Sunday, October 30, 2011

"In Front of", "In the Front of", or "At the Front of"?

When using English, especially in conversation, English learners usually make mistakes when they describe places. This is because there are different "rules" in their native language and when they use English, the "rules" are still applied by mistake.

In talking about specific locations, English learners often confuse the use of "in front of", "in the front of", and "at the front of". Probably, it is because those three phrases have one meaning in their native language. For example, "in front of", "in the front of", and "at the front of" in the Indonesian language have the same meaning, that is "di depan". There will be a confusion in saying "di depan" in English if we don't know the correct use of "in front of", "in the front of", and "at the front of".

To avoid such mistakes, let's learn how to use "in front of", "in the front of", and "at the front of" correctly. It can also help us in TOEIC test, especially in the Listening Section" Analying Pictures, in which we often have to identify the specific location of things in a picture.

Common Mistakes in using "in front of"

The most common mistakes in using "in front of" happens when people talk about things which are on opposite sides of a road, street, river, room, etc. "Opposite" or "facing" should be used instead. Look at the following picture.
In Indonesia, when people want to say "Dia tinggal didepan rumah saya" or "Rumahnya berada di depan rumah saya", they usually say:
  • He lives in front of my house.
  • His house is in front of mine.
The above sentences are incorrect. Remember, in front of is not used to talk about things which are on opposite sides of a road, street, river, room, etc. Instead, we should use opposite or facing.

These are the correct sentences to describe the picture:
  • He lives opposite my house.
  • His house is opposite mine.
  • There is a truck parked in front of the house.
  • A car is parked in front of the house.

"In front of"

"In front of" is the antonym / opposite of "behind".
  • There was a flagpole in front of the building.
  • We were delayed by a slow heavy truck in front of us for about thirty minutes until we overtook it.
  • Although she sits in front of me, I don't know much about her.
  • He couldn't enjoy the movie since the couple in front of him kept talking loudly.
  • An old lady was standing in front of me in the queue.
  • Shy students always get nervous when they speak in front of the class.

"In the front of"

"In the front" is the antonym / opposite of "in the back".
  • My father and grandfather were sitting in the front of the car, while the rest of us were sitting in the back.
  • The new student sat in the front of the class. (in the front row)

"At the front of"

"At the front of" is the antonym / opposite of "at the back of".
  • There's a big advertisement board at the front of the building.
  • The car has a distinguished trademark at the front.
  • The boy is standing at the front of the queue.


Fill in the blanks with "in front of", "opposite", "in the front of", or "at the front of".
  1. She was very surprised and stood there ... him for a moment.
  2. You will be able to find the office easily. There's a big billboard ... it.
  3. I can't see the writing on the board clearly. I think I'll sit ... the class.
  4. Walk along this street. The office is ... the museum.
  5. Watch out. The car ... us is swaying in and out carelessly.
  6. When traveling, my daughter prefers sitting ... the car.
  7. I enjoyed watching the sunset from the balcony ... my room.
  8. He lives in a big old house ... a vocational school.
  9. Who is the young girl sitting ... Anna? I've never seen her before.
  10. A police car was ... the convoy.
Click here to download the answer key.

Reference: Swan, M. Practical English Usage. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

TOEIC Practice Test: Incomplete Sentences


Verb Forms, Word Families, Comparisons.

In this test, you will have to choose the best answer to complete the sentences. If your answer is correct, there will be a feedback which shows the correct word or phrase, and the button caption will change to a smiley face :-), and if it's wrong, it will change to an X. If your answer is wrong, you can continue choosing answers until a correct answer is selected. The score for each question is based on the number of tries taken to get a correct answer. Once a correct answer is chosen, the scoring is "frozen", but you can still click on buttons to see the feedback for other answers without penalty.
This is a timed test. You have 30 minutes to do this test.


