At each year level, English Language is undertaken
as a sequence: units 1 and 2; units 3 and 4.
Due to the depth and complexity of Units 3 and 4 English Language,
it is recommended that students have undertaken
Units 1 and 2 prior to studying Units 3 and 4. Read
Is English Language the right choice of subject for you? Read an
overview of the course here.
Focus of Study
VCE English Language explores the ways in which language is used
by individuals and groups and reflects our thinking and values.
Learning about language helps us to understand ourselves, the groups
with which we identify, and the society we inhabit.
English Language builds on students' previous learning about the
conventions and codes used by speakers and writers of English. Informed
by the discipline of linguistics, it provides students with metalinguistic
tools to understand and analyse language use, variation and change.
Students studying English Language understand that uses and interpretations
of language are nuanced and complex, rather than being a series
of fixed conventions. Students come to understand how people use
spoken and written English to communicate, to think and innovate,
to construct identities, to build and interrogate attitudes and
assumptions, and to create and disrupt social cohesion.
The study of English Language enables students to understand the
structures, features and discourses of written and spoken texts.
It promotes systematic and objective deconstruction of language
The study of English Language enables students to further develop
and refine their own skills in reading, writing, listening to and
speaking English. Students learn about personal and public discourses
in workplaces, fields of study, trades or social groups.
In this study students read widely in order to develop their analytical
skills and understanding of linguistics. Students are expected to
study a range of texts, including publications and public commentary
about language in print and multimodal form. Students also observe
and discuss contemporary language in use, as well as consider a
range of historical and contemporary written and spoken texts.
Knowledge of how language functions provides a useful basis for
further study or employment in numerous fields such as arts, sciences,
law, politics, trades and education. The study supports language
related fields such as psychology, the study of other languages,
speech and reading therapy, journalism and philosophy. It also supports
study and employment in other communication-related fields, including
designing information and communications technology solutions or
Unit 1: Language and communication
Language is an essential aspect of human behaviour and it is the
means by which individuals relate to the world, to each other, and
to the communities of which they are members. In this unit, students
consider the way language is organised so that its users have the
means to make sense of their experiences and to interact with others.
Students explore the various functions of language and the nature
of language as a highly elaborate system of signs. The relationship
between speech and writing as the dominant modes of language and
the impact of situational and cultural contexts on language choices
are also considered. Students investigate children's ability to
acquire language, and the stages of language acquisition across
a range of subsystems.
Unit 2: Language change
In this unit, students focus on language change. Languages are dynamic
and change is an inevitable and a continuous process. Students consider
factors contributing to change over time in the English language
and factors contributing to the spread of English. They explore
texts from the past, and contemporary texts, considering how all
subsystems of the language system are affected - phonetics and phonology,
morphology and lexicology, syntax, discourse and semantics. Attitudes
to language change vary considerably and these are also considered.
In addition to developing an understanding of how English has been
transformed over the centuries, students explore the various possibilities
for the future of English. They consider how the global spread of
English has led to a diversification of the language, and to English
now being used by more people as an additional or a foreign language
than as a first language. Contact between English and other languages
has led to the development of geographical and ethnic varieties,
but has also hastened the decline of indigenous languages. Students
consider the cultural repercussions of the spread of English.
The VCAA Study Design may be downloaded here.
Unit 3: Language variation and social purpose
In this unit students investigate English language in the Australian
social setting, along a continuum of informal and formal registers.
They consider language as a means of societal interaction, understanding
that through written and spoken texts we communicate information,
ideas, attitudes, prejudices and ideological stances.
Students examine the stylistic features of formal and informal
language in both spoken and written modes: the grammatical and discourse
structure of language; the choice and meanings of words within texts;
how words are combined to convey a message; the purpose in conveying
a message; and the particular context in which a message is conveyed.
Students learn how to describe the interrelationship between words,
sentences and text as a means of exploring how texts construct message
Students consider how texts are influenced by the situational and
cultural contexts in which they occur. They examine how function,
field, mode, setting and the relationships between participants
all contribute to a person's language choices, as do the values,
attitudes and beliefs held by participants and the wider community.
Students learn how speakers and writers select features from within
particular stylistic variants, or registers, and this in turn establishes
the degree of formality within a discourse. They learn how language
can be indicative of relationships, power structures and purpose
- through the choice of a particular variety of language, and through
the ways in which language varieties are used in processes of inclusion
Unit 4: Language variation and identity
In this unit students focus on the role of language in establishing
and challenging different identities. Many varieties of English
exist in contemporary Australian society, including national, regional,
cultural and social variations. Standard Australian English is the
variety that is granted prestige in contemporary Australian society
and it has a role in establishing national identity. However, non-Standard
varieties also play a role in constructing users' social and cultural
identities. Students examine both print and digital texts to consider
the ways different identities are constructed. Such historical and
contemporary texts include, but should not be limited to, extracts
from novels, films or television programs, poetry, letters and emails,
transcripts of spoken interaction, songs, advertisements, speeches
and bureaucratic or official documents.
Students explore how our sense of who we are is constantly evolving
and responding to the situations in which we find ourselves and
is determined not only by how we see ourselves, but by how others
see us. Through our language we establish how we are unique as individuals,
as well as signalling our membership of particular groups. Students
explore how language can distinguish between 'us' and 'them', thus
reinforcing the degree of social distance and/or solidarity.
The VCAA Study Design may be downloaded here.