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How to understand Shakespeare's words better

How to understand Shakespeare's words better

With bizarre words like "Peradventure", "Wherefore" and "Methinks", perfectly confident A1 Literature students can still be dumbstruck when they read Shakespeare. For many, the language is the biggest barrier in understanding Shakespeare better. Which is a shame, as some of the best stories in Literature were penned by him. 

As a way to counter this, it helps to think of Shakespeare's words not as a completely new language, but more like listening to someone speaking in a strong accent. You have to allow your ears to adjust to the new accent, and then your mind to match it to the English that you are familiar with.

If even then you are still confused about some phrases, it helps to see the overall context and other visual cues of that particular chapter. What is the speaker trying to convey? What are the emotions he/she is feeling at that moment? Pretty soon you'll be able to understand more of what is written.

Here are some tips for navigating your way through the words used in Shakespeare's plays, and hopefully this serves as a cheat sheet for your future readings:

1. Thee, Thou, Thy and Thine = You

The first four words you'll usually be hit by when you open up a Shakespeare book are "thee", "thou", "thy" and "thine".

"Thee" and "thou" are used instead of the word "you", and "thy" and "thine" instead of the word "your". 

This is because back in the olden days of England where Shakespeare is from, the older generation would use these words when they are referring to people of status or authority, such as when addressing a member of the royal family.

As Shakespeare's plays mostly revolve around the lives of characters from the middle to upper-class, those words appear more often than not. Fun fact: In the rare occasions that Shakespeare do refer to the common peasants in his stories, the words "you" and "your" do appear at times.

2. Art = Are

The word 'art" is used in place of the word "are". So a sentence beginning with "thou art" would mean "you are"

3. Don't, Do and Did

One thing to note is that in Shakespearian English, the words "don't", "do" and "did" are not used as they simply wasn't created then. So, instead of saying "don't kill me!", Shakespeare's characters would have said "kill me not". Or instead of "what did she look like?", they would have said "what looked she like?" 

This is why there are some unfamiliar sentence structures in Shakespeare plays. But the meaning of the sentence can still be discerned even though the words are not in order.

4. Would = Wish

Although the word "wish" does appear, such as when Romeo says "I hope you sleep peacefully. I wish I were Sleep and Peace, so I could spend the night with you." in Romeo & Juliet, the word "would" is often used in place of that instead.

5. -eth

Words used in Shakespeare sometimes have a weird "-eth" tagged to the end of them, making them sound super alien even thought the meaning of the words remain the same. But that was just the way things were done then. 

For instance, "say" will appear as "sayeth" and "speak" will be "speaketh".

6. Anon = soon, presently, shortly 

What might seem like "anonymous" in today's modern English, back in Shakespeare's time, that word is used to mean soon or shortly. 

For example, in Hamlet, Hamlet says to his potential wife Ophelia "You shall see anon how the murderer gets the love of Gonzago's wife" which in the sentence is to mean 'you shall see soon'.

7. Ay = Yes, No = Nay

“Ay” simply means “yes”, and "Nay" simply means "no".  So, “Ay, My Lady” means “Yes, My Lady”. This form of saying yes or no is still used in certain areas of Northern England. But back in the olden days of England, this was commonly used in all social circles.

3 ways to improve your reading comprehension

3 ways to improve your reading comprehension

Ever tried reading a chapter in your literature textbook only to feel like you're seeing the words but nothing is getting through to your brain. You're reading but not understanding what the chapter is trying to convey.

Improving your reading comprehension is key to scoring well in subjects like literature and general paper. Here are 3 tips that can help you read and retain knowledge better

1. Know the difference between 'learning reading' and 'pleasure reading' 

Did you know? There is a right way to read a book for pleasure, and a right way to read a book for learning. You can read a book for pleasure one time through and be just fine, after all, it was purely for enjoyment.

But if you are reading your textbook or lecture notes, you should never read it just one time! In order to learn intentionally, you should approach the text more than one time and question what you read. That is, if you want a good grade!

Another way is to try the SQ3R system when reading an academic text - it means Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review. This may sound like an intricate and time-consuming process, but in the long run after practising it regularly, it will make your text reading a lot faster. Even better, you will retain more of what you read and find that you can review rather than relearn notes when preparing for exams.

