Friday, July 9, 2010

MUET Is About (Language) Skills

According to the MUET Regulations, Test Specifications and Test Format booklet furnished by the MPM (or the Malaysian Examinations Council) the Test aims to measure the English language proficiency of candidates planning to pursue tertiary studies at Malaysian universities.

Grammar per se, it is not taught as a subject matter in MUET. It might be taught sporadically, here and there, where the need arises, as we go along. The English embodied in MUET is an entity raring to go into action. A widely accepted fact is that grammar itself had been, directly or subtly, taught in class for so many years before pre-university (in school, let's say ... eleven years?)

MUET is about skills: listening skills, speaking skills, reading skills and writing skills. Yeah, skills and ... skills and ... skills ...

Grammar is used in the execution of language skills. Wrong grammar, the skills go a-limping, wrong grammar - the skills kaput. Wrong grammar, (heh, heh, heh ...) people will laugh at you!

Examples of Language Skills Imparted in MUET:-

Skills: recalling information; recognising main ideas; distinguishing fact from opinion
"In reality, listening is used far more that any other single language skill in normal life. On average, we can expect to listen twice as much as we speak, four times more than we read and five times more than we write." - Rivers 1981: Weaver 1972

Speaking Skills: using grammatically correct language; using language appropriate for the intended purpose and audience; using varied vocabulary and expressions;
"The secret of successful speakers? Passion and compassion with a purpose." - Lily Walters

Reading Skills: skimming and scanning; understanding linear an non-linear texts; understanding language functions;
point to ponder:
"Being able to read is ... a skill that every learner must develop over time and with great deal of practice." - David E. Eskey.

Writing Skills: using correct grammar; using clear, varied sentences; using appropriate markers and linking devices.
"Writing skills can be developed through practice. True ease in writing comes from art, not chance." - Gloria M Russo

Have you got the skills?

Note: Quotations sourced from Cynthia Richards et. al. 2008

Should you want to know more MUET skills, well ... look at the tabs up there and choose the "syllabus" tab and click.  The syllabus also lists out the skills in MUET. 

Happy reading!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Creativity For Survival

A Speaking Scenario

More often than not, students in my class tend to be cool (or cold?). "Engines" have not been "warmed up" yet. Minds do not seem to be in class, they are "somewhere else".  When it comes to doing a speaking activity, e.g. the situation "What is the most important quality of a good citizen?".

Candidate A's task: He has to say 'patriotic", candidate B should say 'heroic' and so forth ... Oftentimes the students would say, "Sir, ... blur ...." Although the situation and the task items look so simple. These are one-worded tasks, but are still daunting and the students seem to be at lost. "No idea!" is what they will say, "Blur!" ... and so on.  Their minds do not focus on the tasks- maybe we can call that - the early morning "blur" syndrome!

One way, that's it - one way, and not the only way to overcome this "cold engine" problem is: students could play a simple game called "Tangram". In this game the students' creativity is being honed to a higher level as creativity can help to alleviate the "cold engine" syndrome.

Some students may have experienced tangram in certain motivational courses where motivators or 'faci.s' encourage them to play that game as often as possible so that they train their brains and minds to be more creative. With creativity they can 'twist and turn' their way around and about problems and solve them. We can find quite a number of sites in the web that explain tangram, its origins and history, etc.

(example) The game of Tangram: What do they 'see' in a triangle: A nose? A tree? A cone? Roof of a house? A stealth bomber? An arrow tip? As you can see the mind will start to work and wake up from its 'sleep'. Our minds can be trained to look at a problem as something that should be solved, not to be stared at bleakly.

In MUET they should approach their tasks, whether in Speaking or Writing, with a certain degree of maturity inherent in Pre-University students and not with simplistic avoidance.  Do you see what I mean?