English & EAL

The Ultimate Guide To VCE Language Analysis

Lisa Tran

May 9, 2019

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Contents:

  1. What is Language Analysis?
  2. What are you expected to cover? (Language Analysis criteria)
  3. School Assessed Coursework (SAC), exams, and allocated marks
  4. How To Prepare For Your Language Analysis SAC and exam
  5. How to write a Language Analysis

What is Language Analysis?

Language Analysis (also known as Analysing Argument, Argument Analysis, and an array of other names) is comparatively the most different of the three parts of the VCE English study design. The other two parts of English, Text Response and Comparative, focus on analysing texts like novels and films where students are then expected to produce an extended piece of writing reflecting on those texts' ideas, themes, and messages.

Fun fact: In 2013, the VCAA English exam featured a similar poster to this 'Dig for Victory' propaganda poster above.

Language Analysis, officially known as ‘Analysing Argument’ in the study design, is the 2nd Area of study (AOS 2) - meaning that majority of students will tackle the Language Analysis SAC in Term 2. Unlike Text Response and Comparative, in Language Analysis you will be asked to read 'cold material' (meaning that you won't have seen the piece before, i.e not had the chance to study it prior to your SAC and exam). This 'cold material' will be 1-3 articles and/or images (we'll just refer to all articles/images as 'texts' for simplicity) written for the media, whether it be an opinion piece for a newspaper, or an illustration for a political campaign.

You are expected to read the article, analyse the persuasive techniques used by the author, and express this in an essay. Let's get into it!

What are you expected to cover? (Language Analysis criteria)

What are teachers and examiners expecting to see in your essays? Below are the VCE criteria for Language Analysis essays.

Note: Some schools may express the following points differently, however they should all boil down to the same points - what is necessary in a Language Analysis essay.

1. Understanding of the argument(s) presented and point(s) of view expressed;

The first most important step is to understand the contention and arguments presented in the text because you'll base your entire analysis on your assumption. This can be tricky if you're unfamiliar with the contentious topic, or if the writer expresses their ideas in complex ways. In the worse case, you'll misinterpret what the author is arguing and this will subsequently mean that your analysis will be incorrect. Never fear! There are many tactics to try and ascertain the 'right' contention, will we'll go into detail later.

2. Analysis of ways in which language and visual features are used to present an argument and to persuade;

This is where 'language techniques' come into play. You're expected identify the language used by the writer of the text and how that's intended to persuade the audience to share their point of view. There are too many language techniques to count, but you're probably already familiar with inclusive language, rhetorical questions and statistics. For most students, this is the trickiest part of Language Analysis. To read more on how to overcome this part of the criteria, get educated with Why Your Language Analysis Doesn’t Score As Well As It Should.

3. Control and effectiveness of language use, as appropriate to the task

When examiners read essays, they are expected to get through about 12-15 essays in an hour! This results in approximately 5 minutes to read, get their head around, and grade your essay - not much time at all! It is so vital that you don’t give the examiner an opportunity to take away marks because they have to reread certain parts of your essay due to poor expression and grammar.

School Assessed Coursework (SAC), exams and allocated marks

Reading and Creating is assessed in Unit 1 (Year 11) and Unit 3 (Year 12). The number of allocated marks are:

  • Unit 1 - dependant on school
  • Unit 3 English – 40 marks
  • Unit 3 EAL – 30 marks (plus 10 marks for short-answer responses and note form summaries)

Exactly when Language Analysis is assessed within each unit is dependent on each school; some schools at the start of the Unit, others at the end. The time allocated to your SAC is also school-based. Often schools use one or more periods combined, depending on how long each of your periods last. Teachers can ask you to write anywhere from 800 to 1000 words for your essay (keep in mind that it’s about quality, not quantity!)

In your exam, you get a whopping total of 3 hours to write 3 essays (Text Response, Comparative, and Language Analysis). The general guide is 60 minutes on Language Analysis, however it is up to you exactly how much time you decide to dedicate to this section of the exam. Your Language Analysis essay will be graded out of 10 by two different examiners. Your two unique marks from these examiners will be combined, with 20 as the highest possible mark.

How To Prepare For Your Language Analysis SAC and exam

Preparation is a vital component in how you perform in your SACs and exam so it’s always a good idea to find out what is your best way to approach assessments. This is just to get you thinking on the different study methods you can try before a SAC. Here are my top strategies (ones I actually used in VCE) for Language Analysis preparation:

Get your hands on some sample texts

If your teacher hasn't given you any to practice with, try the VCAA English exam page. You've got exams dating back to 2001, so there are no shortages of practice papers!

