Studying a language for the HSC can be hard enough, doing it via correspondence is even harder, but not impossible…

This is my 4th year studying Japanese by correspondence. Ever since I was little I have been fascinated with all this Japanese. So when it came time to enter Year 9, I really wanted to study Japanese but it wasn’t offered at my school. So instead I did some research and discovered I could study languages (or any other subject you could think of!) through correspondence.

What is correspondence I hear you say?

Well, when you study a subject correspondence instead of having a teacher with you in a class room, you have a teacher which you can call or email whenever you need help.

Your work is simply either sent to you through the mail on a weekly basis or, like me, sorted into weekly units to complete online. You school will give you around 4 periods a week to learn content and complete class work (Depending on how many periods you get a day at your school). Not that different from any other class right?

However, there are some things you have to keep in mind when choosing to study a subject by correspondence

You need to keep organised.

It is important to use the syllabus.

Your work load may be heavier for this subject.

Depending on the subject you might have a limited time with your teacher.

Self motivation is key!

OK. Lets go through some do’s and don’ts for those currently doing a language correspondence or to whom may be considering it. Please note I can’t speak for everyone nor other correspondence subjects, these are just some things I have noticed in my experience doing Japanese Continuers by correspondence.

Language Correspondence Do’s and Don’ts!

DO plan your class time and homework

Yes believe or not, you do have to plan your own classes and homework. Your teacher will provide you with what has to be done for the week. However, if you don’t plan, your classes will be spent sitting at table, staring off into blank space, and saying to yourself “what now?”

Planning an effective class and scheduling homework can be difficult but here are some easy steps to get you started.

Step One: Write down a list of things you must cover and complete over the next 2 weeks.

Step Two: Order these tasks by date due (Due first at the top, last at the bottom).

Step Three: Highlight the most important tasks.

Step Four: In your diary or on a piece of paper have two separate columns for each day, class work and homework.

Step Five: First allocate the highlighted tasks then the others according to date.

Step Six: Check over your schedule making sure you have not given your self too little or too much work to get done in a class period. Also make sure you have left enough time for other subjects in the afternoon.

Planning keeps you motivated to do work and keeps stress and overwhelmed feelings at bay. It also helps make sure subjects aren’t ignored when studying and helps prevent late homework and assignments. For HSC Japanese I would recommend trying to do a hour of study 5 nights a week!

This leads to my second point…

Don’t procrastinate!

Story time with Jessica:

Way back in year 9 when I had no idea what I was doing, I used to think that I had all the time in the world (1 year to be precise) to get all my work done for Japanese. At the time I was the only person in the school doing correspondence so I would sit in the library by myself and casually do my work. Homework is due on a semi weekly basis, just like any other subject. Unfortunately I decided to continue at this slow pace until I was many many units behind, leaving me to do a 1/3 of the course in a fortnight. Do not do what I did. It’s not fun.

So how is this avoided? Plan!

DO contact your teacher if you need help

Teachers are one of the most unused resources in the HSC. When it comes to studying correspondence it is important you contact them if you are having trouble. Here are some reasons why;

  • You tend to teach yourself most content when studying correspondence so the purpose of having your teachers is to answer your questions and guide you in your learning.
  • If you don’t understand you won’t be able to improve grades.
  • Communication is key to a easy ride through your HSC.
  • It will reduce stress and anxiety.

Most importantly, by asking your teachers for help, it makes it faster and easier to do class and homework. This helps you with organisation, stress and anxiety, and generally makes your life easier.

Remember, attempting work you don’t understand will waste time. Contacting your teacher is much better and efficient way of learning when you are struggling to understand something. Your time could be used a lot better studying or learning the content, which unlike doing work your don’t understand, will improves your grades.

DO practice your language daily

Japanese I can easily say hands down is the most time consuming and the hardest subject I have chosen for the HSC. In saying this, it is also all lot of fun.

It’s important to try and enjoy what you learn in and outside of school. Here’s some reasons why;

  • It helps retain information.
  • Makes it easier to study and do home/classwork.
  • School becomes more fun
  • Your marks will improve naturally!
  • Stress will be a thing of the past.

But its hard for learning a language to be fun when you feel you are not getting anywhere!

Practicing everyday will help you achieve fluency faster!

For example, in Japanese there are 3 ‘alphabets’ and 4 areas to study. These are writing, reading, listening and speaking. This has to be studied on top of your homework and theory given to you by your teacher.

Class time is not enough to get all of this done!

By doing some amounts of study each night it will prevent those cramming sessions before exams.

Here is how I study in the afternoon (around 1.5 hrs total):

4:00-4:30pmComplete any homework that needs to be done
4:30-4:45pmUse a website called Language Perfect to review and learn new vocabulary
4:45-5:00pm
Practice new kanji for the week and review 10 kanji
5:00-5:30pmRead some manga in Japanese. Note: I do this for fun but it happens to be helpful!
5:30-5:45pmWrite out practice sentences for new and old grammar structures
5:45-6:00pmHave a lovely conversation with myself in Japanese

Don’t waste holiday time!

The huge block of time during the Christmas holidays is extremely valuable. There is no other time before your HSC exam in which you will get such a long period of time to study. Holidays are the perfect time to catch up on work or more importantly get ahead, this means you will have MORE time to revise or have the ability to take a break from that subject when school gets hectic.

But what if the Christmas Holidays are over?… Make sure you use your other two week holidays wisely! Plan your time carefully, including what you are doing for study and free time so you don’t miss out on anything.

I would recommend planning in a diary or document so plans can be easily moved around. Here are some steps on how to get started.

  1. Create a list for what you must do for school and what study you should do for school. Also create another two lists for what you want to do in the holidays and what you have already planned to do.
  2. On a weekly basis add to your diary or document what events (things you have planned to do) are happening that week.
  3. Then simply add what you must do for school and correspondence work you can get ahead in, in time slots you feel would be best (I would recommend trying to do 5 days of at least 3hrs a week).
  4. Make sure you add to practice your language daily!
  5. Add in anything you would like to do or plan to do in remaining time. Make sure you leave some time to do nothing and relax.

So are you ready to start correspondence now?

Remember you are not in this alone

No matter how hard the work might get it’s never to late to try and put in just a bit more effort. You are not the only one doing correspondence, other people understand what you are going through. Try contacting your class mates to practice or just complain!

Let us know your experiences learning a language or doing correspondence, I would love to hear your stories!

Good Luck!

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Jessica Kornhaber is a Year 12 student from the Central Coast. Jessica finds relaxation from her studies by listening to Visual Kei and Japanese punk rock bands in addition to beating her records in Guitar Hero!  She also recharges drawing manga-style illustrations, reading, re-watching Studio Ghibli productions and occasionally participating in cosplay events. Her keen interest in Japanese language and culture led to a memorable journey to Japan in 2015 which has inspired her to combine future studies at university with work experience in Japan. Currently studying English Advanced, English Extension 1 & 2, Economics, Japanese Continuers, Religious Studies and Visual Arts, Jessica hopes that her experiences will be beneficial to future HSC students and those beginning their journey in 2017.