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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, cultures, and intercultural communication. It will help you develop study skills, intercultural skills and language awareness, enhancing your employability. It will also support and complement the language skills covered in our 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 elements that define studying modern foreign languages.

What you will study

The module consists of the following three blocks:

Block 1: Language and culture introduces basic concepts relating to the nature of language and culture, and of the relationship between both. First, you'll learn about the human need for myths and stories. Then you'll learn about how the different components of language work together. Finally, the perspective will broaden to show the complex relationships between language, culture and the concept of nation.

Block 2: Identity and ideology begins by examining languages cultures in contact in different nations and communities, and the complex web of values and beliefs that shapes individual and collective identity, and holds together nations and communities. The units in this block will take a critical lens to examine complex interactions between identity and ideology.

Block 3: Communication in the workplace focuses on the development of intercultural competence with a special focus on teamwork and leadership. Working with the materials in this block will enhance your intercultural communication skills and your employability skills.

A distinctive feature of it 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.

This module will equip you with a sound knowledge of language that will help you recognise how language works and how it is used in a variety of contexts and for a variety of purposes. The module will also equip with you a sound knowledge of the key concepts in the field of culture and help you develop your intercultural awareness and intercultural communication skills. If you choose to progress with your language studies, this module provides a critical understanding of intercultural issues that you will encounter throughout your further study.

You will learn

You’ll develop core competences and skills including intercultural communicative competence, knowledge of the world, digital and information literacies, employability and professional skills, knowledge of genre and register, academic reading and listening skills, academic writing and speaking.

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 a printed module book covering each 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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