It may be the one thing you dread most, amid analytical commentaries and memorising metalanguage: finding language examples for your essays that will impress the examiners. It’s a daunting task – you want your examples to be as specific as possible and also relevant, both to the topic you’re given and this decade. You’re forced to go out into the wild a little and collect your own resources. But, no need to stress! It’s not as hard as you might think.
Look through and pick out examples from resources that you’ve already been given.
Yes, that’s right, you’ve probably got heaps of great examples under your nose already. Those transcripts from politicians and TV shows your teacher gave to you for that practice AC? That article she handed out to the class about language use in Australia? They’ll be riddled with material that you can embed into and discuss in your next essay.
Take at least a few tentative steps out into the wild, if not a big leap.
Do some research. Read some articles. They don’t have to be by linguists, about linguistics (a mistake I made in the early days of EL). Remember, in your essays, you’re discussing language usage. So, read how it’s being used. For instance, when talking about passive vs. active voice, read some news articles about crime and see which voice the journalist uses when they describe the events. Do they say, “The suspected perpetrator, John Smith, assaulted the girl,” or do they say, “The girl was assaulted” – passive, and without the agent? If you can find a specific article/journalist/newspaper that does this, then this will be super useful in terms of formal language (avoiding blame, liability, keeping it professional etc.)
Put on your linguist’s hat and start observing the world around you.
You’re surrounded by current language trends every moment of the day, from social media, TV, radio and the people around you. Start tuning your brain to these and make notes. You’re brain should pinging! every time you hear or see something interesting. The other day I was watching House Rules when one of the contestants seemed a bit flustered and the host, Jo Griggs, narrated, “Harry’s head was fidget-spinning” – think of all the things you could say about that! (Tip: have a notebook with you while you’re watching TV so you can record the details of any cool language things that pop up).
The important thing is, you don’t just want to find interesting language examples, such as neologisms, but see how they’re used across the media and, especially, in Australia.Australian news and entertainment programs are great for analysing language use, I highly recommend them. The neologism ‘cofveve’, for example; a nonsensical word tweeted by the President of America and then re-tweeted more than 105,000 times (Major Burdock, The Goldwater, 2017). It’s become a pinnacle for speculation and humour. On an episode of Australian program Have You Been Paying Attention?, the host had a photo of one of the guests, Marty Sheargold, sitting on a camel. He called it ‘A fat man on a camel’, to which Sheargold replied, “No, it’s a fat man on a cofveve.”
Consider how you’ll make these examples relevant in your essay/s.
You might have a quirky language example, but it’s only going to help you if it’s relevant to the essay topic you’re given/you’ve chosen. Consider the specific metalanguage you’re going to use, and the area of study it falls under. Why is the example you’ve given interesting? Take my ‘cofveve’ example: it could link to Australian culture and values, in that we don’t take ourselves or others too seriously (others, meaning the President and authoritative figure). It also shows how we’re influenced by other countries, and how technology and social media facilitates changes in language. This is the kind of level of detail and exploration you want to reach – if not higher – when it comes to writing an EL essay.
Never resort to ‘Lol’.
Ever! My teacher drilled this into us all year; ‘lol’, and other tech-speak acronyms, is actually quite out-dated, and is rarely used these days. What about ‘shook’ and ‘extra’ and ‘lit’? What about the ‘same’ phase? These semantic shifts are way more topical to the present language debate and you’ll get a lot more out of them.
It’s easy to fall into our old habits and resort to the first thing we can of when we’re under that SAC and exam stress, but try and make the most of the research you’ve done and observations you’ve made of our current, thriving language. Your examiners will love you for it, and you’ll love yourself, too.
Now practice with these examples:
See what you can do with the following recent language-use examples. What area of study do they relate to? What’s interesting about them? The more things you can do with your examples, the better, as you won’t know exactly which prompts you’ll get in the SAC/exam. You’ll want your examples to fit into as many prompts as possible, make them flexible – you’ll thank yourself later.
Good luck! ????
VCE English Language Units 3/4 – Interactive Course
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VCE English Language – Sample Written Piece & Questions!
In today’s post, I’d like to present to students a sample informal written piece along with some questions that I have created for you. I found this piece in the opinion section of the Herald Sun.
Hint: get a copy of the Herald Sun, Age, Australia and go to the opinion section – you’ll often see examples of informal language in use. If you want to go a step further, you can even make your own questions for these pieces you find in the paper 🙂
With many schools conducting their first SAC for English Language as short answer questions shortly (or already have!), I believe this post will help many students! Make sure that you ask your teacher when and in what format your first SAC is – never leave this to the last minute. Even if you first SAC isn’t a short answer piece, you can still practice as undoubtedly this will help you for the exam, or just for understanding metalanguage!
I want you to look at this transcript and ask yourself first and foremost, “why is this piece informal?”. Think about that for a few moments and then move.
“Why is this informal?”
What makes it informal? To give you some hints, have a look at:
- The imitation of the spoken mode…
- The use of personal pronouns…
- The use of contractions or diminutives…
- The lexical features such as Australiancolloquialisms…
Okay that’s enough. But use that as food for thought 🙂
Download the actual text here and read through thoroughly first: https://learnmate.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/informal-practice-text.pdf
Answer the following short answer questions, paying close attention to the marking! Also sorry there are no line numbers in this text due to it being in a newspaper.
- What is the register and the social purpose of this text? Explain the connection between the register and the social purpose. (4 marks)
- Who is the intended audience of this text? What linguistic features show this intended audience to be true? (4 marks)
- Comment on two different features of spoken discourse used in this text. Why has the author used these features? (5 marks)
- Comment on the use of phonological features in this text. (2 marks)
- Comment on the use of simile in lines 41 – 42 in relation to the text’s social purpose (2 marks).
For those who want to get even further ahead, I’d also recommend using this piece to write an analytical commentary / analysis. You can find a complete template here in my online course on how to write an analytical commentary.
Short Answer Tips
- Look at the marks! This will give you an indicator as to how much you need to write. You don’t want to write too much, or even too little. This will mean you will run out of time, or have too much time left over and will compromise on quality answers.
- Look for plurals in the question (does it say ‘features’ or ‘choices’?).
- Do not list or write dot-points. This is an English subject.
- Try and knock this out ASAP when you get into the exam. More marks are allocated to the commentary and essay section. However, this doesn’t mean you compromise on quality.
- This section is a great test of your metalinguistic knowledge. If you fail to know your metalanguage then this section will be very difficult to complete indeed!
- Pay attention to the timing!
I will be running the most comprehensive workshop for VCE English Language 3/4 these coming autumn holidays, with a particular focus on formal language (Unit 3 AOS 2). To find out more, please go here https://www.facebook.com/events/683401895175642/ or here https://www.learnmate.com.au/workshops/english-language/
Don’t miss out – my workshops always sell out every holidays – and I have got so much planned for you. Continue setting those foundations and maintain dominance throughout the year!