing that these may have more to do with the effects of schooling rather than literacy in general.

Illiteracy rates are highest among developing countries, especially those in the South Asian, Arab and Sub-Saharan African regions where illiteracy is prevalent among 40 to 50% of populations. The East Asian and Latin American regions also have relatively high illiteracy rates ranging from 10 to 15%. In contrast, the illiteracy rate in developed countries is only a few percent. However, it is important to note that illiteracy rates vary widely from country to country and often are directly proportionate to a country’s wealth or urbanisation level, although many other factors play a determining role.

​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.