25th June 2015 Written by Maureen Huang Education

Parlez-vous Français?

Learning a new language is more than just a learning experience. It’s a commitment to a new you, a commitment to a different culture, and a commitment to all the mind blanks, pitfalls and vulnerabilities that come with it.

Learning French for the past 2 and a bit years has definitely challenged my perception of how much I know of the English language. Don’t get me wrong; learning a language can make me feel like little kid in an adult bookstore. I see words I have no idea about, and when I try to pronounce these words, I start giggling at the sheer sound of them. I still remember saying ‘oui’ for the first time while trying not to laugh at my petty attempt to incorporate a Parisian accent into another word for doing a number one. Fast forward a few lessons later and I was learning how to describe my bedroom. How this would come up in natural conversation? I don’t know, but being tested on introducing myself and describing my surroundings just became a regular thing. I have no doubts that my French beginners teacher basically knew my bedroom like the back of his hand by the time I had finished the level.

It’s all fun and rewarding until you find out that you’ve spent 2 years learning the equivalent of what a11 year old French student would learn in primary school. So to serve as a reminder to me as to why I’m actually trying to do this whole ‘learning a language’ thing, I’ve tried to sum up the many perks (and a downfall) of learning a foreign language.


Remember what I said about how learning a new language is a commitment to a new you? I don’t just mean that in a figurative sense, as Charlemagne says “To have another language is to possess a second soul.” I know it sounds a little crazy but when you learn another language, you think in that language.

There have been countless times where I’ve talked to myself in French, both in my head and out loud, and realised half way that I’m actually using the language in everyday life (in the correct manner? Now that’s another question completely). And although it takes a while to get there, I guarantee you that the many ‘aha’ moments you confront outweigh the time and effort to reach that point.

Increased Cultural Sensitivity

Not only do you learn to speak the language better, learning a new language can help you be more aware of different cultural settings. Many cultures have different ways of behaving which are deemed acceptable. Learning a new language helps you build bridges across cultural gaps, helping you to shape your cultural fluency. Why do the Japanese make an effort to slurp their noodles? Why do the Taiwanese handle business cards with the utmost sacredness? Why does your friend ask you to leave your shoes at the entrance? These may be weird to some but learning a new language may give you a new respect for why people behave the way that they do.

Makes you Smarter

If this isn’t convincing enough, being able to speak a foreign language makes you smarter. Learning a foreign language enables your brain to recognise, make meaning and communicate in different language systems. Studies show that students who study foreign languages score better on standardised tests than those who are monolingual, people who are bilingual are also more perceptive to their surroundings, and their enhanced understanding of grammar, conjugations and sentence structure help improve their own English.  

Job Prospects

If you’re looking for a job, it isn’t just enough these days to own a degree. The difference between landing that job requires the ability to stand out from the crowd, and learning a new language may just be that one-way to stick out.

Knowing a second language can also lead to salary bonuses, according to The Economist here are a few secondary languages and their bonuses.

 -Spanish: 1.5 percent bonus

 -French: 2.3 percent bonus

 -German: 3.8 percent bonus

Language Faux Pas

There are very few downsides of learning a language. However, the potential for making awkward language blunders is one. When you’re struggling to find a word in French, you may resort to using an English word in a French accent. Sadly, this doesn’t always work (not speaking from experience or anything…). One of the French faux pas I can think of is the word ‘excité’, which very well sounds like the English word ‘excited’. Say for example you were writing a letter to a friend saying you’re very excited to see them. Using the word ‘excité’ sounds very tempting, right? No my friend, don’t slip into that trap. If you used the word ‘excité’ you have just said you were ‘aroused’. You’ll get more than just a few weird looks if you use that word in front of your French-speaking friends.

So there you go, if there were anything as equally frustrating as it is rewarding, it would be learning a new language. Apart from all the bragging rights learning a foreign language comes with, it is hard work. But when it comes down to it, it definitely feels good walking around with another moderately speaking French buddy pretending to communicate fluently in French. Then again, that good feeling may turn into embarrassment. We’ll take it as it comes.

2nd February 2015 Written by Maureen Huang Education

What the First Year of Uni Taught (or Didn’t Teach) Me

I can feel it. The sporadic anxiety attacks could come from nowhere else, my body knows all right. It knows that in a just one month, I’ll be back at that special place known as University.

