As the only compulsory subject in the HSC, you might have resigned yourself to the fact that, at least until you finish high school, you will need to study English. However, the study of English literature and language is not just a means to graduation but important to your future success, even if you choose not to pursue it at a tertiary level.
When you think about English, does it make you want to a) cry softly, b) crawl back into the safety of your warm bed or c) coat yourself in a layer of BBQ sauce and throw yourself into a pit of starving crocodiles? If you answered yes to any of the above, you are not alone. Don’t fear though, we’re going to give you 7 reasons to study English and give it your all! Remember, studying English will help you foster vital written and verbal communication skills, better understand past cultures and those around you, and can open doorways to a range of diverse career paths
Think of the most mathematical career you can imagine…Statistician, astrophysicist, doctor? Whatever job came to mind, we can guarantee that the ability to communicate both verbally and orally is an important component of that job description. Statisticians have to be able to explain their statistical results so that other people can understand and apply them, doctors have to write reports on the status of their patients and suggested treatments, and even astrophysics have to write academic papers outlining their findings. Whatever your interests and career aspirations, learning how to communicate effectively is vital for success in your later career, and your wider life.
English class not only teaches you the grammatical rules of language, it also trains you in how to craft persuasive and logical arguments, which leads to our second reason you should study English.
When you receive a great mark on an essay or make a sophisticated contribution to a class discussion of your text, part of what you have done well is crafted an effective argument. By training students to effectively express their point of view using evidence to support that perspective, English is the only subject which will teach you how to trounce your opposition and win the war of persuasion. Just think about all the practical applications of such a skill:
In addition to helping you fine-tune your persuasive expression, it will also help you expand your vocabulary and knowledge of classic texts, so that even if your arguments are not so great, your opponent will be impressed regardless.
Being able to analyse language at a deep and detailed level is not only a necessary requirement for a great English essay, it’s also a valuable life skill. So much of what our nearest and dearest (and not so dearest) truly mean, is not explicitly said – it can often be hidden in the subtext of their statements, texts and Facebook posts. Trying to decipher a mysterious Drake lyric? Look no further than your study of poetry. Have a frenemy who is more of a snake than Taylor Swift at the Grammy’s? Learn a lesson or two from Othello’s Machiavellian villain, Iago.
Language is everywhere, and by putting a microscope to how it is used, it can help you better understand its purpose. By applying your analytical skills to your everyday world, you can learn to uncover the truth beneath the written word, and better understand what people truly mean.
Teachers may drum into you the strict rules of grammar (which are definitely important), but studying English is really a creative exercise. What English teachers really want you to develop is the ability to think both critically and creatively, and the best essays will demonstrate a detailed and analytical approach to a text, while showing an element of originality.
The ability to demonstrate critical and creative thinking skills will hold you in good stead for any future subject and career path. For example, business leaders have to be able to analyse the data of financial markets, a critical task, but then have to be able to come up with creative ways to make sure their business is ahead of the rest of the market.
Part of what students often complain about when it comes to English is its seeming subjectivity. However one of the most vital life lessons English can teach you is the importance of perception and perspective in shaping meaning. Acknowledging the complexity and ambiguity of the meaning of your texts is part of the intellectual challenge of English, and one which has a broader relevance to life. Not all problems encountered have a clear or right answer – it’s how logically, creatively and persuasively you craft your approach to the problem that really counts! English teaches you the importance of acknowledging and respecting other people’s opinions as well as being able to effectively support and evidence your own views.
When many of us think of history, we think of heavy textbooks, aging paper documents and cavernous museums. However, English films, plays, poetry and novels are all examples of historical documents, which provide unique insight into the past. For example, the iconic 2004 film Mean Girls gives us a glimpse of the winning tank-top and pastel mini skirt outfit combo that was the height of fashion during the era, whilst provoking a reconsideration of Shakespeare through Gretchen’s intertextual reference to Julius Caesar.
While English might seem like the study of texts, it is just as much a study of people (the characters within the texts, the composers themselves and even to some extent the audience). All texts are powerfully shaped by the historical, personal and social context of the time in which they were written. They tell us what people at the time were worried about, what they thought about their governments, their societies, their economies and how they thought art and literature should be.
If you are interested in the past, texts can provide a unique way of glimpsing another time, and in the case of contemporary works, even your own present.
By developing skills in analysing literature or fine-tuning your written expression, you open yourself up to a range of exciting and different jobs.
Some careers may be the typical ones you would associate with studying English: an English academic, writing papers on great texts; an English teacher, communicating your love of English to a new generation, and a writer (whether of novels, screenwriting, blogs or magazine) or journalist. Studying English at high-school and/or university level may also lead to a career in editing or in book publishing. Strong written communication skills are also valued assets in the marketing, advertising and Public Relations fields, while a love of reading and an understanding of how to analyse language are vital for studying law.
Whether you end up studying English only for as long as it’s compulsory, or you choose to major in it at university, English is certainly a worthwhile way to spend a few hours a week at school.
Do you enjoy English but struggle with it? You should read our Beginner’s Guide to Acing HSC English and learn how to score those Band 6 results.