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English studies encompasses many areas of study: from analysing discourse to stylistics in English language to gaining an intimate understanding of the works of Chaucer in English literature. It spans a whole host of disciplines, contexts, historical eras, societies… in brief it’s a valuable subject to study for all walks of life, whether personal, professional or social.
And where better to develop your skills in English studies than the vibrant cultural hub that is Birmingham?
Birmingham has been a haven for free thinkers since the 16th century when its location and industry set it apart from cities where centralised powers ruled the roost.
Over the lasts few hundred years, the city of Birmingham has seen its more than fair share of lively literary debate on theological issues, not to mention the birth and prospering of the Midlands Enlightenment. And then there’s the industrial revolution, when Birmingham became the subject of the thriving novel form.
So if there’s one thing that Birmingham’s literature doesn’t lack, it’s diversity, as radicals who flocked to the city in the 16th and 17th centuries brought with them new approaches to areas such as poetry, philosophy, history, fiction and children’s literature. This diversity is reflected in Birmingham’s literary canon today, with modernist fiction (Henry Green), science fiction (John Wyndham), popular romance (Barbara Cartland) and children’s stories (Rev. W. Awdry) coming to life in the city.
Not only is Birmingham’s literature diverse, but many of authors with roots in or a connection to the city have held major influence and importance on an international level. Samuel Johnson (a writer and lexicographer who made major lasting contributions to literature) was born in neighbouring Lichfield and frequently contributed to the Birmingham Journal. Funeral Blues author W.H. Auden grew up in and around Birmingham, and who could forget J.R.R. Tolkien – writer, poet, philologist and creator of Middle Earth, the setting for the Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion and many other stories of high fantasy – who grew up in Birmingham.
In brief, those looking to develop their understanding of English literature and language are in good company in Birmingham!
English studies can be roughly broken into four areas of study: speaking, reading, writing, and grammar, vocab and punctuation. These disciplines help you to learn valuable transferable skills that can be applied to all areas of life, from personal to professional and social.
For example, speaking in class discussions helps you to develop your ability to ask relevant questions and explain yourself coherently. Reading studies require you to demonstrate an understanding of the text by summarising and analyse it, developing your ability to think critically. Writing focuses on composing arguments as well as any written texts, helping you learn to communicate ideas coherently on paper. Grammar, vocabulary and punctuation makes all this possible!
The benefit of these transferable skills is that you can apply them to a range of careers, from teaching English yourself in a secondary or primary school, to law, journalism, editing, publishing or even novel writing!
In addition to helping you to gain transferable skills, English studies encourages you do something incredible: read! Reading a variety of books – fact or fiction, poetry or prose, will help you to broaden your horizons. You’ll gain new perspectives by seeing the world through someone else’s eyes, which will help to develop your world view. Whether you’re walking through Patagonia with Bruce Chatwin, journeying through Middle Earth with Frodo and Sam the hobbits, or gaining new insight into the English language with Samuel Johnson – you’ll embark on all manner of adventures from the comfort of your armchair!
Birmingham has been significant in the lives and works of a whole host of authors and academics, who in turn have had significant influence over our literary history. So, it should come as no surprise that there is a wealth of destinations where you can find inspiration in the city.
One of these destinations is the Library of Birmingham: not only the largest public cultural space in the UK, but the home of Britain’s most important Shakespeare collection and one of the two most important Shakespeare collections in the world (containing 43,000 books!). What venue could serve as better inspiration for your English studies?
If seeing the written word performed on stage is what brings literature to life for you, Birmingham has no shortage of venues where you’ll find what you’re looking for! From the historical Hippodrome Victorian theatre to the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, there is a whole host of establishments where you can enjoy watching plays and comedies on the stage. You can even take part in drama workshops in the Midlands Arts Centre and perform for yourself!
Finally, Birmingham is just a 40 minute train journey from Stratford Upon Avon, the birthplace and home of Shakespeare himself. The Royal Shakespeare Company perform regularly in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, bringing staples of every English student’s education to life!
Birmingham has a wealth of colleges and universities where you can learn from renowned tutors and lecturers and access incredible resources to help further your studies.
The University of Birmingham is one such university! Ranking highly in the league tables, the school of English offers excellent tuition over a variety of modules whether you want to explore past and present cultures and societies and develop your creative writing through an English literature BA, or explore how language itself has developed or how societies communicate through English language studies.
The University of Birmingham is also home to the Shakespeare Institute, giving students access to excellent resources that will help them to further there understanding of the world’s greatest dramatist!
Red brick universities like the University of Birmingham offer an excellent education in English, but good grades in English are necessary to get in in the first place. To have the best chance of securing a place in one of these universities, why not seek additional support for your English studies?
There are many ways that you can develop your English speaking, reading and writing in Birmingham.
Aspiring writers may choose to join a creative writing course at an arts centre where you’ll learn writing techniques to help you explore your ideas on the page.
In larger centres like the Midlands Arts Centre you can even choose which area of creative writing you’d like to specialise in, be it poetry, children’s fiction or life writing. Both adult classes and junior and young person specific classes are on offer to cater for different ages and abilities.
If reading is your passion, why not join a book group? Often meeting on a monthly basis, book club members read a text over the course of the month and discuss different themes in the text – as well as what they thought of it – at the next meeting. Not only is this an excellent way for you to experience different kinds of texts but will encourage you to think about a text and articulate what you thought of it – improving your discussion skills too!
Finally, for those wishing to improve their performance and speaking skills, why not attend one of Birmingham’s many spoken word open mic events where you can share your creativity on the stage in front of other artists? Stirchley Speaks springs to mind as one of our favourites.
However the most efficient way to improve in English studies is to seek support on an individual basis with an experienced tutor who can tailor their lesson to your specific requirements, identifying your strengths and weakness and helping you to address them. Maybe you need someone to read and give feedback on your essays, or someone to set you targeted grammar drills, or even someone to help you analyse texts for themes? An experienced English tutor would be the ideal person for the job!
So where do you start when looking for an English tutor? There are countless resources that you can use – newspapers, local shop notice boards, community centres, internet searches, word of mouth… Whatever channel you choose to search on, remember to consider what your priorities are. What area of studies do you want your tutor to be a specialist in? What price do you want to pay? Do you want to learn in-person or over the internet, at home or at the tutor’s home? How often do you want to have lessons and what do you want to get out of them? There’s a lot to consider, but it’s important to know your priorities so that you can compare tutors!
Superprof is an excellent resource for finding a private English tutor. Not only do we have a huge range of tutors for you to choose from, but their profiles are comprehensive and easy to compare. You can easily find all these details as well as recommendations from previous and current students that make it easier than ever for you to find the right tutor for your specific needs.
Dig out your Shakespeare, it’s time to develop your English studies in the cultural hub of Birmingham!