How to prepare O Level Urdu/English Second Language?

How to prepare O Level Urdu/English Second Language?


The technique to tackle a language subject is quite different from any other subject you are going to take at your Ordinary Level.  Language is not about syllabus material or memory-learning of some facts that you can learn at your fingertips and jot down in your exam.  Rather, a language requires real skills developed throughout your course of 2/3 years.  It’s something which can’t be learned overnight, so if you are a month or a half away from your exam, and are very weak at your language subject, there may be very thin chances of you passing your subject with a good grade.  Unfortunately, there exist no hacks or shortcuts towards your dream result, when it comes to language.  Though if you have no problem in the basic reading and writing skills, then one month or so is absolutely more than enough to polish your skills.  But it’s no time to take a fresh new start. 
I myself as a student of Ordinary Level have scored A*s in both my language subjects, Urdu and English and in fact for both of them, I practiced for no more than two months before the exams.  So how was that possible? It actually was not only possible but very easy for me because my language skills were already pretty good and all I needed was to polish my skills.  In other words, I had already had the long-term preparation.
We will therefore talk about two ways:  the long term preparation, and the short-term preparation.


Long-Term Preparation

This preparation is done throughout your course of 2/3 years, as we mentioned above and your short-term preparation, you will be doing near your exams, will definitely be based on this long-term preparation.  The only skills of your language, tested at your Ordinary Level are reading and writing.  You conduct two component papers; one for reading and the other for writing.  So let’s talk about how you are going be prepared in the long run to write an excellent composition and get the most out of your reading paper as well:

Read, Read and Keep Reading

The problem with second language is that it is difficult for us to form grammatically correct sentences, or to know that the words you are using are correct in the context.  You are of course a non-native and in other words, your words don’t flow.  You have to think in your local or mother tongue, then convert it to the second language.  But guess what? This is an incorrect way of thinking.  You have to make your thoughts initiate in the second language (English in this case).  But how to do that?
Remember the rule, the more you do extra reading, the more your grip on the language is.  I never learned English or Urdu grammar in my whole life.  When I started, the first composition I wrote in my O Level-I class was so embarrassing when I read it again just recently, I could not believe I am where I am today.  All I did was read.  I would just read in all my spare time.  Soon, reading became my passion.  I read around 50 English novels that year.  For Urdu, I used to read a weekly magazine for kids and I read that till the age of 12.  I noticed that I never had problem in English spellings or formation of Urdu words.  All credit goes to my reading.  When you read, you are actually going through each word again and again, and words get imprinted at the back of your mind, so the next time, you hear that word, you just know how to write that.  Same goes for grammatical mistakes.  While reading English sentences, our mind is in fact, noticing the sentence structure, grammar and composition of the words used in that sentence.  It will be unbelievable for you when you sit down, after reading, to write, and your words just flow like river.
Some classic novels that I would recommend everybody to read are:

Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling---that’s an of course, as I’m quite a fan of the series myself but my recommendation is not biased, my reasons being that the author is native and the way she uses the words and the way each sentence is made, it’s easy for your mind to gather the pattern and write like that.  It’s great for beginners as the story is compelling, so hooking you to read more, there are seven books, so you will be reading one after another and amazed at how they improved your skills.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen--- This is a classic novel of 18th century.  Though the setting is old and the social interactions quite unmatched to today’s era, a classic is still a classic and why is that so? You can only answer after you read the classic.  The language is a little bit advanced and will require more effort but it also means it will build more vocabulary.  And chances are you may not understand Mr. Darcy’s famous letter at all but it’s worth a try.  After reading it, you will realize that not only it improved your language skills but the social and emotional intelligence you will be gifted with will be a bonus reward.

The Count of Monte Cristo
This a famous adventure novel and it surveys the theme of betrayal, hope and vengeance, with the consequences of those actions.  It’s great to build your vocabulary, where you will be coming across words like ardent, prodigious, cosmopolite and apoplexy.  But it still is not a difficult read and a great place to start for someone working to expand their vocabulary.

