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English literature or English language?

I'm still not sure if I should do English literature or English language at university. I've read posts about what it's like to study English literature at university, so I have a general idea but I haven't come across many about English language. Does English literature have better career prospects than English language? If so, why?

Is English language more specialised than English literature?
(edited 8 months ago)

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[Moved to the English and linguistics forum to help you get replies.]

With either degree you will be able to apply for most graduate employment schemes so in terms of career prospects, it won't matter which you choose. Choose the subject you love and want to learn more about.
(edited 8 months ago)
Reply 2
Original post by normaw
Moved to the English and linguistics forum to help you get replies.

Thank you
Original post by Shelly Wang
I'm still not sure if I should do English literature or English language at university. I've read posts about what it's like to study English literature at university, so I have a general idea but I haven't come across many about English language. Does English literature have better career prospects than English language? If so, why?

Is English language more specialised than English literature?

Hello,

I did an English Literature BA and am now moving onto an MA, but I also did English Language at A level and dabbled in many aspects of that subject during my degree to help with essays.

Language is more specialised in the actual way that the English language comes together, rather than literature, which relies on book material and how you can extract meaning. In this sense I would say that they are both specialised in different categories. It’s more of what you personally enjoy: the way language functions and is used versus extracting meaning and criticisms from texts themselves.

Then there’s linguistics which I won’t get into because then I would have to get even more specific.

While they are not the same subject, I also wouldn’t say either gives you more of an advantage in the work environment, at least to any noticeable extent that would make you choose literature over language or vice-versa.

Hope this helps,
Dom
Reply 4
Original post by normaw
[Moved to the English and linguistics forum to help you get replies.]

With either degree you will be able to apply for most graduate employment schemes so in terms of career prospects, it won't matter which you choose. Choose the subject you love and want to learn more about.

Thank you for your response. It's just that I don't know much about the English language degree as much as I know about the English literature degree. Because of that, I don't really know which one I would choose between the two.
Reply 5
Original post by Lancaster Student Ambassador
Hello,

I did an English Literature BA and am now moving onto an MA, but I also did English Language at A level and dabbled in many aspects of that subject during my degree to help with essays.

Language is more specialised in the actual way that the English language comes together, rather than literature, which relies on book material and how you can extract meaning. In this sense I would say that they are both specialised in different categories. It’s more of what you personally enjoy: the way language functions and is used versus extracting meaning and criticisms from texts themselves.

Then there’s linguistics which I won’t get into because then I would have to get even more specific.

While they are not the same subject, I also wouldn’t say either gives you more of an advantage in the work environment, at least to any noticeable extent that would make you choose literature over language or vice-versa.

Hope this helps,
Dom

Thank you for your detailed response.
Reply 6
Slightly off topic, but if you really cannot decide between the two you could always try comparative literature. Depending on the uni (as always) you can access linguistics modules (including historical linguistics or structures of foreign languages such as French or Spanish, or just linguistics in general), do modules from the main English department (eg. Shakespeare, English literature from certain eras). You don't need knowledge in another language if you want to take it single hons. Off the top of my head the main unis that do it as undergrad are UCL, Kent, Bristol, St Andrews, QMUL and Kings. The one main difference between E lit and Complit is that Complit focuses on translated works (including films and other media forms) and English doesn't as much.
Reply 7
Original post by flâneuse
Slightly off topic, but if you really cannot decide between the two you could always try comparative literature. Depending on the uni (as always) you can access linguistics modules (including historical linguistics or structures of foreign languages such as French or Spanish, or just linguistics in general), do modules from the main English department (eg. Shakespeare, English literature from certain eras). You don't need knowledge in another language if you want to take it single hons. Off the top of my head the main unis that do it as undergrad are UCL, Kent, Bristol, St Andrews, QMUL and Kings. The one main difference between E lit and Complit is that Complit focuses on translated works (including films and other media forms) and English doesn't as much.

Thank you, I will have a look at comparative literature.
Reply 8
Original post by Shelly Wang
Thank you, I will have a look at comparative literature.

No problem; if you have any questions on the subject, feel free to message.
Original post by Shelly Wang
Thank you for your detailed response.

Hello again,

I saw your question above and I have to ask. Have you considered taking a joint honours degree for English Literature and English Language? It wouldn’t be two separate degrees. Instead you’d do 50% literature and 50% language.

Comparative literature was already covered above so there’s no need to expand on that.

I’ve linked a page from my university for you to skim through!

https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/english-language-and-literature-ba-hons-q302/2024/

Hope this helps,
Dom
(edited 8 months ago)
Reply 10
Original post by Lancaster Student Ambassador
Hello again,

I saw your question above and I have to ask. Have you considered taking a joint honours degree for English Literature and English Language? It wouldn’t be two separate degrees. Instead you’d do 50% literature and 50% language.

Comparative literature was already covered above so there’s no need to expand on that.

I’ve linked a page from my university for you to skim through!

https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/english-language-and-literature-ba-hons-q302/2024/

Hope this helps,
Dom

Thank you for your advice but I think I'm just going to study one degree.
Reply 11
Just a bit of background:

I studied Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics at a level and I didn't enjoy the 2 years as much as I thought I would. From those 2 years, I did enjoy some aspects of each a level but I realised that I'm really not suited to study STEM degrees.

