Written by: Amal Hamizah and Pei Zoe

Edited by: Supriya Sivabalan

TEDx Sunway Club held their final salon event for the year on 24th October 2019. This time, the event was titled IGNITED, and they had speakers that ignited their flaming ideas to the audience that evening. The speakers that were invited that evening all consisted of talented Sunway students and alumni; Carmen Koh, Yumitra Kannan, Clarence Tong and Chow Shenn Kuan. 

The event started with the video of the brilliant TEDx SunwayUniversity committee, followed by the opening speech by TEDx SunwayUniversity’s president. After the introduction of the committee, the event then proceeded to the first talk of the night.

Carmen, who survived without social media for 7 days.

Carmen Koh took over the stage and her topic is what all of us can relate to – on how we’re all addicted to social media. Her topic is on ‘Shifting the Insta-Paradigm’, and in her talk she said, “welcome to the world where social media raises you’. She talked about her personal experience of quitting social media. Being 16, she grew up with gadgets, spending most of her time with social media. One day, she decided to quit social media on a whim. She deleted all her social media accounts and apps. At first, she explained that she has no regrets deleting them. That ended the next day, when nomophobia -the fear of being away from her phone- finally struck her. She started to wonder about the world of social media; what was the latest news? Did she miss anything important while she was gone? Was it really the right decision to quit?

However, after seven days, she finally calmed down. She even thought, ‘why didn’t I just do this earlier?’ How great it would be to quit earlier, then she would realize that social media really impacted her mental health a lot.

Carmen then explained that a study found that mental health correlates with use of social media. She presented that according to ‘Child Mind Institute’,  8th graders who are heavy users of social media are 27% more likely to have depression. Carmen has three of her own interesting theories on why we still persist on using social media. 

Her first theory is called ‘lonely planet-attachment theory’, where we still stay on social media to keep us connected to loved ones. Her second theory is the  ‘Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)’. We are in constant fear of missing out on what’s happening around us, and the easiest way to keep in touch is through social media. Being out of the loop from social media leaves us with anxiety. The final theory is on ‘Social Insecurity, Social Maintenance’,  where she explained that we spend hours and hours thinking of what we must post on social media. 

Carmen also further elaborated that social media isn’t the problem, and that it is our own selves that’s the root of the problem. Social media is merely a catalyst reaction from us. To improve on this, she suggested that we can

1) Balance, control, conserve (BCC), where we implement a sense of balance between using social media and maintaining our own lives. 

2) Acceptance of Reality: we question ourselves, are those numbers in social media really matter? 

And lastly, 

3) Kindness and Awareness: if we see someone depressed about social media, we should take the initiative to talk to them and ask why they feel the way they feel. If we feel bothered by a certain person, it’s simple: just block them. 

Yumitra inspiring the audience to overcome the fear of living.

We often listen to people talk about their fear of death; it might be because of a near-death experience or just a symptom of aging. However, the second speaker Yumitra Kanaan gave a talk about outliving the fear of living. What exactly is the fear of living? Well, Yumitra defines it simply as the fears which stop us from living to the fullest and ultimately, society, or as she calls it – “the system” has a huge role to play in this fear. She challenged the audience to think more deeply about how we are all stuck in a system that predetermines the way we should live our lives. We are all expected to follow the regime of going to school, then to university, getting married, having kids and eventually awaiting our death to come. 

After reading the Harry Potter series, Yumitra developed a strong passion and love for writing. Although she was advised by some friends and family to not pursue this ‘unrealistic’ dream, she decided to defy the system by deciding to become a writer. Eventually, she was given an opportunity to join an organisation which helps youngsters like her to become writers. Her path to becoming a writer was promising and she was about to publish a biography about a woman who survived a brain hemorrhage. However, at that point, Yumitra made a life-changing decision to go to college to gain her own experiences in life. The organisation and her did not meet eye to eye due to this decision, and this was the moment she was confronted with two daunting choices: will she stay in the system which this organisation has set up? Or will she follow her heart and stay firm on her decision to study in college? Of course, being her own person – this brave girl chose the latter.

This decision came with consequences such as giving away 2 years of her work on the biography and her book was published under another author’s name. Through this story, Yumitra wants to inspire people to overcome the fear of living by believing in yourself and accepting the reality of life. She also encouraged people to not give up when faced with resistance in life and to never be afraid to take a chance on you. 

Clarence, the language master.