More novels:
Hamlet by Shakespeare
Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Old man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee


Knowledge

Composition writing, especially Urdu Directed Writing and descriptive and argumentative essays of English will require great deal of general knowledge.  But this knowledge at Ordinary Level is of course ordinary but some students are lacking even this bit of knowledge.  If you wish, you could leave it to the short-term preparation, near exams, instead of starting earlier but of course, the earlier you start, the greater will be your command.  For this, select a topic, for instance say ‘the disadvantages of deforestation’ / ‘shajarkari kay nuqsanat’ for Urdu.  This is an actual past paper topic and it was one of my very first writes.  What weakest students would do, would be writing anything related to deforestation they know or have in their memory.  But the topic is ‘Disadvantages’ of deforestation.  I recommend reading the topic again and again so you are not deviated from your focus.  Better candidates would be writing one or two disadvantages and expanding on them randomly.  But the best candidates, will have the best of knowledge and for each of the three points given in exam, they will write the maximum number of points they can remember.  It’s not just your language being tested, half of your marks are reserved for content.  Your content should be rich.  It should include more detail in few words. 
Same goes for English, for a descriptive topic, your choice of words should be strong and display the scene you are trying to explain, before the reader’s eye.  You will definitely need rich vocabulary for that.  For an argumentative, your arguments as well as words need to be strong.  You are going to convince the examiner.  Even if you are unable to convince him, your words should convey your opinion.  For that, your own opinions should be strong enough.  If a point is not strong enough, leave it out. 
To gather knowledge on each topic you are to write, read all the relevant information first.  Search your topic and read each composition or essay you find.  For Urdu, you can read information in English but later include that in your Urdu essay in your own words.  Just note down the points and gather at least 8-10 points for each topic, then make your own composition expanding on each of those points in your own words.


Short-Term/ Near-the-Exams Preparation

For Urdu:
·         Learn idioms/’mahawras’, and if you did enough reading believe me, you will know most of them already without actually learning.  The Urdu book by Shazia Islam covers them very well and I would very forcefully recommend that.  At least go through all of them, if you can’t learn.
·         Read about a composition topic one day, explore the topic well.  Get all the points you can gather, the next day, write your own composition including all those points
·         Start doing past papers, but make a schedule, and space them out, like one paper each Wednesday and Friday.  Increase the amount of papers as you near exams and eventually start doing one each day
·         Practice a translation passage each day, learn the new meanings you find

For English:
·         Do a summary passage each day.  Check out the mark schemes and don’t forget examiner reports; they tell about the mistakes that students very often repeat. 
·         Decide on the topic you want to write about in the exam; descriptive, narrative or argumentative.  If your general knowledge and writing skills are great, and you know the topic of your exam well, write an argumentative.  But argumentative is the type of essay in which you will either land really down or float really high.  So choose carefully.  Write only if you can write well.
·         Space out your comprehension papers throughout your time period.  For instance, one on each Saturday.  Increase the amount of papers near the exam and eventually do one each day.  Mark yourself strictly according to the mark scheme and grade yourself.  It will give you the motivation to improve next time.

                Some things you MUST do:
·         For composition, write a rough draft of the points you will be including (you could just do on the question paper), this will organize your essay and you will have a planned out response, impressing the examiner
·         Write in clear handwriting.  It need not be beautifully written, all you need to do at this point, is communicate with the examiner, which can’t be done without a tidy handwriting.  Spacing out words will also make it look neat on first glance
·         Know the marks allocation for the paper you are going to take, it will be mentioned in your syllabus
·         Write on the minimum number of required words: you are less prone to make mistakes the lesser you write
·         Read the examiner reports, I repeat, read the examiner reports!  This is something all students think trivial until they start reading them
·         Keep to the topic, underline the main/ focus point of your topic


Things You Must NEVER do:
·         Don’t read Redspots’ Solved books.  They are grade killers.  Your ideal criteria should be mark scheme and not any other sample writings written by non-native speakers
·         Never read abridged novels or books
·         Don’t read content written by non-native people even if newspapers
·         You don’t need to include ‘address’ or some pattern like that on formal letter, do only as you are told in the question paper
·         Never write words you are not sure about, better not to impress examiner then ruin your image by making a mistake
·         Complex words are not the standard, best communication is the standard.  The better the word conveys your idea, the better it is to use it in that place, even if it be a simple one


Recommended Books:
O Level Urdu by Shazia Islam
O Level Urdu by Batool Ali


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