You may also want to read: TOEIC Test Tips and Strategies

Friday, October 21, 2011

Common English Idioms and Expressions With "Work"

All in a day's workA usual part of the job / routine; nothing special.Air raids and artillery barrages were all in a day's work for the soldiers.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boyYou need to have fun in order to be a happy, healthy person.Go out and have fun! All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
Close (good) enough for government workDone just well enough.There was little time left, but it was good enough for government work.
Dirty workNecessary, but uninteresting, or difficult work.
Dishonest or underhanded actions; treachery.
Everybody knows about all the dirty work they do in that project.
Get down to work / businessTo stop relaxing; start to seriously conduct business.We're running behind schedule. Now, stop joking and let's get down to work!
Get worked up (over something)To become angry / annoyed / agitated about something.He seemed to get worked up over the new policy.
Make short /fast / light work of somethingTo finish something quicklyHe made short work of his breakfast so that he would not be late for work.
Make hard work of (doing) somethingTo work in a way which makes it more difficult than it should beThe repair took a long time because they made hard work of it.
Work against the clockTo work fast because there is a limited period of time to do somethingWe had to work against the clock since the deadline was very close.
Work away (at something)To continue to work industriously at somethingThey kept working away despite of the rain.
Work like a horse/a slave/a beaver/a muleTo work very hardHe was exhausted after having to work like a horse all day.
Work out for the bestTo finish wellDon't worry. Things will work out for the best.
Work someone or something overTo give someone or something a thorough examination.The doctor worked my father over but couldn't find anything wrong.
Throw a monkey wrench in the worksTo cause a disturbance in something that seems clear and understandableLet's talk to him about our plan. I'm sure he won't throw a monkey wrench in the works.
Work wonders (with someone or something)To be very helpful with someone or somethingThe new coach has worked wonders with the team. They have won five matches fo far.

  1. I'm afraid we have to .... The report is due the day after tomorrow.
    1. work out for the best
    2. work it over
    3. work against the clock
    4. make hard work of it
  2. Being a single parent, she has to ... to support her children.
    1. work her over
    2. get worked up
    3. work out for the best
    4. work like a horse
  3. We only have 10 minutes. You'd better ... of it.
    1. make fast work
    2. make hard work
    3. work away
    4. work out
  4. Dealing with customers' complaints is ... for her. It's part of her job.
    1. a work of art
    2. all in a day's work
    3. a work out
    4. dirty work
  5. I think you should go out and have some fun. ....
    1. Don't work against the clock.
    2. Make hard work of it.
    3. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
    4. Throw a monkey wrench in the works.
  6. The medicine has ... with him. He is recovering.
    1. worked over
    2. worked wonders
    3. worked up
    4. work away
  7. Despite of my carelessness, I was lucky that everything ....
    1. worked against the clock
    2. worked me over
    3. worked out for the best
    4. worked away
  8. The room redecoration finished two days before the event. Although the time was short, it was ....
    1. working up
    2. a work-away
    3. close enough for government work
    4. a work-over

Reference: The Free Dictionary

Friday, October 14, 2011

"Ndeso" - Sebuah Stigma Yang Kontra Produktif

Pernah mendengar istilah "ndeso", alias "ndesit"? Istilah berbau diskriminatif yang bermakna "dari desa" atau "seperti orang desa" ini pernah populer pada dekade 1980-an. Belakangan, istilah "ndeso" menjadi populer lagi setelah seorang pelawak terkenal muncul dalam sebuah iklan terbaru penyedia layanan telekomunikasi di televisi. Dalam iklan tersebut, sang pelawak dengan nada mencemooh mengatakan "ndeso" kepada mereka yang belum tahu tentang internet. Tidak cukup di situ, tayangan iklan tersebut ditutup dengan kata-kata "Yang punya rumah ini artis! Mukamu ndeso!". Entah apa maksud mereka dengan kata "ndeso". Yang jelas iklan tersebut memberikan kesan bahwa istilah "ndeso" memiliki konotasi negatif, yaitu semacam gaptek, atau ketinggalan jaman.

Masih "Ndeso"kah "Ndeso"?

Berbicara tentang istilah "desa", pasti kita akan membayangkan suatu daerah atau wilayah yang tentram, damai, jauh dari hiruk pikuk perkotaan. Lingkungan pedesaan identik dengan lingkungan yang masih alami dan hanya sedikit tersentuh oleh pembangunan, dengan penduduk yang hidup dalam keluguan, kesederhanaan, dan kekeluargaan yang jarang kita temui pada masyarakat perkotaan.

