Lecturer Spotlight: Learning English With Rajamalar Sabapathy

We give the spotlight to Taylor’s College’s English lecturer, Ms Rajamalar Sabapathy as she shares how she encourages her students when it comes to learning English.

Learning English is more than just for the books. It’s a life skill. We speak to Ms Rajamalar Sabapathy, an English lecturer for both Foundation and Diploma programmes at Taylor’s College to find out her fun approaches to getting her students to brush up on their English language skills!

Q: They say that you’re what you read. Do share with us  your  favourite book or reading material and why do you love it?


A: I truly believe in reading as I love to read anything and everything. I personally enjoy reading historical books, relaying facts, and hard-to-believe wonders because they give me a sense of knowing, which is helpful as I often need to explain to students random facts about a word or a matter and tell them how it all began to make them understand.     

As a child, my favourite was A Time to Kill, a legal thriller written by John Grisham, which introduced me to many new things in life I wasn’t aware of. To me, what’s most important when reading a book is the empathy and compassion that’s portrayed. 

I also enjoy books by Shakespeare and would read them over again because they’re simply classics that can’t die off.

Q: Growing up, have you always wanted to be in the teaching profession? What or who inspired you to teach English?


A: Never in my wildest dream have I thought of being in the teaching profession. To be exact, the thought of teaching came about when I was in high school and I’d to lead a project. With extensive reading and research, I was able to explain and get my team members working on it beautifully. That’s when I realised my ability to explain, make people understand, and transmit whatever I know to send the message across. That’s when I thought I probably should teach. 

I’ve also loved English since young, reading Shakespeare and dwelling on Treasure Island. 

The English language has always been my most loved subject in school as well. My teachers have always emphasised the importance of learning English and mastering the language and thus organised many activities to enhance our command and interest.

Q: What do you love the most about the English language?


A: Its ability to connect everyone with simple words. You don’t need to learn the entire language or know the grammar to convey basic or daily used messages across. When you speak English, these simple and magical words such as ‘please’, ‘thank you’, and ‘sorry’ connect us together as they create empathy and a sense of ‘helping’. Knowing just these, you can survive the entire day.

Q: Not everyone thinks that learning English is fun especially when it comes to grammar or writing essays. How do you make learning English more interesting or interactive in class?

Mr Lim Yaw Loong and his students

A: I must agree, many are able to converse but are afraid to write. Well, I usually start my class by asking everyone to speak English freely to one another. This is to boost their confidence in knowing that they’re able to use the language. You don’t just speak with words but with your body language. When you start to speak English, you begin to understand the words, memorisation patterns, and learn the arrangement. Then the basic grammar exposure comes along to make them understand the usage. 

Once these two steps are done, I’ll ask my students to construct a 5-6 line paragraph which will be read in class. This will allow them to listen to others and take cues and encourage them to use the language more often. 

It’s important to also explain to students that you can apply whatever you learn during English lessons in any other subjects and modules — be it your thesis or projects. Learning English isn’t just for your exam subject but it’s for life. Telling students the practicality of it motivates them to master the language.

Q: Some students struggle with learning English. What's the most challenging aspect and how do you get students to tackle it?


A: The crimp here is to make the students speak English in my class as many use their mother tongue to communicate. I tell my students to only speak English during my lesson and when they see me, they know they’ve to speak English. 

To overcome this slowly but surely, I start off with relaxing sessions. It's called relaxing because the students are asked to speak about anything and everything, be it their likes or dislikes. This will bring them to open up gradually.  Whether it’s a book they read yesterday or if they want to share a not-very-good experience, they can vent about anything. I give them assurance that whatever they say will stay in class to get them to open up.

Q: Instead of learning the language, some people rely on Google Translate or other online language translators to communicate. Why is learning the English language more important than relying on these?


A: I've to acknowledge that translators are here to stay. They've helped individuals with the language but they only give you the literal meaning but don’t help you to master the language. The translators help us understand the meaning of a particular word which may be used or mean differently in a different language. Therefore it’s still important to learn the grammar and its usage in mastering not just the English language, but any other language. The tools are helpful but aren’t the most important.

Q: Tell us a fun activity you did to get students to be more motivated in learning English!


A: Students are motivated when they’re able to be communicative in class. Therefore, I conduct fun activities that can trigger their interest by encouraging language experiences outside the classroom. For instance, I’ve taken my students to sit in front of the lake on campus to write and recite a poem. Initially, they were shy, but after a while they got comfortable and when they started reciting the poems, people also stopped to listen which worked well to boost their confidence.

Q: Do you have a memorable project you've done with your students you'd like to share?

Mr Lim Yaw Loong and his students

A: Yes. Before I joined the School of Pre-University Studies, I was attached to the School of Hospitality & Tourism. I remember it was a Thursday, 4pm class. My students were just done with their kitchen practicals and they smelled like butter and all sorts.  

As I was conducting my lesson, a student spoke up and said, “Ms, we’re culinary students. Why do we need to learn English grammar?” That got me thinking and so I spoke to my boss. I realised I needed to change and make it interesting to cater to their needs. 

That’s when I came up with the idea of setting up a cooking show. The students would have to come up with their recipes and a script, and then select a host and cook who’d have to explain their recipe in front of the camera. We then booked a studio to host the cooking show. That's when they started using the vocabulary and understood the importance of learning English. Long story short, it was a very big success.


Inspired to brush up on your English language skill? We sure are! Remember, all you need to do is to start speaking the language and it’ll come naturally with practice. Good luck! 

For pre-university programme enquiries, don’t be shy to reach out to our education counsellors here!

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