The programme includes six taught modules and a 15,000-word dissertation.
You will take four core modules [full descriptions available below]:
- Sociolinguistics and Lexis
- Written Discourse and Classroom and Spoken Discourse
- Understanding Text (Functional Grammar)
- Corpus Linguistics
For your fifth module, you will follow either one of two pairs of modules: one oriented towards the study of language teaching and learning, the other towards the study of translation theory and practice.
For your final module you can choose from a range of modules.
Please note: The deadline for applications is one calendar month ahead of your desired entry date, to allow adequate time for your application to be processed; see 'how to apply' below for further details.
Why study this course
The main advantage of studying by distance learning is the flexibility. Our distance learning programmes have multiple start dates throughout the year so it gives you the option of choosing when to commence your studies with us. You can study at home, in your own time and at your own pace, so you can combine achieving a qualification with other commitments.
In particular, studying by distance learning has the benefit of allowing you to develop your career without having to leave employment. It also means that you can apply new knowledge and insights to your working life while you are still studying; many students choose to tackle work-related topics in their dissertations.
You will study four core modules:
Sociolinguistics and Lexis
- Sociolinguistics. You will examine ways in which language varies according to social context (that is, broadly speaking, according to who is speaking / writing, to whom, where, and for what purpose) and the relationships between different language varieties. The role of English as an international language is discussed, along with the functions of different languages in societies where two or more languages are used, and relationships between cultures and languages. Connections between language and ideology, and language and gender, are explored, along with other ‘micro-level’ topics including accent, dialect, and register. You are encouraged to undertake comparative work related to language in the society in which you live.
- Lexis. You will explore a number of issues. What is the relationship between grammar and lexis? Recent work, particularly stemming from the University of Birmingham COBUILD projects, suggests that far from being separate levels the two are inextricably interwoven. Is there a real distinction? If there is not then is it worth maintaining an artificial distinction for pedagogic purposes? Within lexis how do words relate to one another? How do lexical relations help structure text? What does it mean to say that someone ‘knows’ or has ‘learnt’ a word? Concern with lexis is now moving towards a more central position in Applied Linguistics. How do we react to this trend?
Written Discourse and Classroom and Spoken Discourse
- Written Discourse. You will consider the relationship between language, other semiotic features and society. You will be introduced to theories of discourse analysis and focuses on detailed textual analysis. This will enable you to develop a critical understanding of the key concepts involved in Discourse Analysis and of how language reflects, mediates or - arguably - creates our everyday reality. You are also introduced to two very important developments in Discourse Studies: Critical and Multimodal Discourse Analysis. By exposing you to current approaches to interaction, you should improve your own language production, both oral and written. We also hope you will be able to apply some of the theoretical input acquired to your own data.
- Classroom and Spoken Discourse. This offers a general description of spoken discourse looking in particular at classroom discourse. It develops a linguistic approach to the analysis of discourse and shows how this can sharpen our awareness of spoken interaction, and in particular of the way teachers and students use language in the classroom. This provides us with an approach to a number of issues related to methodology. You will take a look at the broad differences between spoken and written discourse and consider the problems of introducing and handling a range of spontaneous discourses in the classroom.
Understanding Text (Functional Grammar)
The module introduces the key elements of the influential linguistic theory known as Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL), an approach developed since the 1960s by the British-born, Australian linguist, Michael Halliday and his colleagues. Under this approach, language is analysed as a form of social interaction, and the grammatical description of the language is formulated so as to account for its communicative functionality within particular social and cultural contexts. This will focus on how systemic linguistics can be applied to a variety of text analysis tasks relevant to different fields such as language and literacy teaching, translation studies, English for special purposes, the language of classroom interaction, media and cultural studies, and critical discourse analysis.
The University of Birmingham has a worldwide reputation for work in Corpus Linguistics, and is the home of 450 million-word Bank of English corpus. This provides access to data which helps researchers to answer important questions about language. For example: What are the 500 most frequent words in the language? Are they the same for spoken and written English? Is the use of any largely confined to negative and interrogative clauses (as many grammars would have us believe)? The aim is to help you become familiar with corpus analysis techniques so that you can carry out your own corpus research projects and/or use corpora in your day-to-day work.
You will also choose one of the following options:
a) Language Teaching and Learning
- Language Teaching Methodology. You will be introduced to a number of concepts central to the methodology of teaching second languages. You will encounter a wide range of ideas, which we hope will allow you to reflect on your own teaching experience.
- Classroom Research and Research Methods. You will explore concepts and techniques used in research in and into second language classrooms. This involves looking at two traditions: ‘action’ research, which usually involves examining classroom interactions with the intent of modifying or improving teacher behaviour; and experimental research, which involves looking at linguistic or other outcomes, with the purpose of making general statements about, for example, how language is (best) acquired.
b) Translation Theory and Practice
- Introduction to Translation Studies. This introduces the most significant aspects of translation in terms of theory and practice. It concentrates on general issues that arise when a text is rendered into another language by drawing on key areas in linguistic and textual analysis. The process and product of translation are considered in relation to social and cultural contexts. The theoretical background is exemplified by a variety of translated texts from different languages.
- Research Methods in Translation Studies. This looks at ways of examining and comparing source and target texts, and shows how both qualitative and quantitative comparisons can provide important insights into the question of quality control in translation. You look at the use of introspection and protocols by practising translators and some of the technical tools available to, and used by, translators.
Finally, for your optional module, you will choose one of the following topics and complete one coursework assignment:
- Multimodal Communication
- Translation and Language Pedagogy
Or any two from these half-modules:
- Second Language Acquisition
- Pedagogic Grammar
- ELT Management
- Teaching Young Learners
Fees and funding
Fees for entry in February or April 2015 are as follows:
£940 per module
£2,820 for the dissertation
Fees for entry in July or October 2015 are as follows:
£970 per module
£2,910 for the dissertation
Eligibility for Home/EU or Overseas fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students
Learn more about fees and funding
Scholarships and studentships
Scholarships to cover fees and/or maintenance costs may be available. To discover whether you are eligible for any award across the University, and to start your funding application, please visit the University's Postgraduate Funding Database.
We usually ask for a good Honours degree, or overseas equivalent. However, when considering your application, we always look at your qualifications and work experience as well as your academic credentials. For this reason, it is important to provide details of any current and/or previous employment in your application; it is always helpful to include a current CV but please complete the relevant sections of the application form as well.
Learn more about entry requirements
We accept a range of qualifications; our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.
English language requirements
You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:
How to apply
When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages