By Jolene Yee (23S03A)
“I heard you have to write a 4000 character essay. Is H2 Japanese hard? Are the lessons intense? Is it a big jump from Japanese in Secondary 4?”
These were just some of the burning questions foremost in my mind at this time last year. Not only did I approach my Senpais and Senseis for advice, I also attempted to seek answers from Google…only to be directed to the SEAB H2 Japanese Syllabus page, which induced no small amount of panic in me.
And so, to all prospective H2 Japanese learners out there sharing similar concerns with my eager-but-apprehensive-and-hence-torn-between-H2-Econs-and-Japanese self a year ago, わかるよ、その気持ち! Hopefully, this article can be of some help in addressing your queries and relieving your anxieties, and ultimately in making an informed decision about your subject combination.
What are the assessments like?
The 4000 character essay you are referring to is likely the ‘Coursework’ component of the A-Level examinations, comprising two or three pieces of writing that could be in the form of imaginative or creative work. Apart from coursework, here is an outline of the A-Level assessment framework:
The H2 Japanese A-Level Assessment Overview (excluding Coursework)
Unlike the O-Level composition questions, H2 Japanese essay questions are argumentative in nature. Sample questions include:
- コロナウイルスに対する規制は、法律で厳しく規制するべきか。(Should COVID-19 regulations be strictly regulated by law?)
- これからの観光地はどうあるべきか。(What should tourist attractions be like in the future?)
- 莫大な収入を得ているスポーツ選手は子供たちの「あこがれの人」になるべきか。(Should high-earning athletes become children’s role models?)
Of course, there are internal examinations, such as the Continual Assessments (CAs) you are familiar with, and other miscellaneous ones like group presentations.
How are classes?
Just like any other H2 Third Language, Japanese classes are conducted twice a week, from 5.30 p.m. to 7.30 p.m. at the Bishan campus of the Ministry of Education Language Centre (MOELC). The lessons are very much discussion-based, with plentiful opportunities for in-class group work and thought-provoking discourse.
And though your class size is likely to be quite small (mine is 15), there would certainly be a wide range of individuals from different JCs. Being in a diverse but like-minded community who share a common interest in the language with you – doesn’t that sound wonderful?
What can I expect to learn?
Be it cultural tangibles like food or intangibles like language and traditions, or complex issues such as Japan’s ageing society and sinking birthrate, you would be able to develop a breadth and depth of knowledge of Japanese cultural heritage and contemporary society.
As for linguistics, you can expect to learn a slew of new grammar structures, conjunctions and connectors. Oh yes, you also get to learn about the various dialects spoken in Japan, if this interests you.
What is in store for me?
If you have scored at least a B3 for your O-Levels, you may apply for the Japanese Language Elective Scholarship (JLES), and if your application is successful, you would have the opportunity to take part in the Overseas Study cum Immersion Programme at the end of J1.
There are other opportunities available as well, such as the Japanese Speech Contest, corporate visits (企業訪問) and local immersion programmes.
My classmates and I participating in the Japanese Speech Contest 2022
A corporate visit to NTT Singapore with my teacher and classmates
Are there any prerequisites?
Yes (fortunately or unfortunately). Firstly, an ‘A’ grade for your Japanese O-Levels is highly recommended. Secondly, you would have to sit for a diagnostic test that assesses your aptitude and readiness to study Japanese at the H2 level.
Attribute-wise, beyond having passion for the language, self-discipline and resilience are two crucial traits to have, given the rigour and self-directed nature of learning and the fact that there is no fixed scope or curriculum you can fall back on for revision. You’re able to enjoy great autonomy, but you’ll also have to be fully accountable for your own learning.
Source: 無料イラストの IMT
Learning H2 Japanese has been quite a journey – one that has been challenging but rewarding at the same time. It would be an outright lie to say that it was a breeze, for I floundered and struggled to stay afloat in the first two months of transition.
Nevertheless, despite the countless challenges, have I ever regretted my decision to take H2 Japanese this year? No. In fact, it was perhaps one of the best decisions I have made to date – I have grown to enjoy the intellectual challenges and learning process, and appreciate the beauty of the Japanese language and culture more deeply.
After all, 日本語の魅力は他人に言われるより自分自身の体験でよく感じられるのではないでしょうか？
2023 H2 Japanese SEAB Syllabus: https://www.seab.gov.sg/docs/default-source/national-examinations/syllabus/alevel/2023syllabus/9737_y23_sy.pdf
Japanese Language Elective Scholarship (JLES): https://www.moe.gov.sg/financial-matters/awards-scholarships/programme-scholarships-pre-u