RTQ! This is one of the most common sources of errors in Chemistry examinations. When I sat 2014’s VCE Chemistry examination, I lost 5 marks in the paper for not reading the question! Your teachers will have told you to ‘read the question’ or ‘RTQ’ as well.
Task word errors can be avoided in two ways. First, learn the exact meanings of each task word. This is particularly important for EAL Chemistry students. Second, highlight the task words in a question (just as you would highlight the important information in a complicated titration question).
For example: “Explain how the different intermolecular forces in butane and butan-1-ol give these two compounds different boiling points. 3 marks”
In your answer, you will need to explain the effect of intermolecular forces. This means you’ll need to write why the butan-1-ol forms hydrogen bonds (due to the polar nature of the hydroxyl group) whereas butane forms only dispersion forces with its surrounding molecules (due to the non-polar nature of the molecule). You’ll also need to make some kind of comparison (which is hinted at by the word, ‘different’) in order to get all 3 marks.
Example 3-mark answer: “Butan-1-ol forms intermolecular hydrogen bonds with the surrounding molecules due to the polar nature of the hydroxyl group (O-H bond). Butane forms only dispersion forces with its surrounding molecules due to the non-polar nature of the molecule. Hydrogen bonds are stronger than dispersion forces and thus require more energy to break. This results in a higher boiling point for butan-1-ol than for butane”.
One mark would be awarded for each of:
Explaining the intermolecular bonding of butan-1-ol
Explaining the intermolecular bonding of butane
Comparing the relative strengths of the two and relating this to boiling points
In a 2-mark answer, the student might omit the comparison step:
Example 2-mark answer: “Butan-1-ol forms intermolecular hydrogen bonds with the surrounding molecules due to the polar nature of the hydroxyl group (O-H bond). Butane forms only dispersion forces with its surrounding molecules due to the non-polar nature of the molecule.”
In a 1-mark answer, the student might only mention one of the two molecules, or might only make a comparison without explaining whythese two compounds display different types of intermolecular forces.
Example 1-mark answer: “Hydrogen bonds formed by butan-1-ol are stronger than dispersion forces formed by butane and thus require more energy to break. This results in a higher boiling point for butan-1-ol than for butane”.
In that latter example, the student didn’t explain the reasons for the differences in intermolecular bonding – they merely stated them.
Write the value of a number (include equations)
Write the similarities and differences between
Write arguments for and against
Write the exact meaning of
Write details about (a thing or a process)
Write reasons for and against
Write the differences between two or more things
Write details to give the reader an understanding of
Write (sometimes by doing calculations)
Write which one
Write something and draw a labelled diagram as well
Write which one (usually on a given diagram)
Write a list
Write a summary
Write a reason for a phenomenon
To what extent
Write whether a reaction is complete (→) or incomplete (↔).
Watch task words in the examination… and make sure you answer the question!
People who don’t speak Chinese find it very difficult to pronounce Chinese names correctly. Chinese names are written using the pinyin transliteration system, in which some letters of the alphabet have very different sounds to English.
Here’s a handy table of the 25 most common Chinese surnames and how to pronounce them in English.
This visualisation’s been on my list for a while now: Chinese ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ foods.
The Chinese have an ancient way of classifying foods into ‘hot’, ‘warm’, ‘cool’ and ‘cold’ based on how you feel after you eat them. Watermelon is ‘cold’, for example, and chocolate is ‘hot’. It makes sense, really.
I plotted “temperatures” (in a Chinese sense) of common foods against their retail price in Coles supermarket, Australia. The results are really interesting.
It’s a bit cartoony. Feel free to use it as you wish. Enjoy 🙂
Perfect material for ProVoc (free language-learning software for Mac) 196 pages, ★★★★
I’ve been studying this gorgeous little book recently.
One of the beautiful aspects of Chinese language is its allegorical sayings. Like idioms, proverbs and set phrases, allegorical sayings enrich daily Chinese conversation and make the people who use them sound more intelligent. Many of these expressions make allegorical references to religion, history, legends or folklore.
Allegorical sayings come in two parts. The first part is an allegory (such as 八仙过海, “Eight Immortals cross the ocean”) and the second part is an explanation that describes the context you’re in (such as 各显神通, “each displays his/her own unique talents”). This particular allegory is rooted in Daoism.
Some allegorical sayings rely on homophones. For example, 打破沙锅，问到底 is a homophone of 打破沙锅，璺到底. The first part means “break the earthenware pot”. As for the second part, just by changing one character, the meaning changes from “crack it right through” to “get to the bottom of this issue”. Therefore, saying the first part, “break the earthenware pot” can be an allusion to “get to the bottom of this issue” in Chinese conversation. The Chinese adore homophones.
This book explains 100 famous allegorical sayings with explanations and illustrations.
Here are three examples from the book:
狗拿耗子 – 多管闲事
Dog trying to catch mice—meddling in other people’s business.
秋后的蚂蚱 – 蹦跶不了几天 Grasshopper in late autumn—nearing one’s end.
小葱拌豆腐 – 一清二白 Plain white tofu mixed with a little spring onion—as clear as day.
ProVoc is the perfect app for learning vocabulary on a Mac.
Create your own vocabulary database or download another user’s vocabulary list from within the app.
Click ‘Play’ to view gorgeous, full-screen slideshows of your vocabulary complete with sound, images and videos.
Take four types of quizzes based on your vocabulary. Difficult words will automatically appear more frequently than easy ones.
Customize just about everything using a simple, aesthetic, high-contrast interface. Create your own quiz styles, customise the slideshow, or share your vocabulary lists for others to use.