The next speaker was Clarence Tong, an amazing polyglot who is able to speak seven languages; English, Mandarin, Malay, Filipino, Vietnamese, French and German. He shared his inspiration and his advantages as a polyglot in his talk. 

His whole journey started with him using Facebook, where he played Ninja Saga and interacted with a lot of friends from all over the world. Most of his friends were from the Philippines, where they often conversed in Tagalog. He wanted to understand his friends, so he began asking them to teach him to speak simple Tagalog words, which at that time the first words he learnt was, ‘Among ginagawa mo ngayon?’ which translates to, ‘What are you doing today?’

He then started to learn more about the Philippines, and shared with the audience some of the culture he was exposed to like Balut (street food in the Philippines; a developing bird embryo that is boiled and eaten from the shell) and Red Horse Beer. Learning about these things further inspired him to learn more about the world, so he started to learn more languages. 

He then learned Vietnamese and German for two years. Then he studied French, which he thought was a troublesome language with the language being strict and specific about their pronounciation. He had difficulty with the language, until he stumbled upon a song on Youtube, ‘On Ecrit Sur Les Murs – Kids United’. Clarence then set his ambition, which was to listen to the song without looking at the translation and completely understand it. 

Clarence explained he didn’t go to any language classes nor use any apps to learn any of the languages at all. He learnt those languages merely by the art of listening. “I know it doesn’t make any sense,” Clarence further explained, “but think about babies, They babble a lot without learning how to speak. They they learnt how to speak. That’s how I learn new languages.” He usually would listen to songs in languages he wanted to learn, then babble the song. He also watched movies and news in his targeted languages, and that’s how he was able to speak French. He said as long he would listen, he would get used to the tone of languages and understand the flow of it. He would think in those languages, and would occasionally use ‘Waze’ in French. 

He came to a conclusion after learning French in different ways; that French doesn’t make sense with their pronounciation. For example, how do you say a greeting in French? It would be, “Ca va? Ca va. Ca va? Ca va.” And in French, there are many letters that are silent! Product in French is Produit, with the ‘T’ being silent. And eight is huit in French, with the ‘T’ being pronounced instead! 

Clarence reminded us to not be afraid of making mistakes when learning languages. In fact, mistakes are the best teachers for polyglots. 

There are many advantages that came with his passion for learning languages. He attained his job working in a hotel because he knew Vietnamese when coincidentally, his interviewer was from Vietnam. 

He also shared his experience of his friend talking to a Moroccan customer. The customer wasn’t able to talk in English, and could only talk in French or Arabic only. Of course, the first person that came to his friend’s mind to help him was Clarence, as he was able to speak French! Clarence learnt that French is not only spoken in France, and in fact, French is spoken in many countries across six continents. They are, Canada, Haiti, Europe, Morocco, Mauritius, Madagascar and India even has a French speaking territory. 

Clarence also told us a story of his friend, who had difficulty in speaking Malay and English. At home, Clarence mentioned that his friend would watch anime. He would speak and think in Japanese, or like anime characters. Now, this person who struggled in basic conversational languages in Malaysia has already passed his JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) and is currently studying in Tokyo. It really shows you what passion does!

Clarence reminded us that the key to learning languages is to have passion and patience about new languages. Through languages, he was able to meet people from around the world. 

Shenn Kuan educating the audience about refugees.

Shenn Kuan, a Sunway alumna of Lancaster University-affiliated Bachelor of Science(Honours) Business Studies programme, began her talk by informing the audience about some refugee statistics in Malaysia. There is a shocking amount of 177,690 refugees in Malaysia, however, only 1% of applications for resettlement are accepted. Shenn Kwan saw this as a potential to bridge the gap between refugees and employers by building a digital platform named ‘Kakak’. 

‘Kakak’ is a term used to address elder women or men in Indonesia; whereas it is more often used to address foreign workers in our country. Through the ‘Kakak’ app, anybody will be able to hire a foreign worker for jobs such as house cleaning. The refugees are paid at a rate of RM25/hour for their services, this gives them an opportunity to earn enough money to make ends meet. Shenn Kuan and her team hopes the ‘Kakak’ app will enable refugees to have a better quality of life whilst benefiting Malaysians with a convenient way to hire manpower. 

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The event continued with the presentation of tokens of appreciation to the judges and speakers. After being treated to 4 inspiring talks, there was a quick photo session with the audience. Soon, it was time to part ways and many people were seen to be congratulating the three amazing speakers on their way out. TEDx Ignited concluded with a quote by the emcee ‘A good idea becomes a great idea when you share it’. 

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