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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, you’ll spend part of your study time working through interactive activities 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. You’ll be able to interact with study materials, and discuss your work with your tutor and other students in order to exchange ideas and experience. Each week you’ll also be guided through short readings in print that introduce contemporary topics and relate them to ideas about language. The print and online components work together and both are essential for successful study of the module.

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.

Preparing for study

If you haven’t studied for a while or are completely new to university level study, you might want to find out about Access courses, especially Y031, the Arts and Language Access module, which is a great preparation for studying L101. There’s clear evidence that studying an Access module beforehand improves your chances of completing and succeeding on your first Level 1 module. Over half of students taking OU Access modules study for free, and there’s even a fast track version of Y031 which you can complete in 18 weeks.


What's included

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

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • course-specific module materials, including interactive activities
  • audio and video content
  • assignment details and submission section
  • online tutorial access.

You'll also be provided with four printed module books, one for each block of study.

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.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you'll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They'll help you by:

  • Marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve.
  • Guiding you to additional learning resources.
  • Providing individual guidance, whether that's for general study skills or specific module content.
  • Facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part.


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

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 2024.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2027.

Course work includes:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No examination