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 more.

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 in use.

Language is central to human life. Learning about language helps us to understand ourselves and the world in which we live. Language is the cornerstone of social cohesion. This study aims to combine learning about the nature of language in human thought and communication with learning how to use English more effectively and creatively. It is informed by the discipline of linguistics and integrates a systematic exploration of the nature of the English Language. Students develop skills in the description and analysis of a diverse range of spoken and written English texts.

A knowledge of how language functions helps develop skills useful in any field in which attention is paid explicitly to language, such as communications, communication disorders, speech and reading therapy, pre-school and primary education, foreign language and English teaching. These skills also have a profound impact upon and are central to areas such as psychology, cognitive science, computer science, and philosophy.

This study is designed to enable students to:

  • develop their knowledge about the nature and functions of language, with English as the exemplar;
  • use English effectively and creatively through activities which involve linguistic analysis and critical refection as key components;
  • investigate relationships between structure, function, context and meaning in English texts, and to describe, reflect upon and comment critically on these;
  • learn and use a metalanguage—a language for talking about language and language use;
  • expand their descriptive, analytical and critical skills in dealing with language data produced in a variety of contexts;
  • gain an awareness of convention and creativity in language and the interplay between these two in language use;
  • gain an understanding of the process of child language acquisition;
  • identify differences observed in English texts from different periods and explore the nature and effects of language change;
  • acquire an awareness of distinctive characteristics of English in Australia;
  • appreciate the differences in language use, and the principle of appropriateness in spoken and written English;
  • develop awareness and understanding of language variation (personal, functional, social and regional);
  • reflect critically upon attitudes to language and language use;
  • investigate and describe how language constructs and reflects personal, social and cultural understandings, including a sense of identity;
  • enhance effective communication;
  • increase appreciation and understanding of English texts;
  • develop an awareness of the influences of other languages on English.

Year 11

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.

Students can check the course outline in Year 11 English Language Canvas Modules>>

Students can check the SAC tasks and dates on Canvas>>

English teachers can access course information on OneDrive>>

Year 12

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 and meaning.

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 and exclusion.

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.

Students can check the course outline in Year 12 English Language Canvas Modules >>

Students can check the SAC tasks and dates on Canvas>>

English teachers can access course information on OneDrive>>


Last up-dated 20 Januaryt, 2021
Website originally designed and constructed by V. Karvelas, 2004
Website constructed and maintained by G. Marotous, 2004
© George Marotous. Melbourne High School English Faculty