2. Read with tools.

Good readers are active readers. Each time you read to learn something, you should use tools that can assist you in reading instead of just using your knees to prop up the textbook. 

Some good tools are pencils to make notes in the margins of your text. If you don't wish to do any damage to your textbook, sticky notes are also good tools to jot down thoughts to stick to the text while reading.

Surprisingly, a highlighter can be a bad tool as it gives you the false impression that you have accomplished something significant by highlighting a passage. But if a passage impresses you enough to highlight it, you must indicate why it impresses you. Otherwise, you'll end up with brightly coloured sentences that you have to try and remember why they were important in the first place.

3. Make connections.

In most literature exams, you will be asked to read a passage and predict what might happen next to show your understanding of the passage. The purpose for this is to ensure that you’re able to infer information from the clues in the text.

Here’s an example:
Susie gripped the handle of the heavy glass pitcher and lifted it from the refrigerator. She didn’t understand why her mother thought she was too young to pour her own juice. As she backed away carefully, the rubber seal of the refrigerator door caught the edge of the glass pitcher, which caused the slippery handle to slip from her hand. As she watch the pitcher crash into a thousand pieces, she saw the figure of her mother appear in the kitchen doorway.

So, what do you think will happen next? We could guess that Susie’s mother reacts angrily, or we might guess that the mother bursts into laughter. Either answer will be accepted by the examiner, since we have so little information to go on. But if you knew that the passage is from a horror book, this fact might impact your answer. Similarly, if the book's genre is comedy, you will have a very different answer.

It is important to make connection about the type of text you're reading, whether it's fiction or non-fiction, whether previous chapters can help you comprehend the current chapter's action. Piecing together pieces and seeing the larger picture can work wonders in improving your reading comprehension. 

10 books to read if you loved 'Harry Potter'

10 books to read if you loved 'Harry Potter'

Whether you grew up eagerly awaiting the next book of the Harry Potter series to be released, or have recently just discovered them after watching the movies, it seems impossible to think of any other books that can compare to the magic that author, J.K. Rowling has brought to us. 

But if you looked hard enough, there are other books out there that contain the same elements of friendship, magic, and adventure. Well, you don't have to look hard at all, as here's a list of 10 books that are just as magical as the Harry Potter series, and they can all be borrowed from libraries in Singapore:

1. The Magicians, Lev Grossman

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What is it about: Quentin Coldwater is a student who applied for a prestigious college in New York, only to find out that it's an exclusive school of magic. He and his friends travel in pursuit of finding a magical land, but when fellow students in the college starts getting murdered by an unknown entity, what they actually find is more than what they bargained for. The Magicians is the first book in a trilogy, with the other two being The Magician King, and The Magician's Land.  

Available at these libraries

2. Percy Jackson - The Lightning Thief, Rick Riordan

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What is it about: Percy Jackson is a young boy who faces several strange, supernatural encounters, only to discover that he is actually the son of Poseidon. If you like mythology, then this is definitely the series for you. From Greek Gods, to monsters like Medusa, the Percy Jackson series is an adrenaline-filled ride from start to end. I personally like that it features strong female characters as well. *cough*Hermione for the win*cough* 

Available at these libraries

3. Shadow and Bone, Leigh Bardugo

What is it about: Shadow and Bone is the first book in what is also known as The Grisha Trilogy. A bit darker than Harry Potter was, the trilogy follows Alina Starkov, a teenage orphan whose entire life was transformed after unexpectedly harnessing a power she never knew she had to save her best friend. Bonus: there’s an excellent school for magic in here too!

Available at these libraries

4. The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials), Philip Pullman


What is it about: Set in an alternate universe where part of everyone's soul lives outside a person as an animal companion, The Golden Compass tells the story of a young girl named Lyra journeying on an epic quest to find her kidnapped friend and being embroiled into a cosmic war over a mysterious floating city carrying the secrets of “Dust”. It's a dark and intriguing world, and as the story unfolds, we see Lyra overcoming great obstacles and growing into a strong, confident woman.

Available at these libraries

5. The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss

What is it about: The book starts with the young life of Kvothe as a young adult in the University where he learns many skills and magical prowess while seeking vengeance against the evil beings who killed his family - the Chandrian - whose appearance are supposedly heralded by flames turning blue. As the story progress, it also cuts back to the "present day" where Kvothe is now an adult. It's easy to get invested in the characters of the books and their moral decisions. There are talks of a third book being released soon!

