I scored B3 for my ‘O’ level English Language (EL) and B4 for ‘A’ level General Paper (GP). Judging from the grades, I learnt English better in secondary school than in junior college (JC).
But I like JC GP more than secondary EL, or to be more precise, I like GP essay writing more than I like EL compositions.
EL compositions are more confined, and your personal stand doesn’t matter. GP essays stimulate your thinking, and in the long run, build a balanced mind.
I used to debate with my GP tutor back then. Trying to win the debate, I read and wrote a lot. I had such a book titled ‘Pros and Cons’, a debators’ handbook (or something like that), in which both sides of arguments are listed under every topic. My routine exercise was to cover one side and try to give counter arguments to the other side, and then switch sides, then go on to the next topic. Sometimes I did feel myself with split personalities. But I really enjoyed such a process.
In JC I still used the vocabulary acquired in my secondary years, or even simpler words, in my writing. Vocabulary has been my weakness even till today. My strengths lie in good grammar, clear sentence structures, and rhetoric techniques borrowed from my Chinese writing training. My GP tutor saw it and encouraged me to further strengthen my strengths, saying that correct use of simple words in good grammar is more powerful than misuse of ‘big’ words or poor grammar. You would say having such a tutor is a blessing.
The power of simple words was again shown in the novel I read about three months before my ‘A’ level exam. It was ‘Gone with the Wind’. I did not need to look up many words when I read it. Considering my poor vocabulary, that showed the simplicity of the vocabulary in the book. And such simple words could be deployed to construct an engaging classic. I can now still recall the happy moments when I read in my mind, word by word from the book, and lost myself in the southern States of the 19th century.
The happiness of learning English writing was all gone when I entered university. The only English writing needed there was all kinds of technical reports.
How I wish I could undergo that process again!