There are a lot of questions English Language students have to answer all the time. For example, “Oh so you want to be a teacher then?” and “How can you do an English Language degree and not know what every word means?” So I thought it was time to answer the BIG question – what is an English Language degree?
The great thing about a degree in English Language is how diverse it can be. There are so many different modules which give you skills that can open doors to so many career paths (not just teaching!)
We do learn the basics of language but rather than sitting down and learning the dictionary like some people might think, this involves learning what makes up the language – the individual sounds we combine to make words (phonetics) through to how we form (morphology) and structure those words in sentences (syntax) and why.
English Language is a branch of linguistics – the scientific study of language. This means that we study scientific disciplines and methods so that we can go out and investigate language use in the outside world.
Linguistics links to many other sciences including biology, neuroscience and psychology – as the physical way we produce language is considered, as well as where language might be in the brain and how babies learn to talk or how adults learn a second language.
We also do sociolinguistics which involves looking at the social use of language – we look at many studies as well as conducting our own into how social factors (such as sex, age and social class) affect how people use language, as well as considering many dialects, particularly the famous “Geordie” dialect since we are at Newcastle University.
As the degree goes on you can choose whether you want to do a bit of everything or narrow your studies to some extent if you want to focus on the intricacies that make up language or bigger picture ideas about language use.
Hopefully this has dispelled the myth that all English Language students know every long word and want to go on to become English teachers – this degree is hugely diverse and can lead to all sorts of careers even though teaching is certainly one of them.