Available at these libraries

6. Inkheart, Cornelia Funke

What is it about: A 12-year-old girl named Meggie learns that her father can bring fictional characters to life. One night while reading a book called Inkheart, an evil ruler escapes and abducts them both. Meggie must learn to harness the magic that caused this nightmare so she can change the course of the story. It's beautiful and weird, but the adventure and a cool family dynamic makes up for it. 

Available at these libraries

7. Graceling, Kristin Cashore

What is it about: Katsa, a strong yet vulnerable teenage girl, lives in a society where people are given a Grace, which is a sort of special talent. Katsa’s special talent is..... killing, and she is forced to use her skills to do her uncle’s dirty work. But Katsa goes in search of a way to put her talents to good use. If you are missing magic and strong female protagonists, like Hermione, Professor McGonagall, or Luna, Graceling is the story for you.

Available at these libraries

8. The Amulet of Samarkand, Jonathan Stroud

What is it about: In the first book of The Bartimaeus Trilogy, we are introduced to Nathaniel, a magician in training, who is sold to the government at a young age and forced to live as an apprentice. When Nathaniel is humiliated by ruthless magician Simon Lovelace and betrayed by his master, he vows revenge. Nathaniel summons 5,000-year-old djinni Bartimaeus to avenge Simon by stealing the Amulet of Samarkand, but he ends up setting himself on a journey filled with danger and threats. 

Available at these libraries

9. Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman

What is it about: Richard Mayhew, an ordinary businessman with a good heart, stops to help a mysterious, bleeding girl on a pavement and his world is forever changed. He falls through the cracks of the pavement and lands under the streets of London, a city filled with monsters, angels, murderers and more. Neil Gaiman is a master at creating an immersive world with relatable characters, all the while being funny, dark, and action-packed. Richard come into his role as a hero just like Harry does — stumbling and fumbling all the way.

Available at these libraries

10. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs

What is it about: We recommended the movie when it was released last year. It basically contains all plot points a Harry Potter enthusiast loves: a band of children with fantastic powers saving the world, mentors who turn into animals, sly time travel and other sorts of transportation, the idea that you could grow up as usual and become unusual, young love, etc. But the author, Ransom Riggs, takes a whole lot more twists and turns in his series. Did we mention that he also includes real historical pictures into his books? Very engrossing.

Available at these libraries

The origins of 'OK'

The origins of 'OK'

We say it all the time. Whether using it honestly or sarcastically, we probably don't even think twice about how and where it originally came from.


This two little letters that means your complete agreement with whatever’s being discussed. Or, if you are using it sarcastically by saying it another way, it could also express disagreement or doubt.

The battle for the 'OK'.

For a long time, it was widely assumed that this word was an invention of the USA. But during World War II, Americans came into pretty close contact with other nations fighting both with and against them on their land, and they found out that it wasn’t just an American thing after all. Other countries were also using this word frequently, and also with the same meaning.

Pretty soon, everyone was trying to stake a claim that they were the ones that started it. The Bedouins claimed they first used it while roaming the Sahara Desert. The Germans said it was a reference to a rank in the German military, Oberst Kommandant, and The French said it came from Aux Caynes, a town famous for its rum. Everyone wanted to credit their country with “OK.”

Enter Allen Walker, the 'OK' expert.

A longtime English professor at Columbia University, Allen Walker Read had a long career in tracing the evolution of language.

He found the first use of the word “Dixie” in a minstrel show and “Podunk,” he found, was a Native American term that was used for swampy lands. He also went on record with a powerful statement, saying, “There is no single, monolithic ‘correct English.’ There is nothing inherent or intrinsic that makes language ‘correct.’ ”

He was also the one who finally solved the ''OK" mystery. Professor Read (what an appropriate name for an English professor) found the earliest use of the word in an issue of the Boston Morning Post dated 1839, where the phrase ''o.k. -- all correct.'' appeared. This was during a time when initials and poor spelling like ''oll korrect,'' were the trend.

