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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

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 either an up-to-date version of Windows or macOS.

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.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You’ll have a tutor to help you with the study material who will mark and comment on your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs). You can also ask your tutor for advice and guidance.

This module usually includes a mix of face-to-face and online tutorials. Some tutorials are offered online only, and others are offered face-to-face and online. Please note that student numbers on the module, and where tutors are based, will affect the locations of where face-to-face tutorials are held. We cannot guarantee that these will be hosted in specific locations, or locations that have been used previously. While you’re not obliged to attend tutorials, you are strongly encouraged to take part as they will provide you with the opportunity to speak to and meet other students and tutors, whether online or face-to-face. Note that you can attend as many tutorials as you like, offered by any of the tutors.

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).

The TMAs consist of four written tasks. You will be given more detailed information when you begin the module. 

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 2020.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2023.

Course work includes:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No examination
No residential school

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