Thursday, December 24, 2015

Common English Mistakes: Present Simple and Present Continuous

Here is a list of common mistakes in the use of the present simple and present continuous:

1. infinitive without -s or -es (or has) with third person singular subjects (he, she, it, etc.)
Christina (= she) go to English classes every week. (incorrect)
Christina goes to English classes every week. (correct)

My brother (= he) have a thick dinosaur book. (incorrect)
My brother has a thick dinosaur book. (correct)

2. be + infinitive
am eat bread every morning. (incorrect)
eat bread every morning. (correct)

She's like me very much. (incorrect)
She likes me very much. (correct)

Barry likes Christina. (= Barry is interested in Christina, probably because she is kind, smart, etc.)
In this sentence:
likes = verb

Barry is like Christina. (= Barry is similar to Christina. For example, Barry is nice and Christina is nice too. Barry's hobby is reading and Christina's hobby is reading too.)
In this sentence:
is = verb
like = preposition

3. only v-ing (without be)
Johnny cooking in the kitchen. (incorrect)
Johnny is cooking in the kitchen. (correct)

Be quiet! My children sleeping. (incorrect)
Be quiet! My children are sleeping. (correct)

4. using the present simple when the present continuous should actually be used instead, and vice versa
What are you doing? ~ I have lunch now. (incorrect)
What are you doing? ~ I'm having lunch now. (correct)

She is visiting her uncle once a year. (incorrect)
She visits her uncle once a year. (correct)

I hope this article is useful for you! Keep on loving English!
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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Jakarta vs. Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

I've always been interested in Southeast Asian countries (the first country that got me interested is Thailand). However, the country that has made me 'infatuated' is the one where Ha Long Bay, one of the New7Wonders of Nature, is located: Vietnam.


I am from Indonesia, an archipelago republic with a great number of volcanoes dotting the country and stunning scenery stretching from west to east. Jakarta, the capital, is a bustling city chock-a-block with people from all walks of life trying to continue to survive on this planet. Twenty-five years has been spent residing in this metropolis and I plan to find bread and butter in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly called Saigon – I guess the locals prefer the term "Saigon" to "Ho Chi Minh City" ("Saigon" is sometimes abbreviated as "SG", which can lead to confusion as Singapore is often referred to as "SG" as well). The question is: Why Saigon?

First, let's get this out of the way; Saigon is NOT the capital city of Vietnam–Hanoi, which is located in the north rather than the south, is. However, it is the largest city in Vietnam and is comparable to Jakarta. My first trip to Saigon, which lasted from 9 to 16 June 2014, simply swept me off my feet! And, subconsciously, during what I call "a life-changing adventure", I learned a lot about the differences between both cities. Curious? Here we go!

1. People

Vietnamese gathering at 30/4 Park, Saigon
(photo taken on February 28, 2016)

Me with Ron Le, a Vietnamese friend, at a restaurant in Saigon
(photo taken on February 29, 2016)

An Indonesian family

To my knowledge, Indonesians, including Jakartans, are some of the friendliest people on the globe. An example would be if you go shopping at malls in Jakarta, you'll definitely encounter shop assistants smiling at you and greeting you warmly. I am not saying that Saigonese are rude; they are amiable as well, but, in my opinion, Jakartans take this to a higher level.

As for prosperity, a huge wealth gap can be clearly seen in Jakarta. Just use a crossing bridge and you will most likely come across beggars sitting with their shabby clothes, hoping for a bit of compassion. On the other hand, Saigonese look more or less the same all over the city. When I was there, I NEVER saw any beggars. How surprising! This is probably due to the fact that Vietnam is a socialist country, while Indonesia is a democratic one.

Speaking of style, on the whole, Jakartans are more stylish than Saigonese. And this is even truer when it comes to men. Jakartan men display more hairstyles than their counterparts in Saigon. However, Saigonese girls are fashionable in a way that is close to that of those in Jakarta.

A street in Saigon when the light is red
(photo taken on June 10, 2016)

A street in West Jakarta
(photo taken on September 5, 2015)

Let's move on to behavior. To be frank, people in Saigon are much more orderly than those living in Jakarta. People running a red light is not an uncommon sight for Jakartans. Wrong-way driving is something that people here are used to. Saigonese people, in general, are much more compliant. That's why I felt ashamed when I discovered this fact...

