Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Quote #33

"A society is at its lowest level when there is persecution of those who proclaim and advocate the truth." - Klinsman Hinjaya
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Friday, January 5, 2018

Quick Tips on the IELTS Test

Many people in the world would like to pursue their dreams by continuing their studies in their favorite universities or working in top global companies. If the organizations are located in English-speaking countries, it is very likely that one of the requirements is in the form of a test or exam such as TOEFL or IELTS. In this article, I am going to give you quick tips for achieving a good (or even great) band score on the IELTS test.

One of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” This is just true in the case of IELTS taking. Before you face the real test, make sure you devote a sufficient amount of time to getting prepared for it.

The very first thing you should do is to familiarize yourself with the test format and band score criteria. You have to be able to answer questions such as How many and what types of questions are there in the Listening part?, How many texts are there in the Reading component and how long does it last?, What is the minimum number of words do test-takers have to write in the IELTS Writing? In addition, keep in mind what you have to do so as to achieve your desired band score. For instance, to reach a band score of 8 in the IELTS Speaking, you must “use paraphrase effectively as required”, and to attain a 7 in Writing Task 1, you have to “use a variety of complex structures”. Knowing these will be of great mental advantage to you in tackling the exam, with good time management being one of the results.

Possessing that knowledge alone is not enough. In order to succeed in the IELTS, you also need to do a substantial amount of practice. It is highly advisable that you do many practice tests. Make sure you practice carrying out the various possible task types; for example, in the IELTS Reading there are multiple choice, identifying information, identifying the writer’s views/claims, matching information, matching headings, and so on. What is more, put a lot of effort into honing the skills that are required to get your target band score – these might include paraphrasing and using complex structures (see above). Learning with an IELTS tutor can be very helpful too as they can monitor your progress and give you feedback based on your performance – what is already good and what still needs to be improved on.

Last but not least (and perhaps one that is often forgotten or missed by IELTS participants), ensure that you are physically fit and remain calm during the test. Nourish your body with plenty of nutrients and, while practicing can take a lot of energy, remember to always have enough rest and sleep. Taking an exam can also be especially stressful, with students sweating being a common sight in examination rooms. Getting nervous can lead to your mind going blank and it definitely reduces your chance of performing to the best of your abilities on the IELTS test. Test-takers might find the effect even stronger in the Speaking section, where they need to give responses to an examiner face-to-face. Therefore, relax and enjoy the “show” – relishing your favorite beverage before the test begins might help. Wish you the best of luck with the IELTS test!

Information about IELTS can be accessed at https://www.ielts.org.
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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Language Finds a Way

If the title rings a bell, chances are you are a dinosaur maniac, a sci-fi addict, or at least a moviegoer.

Yes, this curiosity-inducing title has been inspired by a popular quote uttered by American mathematician character Dr. Ian Malcolm in the 1993 blockbuster Jurassic Park. I believe, currently it's strongly reverberating all over the world in anticipation of the fifth installment of the franchise: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, slated to hit theaters on June 22 next year. It is always great to discuss dinosaurs, but now let's shift from a dinosaurian theme to a linguistic one.

I used to (and perhaps many people) think that language is something that is immune to change. It maintains its forms and features permanently and remains unaffected by any circumstance where it resides. Language is sort of comparable to religious dogma in the sense that you must accept it as it is and altering it is impossible – it would be deemed sacrilegious to attempt to make any changes to it. Language is a robust entity; it is invincible and stays the same all the time, retaining all of its characteristics. But is this true?

To answer this question, firstly, let's look at a very basic question: Why do we use language? Humans are inherently very social creatures and in order to make achievements possible, they often need to be able to express their ideas and feelings successfully as well as effectively to other members of their kind. That's where the role of language fits in. Language is simply a means of communication, intended for the good, development, advancement, and survival of our species.

With this in mind, it is easy to think that language is, quite the opposite, actually fluid. As I once put it on Facebook, just like creatures, language evolves. It adapts to the conditions as necessary and to try to prevent change is a futile act. "Functionality" is the watchword. The sheer variety of world languages itself points to the fact that language has transformed on a massive scale, and it keeps on changing – unstoppable. 'Pressure' from its surroundings inevitably modifies it and this process should be seen as a natural process and not an intimidating one.

