Applied linguistics and English language

Linking knowledge about the English language, how it is used, and the contexts in which it operates, this module explores the role of language in teaching and learning, business/professional communication, healthcare and many other real-life settings. You will develop a solid grounding in a range of ideas and techniques within applied linguistics (e.g. semantics, pragmatics, intercultural communication, conversation analysis, ethnography, language and globalisation, role of technologies) and apply this to case studies from a variety of contexts. You will enhance your practical understanding of how such research and enquiry can be useful in different areas of life, including your own professional practice.

Vocational relevance

This module can be taken as part of the Masters degree in Education (F70). If you are involved in language education, or any context that involves training and mentoring, and are interested in the role of language, you may wish to follow the MA in Education (Applied Linguistics) study route.

While not in any way restricted to such professionals, the module will be of great interest to anyone teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL), English as an additional language (EAL), English as a foreign language (EFL) or any other aspect of English language teaching (ELT).


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 postgraduate modules correspond to these frameworks.
OU Postgraduate
Study method
Distance learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

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What you will study

This module will equip you with theories, concepts and analytical approaches to improve your understanding of the English language and its use. You will find that this kind of knowledge allows you look at contexts where language is central, such as teaching and learning, in a new light and to understand how things could be improved or why things sometimes go wrong. The module is fully online and consists of four sections with several units each.

The first section introduces the field of applied linguistics and the types of contexts in which language is a central issue. It also includes introductions to key theories of (language) learning. You will cover:

  • What is applied linguistics?
  • Theoretical approaches to language
  • Social perspectives on language
  • What counts as evidence in applied linguistics?

The second section focuses on the formal and structural aspects of the English language to give you a good grounding for the tools and techniques introduced in the later sections. This is also a useful introduction to those of you who may not come from a linguistics background. You will cover:

  • The sounds of English
  • Elements of meaning
  • Words and meanings
  • Describing the structure of language
  • The structure of conversations
  • Language in theory versus language in use

The third section focuses on English language in contexts and interactions and really brings out the real-world relevance of what you are learning. You will cover:

  • Ethnography: Observing each other
  • Getting along: Politeness theory
  • Intercultural communication
  • A functional approach to language
  • Transitivity - Who does what to whom?
  • Genre 

The final section makes explicit themes and threads that run through the module and relates them back to issues of applied linguistics from the first section. You will cover:

  • The role of English in the world
  • Language in a multimodal world
  • Changing technologies
  • Being critical
  • Texts and practices
  • Description versus interpretation

The frameworks, theories and approaches introduced are applied to ‘case studies’ of real-life contexts. Sometimes this is to explore what is actually going on in a situation, sometimes to provide solutions to problems and sometimes to provide alternative ways of looking at things. The range of case studies is broad, and includes the teaching and learning of language, working life, business discourse, health communication, the courts, etc. This breadth will allow you to compare and contrast individual approaches and perspectives in relation to each other, in relation to different real-life contexts and in relation to your own experiences.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. You and your tutor will primarily communicate with each other through email and tutorials. Tutorials are offered via online meeting rooms and support is also facilitated asynchronously in tutor group forums. While some of the assignments for this module encourage you to interact with others in your tutor group, alternative ways of working can be facilitated.

If you have a learning difficulty or disability that could impact on studying online, please do speak with us and your tutor so that where possible reasonable adjustments can be made to facilitate your participation.

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 above.

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

Course work includes

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

Future availability

Applied linguistics and English language starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2023, the last time we expect it to start. It will be replaced as part of a new MA in Linguistics (F97), which will start in October 2024.


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.

    Entry requirements

    You should be prepared for study at postgraduate level and have the minimum of a bachelors degree (in any subject) from a UK University or an equivalent professional qualification. We warmly welcome applications from students who have an undergraduate degree level qualification from universities outside the UK and which is deemed equivalent to a UK higher education degree.

    You do not need to be employed in a formal educational setting to study this module. However, you will need to be able to apply your learning to a relevant context or learning environment of some kind. Such contexts may include, but are not limited to, teaching at primary, secondary or tertiary level, teaching English to speakers of other languages, involvement in work-based training, mentoring, being a primary care giver, online learning and teaching environments, or providing some form of instruction. All of these could provide suitable settings to apply your learning.

    You need to be able to spend approximately 15-18 hours per week on studying for this module.


    Preparatory work

    We’ve developed some optional activities to help you prepare for Applied linguistics and English language (EE817), depending on your previous learning. 

    Activity 1
    Succeeding in Postgraduate Study – If you're brand new to masters study, then this free Badged Open Course will get you started on study skills, time management and more.

    Activity 2
    Language in the Real World – This free OpenLearn course explains and illustrates why knowledge about how language works (i.e. ‘linguistics’) is helpful for different aspects of our everyday lives. It introduces ideas around what language is; and the field of applied linguistics, which explores and addresses situations where language plays a crucial role.

    Activity 3
    Understanding language and learning – A free OpenLearn course that considers the relationship between language and learning, it explains and illustrates the different relationships between language and learning, using videos and activities with real world examples of language in use.

    Optional reading list

    Here are some useful introductory readings from the first few weeks of Applied linguistics and English language. These readings are purely optional, and once you begin studying, the books will be available through the OU Library as ebooks or as PDF extracts on the module site.

    • Burns, A., Davies, W., Dörnyei, Z., Durrant, P., House, J., Hudson, R., Hunston, S., Kirkpatrick, A., Knight, D., and Richards, J.C. (2009) What is Applied Linguistics? Cambridge University Press Reading Room.
    • Introduction section of: Simpson, J. (2011) The Routledge Handbook of Applied Linguistics, Abingdon, Routledge.
    • Cook, G. (2009) ‘The “Design Features” of Language’, Milton Keynes, The Open University. pp. 276–284, 287–288 from: Pinker, S. (1994) The Language Instinct: The new science of language and mind, London, Penguin Books.
    • Steven Pinker on Language Pragmatics (2016) Floating University video, added by Big Think [Online]. Available at (Accessed 8 June 2016).
    • Hymes, D. (1971 [1972]) ‘On communicative Competence’, in Pride, J.B. and J. Holmes (eds.) Sociolinguistics: Selected Readings, Harmondsworth, Penguin, pp. 269–93.


    Start End England fee Register
    07 Oct 2023 Jun 2024 £2520.00

    Registration closes 14/09/23 (places subject to availability)

    October 2023 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

    Future availability

    Applied linguistics and English language starts once a year – in October.

    This page describes the module that will start in October 2023, the last time we expect it to start. It will be replaced as part of a new MA in Linguistics (F97), which will start in October 2024.

    Additional costs

    Study costs

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

    Ways to pay for this module

    We know there’s a lot to think about when choosing to study, not least how much it’s going to cost and how you can pay.

    That’s why we keep our fees as low as possible and offer a range of flexible payment and funding options, including a postgraduate loan, if you study this module as part of an eligible qualification. To find out more, see Fees and funding.

    Study materials

    What's included

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

    • a week-by-week study planner (the study guide)
    • course-specific module materials
    • audio and video content
    • assessment details and submission section
    • online tutorial access.

    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 (11 'Big Sur' 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

    Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader (and where applicable: musical notation and mathematical, scientific, and foreign language materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way). Other alternative formats of the module materials may be available in the future.

    If you have a learning difficulty or disability that could impact on studying online please do speak with us and your tutor so that where possible reasonable adjustments can be made to facilitate your participation.

    If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Visit our Disability support website to find more about what we offer.