The HSC student who’s studying four different language courses

Year 12 student Joseph Macrae loves languages so much he’s studying not one,but three in the HSC.

“It was always my goal to be able to communicate well with other people,” he said. “You can really understand the culture through learning the language.”

Hurlstone Agricultural High School’s Joseph Macrae is studying three different languages and will be sitting four different oral exams for this year’s HSC.

Hurlstone Agricultural High School’s Joseph Macrae is studying three different languages and will be sitting four different oral exams for this year’s HSC. Steven Siewert

Joseph’s love of languages began as a child,after taking up learning Vietnamese to communicate with his family and open up a new world.

The Hurlstone Agricultural High School student is now preparing for four oral exams over the coming weeks in Japanese Continuers,Japanese Extension,French Beginners and Korean Beginners.

Oral exams for more than 5600 language students began on Saturday while almost 10,000 will complete their performance assessments in dance,music and drama from Monday.

It marks a return to normality after delayed exams and teachers,rather than external markers,assessing practical components last year due to the pandemic.

“I think it’s really important not to think about the exams as the end point of your language learning.”

Joseph Macrae,year 12 student

Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said students were breathing a sigh of relief with COVID-19 not interrupting this year’s exams.

“All students can take comfort in that fact that we have stringent measures in place to reduce potential disruptions this year,including alternative arrangements if they are unable to sit an exam due to illness,” she said.

Face masks will be strongly encouraged but not mandated during assessments. Hand sanitiser,alcohol wipes and masks will be made available to students.

About 76,000 students are working to complete their HSC program this year,and languages are the first of 126 courses to be examined.

“Learning a second language is an invaluable experience and an important skill in a globalised world,” Mitchell said.

“In NSW,we are surrounded by rich and diverse languages –and the NSW curriculum provides students from all backgrounds the opportunity to engage with and value those cultures.”

He began studying Japanese in year 8 but was eager to learn more in year 11,so he took on French and Korean.

“The more languages I learn the more people I’m able to connect with,” he said. “I don’t know if I have a knack[for languages] but I definitely have a love for it and that’s able to push me along.”

Joseph wants to share his love of languages with other young people and plans to become a teacher when he finishes high school.

He said the key to success in languages was daily revision and practice,so they became ingrained in his mind.

“I’m really looking forward to[the oral exams] so much and don’t really feel stressed about them,” Joseph said. “I think it’s really important not to think about the exams as the end point of your language learning.

“It’s really just the practice stage where you can gauge your abilities ... before you go out to practice with actual native speakers.”

With four languages already on his plate,Joseph still wants to learn more. Spanish and Chinese are next on his to-do list.

HSC written exams will start on October 12 and run until November 4.

Daniella White is the education reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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