Forget sleeping, waking up and eating whenever the hell you want. It’s time to bring out the alarm and get ready for those 6am wake up calls. Prepare for the long commute to and from hell’s headquarters itself. Let’s not forget the seemingly never-ending essays, group assignments (yuck), and lectures. Just thinking about all those things makes my spine tingle in fear.

But nevertheless, I survived my first year of uni (And I thoroughly applaud those who have done the same), so I’m here to give you the philosophies from my freshman year.

1. Coffee

Alright people, I’m being serious here. You won’t survive the first year of uni without some coffee, or at least a bit of caffeine. It doesn’t matter how you take it. Hot, iced, sweetened, frothy, syruped. It’ll definitely help the night after an assignment, I’ll tell you that much. Got a headache? Coffee. Tired? Coffee. Grumpy? Coffee. Gotta sit through that one hour lecture sitting behind the one group that talks the whole way through? Coffee, coffee and coffee.

2. Readings

If there’s anything that could turn out to be an unforeseeable blessing or curse, it’s readings. Yes, I’m talking about those pages and pages of words that you’re supposed to read and god forbid actually understand, for your units. There are those lucky weeks where the sun comes through your window and clears the dust out of your noggin. Those readings that actually hang on a thread of engaging. I’m telling you now, this feeling for me was rare… Then there are those dreary weeks with 72 pages of readings about some random theory you’re supposed to get. Pages of blah. Maybe it all comes down to your mindset. Just tell yourself ‘this will be interesting, I’ll understand it this time’. Or if worse comes to worse, that’s why they invented the expression ‘fake it till you make it,’ you’ll understand those readings eventually, or at the very least you’ll look very intelligent pretending that you do.

3. Answering questions in class

Maybe this won’t apply to those who are skilled in the art of blending into the background, but for those of you who are stuck with the one Hitler teacher who won’t let you off the hook without answering questions, I’m here to tell you my secret. Hush. Close the blinds, lock the doors and pay special attention. If ever there comes a time where you’re scared out of your socks because you don’t know what’s happening, just speak. Heck, say anything, start a discussion. Participate. Other people are probably as confused as you are. That way (hopefully) some smarty pants genius will come with their witty answers and let you off the hook. And maybe, just maybe, at the end of the day you might actually come out of the class having learnt something.

4. Group Assignments

Yes, I said it- you heard it. Group assignments. You’re probably thinking: 3 extra brains, 6 extra hands, this ought to be easy. Well in some seldom instances you may be right. In a perfect world, group assignments come as an advantage. In a perfect world, you’ll be placed with a group of people who chime with you seamlessly, like pieces of a pre-made puzzle. Well guess what? We’re not in a perfect world and 99.999999 per cent of the time you’re grouped with a bunch of people you have trouble keeping your head-screwed on around. Group assignments are like one big balancing act. You’ve got one goal, four or more differing personalities and a time frame. Apparently these set assessments are supposed to set you up for the ‘real world’. Being able to effectively communicate and manage your time. I guess we can hold onto the fact that it’ll all be over soon.

5. Breaks

Lastly, and this may seem the most obvious: take breaks. There is no point in getting HD marks while the rest of your body (and sanity) is deteriorating.

Apart from all the other jazz like not doing your assignments last minute, not spending all your money on coffee, and not stressing out too much, you’ll be fine. Uni isn’t all that bad.. really…


21st August 2013 Written by Nicole de Bono Pop Cultured


By Nicole de Bono Angry Wednesdays - Part 1 It is obvious to some why independent developers have a subtle dislike for Angry Birds. As an aspiring independent developer I will do my best to explain what Rovio Mobile has done so well to succeed as being one of the most pioneering and recognisable game franchises in the casual mobile game industry. First, a little time machine action back to when the game was first born. An initial design sketch was presented during a brainstorming exercise. The company was facing financial difficulty because the other 51 games they had already made did not hit the nail on the head. After favouring the characters the team went ahead in development. After the completion of Angry Birds in Finland, December 2009, Rovio wanted to bring it forward to the touch screen platform device everyone else was developing for. As they say, the rest is history!