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English in the world

Today, English is the pre-eminent global language, spoken by more than a quarter of the world’s population. English plays a key role in international diplomacy, trade and commerce, the global media and entertainment industries, and is used in everyday encounters across the world. In this module, you’ll trace the history of its spread across the globe and explore the diversity that characterises present-day English in a range of everyday settings from home to education and work. Using both print and online materials, you’ll investigate its influence, alongside other languages, in contemporary global issues such as migration and political protest.

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OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code




  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.

Study level

Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.
Level of Study
2 9 5

Study method

Module cost

Entry requirements

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What you will study

This module explores the role of the English language in a tumultuous early twenty-first-century world characterised by global power shifts, grassroots protests, pandemic, and complex population flows. You’ll start by exploring how English, the language of a small island off the mainland of Europe, became the pre-eminent international language of the modern period. You’ll see how English changed as it spread to other countries through colonialism, and consider the impact that it has had on societies, cultures and other languages around the world. You’ll explore how the English language continues to be shaped by a growing number of users in a range of everyday settings from home to education and work, and the important role that it plays in contemporary political issues.

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’ll examine examples of speech and writing from a variety of global contexts and genres, including literature, poetry, song, film, political speeches and advertising. You’ll also be guided to notice and collect examples of language use around you, and to put together your own portfolio of English in your world, enabling you to connect your own experiences of language with the wider global context. This focus will enable you to develop further as an effective communicator in your personal and professional life.

You’ll watch and listen to specially recorded material from countries where English is the majority language such as the UK and USA, and in countries where it exists alongside one or more other languages, such as India and South Africa. You'll also explore the growing use of English as a foreign language in countries such as China and across the Arab world. 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. The social and economic opportunities opened up by English, and the implications for those people who don’t have access to the language, are critically examined.

The module is divided into four blocks of study with the following themes:

1. Histories of English traces the development of English from the fifth century to the early decades of the twenty-first, highlighting its links with colonialism and focusing on the role that people, cultures and technologies have played in the spread of English.

2. Diversities of English focuses on the variety of contemporary English in the UK and around the world, exploring both the benefits of diversity and its implication in discrimination.

3. Everyday Englishes explores the use of varieties of English by children and adults in social, educational and work-based contexts around the world, probing how people both follow and flout language rules

4. English and Politics explores the contemporary role of the English language in global issues ranging from migration and political protest to attempts to ‘decolonise’ the curriculum.

You’ll use a dedicated website with online material which includes activities and audio visual resources gathered on location in Africa, Asia and Europe, and through online video conferencing. The website is accompanied by four module books with chapters on each topic. 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 the accompanying interactive online materials. An academic and digital literacies strand running throughout the module will help you prepare for your assignments and teach you important transferable skills. You’ll also be guided to develop as an autonomous learner, with reflection and independent study activities suggested for each unit.

You will learn

By studying this module, you’ll gain:

  • an understanding of the history and development of English, and its contemporary role alongside other languages in a globalised world
  • a critical appreciation of contemporary uses of English in conjunction with other modes of communication in a range of social, cultural, political and educational contexts
  • conceptual frameworks for the study of linguistic phenomena in a range of global contexts
  • key linguistic tools and terminologies for the analysis and evaluation of spoken, written and digital texts, including your own collected examples
  • an ability to construct your own arguments, supported by evidence
  • a perspective on your own English language experiences, including developing aspects of your own communication skills.

Vocational relevance

This module may be of interest to students who plan to go on to qualify as teachers.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You’ll 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’ll also be able to ask your tutor to help you with study methods. An important element of the module is the feedback you receive from your tutor on the work you do as part of the module. Feedback provides the basis for your development as a student, and you’ll be able to contact your tutor by email or phone throughout the module, and you’ll be able to communicate with fellow students via online forums.

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.

Future availability

English in the world (L201) starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2024.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2030.


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

Course work includes:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment

Entry requirements

This is an OU level 2 module and so you should have some experience of OU level 1 study, such as Introducing English Language Studies (L101) or Exploring Languages and Cultures (L161).

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.

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


Start End England fee Register
05 Oct 2024 Jun 2025 £3636.00

Registration closes 05/09/24 (places subject to availability)

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2030.

Additional Costs

Study costs

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

If your income is not more than £25,000 or you receive a qualifying benefit, you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

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.

Joint loan applications

If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

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

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. 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 module 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 module.  

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, Mastercard, Visa 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).

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 fee information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2025. Fees typically increase annually. For further information about the University's fee policy, visit our Fee Rules

This information was provided on 24/06/2024.

Can you study an Access module for free?

Depending on eligibility and availability of places, you could apply to study your Access module for free.

To qualify, you must:

  1. be resident in England
  2. have a household income of less than £25,000 (or be in receipt of a qualifying benefit)
  3. have not completed one year or more on any full-time undergraduate programme at FHEQ level 4 or above or successfully completed 30 credits or more of OU study within the last 10 years

How to apply to study an Access module for free

Once you've started the registration process, either online or over the phone, we'll contact you about your payment options. This will include instructions on how you can apply to study for free if you are eligible and funded places are still available.

If you're unsure if you meet the criteria to study for free, you can check with one of our friendly advisers on +44 (0)300 303 0069, or you can request a call back.

Not eligible to study for free?

Don't worry! We offer a choice of flexible ways to help spread the cost of your Access module. The most popular options include:

  • monthly payments through OUSBA
  • part-time tuition fee loan (you'll need to be registered on a qualification for this option)

To explore all the options available to you, visit Fees and Funding.

What's included

You'll have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • course-specific module materials
  • audio and video content
  • assessment materials
  • access to student and tutor group forums.

The module website includes four module books containing chapters on each topic covered, and a specially written language description book. You’ll be able to communicate with fellow students via online forums.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying L201 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our disability support pages.