He also discovered ''KY'' meant ''no use'' (''know yuse''), but that word did not catch on. It apparently didn't have the same ring as "OK". His discovery caused much jealousy by other linguists as they themselves wanted to be the ones to achieve the credits for discovering "OK".

So now we know! It did end up being a US word after all. 

Fun fact: Professor Read even wrote the most meta of all words: The definition of the word “dictionary" for the Encyclopedia Britannica. It's like word inception.

10 words Singaporeans have mispronounced their whole lives

10 words Singaporeans have mispronounced their whole lives

Singlish is great. It is utterly unique to our country and essentially makes us who we are. Most of all, it gets the job done when every Singaporean knows what you're talking about when you speak Singlish. But it bothers me when Singlish has prevented us from properly pronouncing English words, and preventing us from being properly understood by the rest of the world. Most of us have even spent our entire growing up years never realising that a word was supposed to be pronounced a certain way.

Here's a list of 10 words that Singaporeans tend to mispronounce, along with their correct pronunciations for us all to learn from:

1. Algae

We see the 'A' at the end of this word and proceed to pronounce it like "el-gay." The correct way to say it is with a hard 'G' so it's pronounced "el-gee" 








2. Library

"Want to go to the lie-bree to mug later?" Singaporeans just love to cut things short. Why waste breath on one more syllable, amirite?  The proper pronunciation is closer to Lie-bruh-ree.








3. Vegetable

"Veggie-teh-ber" - So many ways to mispronounce this word. Instead of a "ber" at the end, try saying it with a rounded 'L' sound at the end. The proper way to say it is closer to Veg-ter-ble.








4. Tuition

It's important to get this one pronounced properly, seeing that you might find yourself saying "I cannot go to Orchard this weekend, I've got tuition" quite often. It's "too-ish-uhn" instead of "tuu-tion". 

Fun fact: He/She is not a tuition teacher. The proper term is tutor.








5. Minced

We can be forgiven for pronouncing it as "Mai-in-ced" meat noodles instead of "Mints-ced" meat noodles when ordering at a hawker centre, considering we often say 'bah chor mee' instead! 








6. Flour

I personally love this one the best. It’s pronounced "Flah" only in Singapore and Malaysia. So uniquely Singapore and Malaysia, truly Asia. It’s pronounced like ‘flower’ almost everywhere else, including both British and American English. 








Our version is clearly superior because you won’t mistakenly have this happen: 


7. Wednesday

By pronouncing it as it's spelt, we often say "Wen-ness-day". But the proper way to pronounce this middle of the week is "Wens-day". (You don’t say ‘sat-day’ for Saturday, right? Sigh... English is a strange language.)








8. Picture

Guys. It’s “pic-tchur”, not “pitch-er.” This is very important, because both pictures and pitchers are items you might have lying around your house. You want me to hand you that water pitcher on the table, or the photo frame on the table? Make sure to enunciate that hard “c” so everyone knows for sure.








9. Athlete

This word may pop up a lot more these days especially now that Joseph Schooling has thrust Singapore into Olympic limelight. Say "airth-leet", don't say "air-ter-leet". Two syllables are enough for athletes.








10. Espresso

This one goes out to all the students who enjoy studying at the hipster cafes with free Wi-Fi,
it's pronounced "ess-presso", not "ex-presso" ;)

The advantages of being bilingual

The advantages of being bilingual

Being bilingual can take a lot of work. Years of practice is needed before one can be fluent in another language. Constantly learning new vocabulary and sentence structures in another language that you are not surrounded in can be an uphill battle. If you are educated in Singapore, you are most probably bilingual, being forced to learn your mother tongue on top of the English language. So what are the benefits of being bilingual? Is the effort made justified? This article seeks to find out.


1.     Enhanced Memory


In a study published in December 2014, researchers were keen to find out how being bilingual had an effect on the memory of children. For a bilingual, there is a need to know when to use the right word, grammar rules and the shift in context and culture. Hence it is no surprise that what was found in the study was in fact benefits beyond their hypothesis- being bilingual helped not only in the storage of information but also in processing them. Higher bilingual proficiency is also associated with better verbal working memory performance.

