Monday, May 14, 2012

ENGA1: quick revision tips 4

Today's post on ENGA1 (coming up this Friday - yikes!) is about addressing meaning in the texts you analyse.

Recent principal examiner reports have made the point that as students get better at discussing language features and mode, meaning still seems to be a problem for many people. And that's not necessarily a big surprise. Given that you're probably primed and ready to pick out lots of language details and link them to mode, it's often easy to forget that the texts themselves mean something and represent ideas, people, events in particular ways. In many ways it's less easy to prepare for this AO.

But some ideas that might help are as follows:

  • As you're using your 15 minutes of reading and annotating time, try to summarise, in 25 words or fewer, what each text is actually about and what it is saying about that topic. Imagine you were being asked by someone "What have you just read?": try to think of what you would say. "Oh, it's an article about higher education that's trying to persuade you that university is a good thing," might be your response.
  • How is the subject matter being represented? You will also have done the ENGA2 unit in your AS year. Think about what you have learnt about representation. Language choices shape our perception of issues, events, individuals and institutions. What clues are there in the language about the viewpoint or perspective being taken? This could range from quite obvious points about adjective use to more subtle points about the passive voice being used to hide agency (e.g. "The use of mobile phones has been banned in this college." Banned by whom?) or nominalisation being used to turn a  verb process (e.g. dropping out of university) into a state of affairs or even a person, i.e. a noun (e.g. someone who has dropped out is referred to as a dropout).
  • Texts also reflect a degree of positioning on the part of the text producer (the speaker/s or the writer). How are the text producers representing themselves? How are pronouns used to position speakers or writers? 
  • If there is more than one speaker or writer, do they offer different perspectives? How do Text A and Text B differ?

If you're smart, you can weave points about meaning into your analytical sentences, rather than saving big chunks of your answer to deal with meaning, but it's also a good idea to allocate at least one paragraph to addressing meaning on its own and how the texts handle it in similar or different ways.

Tomorrow, it's time for some quick Language Development tips.