By guest writer Izzy Seah (18S03B)
Photos courtesy of Izzy Seah
This article is the third part in Raffles Press’ series, Please Mind the Platform Gap: The Road Less Taken, about non-traditional A-Level subjects offered in RI. For our previous feature on H2 French, please click here. For our feature on taking a third language in JC, click here.
This article does not necessarily reflect the views of RI’s academic management and should not be used as a substitute for formal academic counselling.
After a presentation, no clapping is heard in the German Resource Room at Bishan MOELC. Instead, a deep rumbling echoes throughout the room as students pound the table with their knuckles. This is common classroom etiquette in German universities – one similarly practised by the H2 German class. This way, students can acknowledge and applaud the speaker with one hand while scribbling notes with the other.
In H2 German, students not only learn about the language and culture from the syllabus, but are able to experience it too. Lessons are typically conducted in a style similar to that in Germany, consisting mostly of discussions and presentations (completely in German, of course). Although students continue to learn the nuances of German grammar and expression, students who take H2 German are expected to already have a firm grasp of the basics, which should have been established in their first four years of learning the language. Only students who have passed the O-Level German paper with a minimum grade of A2 are encouraged to take German as a H2 subject, as the unspoken rule in class is to converse entirely in German.
The aim of this two-year course is to equip students with communication skills and a proficiency level adequate for a university education in Germany. The curriculum is structured around a select few topics such as ‘Friends and Family’, ‘Tourism and Travelling’, and ‘Learning about Learning’. Students discuss various aspects of these topics, through which they learn how to express their opinions through argumentative and reflective essays. This bears much similarity to H1 General Paper, except everything is conducted in German. Students play active roles in the classroom, as the tutor assigns groups to research certain topics to present to their classmates, and students answer any queries raised by their peers. In these instances, the tutor primarily plays the role of a mentor, facilitating discussions after the presentations to highlight important points. Most, if not all, German tutors have studied in Germany and the affable, experienced H2 German tutors take their classes all the way through to the A-Levels. Teaching styles no doubt differ from tutor to tutor and will largely define the typical flow of lessons.
However, there is a common trend: an easygoing class environment is cultivated as students are accorded the autonomy for self-directed learning and voluntary contribution of ideas. This is also reflected in the major assignments such as Oral Presentation and Coursework, where students deliver a three-minute speech and produce a thousand-word term paper respectively. Students are given the liberty to research the topic of their choice for each assignment. There is only one restriction: the topic has to be related to a German-speaking country. Three other aspects of assessment are Writing, Listening Comprehension, and Reading Comprehension. All assessments bear similar weightage and take place throughout the year, ensuring that students are never idle in their learning journey.
It’s been months since JC has started, but ‘Why German?’ is still one of the most frequent questions I get when people hear about my subject combination. What makes German so special? For one, the opportunity to apply for the German Language Elective Scholarship is exclusive to students who take German as a subject in JC. In addition, opportunities to participate in Singapore-Germany exchange programmes and experience German culture first-hand are extended to all H1 and H2 German students. In fact, participation in such programmes is highly encouraged, as such experiences definitely serve to improve one’s proficiency in the language and broaden one’s horizons in perspectives and knowledge. Students are also encouraged to study in German universities, as having the added advantage of fluency in the local language opens doors to pursuing courses not only in English but German as well. Given the fact that the rough year-on-year candidature is only approximately 20, I’d say everyone stands a good chance to participate in at least one of these activities.
That being said, the essence of H2 German isn’t just confined to the aforementioned activities. Why did I choose German? The answer is simple: I like German. I enjoy learning the language, and about the country, culture, and political issues. I enjoyed the three-hour blocks of German lessons every Friday through my secondary school years, and I continue to enjoy it enough such that I willingly spend two hours (from 5.30–7.30pm) every Wednesday and Friday at MOELC. (I have also grown to appreciate the extra-long breaks in my school schedule.)
Excelling in German in JC takes on a considerably different form as compared to secondary school. Extra reading, listening, and speaking go a long way, so a sustained interest in the language is paramount. Finding suitable material is the easy part. Anything you’re interested in, from biology textbooks to The Hunger Games to K-pop fanfiction, there’s bound to be a German version of it out there. Tutors also readily inform students about available events they can partake in such as volunteering to assist in German lessons for children at the Goethe Institute or attending the annual German Film Festival. Likewise, these are completely optional but definitely very valuable in defining your H2 German experience.
Be warned, though. Taking H2 German requires a level of commitment which includes travelling to Bishan MOELC every Wednesday and Friday evening (admittedly, not a particularly arduous or time-consuming feat for Rafflesians). H2 German, as an A-Level subject, takes precedence over CCA and outside commitments, and cannot be dropped.
Nevertheless, it is a unique and gratifying experience, one that I am grateful for. Taking H2 German is a decision that I do not (and will probably never) regret. If you enter the course with a passion for the language and a desire to learn, I can guarantee you won’t, either.
For more information about the 2020 H2 German syllabus, visit the SEAB website at https://www.seab.gov.sg/docs/default-source/national-examinations/syllabus/alevel/2020syllabus/9736_y20_sy.pdf
For more information about the German Language Elective Scholarship, visit the MOE website at https://www.moe.gov.sg/admissions/scholarships/moe-preu/german