Hi! I’m Tessa from 20A15 and my subject combination is Geography, Japanese, Literature and Math. Sounds unconventional? Well, it might be a path less travelled, but if you’ve ever harboured thoughts about taking a Third Language in JC, I’ll be glad to offer some advice.

Maybe you’re still considering what subject combination you should take. Maybe you’ve excelled in your Third Language in secondary school but you’re not sure if you want to study it in JC. Or maybe you’ve never taken a Third Language in your life, but you’re curious about what goes on in a language class. If you fall into any of these categories, then this article is for you!


What is taking a Third Language in JC like?

H2 Third Language lessons take place twice a week, from 5.30pm-7.30pm, at the Ministry of Education Language Centre (MOELC) in Bishan. However, the hours and days vary between languages and from year to year! In my batch, H2 Japanese lessons took place on Mondays and Fridays, H2 German lessons on Wednesdays and Fridays, and H2 French lessons on Mondays and Thursdays.


How different is the H2 Third Language syllabus from secondary school?

In secondary school, Third Language lessons focused on building up your linguistic skills, mainly grammar and vocabulary. However, the JC syllabus is different—you’re expected to have a strong language foundation, so the lessons will dive more into general topics.

If I could sum up the JC syllabus in one word, it would be “self-study”. Although we broadly touch on many topics in class, an unspoken expectation of H2 Third Language students is to read up and expose yourself to materials beyond curriculum time, including the news, books and media etcetera, anything that’ll help you to boost your general knowledge (and your grades).


What happens in a usual lesson?

I’ve interviewed a few of my Third Language peers to get an inside scoop on what lessons are like.

Lakshminarayanan Shruthi from 20S46, who takes H2 German, told me, “A typical lesson would be mainly focused on content, where our teacher introduces a sub-topic in the overarching theme we are studying. He would give us questions on the topic, usually relating to our opinion on something. We would discuss it in groups, and he might ask all the groups to share the overall opinion or ask specific people to answer. These questions could be given as lesson prep too, in order to delve a little deeper into the topic.”

Meanwhile, Shobhit Mishra from 20S45 shared with me about H2 French, “During classes we either participate in group work to solve mini projects or study exam materials closer to exam periods. Generally, we spend more time getting exposure to French material such as news and podcasts, to get a feel for authentic French before tackling actual exam papers or other challenging material.”

Lastly, I would describe H2 Japanese as Japan studies in Japanese at the JC level. We cover many general topics relating to Japan, ranging from politics to food security, from history to environmental issues. The topics are usually categorised according to the lesson unit we’re covering in the textbook. The sensei will pose questions regarding these topics and we break into small groups to discuss them and come up with answers.


What about H1 Third Language?

H1 Third Language is best described as General Paper (GP) in your language of study. You’ll focus more on honing your linguistic skills, while acquiring general knowledge about that particular country.

Unlike other subjects, you won’t be able to drop from H2 to H1 Third Language if you find that you’re not cut out for it. So if you’re unsure about the workload or level of commitment, read on to find out what your H1 Third Lang seniors have to say!

Choi Minh from 20S43, who takes H1 Japanese, told me, “In a normal lesson, the teacher will spend some time explaining new material, whereafter the class is split into pairs to work on examples so that the teacher can check if we have absorbed the new material well. Occasionally, oral presentations are conducted by the students on some interesting aspects of Japan, ranging from culture to politics.”

What about the benefits? “It helps to learn the niche aspects of Japanese language that’ll allow you to understand slangs and terms that are usually missed in subtitled media. Additionally, it’ll also help you in your travels and expand your career options,” explained Minh.


Life hacks 101 with Third Lang students

A long time ago, in a campus far far away, MOELC Bishan was built. Yes, it takes around 50 minutes to get there by MRT or bus. So transport-wise, the Japanese students take Grab together on Mondays and Fridays, and it’s great because we can split costs! (Perfect for cramming kanji quiz on the way too.)

The other Third Lang students (French/German) should get on our level 😉 take the cheaper, much more environmentally responsible method of public transport.

Well, if you’re reading this and you end up taking Third Lang, it would be good to find out who your fellow Third Lang peers are, so you can share transport costs and/or travel together. After reading this article, you also know a few seniors you can go to. We’ll be happy to help.


Why should I take a Third Language?

Shruthi, a H2 German student, shared, “Learning H2 German is constantly having to put yourself out in the open and making mistakes all the time. Sometimes, it’s quite daunting to think about and certain tasks may seem impossible to complete, which is valid because it is a foreign language, but I think that that makes it all the more rewarding. I have become almost family with my classmates, because we’ve all gone through this very unique experience together, and that is one of the most valuable things to me.”

Shobhit, who takes H2 French, told me, “I found the entire experience like going down a snowy hill. In the beginning, it’s very hard to get a grip on the sudden change of pace, however if you put in effort, you will get a hang of the pace very quickly. All I would say is work hard and it will reward you very well when you can finally understand the French newsreader going at full speed.”

Natsumi remarked, “Having studied Japanese longer than my Singaporean peers and given my mixed background, I’m afraid I can’t speak for most students studying H2 Japanese. However, the transition from O level to A level would be a huge jump – an analogy would be moving away from writing Chinese primary school picture-based compositions to Japanese version GP/social studies essays. Be prepared to explore beyond the curriculum and treat it as a subject that requires lifelong learning because you can’t mug Japanese!!”

Personally, although H2 Japanese has been tough, it has been an extremely memorable experience. At the beginning, I was stressed at the magnitude of what was required of me – a big leap from Sec 4 indeed, but after putting in the extra effort, you’ll find things a lot more manageable.

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Nothing worth having comes easy.” Although taking a Third Language in JC might be the road less travelled, littered with obstacles along the way, trust in the journey and you’ll be rewarded.


Article by:

Tessa Foo, 20A15


Media credits (in order of appearance):

Photo by Cory Woodward on Unsplash


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