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The Benefits of Studying English

English is the most widely used language in the world. It is spoken by around four hundred million people. Along with its proud status as the top first language, it is extensively used as a second language across the globe. For those wishing to study the subject further, for example to A level or degree level standard, it is naturally assumed that an excellent level of written and spoken English will already have been attained. In these higher level courses you will be studying the great literary classics: you will perusethe Elizabethan period, when English prose went through such a transformation. The plays of Shakespeare, Marlowe and Webster will be studied. Later on you may read Milton, and Dryden; and then the romantic poets such as Shelley and Byron. In this manner of learning and studying, you will be tracing the genesis of the language itself: how modern English came to be as it is. From Chaucer down to Joyce, you will see how the English language, largely due to the expansion of the empire from the seventeenth century onwards, reached out and appropriated aspects of other languages. Thanks to this assimilation of multifarious other tongues, English contains a staggering vocabulary. The complete oxford English dictionary lists well over 250,000 words; and this is excluding many more thousand scientific, technical, and slang terms. Neologisms are being freshly formed all the time. English is a living language.

The premise here being discussed is not the noble nature, or the global proliferation of English; the questions at hand are the reasons for studying it further. If you are considering studying English at degree level, you must be already aptly skilled in the language. There are many who have a love of English literature - a love of the language, and a deep seated fascination with those past masters (male and female), who by strength of character, and linguistic virtuosity, have left such an indelible imprint, that but a few lines of their oeuvre is all it takes to identify them. Their style is their character: their voice lives on. Buildings may crumble, seeming adamantine structures fall - the acropolis shall slowly turn to dust under the scorching Greek sunshine; the pyramids erode away by scarifying, wind blown sand; but the words of their times, the stories and histories of their era shall live on. The study of English literature will bring to life a history filled with drama and intrigue: Edward Gibbon's great work chartingof the decline and fall of the Roman Empire - TobiasSmollett's history of England Shakespeare's history plays. These great works bring the past back to life. A good curriculum will likely unearth great passages you were ignorant of, exposing and enriching you with cultural artefacts you would otherwise have been bereft of. This is part of the prize that studying English to a higher level will afford you: you will become a more cultured individual.

The study of English is a protean activity - it will lead you into the realm of history through the study of the authors just mentioned (and many more); it will inculcate you into the realm of philosophy, via the doctrines and treatises of Berkley, Bacon and Lock; while social criticism and artistic appreciation will be traversed by the inimitable Hazlitt; and contemporary periodicals shall provide a sociological testament, plus a host of miscellaneous information, from music to medicine. Literature is the gateway to culture: for as the word binds society together through comity and common discourse, so it leaves a fossilized record of the great flux of civilisation; and culture is an amalgam of past modes seen through present mores. This cultural cache is a resource you will be able to draw from all your life. It will both enhance and enrich your life, enabling you to form aesthetic judgements and conceptual connections across a spectrum of life experiences. By studying English literature you will be in possession of a wide range of social and cultural knowledge. This will be a resource, an encyclopaedia you'll carry all your life. Your vocabulary will be broadened by your studies, as will your writing abilities be enhanced, and reading practices improved. European literature of past centuries will be your library. Others may be confined to pluck the latest celebrity confessional ghost written slice ofpuerile prose off the shop shelves: your choice of reading shall be five hundred years of literature. From a purely academic perspective, English A level is valued very highly by university admission boards. With scholastic gradings being diluted by such nebulous subjects as media studies and fashion, the value of core subjects like English have increased in value. Whatever the discipline you wish to pursue at university, the possession of English A level can only be beneficial. Employers too will be impressed by the inclusion of this subject. With so many school leavers being unskilled in the construction of basic letter writing skills, employers are becoming more and more exasperated by this paucity of basic abilities. An English qualification will likely be extremely reassuring to any prospective employer. An English degree can open the doorway to a myriad of different professions. Journalism is a fascinating occupation, and one that demands the possession of felicitous grace with the language. Any sort of creative writing position will likely necessitate English being studied to a higher level. Scripting, article writing, editing - these are all dynamic, artistic jobs, with a finite number of positions facing severe competition. The ownership of the skills an English degree imparts cannot be feigned: these are assets, vital additions to your arsenal, in the fight to find the right job. English is the language of the business world. With financial centres in New York, Wall Street and London, the language of finance is English. If you wish to enter the financial sector, a higher qualification in its language will be valuable indeed. Even if your aim is not one of employment, and you are simply fascinated with English literature for it's own sake, the studies will be a delight. You will be in the company of teachers with a real passion and knowledge of the subject, and will meet many people with similar interests to your own.

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