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Exploring languages and cultures

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This introductory OU level 1 module is designed to introduce key concepts relating to languages, language learning, plurilingualism and intercultural communication. It will help you develop intercultural skills and language awareness to support and complement the language skills that are covered in language-specific modules. Study resources include printed materials and a dedicated website with online activities which support independent learning. Together, they will introduce you to some of the elements that define studying modern foreign languages and English language studies.  

What you will study

The module consists of four blocks:
Block 1, Language and culture, introduces basic concepts relating to the nature of language and culture, and looks at people’s personal experiences of learning foreign languages and engaging with unfamiliar cultures.
Block 2, Languages, cultures and communities, broadens the perspective from individuals to society at large, looking at the often complex relationships between language and culture in different nations and communities.
Block 3, Intercultural competence at work focuses on language and culture at the workplace, with special attention to intercultural skills and employability.
Block 4, Language and communication in the digital age, gives an overview of the role that digital communication and resources play in a multilingual and multicultural society and examines how these can be used to support the study of languages and cultures.

A distinctive feature of this module is that it develops linguistic and cultural awareness in an integrated way throughout the different topics covered in the module, using examples from the full range of languages and cultures that you may study as part of your degree. Throughout the module you will be given a variety of examples and encouraged to compare them to your own experiences.

Exploring languages and cultures will equip you with a sound linguistic and intercultural awareness. The former will help you get the most out of your language studies and the latter will help you develop a critical understanding of intercultural issues throughout your further study.

Professional recognition

The Chartered Institute of Marketing now recognises this module under their Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme.

Entry requirements

This is a key introductory OU level 1 module. OU level 1 modules provide core subject knowledge and study skills needed for both higher education and distance learning. No prior knowledge of languages is required to study this module.

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

What's included

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

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

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • course-specific module materials including activities
  • audio and video resources
  • assessment details and submission section
  • activity forums that focus on particular topics
  • a general forum where you can communicate with your fellow students and the module team.

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.

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.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying L161 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

Exploring languages and cultures (L161) 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 2033.

Course work includes:

2 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
1 Interactive computer-marked assignment (iCMA)
No examination

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