2. Food and drink

Phở bò, a popular Vietnamese beef noodle dish
(photo taken on March 5, 2016)

Bún bò Huế, a popular Vietnamese soup dish from Huế, a city in central Vietnam
(photo taken on June 12, 2014)

Nasi tumpeng, an Indonesian traditional food

Indonesian foods: grilled chicken, sayur asem, etc.

I have to say that Jakarta is a must-visit for all foodies in the world. Indonesian foods, made with lots of herbs and spices, are rich in taste (rendang, a West Sumatran dish, is the most delicious food in the world according to CNNGo readers) and you can find most, if not all, of them in Jakarta. In contrast, Vietnamese foods generally taste plain; however, they boast a wide variety of vegetables and often contain a large amount of water (I think this explains why I almost never saw full-figured people in Saigon; you'll see people with more body shapes in Jakarta). So, if you are looking for mouth-watering foods, come to Jakarta. If you are craving for healthy foods, visit Saigon.

Cà phê sữa (milk coffee) in a coffee shop in Saigon
(photo taken on January 21, 2015)

How about drinks? I guess they are more or less similar. Milk tea and that kind of thing are popular in both cities, though I guess coffee is more popular in Saigon – you can find coffee shops all around the city.

3. Buildings, infrastructures, etc.

A view of Saigon (1)
(photo taken on June 12, 2014)

A view of Saigon (2)
(photo taken on June 11, 2014)

A view of Saigon (3)
(photo taken on June 11, 2014)

A view of Jakarta (1)
(photo taken on September 23, 2015)

A view of Jakarta (2)
(photo taken on April 8, 2016)

A view of Jakarta (3)
(photo taken on April 25, 2016)

Firstly, Saigon is much more well-structured than Jakarta. If you get around the city, you'll see lots of similarities between one place and another (the arrangement of streets, etc.). In Jakarta, things are quite different. A set of tremendous buildings there and a sheer slum here. Very wide streets there and super narrow ones here. Again, this is likely because of the democracy-socialism difference.

Talking about sanitation, honestly, Saigon is much cleaner than Jakarta. I was knocked off my feet when I was there for the first time. What an amazing city! In Jakarta, some places are free from garbage, dust, and so on, whereas in others, fetid smell is ready to stimulate your brain.

AEON MALL in Tân Phú District, Saigon
(photo taken on June 12, 2014)

A park near my hotel, District 10, Saigon
(photo taken on June 15, 2014)

Grand Paragon Mall, Jakarta
(photo taken on September 11, 2015)

Malls. We have an enormous number of them! (In fact, if I'm not mistaken, Jakarta is the city with the most malls in the world.) And, from my viewpoint, there are too many of them! By contrast, Saigon has an ideal number of malls and it provides its residents with plenty of parks, which I think are what is needed by people in Jakarta to lead a both physically and mentally healthy life. (I miss them so much!)

A host of motorcycles in Saigon
(photo taken on June 12, 2014)

Transjakarta buses are seen at Harmoni crossroads, Central Jakarta
(photo taken on June 2, 2016)

Transportation is an interesting topic to discuss. Jakartans use a broad range of means of transportation: cars, motorcycles, buses, angkots (public transportation in the form of cars designed in such a way that they can carry more people), etc. The ratio of cars to motorcycles in Jakarta is approximately 2:3. In Saigon, surprisingly the ratio is very different, probably 1:17. However, what made me bite my nails was the fact that buses in Saigon are much, much better than those in Jakarta. First of all, most of them are air-conditioned. They are also cleaner, less crowded and in better condition. It is true that Jakarta has the Transjakarta service, which offers comfortable buses to passengers (it is not fully true, though, as there are some routes that are served by poorly maintained buses), but there are many, many buses which should NOT operate anymore due to their horrible conditions. What is more, Saigonese buses only pick up and drop off passengers at certain places (bus stops), while in Jakarta, apart from Transjakarta buses, passengers can get on and off buses anywhere. When I was in Saigon, I didn't have to wait long to take a bus. In Jakarta, a lot of irritating experiences have happened to me. It once took me around one hour to catch a bus to get to work!

4. Costs of living
Things are slightly more expensive in Jakarta than in Saigon. However, there isn't too much difference. The ratio of the cost of living in Saigon to that in Jakarta is more or less 4:5.

