A Level English Language

 

What is it about at sixth form level?

If you could go back in time and eavesdrop on a conversation in the England of Chaucer’s time, it might be hard to follow what is being said and if someone told a funny story, you might not get it. Perhaps the same will be true for any visitors to our present time from 700 years in the future. The English language, like fashions in clothes, undergoes continuous modification. Just think about text-speak or street slang, the flood of new words associated with technology, or from immigrant communities. Our course explores these linguistic changes in detail and the reasons for them.

Many of us share a fascination with the way toddlers speak. One feature of language acquisition is that children master English by making mistakes until they fully acquire all the skills. You will learn how a “wug” is used to research this, what a “virtuous error” is and you will be amazed at how we achieve fluency in such a brief time span. When it comes to literacy, you will study how we learn to read and write, realising what complex skills these are.

We begin the course by introducing you to the terminology used by linguists and you will learn about aspects such as phonetics, lexis and morphology. You will consider the diversity of English found in different regions and social groups: if you went to an interview in the USA wearing a vest and pants it would be perfectly acceptable, and if you wanted to buy thongs in Australia you would go to a shoe shop!

Lower sixth

You will analyse texts with specific emphasis on mode: speech, computer-mediated communication and genre. You will then be introduced to the topic of language diversity, considering language and the individual, social groups and regional variation, as well as specific focus on gender, occupation and ethnicity. An important part of this year is evaluating different attitudes to language use.

Upper sixth

Additionally, for A level you will firstly examine the stages and theories of children’s language development and all aspects of their language acquisition: speaking, reading and writing. Secondly you will explore language diversity and issues linked to world ‘Englishes’. Thirdly, you will study the reasons why language changes, developing your ideas about attitudes towards language change.

Why study it and what skills does it develop?

Language is a powerful tool; the sharper and cleaner we make it, the more effective it will be for us. As you pursue the course, you will learn how to adapt your English to suit different purposes and audiences, both in speech and in writing. You will learn how to write evaluative essays and how to model your creative writing on a variety of style models. A deeper knowledge of how and why our language has evolved will enrich your use of it and enhance your understanding of a wider range of texts. The usefulness of this skill will last your whole life.

Moreover, an awareness of how children learn to speak, read and write will be beneficial to you in years to come, equipping you to shape positively the linguistic development of our next generation. 

What prior knowledge and skills are required?

You will need a good grade in English GCSE. An interest in the everyday use of English in all its forms and across all media would be very desirable. You will be expected to read a lot and collect your own examples of English for in-depth study.

How is the course assessed?

Lower sixth

There will be two written exams of equal weighting, each lasting 1 hour 30 minutes. Paper 1: ‘Language and the individual’ assesses textual variations and representations as well as methods of language analysis. Paper 2 assesses knowledge of language diversity and writing skills. Both exams test understanding of methods of language analysis on the materials set. Exams sat at the end of the lower sixth will not contribute towards the overall A level.

Upper sixth

Paper 1 and 2 will be similar to those sat in the lower sixth but will include all the A level content. In addition to the AS topics, Paper 1 will cover children’s language development. In Paper 2 language discourses is an additional topic to those covered at AS. Each paper will last 2 hours 30 minutes and is worth 40% of the whole A level. The remaining 20% is accessed via coursework for which you will need to produce a language investigation of about 2,000 words and a piece of original writing and commentary of 1,500 words.

Reading

A/AS level for AQA Student Book
By M. Giovanelli
Published by Cambridge, ISBN 978-1107465626

How Language Works: How Babies Babble, Words Change Meaning and Languages Live or Die
By D. Crystal
Published by Penguin, ISBN 978-0141015521

Exam Board and Specification Codes

AS: AQA 7701, A2: AQA 7702

Anastasia

Grades achieved at MPW
A*A*A*

Progressed to
University College London (Economics) 

“Honestly, I could not imagine when I joined MPW that, due to language and adaptation barriers, I would achieve top grades in my first A-level exam sittings. This view changed completely after only a few weeks in the college’s supportive and motivational environment; with teachers who aimed at finding a personal touch with each student and with my Personal Tutor who made my adjustment to the UK education system not only an easy step in my life but, more importantly, an enjoyable one.”

Julia

Grades achieved at MPW
A*AABB

Progressed to
King's College London (International Relations)

 “The teachers really helped me overcome any difficulties I came across; they always seemed willing to offer support be it inside or outside of the classroom. I could safely say my teachers inspired me to work hard and aim for the best, sometimes simply by being passionate about what they do.”

Andrew

Grades achieved at MPW
A*AA

Progressed to
University of York (Law) 

“Having a Personal Tutor to discuss ANYTHING with, from my UCAS application to organising my life in general, really did make life at the college more streamlined and in general less stressful.”

Cynthia

Grades achieved at MPW
A*A*A*A

Progressed to
University College London (Economics)

“My subject teachers and Personal Tutor have been very patient and helpful in supporting my studies and university application.”

Akmaral

Grades achieved at MPW
A*A*A*

Progressed to
University College London (Mathematics and Statistics)

“International students have many aspects to think about, such as accommodation and guardians, but MPW surprised me by having a highly organised and supportive administration. Also, because most MPW Cambridge students are local, as an ‘international’ student, I found this very useful in both improving my English and in giving me a taste of a genuinely ‘English’ college.”