Studying English language can involve exploring almost any use of words. You will have the opportunity to study the ways English language is used in a variety of forms, such as casual spoken conversations and advertising material, texts and tweets, and legal and medical discourse. You will also be able to study language from a range of periods and cultures, maybe engaging with the evolution of the English language from its Anglo-Saxon beginnings onwards, maybe looking at global Englishes – the variety of forms of English in use across the world today.
Some students choose to study the use and functions of language within the classroom context or in political speeches. Others discover a passion for finding out about children’s language acquisition or the way our minds process metaphors.
Your English language course will also teach you to analyse language at many levels – you might study the smallest units of written language and the phonetic alphabet, word-formation and the history of word meanings, notions of ‘standard’ or ‘formal’ (and ‘non-standard’ and ‘informal’) grammar and pronunciation (and the ethical significance of such distinctions), discourse patterns and dialect variation and change, and issues of logic and meaning around matters like politeness and jokes.
You will not just be looking at language on the page but language in use, in particular contexts, by speakers with motives, expectations and cultural knowledge.
Alongside written and spoken language you will also study leading theories and frameworks of the ways language works, offering you different ways of understanding language in use.
You will often present the results of your study through essays, exams, oral presentations, reports, data analysis tasks and other forms of assessment.
English at a higher level boosts and gives all kinds of perks to you as a human being. Hopefully by the time I graduate I’ll be able to use my knowledge of sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics and morphemes to manipulate people into getting what I want. Revenge will surely be mine. Matt O’Brien, University of Huddersfield
You will learn through class discussions, sharing ideas and developing your understanding in seminar groups. You will also have lectures in which experts in the field will guide you through the key aspects of topics, directing you towards useful further reading to help you with your own research. You may have workshops in which you work with others to closely analyse texts with the guidance of a tutor, perhaps studying the pattern of exchanges, or differences in accent, within some recorded conversation, for example. You might also be taught how to use specialist equipment to record or interpret some examples of language use which interests you.
Courses in English Language often share a title with things like ‘communication’, ‘media’ and ‘culture’ because language use is an inherent part of all of these things. It is a part of literature and many other art forms, a part of businesses, part of the history of England and its global interactions, a part of journalism, a part of socio-cultural movements such as feminism, a part of politics, of relationships, of everyday life. In learning about English language, you will learn how to think critically, how to study different kinds of language use, how to record and analyse your own language data with technical precision, how to apply different theories and models, how to research topics and build on your ideas, and how to communicate your knowledge and understanding in various forms. You will develop advanced insight into the functioning of the language in the world all around you, and you will gain a sophisticated understanding of communication itself.
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