Bagaimana dengan istilah "ndeso"? Masih tepatkah jika kita menggunakan istilah "ndeso" untuk mengacu pada kebodohan, keterbelakangan, atau ketertinggalan informasi?

Di era kemajuan teknologi informasi seperti sekarang, akses terhadap informasi tidak lagi menjadi monopoli masyarakat perkotaan. Kita seringkali mendengar istilah "desa net", "desa internet", atau "cyber village", yang mengacu pada suatu wilayah desa atau pedesaan di mana penduduknya secara bergotong-royong membuat server wifi agar masyarakat sekitar bisa mengakses internet. Kehadiran warnet serta berbagai penyedia jasa internet juga sudah merambah ke desa-desa. Keberadaan handphone dan televisi juga bukan merupakan hal yang asing lagi bagi masyarakat desa.

Suka atau tidak suka, wajah pedesaan di Indonesia telah banyak berubah. Berbagai pengertian ilmiah untuk mendefinisikan istilah "desa" tidak lagi dapat diterapkan secara universal untuk desa-desa di Indonesia. Keterkaitan erat antara perkembangan kota dengan desa di sekitarnya telah menciptakan kondisi yang sangat beragam antara satu desa dengan desa yang lainnya. Seiring berkembangnya peradaban, perbedaan yang jelas antara desa dan kota bahkan hampir tidak tampak lagi. Karena itu pengertian dan karakteristik yang mendefinisikan istilah "desa" sepertinya menjadi tidak berlaku lagi di era modern seperti sekarang ini.

Gambar di samping menunjukkan proses pembelajaran di sebuah sekolah dasar di daerah pedesaan. Laptop sebagai produk kemajuan teknologi telah digunakan sebagai media pembelajaran tidak saja di sekolah-sekolah perkotaan, tapi juga di pedesaan. Kualitas pembelajaran di sekolah pedesaan di masa sekarang hampir bisa disejajarkan dengan sekolah perkotaan. Jangan heran jika ada SMA swasta yang terletak di daerah pedesaan di sebuah kabupaten mampu mencetak segudang prestasi tingkat nasional dan setiap tahunnya berhasil mengantarkan tidak kurang dari 90% lulusannya memasuki PTN-PTN favorit di Indonesia. Beberapa diantaranya bahkan memenuhi syarat untuk melanjutkan studi di perguruan tinggi luar negeri. Sekarang, masihkah kita ngotot bahwa istilah "ndeso" identik dengan kebodohan, keterbelakangan, dan keterbatasan informasi?

Meskipun pemakai istilah "ndeso" mencoba berkelit dengan mengatakan bahwa istilah "ndeso" hanya merupakan sebutan bagi orang-orang yang gaptek, istilah "ndeso" masih tidak tepat dan terlalu mengada-ada. Kegaptekan adalah muara dari keterbatasan akses terhadap kemajuan teknologi, yang bisa saja disebabkan oleh masalah ekonomi, misal tidak mampu membeli komputer, handphone, atau layanan internet. Masih banyak orang yang tidak memiliki kesempatan untuk menikmati kemajuan teknologi informasi karena faktor ekonomi sekalipun mereka tinggal di daerah perkotaan. Maka tidaklah adil jika kita memberi label "ndeso" kepada orang-orang seperti ini, yang tidak mampu menikmati kemajuan teknologi karena tidak adanya kemampuan untuk membelinya.

Stigmatisasi "Ndeso" dan Dampaknya

Pemberian julukan atau labelling "ndeso" inilah yang disebut sebagai stigmatisasi. Stigmatisasi adalah penggunaan stereotype atau penanda bagi suatu kelompok atau seseorang. The Free Dictionary mendefinisikan stigma sebagai tanda pembeda bagi kerendahan sosial. Wikipedia menjelaskan bahwa stigma dari bahasa Yunani berarti tanda (bekas bakaran atau torehan) pada tubuh seseorang yang menandakan bahwa orang itu adalah budak, penjahat, atau pengkhianat, yang cacat moralnya dan karena itu harus dihindari, khususnya di tempat umum. Stigma adalah ‘tanda’ yang digunakan untuk menyudutkan mereka yang menyandang ‘tanda’ itu.

