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Online course

Understanding Language: Learning and Teaching

An introduction to some key concepts in the effective teaching and learning of languages.

What’s the difference between a free course and an upgraded course?

Free:

  • Access to the course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • No certificate

Upgraded:

  • Unlimited access to the course, for as long as it exists on FutureLearn (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • A Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course

Find out more

Understanding Language: Learning and Teaching

Understand key concepts in the effective teaching and learning of languages.

What is language? How do we learn meaning in a new language? What is easy and hard about learning another language? And what is the best way to teach other languages?

This free online course suggests some answers to these questions. It has been developed by the University of Southampton and the British Council, and draws on their exciting joint online course, MA in English Language Teaching.

If you are a fully participating learner in “Understanding Language: Learning and Teaching,” you will be eligible to apply for a scholarship to cover part of the MA fees. You will find out more when you join the course.

The course takes place over five weeks. It will introduce you to some of the latest ideas in research and practice in language learning and teaching. We will:

  • Explore second language learning and what it means to learn language
  • Consider language classrooms and how teaching affects our language learning
  • Look at the use of technology in teaching, and its benefits and challenges for language learning
  • Investigate the case of English - the most widely learnt and taught language in the world - asking how it has achieved this position
  • Update you on the latest research into the use of English and give you a taste of what it is like to be a researcher in Global English.

You will also have the opportunity to take part in a live research project by telling us about language policies and practices where you are.

The course includes quizzes, activities, discussions and videos filmed around the world. The videos feature experts such as British Council teachers, and staff and students at the University of Southampton.

During the course, you will hear different voices sharing their ideas and opinions – and we want to hear yours too. How do you use language in YOUR life? What is YOUR experience of language learning and teaching? Join us – to discuss effective language learning and teaching.

(Course Image ©ivosar/Shutterstock)

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What topics will you cover?

  • The nature of language and language learning including discussion of what is hard and easy in second language acquisition
  • Language teaching in the classroom including consideration of classrooms as communities of practice and theories about effective classroom pedagogy
  • Consideration of two case studies in current teaching practice: task-based language teaching (TBLT) and content and language integrated learning (CLIL)
  • Technology in language learning and teaching and the changing role of teacher and learner
  • Online versus face-to-face language learning
  • The use of English as a global language or lingua franca
  • The historical spread of English and implications for language policy and teaching
  • Definitions of English as a lingua franca (ELF), the scale of ELF use and its pros and cons
  • Exploration of the work of Global Englishes researchers and invitation to join in with a research project.

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Reflect on the nature of language acquisition, and your personal place in that spectrum
  • Identify ideas around the notion of ‘meaning’ in second language acquisition, and how we convey/appreciate meaning
  • Explore aspects of what is hard and what is easy in second language acquisition
  • Discuss the nature and diversity of language learning classrooms and how this might impact on the teaching and learning of languages
  • Develop an awareness of some current approaches to language teaching in the classroom
  • Engage with other learners' experiences of language teaching and learning
  • Evaluate how online learning and teaching differs from face-to-face teaching
  • Develop an understanding of how technology can support the learning and teaching of languages
  • Identify some key skills in the moderation of online language courses
  • Assess the use of social media in language learning and teaching
  • Reflect upon the use of English as a global lingua franca and how it fits with their own language context
  • Develop an understanding of the social and political factors involved in the historical and current spread of English
  • Debate the implications of the impact of global English for language policy and teaching

Who is the course for?

This course is aimed at graduates with an interest in the development of languages and language teaching. It will give you a taste of postgraduate study in the field of English language teaching.

What software or tools do you need?

No prior knowledge is required to take part in the course and we welcome anyone who is curious to know more about language learning and teaching.

Who will you learn with?

Sara Pierson

I work for the British Council supporting teachers to develop their skills in English language teaching globally.

Darren Paffey

Lead Educator on the Understanding Language: Learning and Teaching course.

Lecturer in Spanish and Linguistics, based in Modern Languages at the University of Southampton.

Who developed the course?

Southampton is a place for ambitious people keen to stretch their intellectual abilities and help change the world.

The British Council is on the ground in six continents and over 100 countries connecting the best of UK culture with a global audience and providing high-quality English language courses.

What’s the difference between a free course and an upgraded course?

Free:

  • Access to the course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • No certificate

Upgraded:

  • Unlimited access to the course, for as long as it exists on FutureLearn (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • A Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course

Find out more

Get extra benefits, upgrade this course. For $84 (+ shipping) you'll get:

Unlimited access

Upgrading will mean you get unlimited access to the course.

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  • Take the course at your own pace
  • Refer to the material at any point in future

If you’re taking a course for free you have access to the course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join. If you upgrade the course you have access for as long as the course exists on FutureLearn.

Certificate of Achievement

Upgrading means you’ll receive a Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course.

Image certificate mobile

  • Prove your success when applying for jobs or courses
  • Celebrate your hard work
  • Display on your LinkedIn or CV

To receive a Certificate of Achievement you need to mark 90% of the steps on the course as complete.