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Worlds of English

What are the origins of the English language? How has it spread internationally? Is the worldwide influence of English a cause for celebration or concern? How is it changing in response to social, cultural, and technological developments? These are just a few of the questions that you will investigate in this module which looks at the history, diversity, and use of English around the world. Using a combination of printed materials and computer-based resources you will be introduced to the major debates in the field, and to some of the ways language is described and analysed.

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Module code
Study level
2 9 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
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Entry requirements
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What you will study

This module looks at the history of the English language and its position in the world today. You will see how English has evolved in the British Isles and how it has changed as it has spread around the world.

A major aim of the module is to enable you to observe and account for how language varies between individuals and also in different institutional, cultural and national settings. You will examine examples of speech and writing from a variety of global contexts and genres, including literature, poetry, song, film, political speeches and advertising. The choice of English in multilingual contexts from education and business, to films and popular music will exemplify the significance and power of the language in social, cultural, and economic life.

You will watch and listen to specially recorded material from countries where English is the majority language such as the UK, and in countries where it exists alongside one or more other languages, such as Canada, India and South Africa. The significance of English in global contexts and its power to simultaneously open up social and economic opportunities for some, and close them down for others, are critically examined.

The module is divided into three blocks, with the following themes:

  • English in the World: History, diversity, change
  • Communicating in English: Talk, text, technology
  • The Politics of English: Conflict, competition, co-existence.

You will be using a combination of three books, three study guides, and three DVD-ROMs containing audio-visual material gathered on location in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. These materials illustrate the diversity of English language practices across the globe and are designed to develop your knowledge and understanding of key terms and concepts in English language studies. A specially written language description book will introduce you to the basics of language analysis, which can then be practised using an accompanying interactive DVD-ROM.

You will learn

By studying this module, you’ll gain:

  • an understanding of the history and development of English, and a critical approach to its current global status
  • an understanding of the pivotal role of language in, for example, social organisation and relations, and the transmission of social and cultural values
  • a critical appreciation of contemporary uses of English in a range of social contexts
  • conceptual frameworks for the study of linguistic phenomena in a range of social contexts
  • opportunities to analyse spoken and written English
  • a perspective on your own English language experiences, including developing aspects of your own communication skills.

Vocational relevance

The module is relevant to students studying how to teach English in schools or to those wishing to teach English as an additional language.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material, mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. You are encouraged to use the tutor group forum to communicate with your tutor and others in your group, and you may be asked to prepare for an assignment through the forum. We might also be able to offer group tutorials or day-schools. We encourage you to attend these, but they are not compulsory. Where tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the module; some may be held online.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

The end-of-module assessment (EMA) must be submitted online.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2015. We expect it to be available once a year.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

Course work includes:

5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


This is an OU level 2 module and so you should have some experience of OU level 1 study, or equivalent work at another university.

If you have not studied at university level before, you are strongly advised to study at OU level 1 before progressing to OU level 2 study.

We recommend The arts past and present (AA100), Voices, texts and material culture (A105) or English for academic purposes online (L185). These OU level 1 modules develop skills such as logical thinking, clear expression, essay writing and the ability to select and interpret relevant materials.

Your regional or national centre can advise you on where you can see reference copies of OU level 1 study materials. Some are also available from Open University Worldwide Ltd. We particularly recommend looking at these materials if you have not successfully completed OU level 1 study or studied at an equivalent level elsewhere.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

Preparatory work

Before starting the module, you may be interested in reading some books from English language studies. We recommend the following which are all accessibly written:

Cameron, Deborah (2000) Good To Talk: Living and Working in a Communication Culture, Sage.

Crystal, David (2005) The Stories of English, Penguin.

Crystal, David (2007) How Language Works, Penguin.

Graddol, David (2006) English Next, British Council. This book is available to download from British Council Learning.

If you prefer audio books or podcasts, you may be interested in:

Crystal, David (2011) The Story of English in 100 Words (BBC Audiobooks). Available on audio CD and also to download from Audible.

The British Library (2010) Evolving English, a series of podcasts available from The British Library or free from iTunes.


Start End England fee Register
03 Oct 2015 Jun 2016 £2700.00

Registration closes 10/09/15 (places subject to availability)


You may need to apply for some payment or funding options earlier. Please check the Fees and Funding information or contact us for information.

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2021.

Additional Costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

If you're on a low income you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after you register.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU qualifications are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to achieve one. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the qualification you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your modules.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or book a call back at a time that is convenient to you.

Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2016. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

This information was provided on 05/08/2015.

What's included

A module guide; three books; three study guides; three audio-visual DVD-ROMs; a separate resource on language description comprising a book and an interactive DVD-ROM; website including assessment materials, a study planner, additional resources, and access to student and tutor group forums.

You will need

You may need a headset with a microphone and earphones to take part in online tutorials – see Support from your tutor.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as the study materials and activities are accessible via a web browser. Any other computer-based activities you will need to carry out, such as word processing, using spreadsheets, taking part in online forums, and submitting files to the university for assessment, are specified in the module materials. If any additional software is needed for these tasks it will either be provided or is freely available. For this module you will also need to install software provided by the OU on a disk or USB stick.

We recommend one of the following:

  • Windows desktop or laptop computer running Windows 7 or later operating system
  • Macintosh desktop or laptop computer running OS X 10.7 or later operating system
  • modern Linux desktop or laptop computer.

A netbook, tablet or other mobile device that supports one of the browsers listed below may be suitable. The screen size should be at least 1024 (H) x 768 (W) pixels. If you intend to use one of these devices please ensure you have access to a suitable desktop or laptop computer in case you are unable to carry out all the module activities on your mobile device.

We recommend a minimum 1 Mbps internet connection and any of the following browsers:
  • Internet Explorer 9 and above
  • Apple Safari 7 and above
  • Google Chrome 31 and above
  • Mozilla Firefox 31 and above.

Note: using the latest version for your browser will maximise security when accessing the internet. Using company or library computers may prevent you accessing some internet materials or installing additional software.

See our Skills for OU study website for further information about computing skills for study and educational deals for buying Microsoft Office software.

If you have a disability

The module makes use of a variety of online resources, some of which may not be fully accessible for visually impaired students. However, the use of these resources is optional and does not form part of the module assessment. If you use specialist hardware or software to assist you in using a computer or the internet you are advised to contact us about support that can be given to meet your needs. Written transcripts of any audio and video clips are available and can be downloaded from the DVD-ROMS, and accessible Word versions of the main texts and the study guides are available. We hope to offer an audio version of the printed material. Other alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.