What is an English language?
The English language has established itself as one of the most widely spoken languages on Earth, with over 300 million native speakers and a far higher number of second language speakers.
As a result, it is no surprise that every year, thousands of prospective students choose to study the English language with all of its quirks, faults, and contradictions.
The primary purpose of an English language degree is to understand and explore the way in which English has evolved and developed over time to become useable in a huge variety of formal and informal situations and by a huge variety of people.
Native English speakers may expect English language studies to be fairly natural for them, but the task of studying the language in a degree course is not something to be taken lightly, and it will certainly be a test of your ability as a student.
However, a good English language degree from a respected university can provide big opportunities both in postgraduate academia and in the ever more competitive jobs market.
What do you learn on an English language degree?
As with many degrees, the specifics of an English language degree depend heavily on which university you choose to apply to.
As well as this, not every university offers it as a standalone subject; many will offer it in conjunction with related subjects such as linguistics or literature, and many also offer other joint honours courses.
In terms of specific content, generally speaking, you can expect the course to initially focus on some of the finer points of the spoken language, such as syntax, lexis, grammar, tenses and other such things. Later on you may explore the historical and social context of the language, such as learning how and why certain phrases or linguistic eccentricities have become common, and how and why some became obsolete and rarely used.
Some courses analyse the use of various elements of the English language with social theory, focusing on things such as the relationship between language and gender, class, or race. You may also be taught about how language is used in the media, such as why news reports are written in a certain way or which headlines grab the most attention.
What should I study at high school if I want to study English language?
Specific entry requirements will differ between different institutions, however there are some subjects that will consistently be considered useful and desirable.
Obviously, A-levels in English language and/or literature will be incredibly useful, sometimes necessary, requirements for the course.
Aside from this, subjects that offer an understanding of human history and behaviour, such as history, sociology, or psychology, will also prove worthwhile should you choose to study the impact of language in these areas.
Arts subjects in general will be useful. There are also many extra-curricular interests and activities that can prove beneficial when applying for an English language degree, such as prior experience in writing, debating or even drama and philosophy.
It will also serve you well to be well read in different types of literature; be it novels and poems or even just writing your own short stories, a familiarity with different aspects of English can be a handy thing once your course starts.
What do people who study English language do after graduation?
A degree in English language can open doors to a wide variety of job opportunities, many of which you might not expect.
One of the careers most often associated with an English language graduate is teaching, either in primary or secondary education, but many other options are available in this area including – if you have the appropriate foreign language skills – teaching English as a foreign language.
Another common career path for graduates is journalism or writing, often done following a postgraduate course. These options make clear use of the kind of transferable skills you can expect to acquire over the course of your degree.
English graduates may also find work in the areas of marketing and public relations, where their strong grasp of the finer points of the English language can prove to be very useful to potential employers.
Aside from this, one must also consider that acquiring a strong degree from a respected institution offers a huge number of opportunities in itself, that aren’t specific to an English language degree, such as in graduate employment schemes.
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Which famous people studied English language?
A wide range of well-known people in public life have English degrees, and many of them work in industries directly related to their qualification.
Many famous writers such as Clive Barker, the novelist Susan Hill and the author Michael Morpurgo hold English degrees.
The director Danny Boyle is an English graduate, as well as the actor James Franco. A number of business leaders, politicians, and public officials all hold degrees in English, making an enormous contribution to public life and society as a whole.