For many VCE Students, Language Analysis is most commonly their ‘weakest’ section out of all three parts of VCE English. Throughout my years of tutoring, when I’ve asked these students why they struggle, they usually blame the difficulty in grasping the most important component of Language Analysis:
Understanding how the author intends to persuade their readers.
You’ll see that I have italicised the words, ‘how’ and ‘intends’ in the above statement to highlight where your focus needs to be. If you’re currently trying to get your head around Language Analysis, or if you don’t understand where you’re going wrong, don’t worry. We’re going to look at the incorrect assumptions students make about Language Analysis, how to avoid it and also what you should do instead! So first, let’s have a look at a couple of common student errors. Students (including yourself perhaps) may believe that:
1. Language Analysis is about finding language techniques that persuade readers.
Stop right there! This certainly isn’t a treasure hunt (but that would be pretty awesome right?). If an essay was just about identifying language techniques, everyone would get an A+ (we wish!). Once you’ve had some practice under your belt, you’ll notice that anyone can find rhetorical questions, inclusive language and statistics, so there is a lot more to it than simply pointing out language techniques. Also, steer clear from throwing in all the possible language techniques you’ve found in an article too, because it’s not a competition about who can find the most techniques and even if you did, it doesn’t guarantee you an amazing score on your essay.
2. Language analysis is about if authors successfully persuade their readers.
Sorry to tell you, but this definitely isn’t it either. Our job as the student isn’t to figure out whether or not the author successfully persuades their reader. You can’t really speak for all the people reading an article if they do or do not agree with the author’s contention. Just like if you see an advertisement on television for MacDonalds, you can’t tell if the next person who watches the ad will be persuaded to go out and buy a Big Mac meal. That’s why at the end of the day, it’s not up to you to figure out the extent to which the author persuades their readers. So in that case, what should you be doing instead?
The ultimate goal is to demonstrate your understanding of how the author attempts to persuade the reader to agree with his or her contention.
Let’s break up the essential parts of analysing language so we can pinpoint exactly the part that is most problematic and also how we can finally get a strong grasp of how to be successful in this area:
The TEE rule
Technique – what persuasive technique is used?
Example – which text that shows it?
Effect – what is the intended impact on readers’ attitudes?
There are so many persuasive techniques around, once you’ve got your hands on a bunch of language technique lists then you’re pretty much set in this area. Be wary however, as I have mentioned in the past(and above) how simply ‘labelling’ language techniques is not enough for you to do well in language analysis. You can read more here: Why your Language Analysis doesn’t score as well as it should.
This is quite frankly, the easiest part of Language Analysis! All you need to do is quote your evidence! Straightforward? If quoting is not your forte, you can check out: how to embed quotes in your essay like a boss
Ok, this is the core of most students’ issues. We already know that the author is trying to persuade readers but here, we’re going to look how their choice of words or phrases creates a certain effect on readers so that they will be encouraged to agree with the author. When thinking about the effect, the best way is to put yourself in the reader’s shoes – you are after all, a reader! So in order to understand the effect think about the following three points:
- What readers may feel – emotions
- What readers may think – thoughts
- And what readers may want – wishes
Example 1: “You are my smartest friend, I’m really stuck on this question and I need help!”
Think about it realistically. If someone said this to you, how would you feel? There must’ve been a time where you were complimented (whether it be about your clothes, how you did something well, or how friendly you are with others), and you used this experience to your advantage. Each time you analyse a language technique, contemplate on what emotions, thoughts or wishes emerge as a result. When someone gives you a compliment, you probably feel flattered, or maybe even proud. And this is exactly what you need to include in your analysis! You should garner these everyday experiences as a trigger to help you understand how readers may respond to a certain technique. So if we broke it down via the TEE formula:
Example: “You are my smartest friend, I’m really stuck on this question and I need help!”
Effect: You feel feel proud and as a result want to assist your friend.
And let’s put it all together coherently and concisely:
Analysis: The compliment, “You are my smartest friend, I’m really stuck on this question and I need help!” encourages the listener to feel a sense of pride and this in turn, may encourage them to assist their friend.
Example 2: “The pet puppy was stuck inside a car on a 32 degree summer day, with no windows left open, and no room for fresh air.”
Again, think about the three points – how do you feel? What do you think of this scenario? What do you want as a result? You probably feel sorry for the puppy and want to save it from this situation.
Technique: Appeal to sympathy
Example: “The pet puppy was stuck inside a car on a 32 degree summer day, with no windows left open, and no room for fresh air.”
Effect: You may feel that it is unfair for the puppy to be in such a horrendous and potentially life-threatening situation.
And let’s put it all together coherently and concisely:
Analysis: Through the appeal to sympathy, “the pet puppy was stuck inside a car on a 32 degree summer day, with no windows left open, and no room for fresh air”, readers may believe that it is unfair for the puppy to be subjected to such a horrendous and potentially life-threatening situation and thus, may be persuaded to take action to prevent further harm to pets.
Ultimately, focus on the potential effect language can have on the reader and as a result, how this may encourage the reader to agree with the author. If you do that, then you’re definitely on the right track. If this study guide has helped you gain further insight into Language Analysis, then you may be interested in my upcoming workshop where I spend a few hours offering advanced advice on Language Analysis! No matter what scores you have been attaining in Language Analysis, whether high or low, my workshop is loaded with tips which will undoubtedly help you achieve the best you possibly can. You are welcome to register here: VCE English Intensive Spring Break Workshop. Join the Facebook event here today to keep updated on all the latest information in the lead up to the workshop and invite your friends!