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Introducing English language studies

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Language is an essential part of being human. It's something we rely on in almost every part of our lives. Nevertheless, do we really know what it is and how it works? History, culture, politics, technological innovation, and personal experience shape our use of language. This module will create strong links between broader language issues and the language and literacies that affect you as a student. It will develop your ability to talk about language, and help you apply your understanding of language issues to your own development as a communicator. You’ll study a series of contemporary topics that investigate how people use language in everyday life, focusing on the role of English in a connected and diverse world.

What you will study

The module will introduce you to English language studies by highlighting how important the use and manipulation of language is in all aspects of life. It will show you how understanding the ways in which language works as a mode of communication can have profound benefits for people’s professional and personal lives. One of the major aims of the module is to take real-world issues, where language is a key element, and show you how ideas from linguistics (the academic study of language) are able to throw light on these issues and help us to resolve them where necessary. In this way, as well as being a useful starting point for academic study, the module offers a practical focus to the study of language with relevance to real life. You’ll investigate how people use language to communicate with others; and get things done at home and work, in leisure time, and in their communities and societies. Although the module draws mainly on examples and cases from the English language, it also takes a culturally diverse approach, which recognises that, for many, English exists alongside other languages and is a ‘global’ language.

The module consists of four blocks with the following themes:

Block 1: What is language?
Topics include Can robots talk?; Why study language?; Communicating in different contexts

Block 2: What is English?
Topics include English or Englishes?; Speaking English, being British; Intercultural communication

Block 3: Language and creativity
Topics include Language and humour; English and Shakespeare; Creative writing

Block 4: Language and society
Topics include English, sexism and gender, Media representations and campaigns; Fake news

Each week, we’ll guide you through short readings in print that introduce contemporary topics and relate them to ideas about language. The rest of the work each week, including interactions with the study material, your tutor and other students on the module, will be online. You’ll watch and listen to specifically recorded material that will introduce key topics in each block. Interviews with language experts and with professionals will illustrate the connection between language issues and the real world. Online communication is an important component of the module, both as something you’ll study and as a means of communicating with others. You’ll be able to manipulate and discuss study materials, and discuss your work with your tutor and other students in order to exchange ideas and experience.

You will learn

This module will develop your understanding of:

  • the various roles language plays in our lives, including its important role as a marker of identity
  • the way in which our purposes for communication are fundamentally important in shaping what and how we communicate
  • the ways in which meaning is shaped by and shapes context
  • language as a meaning-making system which operates together with other modes of communication such as images
  • the practical applications of an understanding of language in use
  • the way in which English functions as one language among many in a globalised multilingual world.

Entry requirements

There are no formal entry requirements to study this module.

If you’re not sure you’re ready, talk to an adviser.

Preparatory work

In the weeks or months before you start Introducing English language studies (L101), look out for stories and news items that relate to the English language. A good place to start is television or radio news, newspapers or news websites. Collect interesting items either in hard copy in a scrap book or folder, or in the form of links pasted into a document or collected in a ‘favourites’ folder. Also look out for adverts, graffiti, shop signs etc. on public display that you can photograph and collect. These often provide good sources of interesting uses of language. If you jot down a few words explaining what each item you collect is about and where you found it, this will help you make use of these examples when you come to study L101.

Find out more about this preparatory task.

What's included

  • Access to the module study materials via the module website
  • One printed book

Computing requirements

A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

A desktop or laptop computer with either:

  • Windows 7 or higher
  • Mac OS X 10.7 or higher

The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).

Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You’ll have a named tutor who will support your studies and mark and comment on your assignment work; you can also seek academic advice and guidance from them. Your tutor will offer support through email, telephone and online forum discussions. Additionally, there will be face-to-face and online tutorials. We will advertise tutorials before the module starts; L101 tutors will take them, but depending on the tutorial, not necessarily your own named tutor. We recommend you book online to attend these tutorials.


You can find the assessment details for this module in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying L101 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Introducing English language studies (L101) starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2019. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2027.

Course work includes:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No examination
No residential school