2.     Problem Solving Skills


In a Canadian study publish in January 2016 in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, researchers found that toddlers who were exposed to at least 2 languages on a regular basis were able to solve problems at a faster rate and with higher accuracy than their monolingual counterparts. The toddlers had to solve a problem, while ignoring certain information. This mirrors the ability to switch between different languages of the same words, being able to use the second language even though the first one is more accessible. This switching becomes more frequent as children grow older as their vocabulary size increases. This study showed that early bilingualism in children could be an effective method to build up problem solving skills- a skill that is highly regarded both in school and at the workplace.

3.     Decision Making Skills

As people think through a problem in their non-native tongue, they are more analytical and are more likely to take on favorable risks

If you think that making decisions are based only on the evidence presented, think again. A study by the University of Chicago has found out that the decisions you make depends also in the language that it is presented in. As people think through a problem in their non-native tongue, they are more analytical and are more likely to take on favorable risks. These findings have an impact especially in a business setting or in personal finance as people who make decisions in another language might be less biased in their investment, retirement and savings decisions.

4.     Job Opportunities

job opportunities in space

Being able to converse and write in another language can open up a whole world of job opportunities. It cannot be denied that the world has definitely become more globalized in the past century. Corporations have operations all around the world, making use of the comparative advantage that the different countries may bring. Being bilingual can help you in terms of bringing yourself to another job market or even becoming an asset to a company as you are able to translate certain information that may be crucial to their operations. In this aspect, a bilingual definitely has a much higher chance of getting higher as compared to someone who is only fluent in one language.

5.     Entertainment Opportunities


Being able to enjoy entertainment like movies, television shows and music in another language can add value to your life. Not only does the larger variety of entertainment increases with your knowledge of another language, understanding the language allows you to immerse in the culture. In addition, you can travel to more countries without thinking about the potential language barrier- which is at times one of the most important criteria for a safe and enjoyable vacation.

Now that you know the benefits of being a bilingual, hopefully you will be able to appreciate and enjoy learning other languages more!                                                                                                                                        

Four Educational Apps that all Top Students Must Use

Four Educational Apps that all Top Students Must Use

I have a feeling that if this app in used in schools around Singapore, there will not be so many Chinese B students.

We have curated some brain training apps to help your mind stay in tip top condition. Unless otherwise stated, these games are only available on Apple App store and Google Play.

1. Elevate


Elevate is a brain training app designed to sharpen your mind while you play mini-games, and it was selected as the Apple App Store Editor’s Choice in 2014. Unlike its famous counterpart Lumosity which trains your core cognitive abilities with patterns and shapes, Elevate prepares you for daily encounters by honing how your read, speak, listen and solve Maths problems.

Sounds boring? Do not write Elevate off yet! The mini-games are entertaining, challenging and visually appealing, which is much more than what you can say for your English and Maths lessons. (Unless you happen to attend Basecamp lessons).

As you become more adept, the mini games will get harder and harder. This is because the app is designed to track your learning overtime and to pitch the games at a difficulty that will challenge you.

From my own experience, playing 3 brain training games at the start of each day is a great way to warm up your brain. This is in line with a study conducted by the California State University, which demonstrated that Elevate users improved by 69% in 4 key skill groups compared to non-users.

Remember, you rest, you rust, so why not give this app a try?

2. Brain dots

brain dots

Brain dot is an endearing game with an enduring theme: boy meets girl. But before they can do that, they have to first find a way to each other. You play the role of a matchmaker. You have to engineer different ways for them to meet by drawing lines and shapes.

Similar to earlier offerings on your smartphones such as Cut the Rope, Angry Birds and Where’s my Water, this game teaches you about the laws of physics. However, what sets Brain dots apart is its freestyle kind of gameplay. You will discover that there is no one right answer. The possibilities are nearly endless. Instead, you have to think out of the box to complete the level.

Watch this video on Youtube get a flavour of what this game is like.

Want to be more creative? Give this app a try. Brain dots is also available on your PC.

3. 2048

In 2048, the rules are deceptively easy. Swipe to move your tiles. When two tiles with the same number touch, they merge into one larger number. Combine the numbers to eventually get 2048. But don’t let this simple gameplay fool you. This game comes with a lot of frustration, a lot of panicking and if you manage to beat the game, a lot of satisfaction.

Do you remember the global craze for Sudoku that happened around 10 years ago? For those of you who are still schooling, you probably don’t, given that you were only a kid then. But that phenomenon testified to the appeal of numbers and the allure of solving a difficult puzzle. The same appeal and allure continues today in the form of 2048.