I hope this article could be a good read to end the year of 2015. Have you ever been to Jakarta and Saigon? What do you think of them? Please let me know in the Comments section below. :) Have a terrific day! ^^
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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Vietnam to Stop Lê Văn Mạnh's Execution

Le Van Manh's Case:

Give your support:

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

5 Recommended Websites for Learning English

It is 2015 and I guess English still stands out and remains the world's lingua franca. Despite my fondness for learning other languages like Filipino, English is still my pet one – in what other languages can I find high quality dinosaur books? Thanks to technology, learning this 26-letter language has become much easier. Here are 5 websites that I use to improve my English proficiency and, hopefully, will help you master the language as well! Check them out!

1. EnglishClub
A simply named website, EnglishClub contains tons of useful learning materials. It is something you could always return to as this website covers a wide range of English language aspects, from grammar to punctuation to word stress. Personally I am keen on the "of the day" features, which give you a new idiom, phrasal verb, saying, and slang expression every day!

2. Espresso English
Don't get mistaken; Espresso English is not about coffee, but it will be your cup of tea! I haven't explored this website much but I enjoy reading the blog a lot; it consists of lots of fabulous, well-structured, easy-to-understand articles about idioms, vocabulary, useful phrases, etc.

3. TED
Strictly speaking, TED is not a website for learning English or any other languages. Yet, it proves to be a great tool for developing your listening skills. Practice listening by watching talks about a vast range of ideas and turn on the English subtitles when needed. You can also access the videos on its YouTube channel.

4. engVid
Want to learn English with native speaker teachers online? Just visit engVid! As you might have guessed, engVid offers a myriad of helpful videos presented by experienced English teachers, some, or most, of which have subtitles with them. The topics are varied, from pronunciation tips to soft English expressions. I like Adam's and Emma's teaching styles because their explanations are simple and understandable. You can access the videos on its YouTube channel as well.

5. Macmillan Dictionary
What? You might have been a bit confounded. Well, to learn English – and any other languages, I guess – you need a good dictionary; and for that reason, Macmillan Dictionary exists! This dictionary will surely make things a lot easier for you. What makes me crazy about this dictionary is that it uses simple language for its definitions. What is more, it provides information about countability, synonyms, collocates, and the 'Get It Right' feature, which will definitely help you avoid common mistakes.
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Monday, July 13, 2015

How to Be Good at English (Part 2)

As I'm getting older (and so everyone is), I'm becoming more and more aware of the importance of this wide spoken language – English. My international friend base is continuously expanding and it is English that unites us. I've already written an article about how to be good at English; however, this piece of writing contains more personal and detailed information. Curious? Here they are, four techniques I use to boost my English proficiency!

1. Watch videos online

Oh, come on! We live in the Internet era and myriad online videos are waiting for you to be watched! The site I visit is – as you might have expected – YouTube. Firstly, I watch videos without subtitles, trying to get the message. Then, if there are any words I couldn't catch, I watch the parts which they are in with a subtitle on. Your pronunciation awareness will certainly increase – you'll know which syllable the stress of a word is on, accustom yourself to connected speech, etc. You could watch Ted Talks – I've seen some people giving engaging speeches – as subtitles are provided.

2. Read novels

You might be thinking, Why novels? The quick answer is because they contain lots of words, or in other words, a great amount of language. I used to hate novels, actually, but I ended up falling in love with them after realizing their efficacies. If you want to learn a language, you have to expose yourself to as much language as possible – and novels would be your great helpers. By reading novels, you get hosts of new words, new collocations, new idioms, etc. Don't know the meaning of a word? Before looking it up in your dictionary, which is something you should keep at hand, try to guess it by looking at the context – look at the words and/or sentences surrounding it. For example, take a look at this text:

John went into the forest and saw a XXXX. Strangely, it didn't bite him; it passed by him instead.

What is XXXX?

Premise 1: It was in the forest.
Premise 2: Strangely, it didn't bite.
Premise 3: It passed by John.

Conclusion: XXXX might be an animal (based on the fact the pronoun 'it' is used and points 1 and 3: animals are common in forests and moving is an activity typical of an animal) and it was probably a predator (based on point 2: the writer had expected XXXX to bite John).

On top of that, reading will increase your grammatical accuracy awareness. Unconsciously, you'll realize the existence of new structures and your brain will click when people use them incorrectly!

Tip: Find a novel that is right up your alley. You don't want to fall asleep when reading it!

