What I learned from a movie I watched recently…

Today I want to talk about a movie I recently watched called Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s a movie about Freddie Mercury and his band, Queen in the 70’s and 80’s. If you grew up listening to songs like “We are the Champions”, “We Will Rock You” and “Radio Ga Ga”, then you may like it. I personally enjoyed it.

I’m always finding the main takeaway from everything I watch, read or listen to. Regardless of whether I agree with its message or not, there’s always something to learn from other people’s work.

Bohemian Rhapsody is a movie based on the British rock band Queen who had countless number of hits – but also misses. They produced 188 songs all together (I Googled this number) and most of them I’ve never even heard of! I probably know and like about 10 of the songs.

But they were prolific. They kept on producing. They probably didn’t know which songs would be popular, and which wouldn’t be. But they did their thing and they got better at their craft after each attempt. The songs that became popular became legendary.

So the wisdom I take from this movie is about being prolific. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, prolific means “producing a great number or amount of something”. Being prolific makes you more confident as you hone your skills. So when you get better at something (from constant learning, practicing and producing), you become more confident too. It also improves other people’s confidence in you.

Now you might be thinking, Amnah, I’m not a singer or an artist. What does this have to do with learning and improving my English?

Well, do you want to be a confident English speaker?
Then find opportunities to voice your opinions and speak up as many times as you can.

Do you want to write better in English?
Write more in English and do it as much as you can.

Do you want to be good at public speaking?
Then that’s what you’re going to have to do more of.

The secret is to start small. You may want to begin by practising or sharing your work with a small group of people you trust first. Get their feedback on how you can improve. You could join a class or a course and apply the lessons you’ve learnt every day. Just keep doing whatever it is that you want to be better at.

Today’s post isn’t our normal English lesson. It’s more about reminding you and me to do the necessary work to get where we want to be.  Let’s start by taking these steps, no matter how small, to be more confident in communicating in English.

How to answer “Tell me about yourself.”

tell me about yourself

Have you ever entered a job interview and got asked “Tell me about yourself?”

And was this your reaction: Gulp! What do I say? There’s so much about me but where do I begin?!

This is why it’s so important to have your answers prepared in advance. You don’t need to memorise a script – this will make you sound stiff. Instead, you want to have a few points up your sleeve and elaborate from there.

Follow the steps below and practice by yourself or with a friend. You’ll want to sound natural and confident, so it pays to practice. You also want to keep your answer short — not more than two minutes. So time yourself when you practice. Any more than two minutes and your interviewer may lose interest.

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Grammar Lesson: Three types of tenses and how to use them


Today I want to write about three types of tenses that many (even advanced students) struggle with.

Take a look at the following sentences and pay attention to the tenses:

  1. Simple present tense: As I write this, it is 10:30 am.
  2. Present continuous tense: It is raining here in Kuala Terengganu.
  3. Present perfect continuous tense: It has been raining since this morning.

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Is it too late for me to improve my English?

We hear this all the time. “I’m already <age>. Is it too late for me to improve my English?” Or something along those lines.

People thinking they’re just too old, or it’s too late to do something, to learn something, to improve on something, to start something new.

Just a little over two years ago, Aisya, Azimah and I came up with the idea to help Malaysians with their English. We wanted it to be fun, easy to understand and practical for Malaysians. And we wanted it to be online.

speaking with confidence
Our first Facebook post in 2016.

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Do you go blank when you’re asked to speak spontaneously? Try this technique.

Last weekend we had our Speaking English with Confidence LIVE workshop at TTDI! We had a total of 24 students and over the course of two days, we had our students practice speaking spontaneously, sharing stories and role playing. Here’s a photo of last weekend’s event with our amazing students:

students workshop english

One of the things we noticed was that most people struggle with speaking spontaneously in front of a group or audience. So today I want to share with you one of the speaking frameworks that Madam Azimah taught during the workshop.
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How to sound polite in your emails

polite emails

After my post last week about the difference between “Please advise” and “Please advice”, we received a question from a student on how to sound polite in emails.

I’ve personally received emails where the sender sounded rude even when they didn’t mean to. I’ve also sent emails in a rush and only realised they sounded rude after hitting “send”!

This is something that we may struggle with because 1) English is our second language so we may tend to be more direct in writing, and 2) when we write, people can’t hear our tone of voice and may interpret straightforward language as rude or impolite.

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“Please advice” or “Please advise”?

Do you use “Please advice” or “Please advise” in your emails? Well, the correct phrase is actually “Please advise”.

Some grammar experts say that “Please advise” must have an object after the phrase because advise is a transitive verb. But since it’s widely used in our emails, “Please advise” is grammatically accepted. Just take note that some may argue “Please advise” sounds impolite, so try to use it sparingly or check that the content of your email doesn’t come across rude or demanding.

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My experience teaching English to my children…

Today I want to talk about my experience teaching English to my children. I hope this can inspire you to speak English with your children, or even motivate you to improve your own English speaking skills.

Believe it or not, even though we teach English here at MEM, I actually speak in Bahasa Malaysia with my three boys. One of them is almost eight, the second is five and the third is two years old.

english for children

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Confidence is the willingness to try

confidence try

I hope you’re having a great Thursday morning. I recently came across a short video by Mel Robbins, a motivational speaker, talking about confidence. She says “Confidence is not a skill. Confidence is the willingness to try.”

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The difference between it’s and its

its kitten

I’m going to be teaching you the difference between it’s and its. This was a request by one of our subscribers who wrote to us on our Facebook page.

So when do we use it’s and when do we use its?

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