Know your terminology (persuasive techniques and tones).

Make sure you brush up on the definitions of persuasive techniques. It’s not going to be a tick if you used metaphor instead of simile, or if you use alliteration instead of assonance. These mistakes do happen! Don’t fall into this trap.

Also ensure you're familiar with tones. It may be easy to identify the writer is ‘angry’ but is there a better way of expressing that? Perhaps ‘irritated’ is a better term or ‘vexed’, ‘passionate’, ‘furious’, ‘disgruntled’, ‘outraged, ‘irate’ and the list goes on….Stuck? Have a look at our 195 Tones for Language Analysis.

Images (including cartoons, illustrations, and graphs) is something you also need to get your head around. Understanding how an image persuades its audience can be challenging, so test yourself and see if you know to Look For These 10 Things In Cartoons.

Read and watch Lisa's Study Guides' resources

Doing this study all by yourself can be rather daunting, so we've got your back. We specialise in supporting VCE English by creating helpful videos, study guides and ebooks. Here are some just to get your started:

YouTube Videos

We create general Language Analysis advice videos where I answer your questions in a QnA format:

We also create article-specific video where I select a past VCAA exam and analyse it in real-time:

Check out our entire YouTube channel (and don't forget to subscribe for regular new videos!).

Study guides

Our awesome team of English high-achievers have analysed popular Language Analysis articles (most based off past VCAA exams). Here's a compilation of all the ones we've covered so far:

Medi-Info Card - VCAA Exam 2001 (we're going wayyy back!)

Truancy - VCAA Exam 2002 (hey, weren't you born around this time?)

Keyed In Sample Analysios- VCAA Exam 2009

Taking Stock Sample Analysis – VCAA Exam 2010

Lawton, The Home Of The Giant Watermelon - VCAA Exam 2016

eBooks

And if that isn't enough, I'd highly recommend my 'How to write a killer Language Analysis' ebook.

Practice your analysis.

Analysing can get messy when you will have dozens of annotations sprawled across the text. Start testing out strategies that work for you. For example, try using idea-based-colouring. This means that if the article discusses injustice – for all techniques you identify dealing with injustice, highlight it yellow. For freedom, highlight them green. This will have you annotating and grouping ideas in one go, saving time and confusion.

Another approach is to use technique-based-colouring, where you highlight same or similar techniques in the one colour.

Above is an example of idea-based-colouring from my Lawton, The Home Of The Giant Watermelon - VCAA Exam 2016 video. If you haven't watched this video series, don't worry if it doesn't make sense to you for now. The point here is how the colours help me to quickly locate ideas when I'm writing my essay.

Write plans

Once you've done some analysis and revision , it's time to write plans! Plans will help ensure you stick to your essay topic, and have a clear outline of what your essay will cover. This clarity is crucial to success in a Language Analysis essay.

Doing plans is also an extremely time-efficient way to approach SACs. Rather than slaving away hours upon hours over writing essays, writing plans can will save you the burnout, and get you feeling confident faster.

Write essays

Yes, sad but it’s a fact. Writers only get better by actually writing. Even if you just tackle a couple of essays then at least you will have started to develop a thinking process that will help you to set out arguments logically, utilise important quotes and time yourself against the clock. It will help you write faster as well – something that is a major problem for many students. With that said, let's get into how to write a Language Analysis next.

How to write a Language Analysis

Since we've established that Language Analysis is quite different from Text Response and Comparative, it's not surprising that the essay has its own set of best practices and rules.

Essay structure

Depending on how many texts you're given in your SAC or exam (can be up to 3 texts), you should have an idea of how you plan to execute your essay accordingly - whether that be through a block structure, bridge structure, or integrated structure. To learn more about essay structures, check out Christine's (English study score 49) advice in How To Structure A Language Analysis For Two Or More Texts.

Introduction

In an introduction, you're expected to have the following:

  • Context
  • Date
  • Form
  • Author
  • Source
  • Title
  • Contention
  • Audience
  • Tone

Kristin (English study score 50) writes about this 'CDFASTCAT' acronym in her post, How To Write An A+ Language Analysis Introduction.