3. Talk to yourself

What? Yeah, it seems strange. But since I can't find a language partner – I hope you have found one or will – I myself am my language partner. One 'trick' I use is to create sentences (about 4–5) every time I learn a new phrase, structure, or anything. For example, I would say to myself something like "Have ever you visited Saigon? She's been my girlfriend for two years. Mr. Masrani has worked for his company since 2010," if I were learning about the present perfect simple. I would always strive for a high level of fluency before I move on to the next point. Sometimes I also combine several grammar points, for example by telling a story that comprises a number of tenses. Other times I use an idiom with different tenses. Basically I do lots of experiments! This method turns out to be very effective to me, and you could give it a shot.

4. Write a blog

Yeah, actually what I'm doing now is one of the ways to brush up on my English – to practice writing. By writing a blog, I can make use of all the English things I've learned in a free and creative way, while being able to express my ideas to the public at the same time. And another piece of good news is it is gratis – I created this account without any rupiah or dong.

You may have noticed that all these points relate to the four language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. However, don't limit yourself! Besides these, I also do other English-enhancing things like reading news items online and enlarging my vocabulary through websites such as Espresso English. Another important thing is to make sure your effort is as closely related to your interest as much as possible since you will progress faster. I wish you all the best on your English journey!
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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Common English Mistakes That Vietnamese Make

I love Vietnam! In fact, I want to work and live there (I hope I can do it next year). I have quite a lot of Vietnamese friends, some of whom I have already met in person. I've been to Ho Chi Minh City twice and now I still feel the wonder of it. Well, since I can't communicate in Vietnamese well (I'm learning it, though), I interact with my Vietnamese friends in English. Here are some common mistakes made by Vietnamese, based on my experience. I hope this list will be useful for Vietnamese who want to learn/are learning English and for other people too!

Note: I will keep this post updated.

1. "have" instead of "there is/are"
To talk about existence, Vietnamese often use "have", not "there is/are".

• Have one teacher here. (should be There is one teacher here.)
• Have five people in my office. (should be There are five people in my office.)

2. no be
Vietnamese tend to omit be forms (am, is, are, etc.).

• My friend beautiful. (should be My friend is beautiful.)
• My father at home (last week). (should be My father was at home.)

3. no articles
Vietnamese tend to leave out articles (a/an and the).

• I in office. (should be I am in the office.)
• Yesterday my sister went to bookstore. (should be Yesterday my sister went to a bookstore.)

4. infinitives with third person singular subjects in the simple present
When using the simple present, Vietnamese tend to use infinitives with third person singular subjects (he, she, and it).

• My mother cook for me. (should be My mother cooks for me.)
• My brother go to school every day. (should be My brother goes to school every day.)

5. no -s or -es in plural forms
Vietnamese tend to use singular forms where plural forms should be used instead.

• I want to buy two apple. (should be I want to buy two apples.)
• She have a lot of friend. (should be She has a lot of friends.)

6. no prepositions
Vietnamese often leave out prepositions.

• I listening music. (should be I'm listening to music.)
• Wait me. (should be Wait for me.)

7. ending sounds
Vietnamese have difficulty in pronouncing ending sounds.

• "Ll" in "will" and "kill" is pronounced like the second 'u' in "usual". (the /u/ sound is pronounced instead of the /l/ sound)
• "Rice" is pronounced like "ry" in "cry". (the /s/ sound is not pronounced)
• "Always" is pronounced like "alway". (the /z/ sound is not pronounced)
• "D" in "seaweed" is pronounced like "sh" in "wish". (the /ʃ/ sound is pronounced instead of the /d/ sound)
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Friday, February 6, 2015

The Dinosaur Four – Book Review

The Dinosaur Four
by Geoff Jones

On January 28, I came back from Ho Chi Minh City to Jakarta and found this long-awaited book at home! Yeah, I'd ordered a copy of The Dinosaur Four by Geoff Jones last year and got it this year (one year?). :) The Dinosaur Four is a novel about a blood-pumping adventure of ten people trapped together 67 million years ago, in the Age of Dinosaurs. The plot is gripping; it will undoubtedly keep readers riveted throughout the ride. Deep characterizations and the author's writing style are some other points that I like about this novel. Although the author depicts gore, he also puts humor which I think adds to the appeal of this book. The Dinosaur Four is an enjoyable read to kill your time and satisfy your fantasy 'appetite'. It is highly recommended for sci-fi, thriller, as well as dinosaur lovers. Continue reading..