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Worlds of English

What are the origins of the English language? How has it spread internationally? Is the worldwide influence of English a cause for celebration or concern? How is it changing in response to social, cultural, and technological developments? These are just a few of the questions that you will investigate in this module which looks at the history, diversity, and use of English around the world. Using a combination of printed materials and computer-based resources you will be introduced to the major debates in the field, and to some of the ways language is described and analysed.

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OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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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
To enable you to make international comparisons, the information provided shows how OU levels correspond to the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ).
2 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Entry requirements

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What you will study

This module looks at the history of the English language and its position in the world today. You will see how English has evolved in the British Isles and how it has changed as it has spread around the world.

A major aim of the module is to enable you to observe and account for how language varies between individuals and also in different institutional, cultural and national settings. You will examine examples of speech and writing from a variety of global contexts and genres, including literature, poetry, song, film, political speeches and advertising. The choice of English in multilingual contexts from education and business, to films and popular music will exemplify the significance and power of the language in social, cultural, and economic life.

You will watch and listen to specially recorded material from countries where English is the majority language such as the UK, and in countries where it exists alongside one or more other languages, such as Canada, India and South Africa. The significance of English in global contexts and its power to simultaneously open up social and economic opportunities for some, and close them down for others, are critically examined.

The module is divided into three blocks, with the following themes:

  • English in the World: History, diversity, change
  • Communicating in English: Talk, text, technology
  • The Politics of English: Conflict, competition, co-existence.

You will be using a combination of three books, three study guides, and online audio-visual material gathered on location in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. These materials illustrate the diversity of English language practices across the globe and are designed to develop your knowledge and understanding of key terms and concepts in English language studies. A specially written language description book will introduce you to the basics of language analysis, which can then be practised using interactive online materials.

You will learn

By studying this module, you’ll gain:

  • an understanding of the history and development of English, and a critical approach to its current global status
  • an understanding of the pivotal role of language in, for example, social organisation and relations, and the transmission of social and cultural values
  • a critical appreciation of contemporary uses of English in a range of social contexts
  • conceptual frameworks for the study of linguistic phenomena in a range of social contexts
  • opportunities to analyse spoken and written English
  • a perspective on your own English language experiences, including developing aspects of your own communication skills.

Vocational relevance

The module is relevant to students studying how to teach English in schools or to those wishing to teach English as an additional language.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You’ll have a tutor who will help you with the study material, mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. You’re encouraged to use the tutor-group forum to communicate with your tutor and others in your group. We might also be able to offer group tutorials or day-schools. We encourage you to attend these, but they’re not compulsory. Where tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the module; some tutorials are held online.

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 will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

The end-of-module assessment (EMA) must be submitted online.

Future availability

Worlds of English (U214) starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2019. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2020.


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.

    Course work includes:

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

    Course satisfaction survey

    See the satisfaction survey results for this course.

    Entry requirements

    This is an OU level 2 module and so you should have some experience of OU level 1 study, or equivalent work at another university.

    If you have not studied at university level before, you are strongly advised to study at OU level 1 before progressing to OU level 2 study.

    We recommend Introducing English language skills (L101), Exploring languages and cultures (L161), Discovering the arts and humanities (A111), Voices, texts and material culture (A105) or English for academic purposes online (L185). These OU level 1 modules develop skills such as logical thinking, clear expression, essay writing and the ability to select and interpret relevant materials.

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

    Preparatory work

    Before starting the module, you may be interested in reading some books from English language studies. We recommend the following which are all accessibly written:

    Cameron, Deborah (2000) Good To Talk: Living and Working in a Communication Culture, Sage.

    Crystal, David (2005) The Stories of English, Penguin.

    Crystal, David (2007) How Language Works, Penguin.

    Graddol, David (2006) English Next, British Council. This book is available to download from British Council Learning.

    If you prefer audio books or podcasts, you may be interested in:

    Crystal, David (2011) The Story of English in 100 Words (BBC Audiobooks). Available on audio CD and also to download from Audible.


    Start End Fee
    - - -

    No current presentation - see Future availability

    This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2020.

    Additional Costs

    Study costs

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

    If you're on a low income you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

    Ways to pay for this module

    Open University Student Budget Account

    The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

    You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

    • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
    • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

    Joint loan applications

    If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

    As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

    Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

    Employer sponsorship

    Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

    More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

    • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
    • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

    Credit/debit card

    You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

    We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron. 

    Mixed payments

    We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

    For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser.

    Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2020. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

    This information was provided on 22/10/2019.

    What's included

    A module guide; three books; three study guides; a separate resource on language description; website including audio-visual materials, assessment materials, a study planner, activities to accompany the book on language description, additional resources, and access to student and tutor group forums.

    Computing requirements

    A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

    Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

    A desktop or laptop computer with one of the following:

    • Windows 7 or higher
    • Mac OS 10.7 or higher
    • a modern Linux version

    The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

    To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).

    Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.

    If you have a disability

    The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying U214 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

    To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our Disability support website.