My Favourite Module: Language and New Media
By Richard Swain
The wide and varied range of modules was one of the main reasons why I decided to study MA English Language and Applied Linguistics at the University of Birmingham – offering everything from theoretical linguistics to teaching English as a foreign language, the course gave you the scope to pick and choose your favourite areas of the field and effectively customise it to your interests. However, there was one module that always stood out to me from the very beginning and served as a definite selling point when submitting my application. The module in question was Language and New Media – taught in the spring term of the 2015-2016 academic year – and I am very pleased to say that it lived up to, if not exceeded, my original expectations.
The module itself is fairly self-explanatory, focusing on the study of how language is used on the ever-growing number of new media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. While it’s still a relatively recent development in linguistics, it’s one that (perhaps more than any other) hones in on the here and now, discussing contemporary trends which will only become more and more apparent as technology continues to dominate our lives. If you have even the slightest interest in social media or language change, I’d recommend studying this module – it’s a fascinating glimpse into what the future holds for English and many other languages across the world.
With so many different sources of new media to look at, this means that the content of the module is constantly varied and things are kept feeling fresh. One week you could be learning about how identities are constructed online, the next about the global status of English, and the week after that about the likes of ‘flaming’ or intertextuality. A key component that underpins everything throughout the module though is its research aspect, and while some of the methods and terminologies might be a little overwhelming at first, in the long run it’s something I’m very glad was included. Not only did it help to highlight the significance of some of the findings, it provided further reinforcement on how to undertake a research study, preparing you with the skills you’ll need for your dissertation project at the end of the year. The choice of assignment questions for the module, in this academic year at least, even gave you the option to practise these skills for real in the context of a smaller scale research study, which is something I’m certain many students benefitted from.
As the old saying goes though, behind every great module there has to be a great lecturer, and this more than held true for Language and New Media. Dr. Ruth Page, in only her first year of running this module, did a fantastic job at producing an informative and engaging series of seminars that had everyone eagerly anticipating what was next in store, even at 9am on a Friday morning. Her friendly and good-humoured approach to teaching made the topics even more interesting than they already were, and she especially encouraged group interaction which gave us plenty of opportunity to get to know our peers in the classroom. Worksheets, references, and other materials were always on hand, and the online Canvas portal for the module was kept fully up to date – we even got to discover a new form of media for ourselves by using the Padlet application to share work we had done in between classes from home! Because she is both a knowledgeable and experienced name in the field, we knew we were getting expert input from Ruth, resulting in a consistently high quality of lecturing from start to finish.
However, it’s not just Language and New Media that has impressed me – overall, I have had a thoroughly enjoyable time during my postgraduate studies at the University of Birmingham so far, and I would like to take the opportunity to thank all of my lecturers for their teaching and support. Every module has been special in its own unique way, and it has all helped to build towards a constructive and memorable experience. I can’t recommend the Department of English Language and Applied Linguistics at the University of Birmingham enough, so if you’re considering undertaking your postgraduate studies here, by all means check them out!
Richard Swain is a full-time student in the MA English Language and Applied Linguistics at the University of Birmingham.