What is language analysis?


This video is a short introduction to the task of language analysis. What is it? Where do you start? Is it important? I’m going to give you the basic outline, and then outline a few strategies to start improving your marks in language analysis by being proactive.

Firstly, language analysis is important for you to get your head around. It is one-third of the end of year exam and usually one-third of your SACs over the year. On top of that, it’s the only section of the English exam where every student in the state is answering the same question, so you have to be good at making your own response stand out from the crowd.

Now, let’s talk a little about what language analysis actually is. This task asks you to read a piece, such as an article or a speech, and then examine the way it has attempted to persuade the reader. This means working out:

-the contention (what the writer’s argument is)

-the tone

-the techniques (the different ways that they attempt to persuade you, and)

-the visual techniques (there will always be at least one image for you to analyse along with the piece)

You work your way through the piece, spotting the different attempts at persuasion and then you write an essay explaining how each thing works. For a more in-depth look at what that essay will look like, make sure to check out our video on structuring a language analysis.

Next, let’s look at what teachers and assessors expect from you for this task. The VCAA identifies their marking criteria for language analysis as these three key points:

-understanding of the ideas and points of view presented

-analysis of ways in which language and visual features are used to present a point of view and to persuade readers

-controlled and effective use of language appropriate to the task

Don’t think of these three things as each making up a third of your mark: they are looked at as a whole. Some key things to note are *highlight as I read through these*:

There may be more than one point of view expressed. You need to analyse all.

Analysis: not description. The assessor expects you to critically discuss how things work to be persuasive, not just what you can see within the piece.

You must analyse not just the language techniques, but the ways in which the visual is persuasive as well.

Your essay must be fluid and well-written, a criterion that will affect your writing in every section of the English exam.

Keep these criteria in mind while you’re writing. It will get easier the more you write and get feedback from your teacher to see which one you’re struggling with.

Finally, I’d like to give you some suggestions for activities you can try out in your own time to improve your marks in language analysis:

  1. Write lots of essays (there’s obviously no substitute for practise!)
  2. Expand your vocabulary (set yourself an aim of two new words a week- print out a vocab list and hang it up against your shower or above your desk. There’s a list of tone words you might not know on this wiki’s page on tone- check that one out!)
  3. Understand visual techniques (go flip through a copy of the newspaper and take a look at each of the cartoons and photographs. What argument are they putting forward? What type of emotions are they trying to make you feel?)
  4. Learn your techniques (And what easier way is there to do that then watch some videos? Make sure to check out each of our technique videos so you don’t just recognise them when you see them, but you can analyse them well too)