ProVoc and this book are a perfect combination for anyone wanting to improve the quality of their spoken Chinese! ★★★★
I want to read this to my children.
60 pages, ★★★
Suitable for children about 3-4 years old, this book answers 30 “common questions about animals”, including:
Why are giraffes’ necks so long?
Why do dragonflies give birth in the water?
Why do cats have whiskers?
The science is concise and correct, and the language is very proper.
It’s linguistic etiquette, more than anything else, that your children will learn from this book. It teaches them how to ask intelligent questions properly, and how to formulate clear, intelligent-sounding answers. Read 30 of these examples out loud with your child, and they’ll have at least learned the logical structure of a polite question-and-answer dialogue.
There’s pinyin throughout, which helps for learning new vocabulary, too. I want to read this with my children. ★★★
The good life: a beginner’s guide based on Song Dynasty culture. Written for women but highly relevant for men too. 322 pages, ★★★★★
Maosen Zhong (钟茂森) is highly regarded in China. He writes books and essays, and teaches ‘open classes’ (公开课) about traditional Chinese culture. His academic background is impressive, too: he studied undergraduate in Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, then finished his masters and doctorate degrees in Louisiana and Kansas. In 2003, at just 30 years of age, he was awarded a lifelong position as Associate Professor in Finance at the University of Queensland, Australia. Such an impressive degree collection earns one great respect in contemporary China.
Maosen Zhong uses this pedestal of respect to preach the growing movement of Traditional Chinese Culture (传统文化). His books and ‘open classes’ are mostly about history and Chinese spiritualism, with a particular emphasis on Chinese Buddhism. In my view, Zhong’s teachings are an attempt to plug China’s “spiritual vacuum” (a problem to which almost everyone in China acknowledges); China’s “self-racism” (which causes many young Chinese to reject Chinese norms in favor of KFC, basketball, and California); and the “moral breakdown” that’s occurred since the Communist era ended (from which corruption and other misdemeanors stem). To solve these issues, Zhong advocates moral education (伦理道德教育), a greater influence of Chinese religions in modern life and a greater respect and understanding for China’s own history and culture.
[Zhong addresses China’s] spiritual vacuum… self-racism… [and] moral breakdown
Maosen Zhong first convinces us of the need for moral education not just in China, but worldwide. He appeals to common sentiments by referring to the collapses of Enron and Lehman Brothers, and the Financial Crisis of 2008 that followed. Personally, I didn’t need much convincing: I already know that mainland China is morally bankrupt. People are kept in line by the heavy hand of the government, not by an inner sense of doing what’s right. Thank God for that heavy hand.
The Solutions: society is made up of families, which in turn are made up of people. To build a moral society, we first have to carry out moral education at the individual and family levels.
This book therefore starts at the individual level. It tells us to wake up between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m., to open the curtains immediately, to stretch, sweep the floor, make a lukewarm breakfast, and wash the tea leaves ready for brewing after breakfast. And so on. He teaches the tiniest aspects of a good life in polite verbatim. I feel more educated than patronized.
The book then progresses to how to look after your family. There’s a chapter on taking care of your children and a lengthy chapter on taking care of elderly parents. The most minute aspects of life are spelled out very clearly.
“Men and women are equal but different” is very clear in this book. It contradicts the Western feminist movement, which was based on the idea that “women can be men, too”. Despite the Chinese title (which intends the book to be read by “fair ladies”), the role of women is a very minor aspect of the book.
To build a moral society, we first have to carry out moral education at the individual and family levels.
Dozens of key ancient texts are quoted throughout this book, each followed by Zhong’s own interpretations of these texts in a modern context. I didn’t fully understand these text excerpts (古文), but I still get the intended message: “the ancient Chinese would have done better”.
I learned two lessons from this book: the first is, “take great care in absolutely everything you do”. The second is, “no matter how morally you think you’re behaving, you’re almost certainly not doing enough”. China should listen. How to get masses of morally-starved, money-obsessed Chinese to listen to Zhong’s teachings, however, is a tricky problem to solve. ★★★★★
Poetry about relationships.
(but write your own footnotes) 374 pages, ★★★★
The Art of War is poetry about relationships. It teaches us about romantic relationships, work relationships and family relationships. It is certainly not a book about war.
The original text speaks volumes and the commentaries are not needed, so I’ll keep this review very short. The Art of War serves as a guide, and it guides everyone uniquely. Any generation (in any situation) can easily interpret The Art of War into relevant, timely advice.
The Art of War is written in poetry rather than prose. The Chinese say that ancient texts were written like this for two reasons: first, writing materials were expensive; and second, that the essence of an idea stands the test of time much better if it is stripped of any transient cultural prejudice. Ancient texts are being constantly re-analyzed as can be seen from this book’s sometimes contradictory interpretations at different historical periods. The introduction reminds of the importance of cultural change in the passage,
“he who misunderstands change is like the man who loses his sword in the water, and makes a mark on his boat to denote its position… both are wasting their time!”
This book changes every time you read it. Or, more accurately, your situation and your outlook change. Repeated reading of this book over time doesn’t just teach change; it demonstrates it.
The American military could learn much from this book. “Better to take a state intact than destroy it”; “no nation has ever benefitted from a protracted war”, and “only a foolhardy general conscripts twice” undermine the current Iraq war.
What else did I learn from this book? I learned only to act when there’s something to be gained. Read it yourselves. Everyone will learn unique, personal lessons by reading The Art of War. ★★★★