Pertanyaan yang timbul adalah mengapa harus menggunakan istilah "ndeso" yang identik dengan "dari desa" atau "seperti orang desa"? Apakah "wong ndeso" atau orang desa selalu merupakan orang-orang terbelakang, tidak berkembang, dan tidak mengikuti perkembangan teknologi? Mengapa tidak "Katrok", "Kutrik", atau apapun namanya demi menghindari stigmatisasi terhadap desa atau orang desa?

Patut disayangkan jika pemanfaatan kebebasan berekspresi dalam era "bebas" ini sampai "mencederai" harga diri dan martabat suatu kelompok, dalam hal ini masyarakat pedesaan, dengan mengidentikkan mereka dengan keterbelakangan dan ketertinggalan. Sebagai bagian dari masyarakat, pihak media massa seharusnya merasa ikut bertanggung-jawab dalam memberikan tayangan yang mendidik kepada rakyat. Mereka harus mampu memaknai kebebasan berekspresi sebagai kebebasan yang bertanggung jawab dengan selalu memperhatikan dan menghormati hak asasi orang lain, dalam hal ini hak untuk dihargai.

Di saat pemerintah tengah berjuang untuk memberdayakan masyarakat pedesaan, maka stigma "ndeso" bisa menjadi sangat destruktif dan kontra-produktif. Stigma "ndeso" akan semakin menyelubungi berbagai ketidakpahaman tentang masyarakat desa, mempersempit sudut pandang, dan pada gilirannya akan memunculkan penilaian yang buruk terhadap orang pedesaan. Stigma 'ndeso' akan bermuara pada pemahaman yang salah, ketidakpercayaan terhadap "wong ndeso", generalisasi atau penyeragaman, ketakutan dianggap "ndeso", perasaan malu karena berasal dari "ndeso", kebencian, bahkan sikap penyingkiran dan diskriminatif terhadap orang (yang dianggap) "ndeso".

Meskipun stigma tidak lagi bersifat fisik dan hanya berupa metafor berbentuk bunyi yang dikumandangkan ke dalam bahasa, stigma akan masuk ke kepala dan hati, membentuk persepsi, sikap dan prilaku. Stigma adalah salah satu pembelenggu pikiran. Jika dibiarkan hidup dan berkembang di alam pikiran kita, stigma akan menjadi api kebencian yang siap disemburkan kepada setiap sosok yang menjadi sasaran.

Karena itu, hilangkan stigma apapun, kecuali kita sengaja memenuhi pikiran kita dengan sampah bernama stigma yang membuat pikiran tidak dapat berkembang. Tidaklah penting apakah anda berasal dari desa atau kota, apakah anda "ndeso" dengan gaya hidup "ndesit" atau "ngutho" dengan gaya hidup "nguthit". Yang lebih penting adalah apa yang bisa kita lakukan agar membawa manfaat bagi masyarakat sekitar kita.
Aku bangga jadi orang desa. Salam dari desa. :)
Updated Oct 17, 2011

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Grammar Quiz: Contrasting The Simple Past With The Present Perfect Simple

The Simple Past or The Present Perfect Tense?

Grammar Exercise: Contrasting the Simple Past with the Present Perfect tense.

In this test, you will have to choose the correct form of the verbs. If your answer is correct, there will be a feedback which shows the correct word or phrase, and the button caption will change to a smiley face :-), and if it's wrong, it will change to an X. If your answer is wrong, you can continue choosing answers until a correct answer is selected. The score for each question is based on the number of tries taken to get a correct answer. Once a correct answer is chosen, the scoring is "frozen", but you can still click on buttons to see the feedback for other answers without penalty.
This is a timed test. You have 45 minutes to do this test.
You can learn about the difference between the Simple Past and the Present Perfect tense in Contrasting The Simple Past With The Present Perfect Tense.