In 2048, the rules are deceptively easy. Swipe to move your tiles. When two tiles with the same number touch, they merge into one larger number. Combine the numbers to eventually get 2048. But don’t let this simple gameplay fool you. This game comes with a lot of frustration, a lot of panicking and if you manage to beat the game, a lot of satisfaction.

Don’t wait, see what appeal numbers hold today.

4. 成语玩命猜: 900 道成语趣题

chinese educational app

I have a feeling that if this app in used in schools around Singapore, there will not be so many Chinese B students.

This game can be compared to its English counterpart, 4 pics 1 word, in which you have to guess the Chinese phrasal verb from the picture. To help you out, there are word suggestions at the bottom of the screen.

Let’s give the following level a try:

The answer is 洪水猛兽。Did you get it right?

Beware, this game is CHALLENGING. Mark my words, the day you conquer this game is the day you get A1 for Chinese.

So there you go, kill time with these 4 games on your smartphone (but not at the expense of your studies). Have fun!


Learning a new language

Learning a new language

Learning a new language can sometimes be a daunting task. After all, we have not heard much, let alone read much in that language. How can we possibly learn to read, write and speak it in such a small span of time? In Singapore, students learn to be bilingual from young, having to learn their mother tongue and of course, the language medium in schools- English. On top of that, many opt to take up a third language, either examinable or just conversational, in secondary school. Adults too, may want to learn a new language in preparation to move elsewhere or just for value adding themselves. If you are such a student and are struggling with your language subjects or an adult looking to learn a new language, you have come to the right space!

Why learn a new language?

If you are still disgruntled about your parents or school “forcing” you to learn a new language or someone who is still not convinced on its benefits, here are some of the advantages of mastering it.

1.     Improve brain health

Numerous studies have proven that learning a new language can improve your cognitive abilities, no matter your age. These includes memory improvement, longer attention span and better focus and concentration. Such cognitive improvements will help in every different aspect of your life.

2.     Increase job opportunities

With globalization, many companies are located in a vast number of countries in the world. Learning another language can be used to increase your employment prospects as such companies view employees who can speak at least one foreign language as vital. The ability to communicate in a different language can also help to set yourself apart from other candidates for potential employment.

3.     Build friendships

Speaking another language can help you to communicate and build lifelong friendships with people who speak the same language- something that you would not otherwise be able to do. It will also allow you to discover another culture as you are able to converse with natives and participate in exciting and interesting topics of discussions.

4.     Vacation Selections

Of course, this should not be left out. Speaking another language will widen your holiday selection and often, help you to save more money and provide convenience at your holiday destination! There is nothing better than to be able to communicate with the locals and navigate your way around with ease.

Let’s get started!

Now that you know the benefits of learning a new language, let’s get started!

Firstly, know the shortcuts. A powerful framework introduced by Tim Ferriss is to deconstruct 8 different sentences that will expose how sentences are structured, how indirect and direct objects are used, how to differentiate feminine and masculine words and how verbs are conjugated into sentences. Using the translation from English to Spanish, the 8 sentences are:


For example, in English,

The word order is: He/She + verb + (DOP)+ to (IOP).
He gives (verb) the apple (DOP) to her (IOP)

But in Spanish,

The word order is: Él/Ella + (IOP) + (DOP)+ conjugated verb +clarifier.

*IOP=indirect object pronoun
*DOP=direct object pronoun

Secondly, memorise the most common words. The beginning of learning any language is to commit vocabulary to memory. Did you know that you can memorize roughly 500 common words in any language and understand 60% of it? In fact, 60% is more than enough to fill the missing spaces to know what native speakers are saying.

Thirdly, immerse yourself in that language. After all, the end goal in learning a new language is to eventually be able to immerse yourself in it. Immersing yourself in the language means to watch TV, listen to podcasts and reading books in that foreign language. The most important thing is to not force yourself into doing an activity that you don’t like just because it is in that language. Learning a new language is hard enough- might as well do something that you enjoy while doing it!

Now that you know where to start from, I wish you all the best in learning that new language. It may be difficult at the beginning, but never give up because the end outcomes are definitely rewarding!