Stan Carey excellently wrote in a Macmillan Dictionary Blog article that "the meanings and usage of words change all the time: new senses emerge, old ones fade or shift, and senses can vary greatly from one context to another." Not only that; language also constantly accepts new vocabulary. For instance, two centuries ago no-one had ever heard the words tyrannosaurid and even dinosaur, but now the terms are widely used, especially in paleontological and scientific contexts (note that the definition of dinosaur itself needs changing: many dinosaurs, such as Compsognathus and Velociraptor, are considered small and, scientifically speaking, birds are dinosaurs, so dinosaurs as a group are not extinct). In addition, as technology has advanced rapidly, a huge impact on the related vocabulary couldn't be resisted. This is clearly seen from the fact that the majority of the 15 words that have climbed in use most significantly over the past twenty years are technology-related, such as email and laptop (watch British linguist David Crystal talk about the internet's effects on language here).

The same fate also befalls other linguistic features, including grammar, which is probably often thought to be even more "stubborn". Michael Rundell, the Editor-in-Chief of the Macmillan Dictionary, stated in his Real Grammar article that "grammar is no different" from vocabulary and that it "can change over time." For example, starting as a verb, the word impact has undergone alterations in its history and now it is perfectly fine to use it either as a noun or a verb. In terms of pronunciation, rhotacism – whether or not r is pronounced in words like card – historically disappeared and emerged in English.

Change is the nature of language. It is unavoidable and it is actually good that language, uh, finds a way.
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Friday, December 15, 2017

Why I Don't Use Instagram

Thought-provoking title, isn’t it?

You might call me an old-fashioned or technologically down-to-date man – in fact, one of my best friends, who works as a doctor in a government hospital in North Jakarta, carries on keeping on continuing – I know I am being lebay (i.e. an Indonesian slang term for "exaggerating"), but there it is – insisting that I utilize the popular social media app. So, why don’t I do that? What prevents me clicking on the Play Store icon on my phone and, after several necessary steps, press the download button for the camera-logoed software?

I am from Indonesia, a wide-spanning, island-chunked country near to the kangaroo land Australia, and with a population of an enormous over 250 million people (hopefully I am right) and alay attitude present across the inhabitants (most of them are young adults), it is squarely a delish market for Instagram. And I think it is safe to say that its penetration and performance here is “highly successful”. A lot of my friends seem to love it and I can see their photos (and sometimes, or oftentimes, the accompanying deluges of hashtags) on my Facebook timeline since their Instagram accounts are linked to their Facebook. Again, the question remains the same: why don’t I have Instagram? (oh, well, different wording, but the same idea, right?)

The answer lies in my nature. I consider myself as someone who is ‘geared’ more towards functionality. I am not a kind of person who puts high importance on esthetics. It is reflected by the way I dress: I wouldn’t want to spend, say, 150 USD on fancy pieces of clothing – it would be better to use that much money to buy dinosaur books written by experts in the field since it will make me a more knowledgeable human and get me to a clearer understanding of the world. However, I do love taking and sharing pictures – with right doses. I do it occasionally, just when I feel it is necessary.

I am also a type of hominid who doesn’t like to follow mainstream trends – again, if they are not functional. I don’t feel Instagram would satisfy my needs as they have been fulfilled by, for example, Facebook. The sister company, I think, is the best social medium as it has all the features you would expect in such an app: you can upload photos and videos, you can post a status consisting of text only, you can create groups as well as pages, and so on and so forth. I do use other social media, for instance, LinkedIn and Twitter. I use the former because it provides a great platform in professional context (for networking, applying for jobs, etc.), while I created an account on the latter as it was ordered by my university lecturer in a character-building subject for a future assignment which she ended up not giving – thankfully, there is an upside of it: I can interact with science public figures such as British zoologist Dr. Darren Naish and Australian science writer John Pickrell. To me, the thought of having the latest version of the iPhone is just uninteresting and to be ignored: I am completely satisfied with my over-a-year-old Sony Xperia M2.

Now you might be asking: Will you ever use Instagram? Will I do that in the future? Maybe yes, maybe no. It depends: I will if I find that it will have a useful impact in my life.
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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Quote #30

"It is genuine smiles which are worthy, as opposed to fake ones, which are pernicious." - Klinsman Hinjaya
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