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Whether you’re in Year 12 trying to keep up with the course while we’re in lockdown, or in Year 13 just keeping your hand in while you wait for more information on your ‘calculated grade’, here are some ideas about how you might use emagazine articles to keep your English Language studies at the front of your mind.
So… you might not want to hear any more about COVID-19 as you do this work – you might just want to get on with it as a distraction from the world out there – but it’s a gift for lexicographers. If we reach the end of 2020 with any kind of functioning society, those word of the year lists are guaranteed to be packed with words related to the pandemic. We’ve featured lots of pieces about new words and how they are formed, so why not have a look at articles from Jacky Glancey in the April 2020 edition, or the pieces by Kerry Maxwell in September 2016 and February 2017 where new words are tracked and discussed? You can have a look at this year’s Coronavirus-related words and see how they fit with the usual patterns of word formation and what these tell us about our times. One thing’s for sure: we won’t be talking about ‘going viral’ in quite the same way that we used to.
Many of us have had to move to online working as part of social distancing measures, and that has led to new joys: video conferencing calls with your work colleagues interrupted by teenage sons emerging from the shower singing, Catholic priests accidentally adding filters to their morning prayer TikToks and Facetiming your nan as she waits for a delivery of toilet roll. Language has changed a lot as a result of technology and we’ve covered it in many articles over the years, from pieces about texting, Twitter and Facebook to articles about the ways people present themselves online. Could you use this period of enforced distancing to gather some new data about how people of different ages and backgrounds use technology? An article like Ben Farndon’s September 2018 one about Facetime with grandparents might be a way into it.
The A Level course has encouraged you to read language – and read about language – with your critical faculties on full alert. When you’re pulling apart texts, you’re expected to think about the angles being offered, the positioning that’s taking place and the agendas at work. In my view, if you take nothing else from this course, the ability to critically evaluate what you read, what you hear and what you’re told is a hugely important skill to apply to what’s going around you all the time.
Several emagazine articles have focused on this kind of critical literacy. Lynne Murphy’s piece, How to Read the Language News – Sceptically from the December 2018 issue is a great introduction and sets a template for much of what you can do with any journalistic piece. Search for ‘critical discourse’ as a term in the emagazine archive and you’ll find plenty of other articles offering you the nuts and bolts of close, critical reading for any text about language. Why not gather some news articles about language from 2020 and apply a few of these approaches to them?
We’ve always tried to get some of the best linguists in their fields to write for emagazine and keep students abreast of the work they’re doing or the work that’s been inspiring them. That means we’re often four or five years ahead of the published textbooks. So, if you’re looking for interesting new studies into accent bias, attitudes to particular varieties of English, or style-shifting between different types of English, you’re well-served. What’s important here is not just to gather new studies and list them on a revision tick-list, but to work out where the new stuff fits with what you already know.
For each area – gender, change, diversity etc – think about how you can integrate what’s new with your existing knowledge. Does the new research continue a particular tradition and line of thinking about that area? Does it challenge the dominant way of thinking and throw up new ways to think about it? Does it offer evidence that things are changing in new ways?
Over the years, emagazine has featured lots of texts and ideas for how to analyse them. These can be used for pretty much any of the specifications and provide a useful starting point for your own work. Have a look through a few of the following and see if you can find another text to go with it for some comparative analysis. It might be an older text on the same theme, a more contemporary one to sit alongside it, or a text that offers a contrasting or complementary view to an opinion piece.
Nikolai Luck’s article, Letting Texts Talk – Developing an Analytical Mindset, has a turn of the 20th Century perfume advert as the focus. Why not compare this with a modern print advertisement, or think about transcribing a TV campaign?
The April 2020 edition features an analysis of Jess Evans’ piece on accent discrimination and some ideas about how to analyse it. Can you use this as a springboard for some more work on articles about accents or related language issues?