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English in the world today

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How did English become the global force it is today? This free course, English in the world today, explores the status of the language and its worldwide diversity. It looks at how social and political factors influence people's attitudes towards it, and at the relationship between one's linguistic heritage and sense of identity.

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • understand the diversity of English through history and around the world
  • understand the effect of social and cultural factors on an individual’s use of English
  • understand the relationship between a person’s linguistic heritage and their sense of identity
  • understand the ways in which different varieties of English in use around the world are categorised.

By: The Open University

  • Duration 8 hours
  • Updated Wednesday 9th March 2016
  • Introductory level
  • Posted under English Language
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English in the world today


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In the last few decades, English has emerged as the pre-eminent language for international communication. It is spoken by more people around the world than any other language, and is regularly described as a truly ‘global’ language. This course introduces you to the role that English plays in the world today, and examines the social, political and cultural factors that have influenced its development. It traces the history of the language from its arrival in Britain in the fifth century AD through to the present day and its status as a language with a truly global reach. It looks at how and why English came to occupy this position, and at what the consequences of its global spread are for the way it’s used and perceived around the world.

This OpenLearn course is an adapted extract from the Open University course U214 Worlds of English [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

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