Inspiring Teachers Awards: Ms Wang helped me score A1 for Chinese even though I'm not a native speaker

Studying Mandarin as a second language was a challenge for Memta who did not grow up speaking or learning it.

However, her Chinese teacher at Tanjong Katong Girls' School, Ms Wang Fang's efforts in using creative and innovative methods of absorbing the language greatly helped Memta who thrived and eventually scored an A1 for her Chinese O-level exam.

Here is Memta's entry for the Samsung-Stomp Inspiring Teachers Awards:

"Mastering a foreign language is like playing music. Some people think playing music means to be able to hit the right notes well, or that the whole intention of playing is to reach the finale. I, however, think that the aim of music is discovered in every instant of playing and listening to it from the heart.

"It is the same, I feel, in language learning, and if we are too focused on perfecting every phrase or sentence, we lose the essence of writing and speaking naturally. This is one of the most important lessons that I learnt from my Chinese language teacher, Ms Wang Fang.

"I took Mandarin Chinese as my second language despite being of Indian descent. My most inspiring teacher till today has been Ms Wang Fang, to whom I dedicate this award.

"Ms Wang taught me Chinese at Tanjong Katong Girls’ School. On the first day of class, she was surprised to see me as she had initially thought that I had walked into the wrong classroom since I was the only non-Chinese student in her class.

"As a non-Chinese student taking Chinese as a mother tongue language, I faced many trials and tribulations with the language in school as neither of my parents, who are both Indian, speak Chinese.  

"Linguistic skills are most easily acquired from one’s environmental exposure and when one uses the language. It was a tough journey learning the language as I was not in an environment conducive to capturing the Chinese language, unlike the rest of my classmates.

"Ms Wang inspired me by giving me immense opportunities to use the language in various ways.

"One of my challenges in mastering Chinese was in spoken pronunciation, especially of Chinese words that sound similar but have different meanings. Ms Wang gave me the opportunity to be a Chinese-speaking emcee for the National Chinese News Production Competition in 2012.

"She believed in me and challenged me to use this occasion to improve my oral skills and scale new heights.

"Ms Wang encouraged me to go beyond classroom learning and to use creative and innovative methods of absorbing the language.

"For example, she advised me to tape up the English subtitles on the television screen while watching Channel 8 programmes.

"With the advent of the smartphone, Ms Wang urged me to use my Samsung smartphone to record videos of myself speaking and presenting in the Chinese language so that I could spot my mistakes and correct these. The smartphone also allowed me to input Hanyu Pinyin words to obtain the respective Chinese characters and vice versa.

"These occasions, opportunities and endeavours slowly but surely built up my self-confidence, self-esteem and self-belief. In fact, all these combined to help me excel in the Chinese language.

"Through Ms Wang’s classes, my participation during lessons and our interactions, my teacher and guide came to understand my background better and became more aware of the challenges that I faced. She aroused my appreciation and a keen understanding of the language by clearly explaining the nuances of Chinese idioms, the structure of pictograms used to form Chinese characters and the use of minor differences in phrases that communicate subtly different emotive feelings.

"In fact, even today, some six years after I had left secondary school, I am still in touch with Ms Wang and what is more, I communicate with her in Chinese on WhatsApp on my smartphone.

"I am truly grateful to Ms Wang Fang for her dedicated commitment, captivating enthusiasm and for being a great motivating factor enabling me to overcome the immense challenges that I faced in mastering the language.

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” — Writer William Arthur Ward.

"Ms Wang embodies the fourth category of the quote above – she was truly a great teacher.

"She is the reason I achieved an A1 in my Chinese GCE O-Level Examinations with a Distinction in Chinese Oral.

"I remember her crying tears of joy when I ran towards her with my certificate during the school’s examination result announcements.

"She poured passion into her teaching and inspired me to do the same with learning.

"She not only empowered me to be an excellent communicator in the Chinese language but has also inspired me to become a future teacher, which is the career path that I have chosen for myself now.  

"In fact, it is my belief that the greatest gift that one can give to society is the gift of imparting knowledge, learning and education.  Ms Wang has done that and I shall continue the tradition."

The contest is now closed and winners will be contacted shortly.

Read all entries for the contest here.