I still had an interest in literature (and films but that's a minor interest). I did also enjoy aspects of English literature when I was studying it at GCSE. Because of that, I thought about doing English literature at univerisity.

I have neither studied English literature/an essay based subject at a level nor was I reading English novels during my a levels (because I was spending time reading textbooks about science and maths), therefore, I'm worried about falling behind if I do study English literature at university.

I also thought about English language. Some people say that you don't need to study English language at A level to do English language at university. There's also some science involved in English language from what I've read. Consider the fact that I did study 2 sciences for 2 years, I might be able to pick up English language more easily than English literature?

The thing is, I did not find many recent posts about English language at university on TSR. I did, however, find more recent posts about English literature at university on TSR (don't come for me, it's just my experience).

I really don't know much about English language as much as I know about English literature. Thus, I have to gather more information about English language in order to make a final decision.
Reply 12
Original post by Shelly Wang
Just a bit of background:

I studied Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics at a level and I didn't enjoy the 2 years as much as I thought I would. From those 2 years, I did enjoy some aspects of each a level but I realised that I'm really not suited to study STEM degrees.

I still had an interest in literature (and films but that's a minor interest). I did also enjoy aspects of English literature when I was studying it at GCSE. Because of that, I thought about doing English literature at univerisity.

I have neither studied English literature/an essay based subject at a level nor was I reading English novels during my a levels (because I was spending time reading textbooks about science and maths), therefore, I'm worried about falling behind if I do study English literature at university.

I also thought about English language. Some people say that you don't need to study English language at A level to do English language at university. There's also some science involved in English language from what I've read. Consider the fact that I did study 2 sciences for 2 years, I might be able to pick up English language more easily than English literature?

The thing is, I did not find many recent posts about English language at university on TSR. I did, however, find more recent posts about English literature at university on TSR (don't come for me, it's just my experience).

I really don't know much about English language as much as I know about English literature. Thus, I have to gather more information about English language in order to make a final decision.

Can someone please give me some advice?
Given how you have three stem subjects at A level, you would be far less likely to be accepted onto an English literature degree as this normally requires either English (Lang/Lit) A level or an arts subject. Comparative Literature is typically the same, alternatively a humanities subject/language is desired. You'd have better luck with English language - I'm pretty sure Newcastle accepts Maths and certain sciences at A level to do that. I would consider weighing up what you want to get out of the degree at the end of it, given that you will be studying it for 3-4 years too: if you're interested in English language but hesitant on it, would you consider doing something like psychology (which some unis offer as both a Bsc and a BA)? The BA may focus on how the English language is psychologically applied (someone else should comment on this - I'm not taking this subject so I'm not fully sure!), as opposed to the workings of the brain that is covered more in the Bsc. I'd also take a look at linguistics - I'm pretty sure that York does lots of Linguistics courses as I have a friend who went there and I dont; believe you need an essay-based subject for that.

Overall, given how you don't have an essay-based subject at A level I don't know if there is much you can do if you are hoping to apply for an English degree at most unis. However if you take that interest and apply it to something like psychology, you may be able to find a middle ground. Linguistics may also work; some unis will let you take English language alongside it. Regarding the career prospects that you mentioned in your original post, I would ask yourself which direction you would want your degree to take you into: look at the modules that certain unis offer for their language & literature courses, and see if you can see yourself pursuing any of those themes in the future in any way. Look at the pages of websites showing which careers graduates from those degrees typically enter and ask yourself if you can see yourself within that statistic. Some unis offer those stats onsite and others can be found externally. I've linked something below on Complit career prospects (which emphasises overlap with English!). Sorry this was long, but hope it helps.

https://www.kent.ac.uk/careers/career-planning/what-can-i-do-with-a-degree-in/comparative-literature
Original post by Shelly Wang
Can someone please give me some advice?
(edited 7 months ago)
Reply 14
Hi everyone, thanks for all your help. I got a confirmed place at the university of Bristol to study biomedical sciences. I'll settle for the degree
(edited 7 months ago)
Ah, bit late but congratulations :smile: as a current bristol student I'm sure you'll love it there!
Original post by Shelly Wang
Hi everyone, thanks for all your help. I got a confirmed place at the university of Bristol to study biomedical sciences. I'll settle for the degree
Reply 16
Original post by flâneuse
Ah, bit late but congratulations :smile: as a current bristol student I'm sure you'll love it there!

Thank you
i would learn what a specific employer seeks in applicants
Reply 18
Original post by beautifulworld
i would learn what a specific employer seeks in applicants

ok
Original post by Shelly Wang
I'm still not sure if I should do English literature or English language at university. I've read posts about what it's like to study English literature at university, so I have a general idea but I haven't come across many about English language. Does English literature have better career prospects than English language? If so, why?

Is English language more specialised than English literature?

Hi!

So exciting you're thinking about studying English.
At University of Suffolk, we have this programme : https://www.uos.ac.uk/study/ba-english/.
You will see that the course structure is very blended and you can pick and chose what area you want to focus on in your study. I would definitely advise you to read the course structure and modules offered and see if that is something you could see yourself studying.

Hope that helps and good luck!

Milena 🙂
Creative and Critical Writing MA at Uni of Suffolk

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