Here's an example from Gabrielle (English study score 42), in her post Exploring an A+ Language Analysis essay comparing two articles:

In recent years, the issue regarding the treatment and management of asylum seekers has become a topic of interest for many Australian citizens, with the debate focusing centrally on the ethics of their indefinite detention, and the reliability of this initiative as a working solution. Many articles intending to weigh-in on the debate depict the Australian Government’s favoured solution in various tones, with two pieces, written by news source, The Guardian, by authors Ben Doherty and Helen Davidson, and activist Kon Karapanagiotidis, respectively, asserting that the initiative is the wrong approach to a growing problem. In their piece, “Australia’s offshore detention regime is a brutal and obscene piece of self destruction,” the former of the authors speaks with an accusatory tone to their audience of regular readers of the popular news publication site and debates the practicality of the “arbitra[y]” detention of these asylum seekers, as well as calls into question the humanity of the act and assesses whether it is an effective use of Australia’s wealth, intending to persuade readers to be similarly critical of the initiative. Likewise, the author of the open letter, “Stand in solidarity with people seeking asylum this holiday season,” writes to supporters of his resource centre in a tone of conviction, asserting that asylum seekers deserve the safety of asylum within Australia, that detaining or barring them from entering the country is inhumane and the root of much suffering, and that overall, it is morally wrong, and thus should be ceased immediately. Both articles contend that Australia’s current solution to the growing issue is incorrect, with Doherty and Davidson specifically believing that there is a better solution that must be sought, and Karapanagiotidis believing that detention as a whole is inhumane and should not be further employed by the government.‍

Try to keep your introduction to the point. There's no need to prolong an introduction just to make a set number of sentences. It's always better to be concise and succinct, and move into your main body paragraphs where the juicy contents of your essay resides.

Body paragraph

Most of you will be familiar with TEEL. TEEL can stand for:

  • Topic sentence
  • Example
  • Evidence
  • Linking sentence

In Language Analysis, it seems that schools teach their students different acronyms, whether it be TEE:

  • Technique
  • Example
  • Evidence

or WWHW as Joanna (English study score 47) explores in her post Analysing Argument - What, When, How, Why Method:

  • What
  • When
  • How
  • Why

And if your teacher or school teaches you something slightly different to the aforementioned acronyms - that's ok too. At the end of the day the foundations in what's expected are the same. Below is an integrated structure example:

While both articles make very different arguments on the same topic, in one particular case they give voice to the same issue, namely, the inhumanity of detaining refugees, in which both articles become advocates for the abolition of offshore detention. Authors for The Guardian write that it is “needlessly cruel,” “harsh,” and a “brutal regime,” using emotive language to give weight to their argument and invoke a sense of discomfort within their readers, particularly towards the government’s chosen solution. They call on the opinions of a number of other sources who have “repeatedly criticised,” the operation, such as the United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, among other similar experts on the matter. The authors depict Asylum Seekers as individuals who are “arbitrarily punished offshore,” and who “have been accused of no crime,” and are therefore, by the judgement of the authors, being treated immorally. In agreement, Karapanagiotidis writes of the abuse endured by asylum seekers in detention, including their separation from loved ones, their arbitrary incarceration, and stating that he, himself, “cannot begin to imagine the personal toll detention has had on [them],” implying further damage has been done and inviting his audience to similarly place themselves into the figurative shoes of an asylum seeker. The author writes that the offshore detention of asylum seekers causes “pain,” and “suffering,” as well as the “depriv[ation] of [their] hope,” using emotive language to invoke sympathy and understanding within his readers. Karapanagiotidis hands the blame for such “suffering inflicted,” on the Australian government, a similar tactic which The Guardian employed throughout their piece. Overall, both articles use a range of language devices and expert sources to agree that the act of detention is inhumane, and the root of much suffering.‍‍

As you're writing essays, you'll probably find that you're using the word 'persuades' very often. To mix it up, have a ‘Persuade’ Synonym Word Bank with you whenever studying so that you can build up your vocabulary bank and avoid the dreaded, 'I just keep repeating the same word over and over again'!

Conclusion

Conclusions should be short and sweet.

The two articles, in their discussion of Australia’s offshore detention initiative, bring light to several key points. Authors for The Guardian use various appeals, emotive phrases and evidence of reported monetary statistics to sway the reader to share their opinion, as well as arguments regarding the lack of reliability the initiative provides in its ability to deter boats, the sheer cost of the program, and the morality of the issue. Similarly, Karapanagiotidis, the author of the open letter, uses a humanising image, appeals to the values of the readers, and employs phrases with pre-existing connotations known to the audience, to assert main contentions: that asylum seekers deserve asylum, that barring them from settling in the country is the root of much suffering, and that their indefinite detention is not only inhumane, but morally wrong.

That's it for the Ultimate Guide to Writing a Language Analysis. Good luck!

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