Available on the Mahikeng, Potchefstroom and Vanderbijlpark Campuses


The history of the English language really started with the arrival of three Germanic tribes who invaded Britain during the 5th century AD. So, English has its roots in the West Germanic languages of the Indo-European language family, from which German and Dutch also developed, and has also experienced many influences from Romance languages such as French. In general, the history of the English language is split into three periods: Old English, Middle English and Modern English.

English history reports several successful invasions, and usually this has meant an additional language being imposed. The Romans, for example, brought in Latin, and the Norman invasion of 1066 brought in French. From around 1600, the English colonisation of North America and other areas of the world resulted in the creation of many distinct varieties of English, such as American English and South African English.

The English language in South Africa dates mostly from the arrival of the British in the Eastern Cape in 1820. As was the case in most colonies, English was introduced first by soldiers and administrators, then by missionaries, settlers and fortune seekers. English took root as a southern African language during the 19th century as a result of British settlements in the Eastern Cape and Natal, followed by the establishment of diamond mines in Kimberley and the gold mines on the Witwatersrand.

It is estimated that about a third of the world’s population, some two billion persons, now uses English.

Why study English?

English is your magic key because it:

  • is the language of some of the world’s greatest literature;
  • is a global language and the language of business;
  • is the language of the media, industry, and the internet;
  • gives one access to a world of entertainment;
  • makes travelling a lot easier, and gives you access to multiple cultures;
  • improves your memory and keeps your brain engaged; and
  • exposes you to better opportunities.

Course information

English is presented in the Bachelor of Arts in Language and Literary Studies or can be taken in combination with other majors, as presented in the academic calendar. An English major is a three-year course, allowing admission into honours-degree and postgraduate studies. The coursework covers both literary and linguistic themes and topics.

Majoring in English allows students to develop personally and intellectually, since students are taught to engage critically with their work, fellow students and lecturers. The literary coursework covers key periods, authors and movements in English literature from the 17th to the 21st century. The linguistic component introduces students to grammatical analysis (syntax and semantics), applied linguistics (language acquisition theories, curriculum design and lesson planning), historical linguistics (development of English), stylistics, and sociolinguistics.

English is a language of communication, travel and education. A major in English opens up great career opportunities such as teaching, court interpreting, translation and editing.

The English Department of the Potchefstroom Campus also offers two supplementary optional modules at second-year level: Classics for Literature Students (I) and (II). These modules focus on classical mythology and literary genres, and classical influences on later literature.

Modules designed for English for practical purposes (ENLS) are also offered across the three campuses. The course is aimed at students who wish to improve their professional writing skills and comprises two first-year modules:

  • English for Specific Purposes
  • Practical English for Professional Purposes

Possible career opportunities

  • Curriculum design (requires postgraduate study)
  • Teaching English as a second or other languages
  • Teaching (requires a postgraduate teaching certificate/diploma)
  • Creative writing & freelance writing
  • Journalism
  • Technical writing
  • Content writing
  • Publishing & advertising
  • Specialised secretarial and administrative work
  • Language practitioner work
  • Digital copywriting
  • Editorial work
  • Lexicography
  • Speech pathology (requires further study)
  • Proof-reading
  • Academia & research (within a tertiary environment)

Interesting links