Applied Linguistics with TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) - MA

Kent’s MA in Applied Linguistics with TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) provides teachers with advanced knowledge of linguistics and language pedagogy, informed by research and scholarship, to enhance, develop and inform an understanding of language learning and classroom practice.


The programme is offered by the Department of English Language & Linguistics, and benefits from staff expertise in areas of linguistics that inform classroom practice (such as syntax, morphology, semantics, pragmatics and phonetics), raising awareness of these fields and applying them to TESOL. Students gain an understanding of the theory, methodology and interdisciplinary nature of TESOL, as well as a firm foundation in linguistics.

Practical teaching opportunities are a feature of the programme, including teaching to peer groups and international students. There is also the opportunity to observe language classes.

Students begin by studying eight modules across the Autumn and Spring terms, before writing a 12,000-word dissertation or teaching portfolio over the summer, supervised by an expert in the department.

The programme is an ideal for teachers aiming to improve their understanding and abilities in communicating across the barriers of language and those who wish to build an international dialogue.

About the Department of English Language and Linguistics

English Language and Linguistics (ELL) is a dynamic and growing department with a vibrant research culture. We specialise in experimental and theoretical linguistics. In particular, our interests focus on quantitative and experimental research in speech and language processing, variation and acquisition, but also cover formal areas such as syntax, as well as literary stylistics. In addition to English and its varieties, our staff work in French, German, Greek, Romani, Korean, Spanish and Russian.

Staff and postgraduates are members of the Centre for Language and Linguistics (CLL), a research centre that seeks to promote interdisciplinary linguistic research. We also have links with research networks outside Kent, and are involved with national and international academic associations including the Linguistics Association of Great Britain, the British Association of Academic Phoneticians, the Linguistic Society of America, the Association for French Language Studies and the Poetics and Linguistics Association.

We welcome applications from students interested in MA and PhD research. Please see our staff and research pages for more information on the topics staff are able to supervise.

Entry requirements

A first or upper-second class honours degree in a relevant subject or equivalent.

International applicants for whom English is not their first language must have IELTS overall 7.0 with at least 6.0 for each component.

The University will consider applications from students offering a wide range of qualifications. Some typical requirements are listed below. Students offering alternative qualifications should contact us for further advice.

If you are an international student, visit our International Student website for further information about entry requirements for your country, including details of the International Foundation Programmes.

English language entry requirements

The University requires all non-native speakers of English to reach a minimum standard of proficiency in written and spoken English before beginning a postgraduate degree. Certain subjects require a higher level.

For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages. 

Need help with English?

Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.


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Course structure

Duration: 1 year full-time, 2 years part-time

The programme starts with two core linguistics modules (Sounds and Structure), the choice between two modules (Meaning or Research Skills) and a module on language awareness for teachers (Language Awareness and Analysis for TESOL) so that you have a firm grasp of the linguistic bases of language teaching.

In the spring term the focus is on how languages are learned (Second Language Acquisition), how you can improve classroom technique (Methods and Practice of TESOL), plan for your students’ needs (Course and Syllabus Design for TESOL) and the option between two modules (Materials Evaluation and Development for TESOL or one of the linguistics modules offered that term). 

Students can choose to do either a Research Dissertation or a Teaching Portfolio in the summer term. The dissertation will be an opportunity to plan and develop a piece of empirical research which can be of direct relevance to your current or planned teaching situation. The teaching portfolio functions both as the culmination of the year's work on the program and as preparation for students' professional development as language teachers.


The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This list is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.  Most programmes will require you to study a combination of compulsory and optional modules. You may also have the option to take modules from other programmes so that you may customise your programme and explore other subject areas that interest you.

Compulsory modules currently include

This course constitutes an in-depth introduction to syntax, focusing specifically on the question of what constitutes knowledge of language. By examining a core area of linguistic investigation (syntax), students will have the opportunity to explore the form and structure of the various kinds of linguistic knowledge speakers possess. The investigation will proceed from a theoretical as well as a descriptive perspective, and students will be encouraged to evaluate theoretical claims in the light of observations drawn from a wide range of languages. As such, the module will equip students with the theoretical and methodological tools required in the specialised modules and will highlight the crucial role of description in supporting and testing theoretical claims.

Find out more about LL833

This module will review and critique past and current theories of Second Language Acquisition from a range of theoretical perspectives: linguistic, cognitive, psychological and social. It will also examine the wide range of factors that affect the second language learner and how these might be mitigated. It will then continue by indicating the implications for teaching and learning, and how different areas of the language are acquired.

Find out more about LL834

This module deals with the linguistic study of speech. It covers how speech sounds are produced and perceived and what their acoustic characteristics are (often referred to as phonetics), as well as how speech sounds are organised into sound systems cross-linguistically (often referred to as phonology). Emphasis will be placed on the sound system of English (including dialectal variation) but basics of sound systems across the world's languages will also be covered and contrasted with English so that students are familiar with the gamut of speech sounds available in the world’s languages. Finally, the course will cover the differences between the traditional "static" view of speech sounds as articulatory postures and the organisation of running speech. This will be covered together with the repercussions that our current knowledge about running speech has for our understanding of phonological systems, their organisation and formal representation in phonological theory.

Find out more about LL838

The theoretical basis and different approaches to syllabus and course design will be introduced. The key concepts, principles and rationale for process, procedural, lexical, functional and task-based syllabuses will be appraised and evaluated. The influence of Second Language Acquisition theory and educational, cultural, social, economic and political factors on the syllabus will be considered when writing and adapting designs for groups of learners in a range of contexts. Ways of assessing students' needs as part of the process of planning and designing a syllabus and course will be addressed.

Find out more about LL840

This module will introduce students to language awareness, giving an overview of approaches to language analysis for TESOL in the linguistic fields of phonetics, syntax, morphology, semantics, pragmatics and discourse. It will present frameworks and approaches for the analysis of a wide range of text type in both spoken and written English with the aim of sensitising students to language and cultivating their skills for their personal linguistic development and for those they teach in the English language classroom.

Find out more about LL841

This module will give an overview of the theories and good practice that underpin TESOL. It will show how these have developed and shaped current trends in TESOL pedagogy. Recent and up-to-date research into language learning and teaching will be reviewed, evaluated and assessed for its implications for classroom practice. Current thought on the teaching of the elements and skills of language will be reviewed and assessed, and applied to a variety of contexts in which TESOL takes place. Participants will be able to observe and evaluate TESOL teaching and develop their own practical teaching skills through peer group teaching, teaching small groups and or/one-to-one teaching under the supervision of experienced practitioners.

Find out more about LL843

Optional modules may include

During this course, students focus on a set of case studies (e.g. Language abilities in Autistic Spectrum Disorders, Specific Language Impairment and Down Syndrome; The Aphasias; Sign Language), which provide novel insights into ongoing questions within language acquisition research. Issues considered include: the extent to which linguistic capacities interact with psychological ones; the distinction between developmental and acquired disorders; the evidence for and against linguistic principles being operative in child grammars; the distinction between language delay and language deviance, and the reliability and validity of social, cognitive and linguistic tests against which individuals' capabilities are measured.

Find out more about LL844

The module will begin with an examination of Labov, Weinreich and Herzog's early 'manifesto' for sociologically informed linguistics, and the reasons for dissatisfaction with structuralist and generative models in the 1960s/early 1970’s. It will then review classic urban sociolinguistic work as exemplified by Labov (New York), Trudgill (Norwich), and the Milroys (Belfast), before exploring in turn the assumptions underpinning sociolinguistic methodology and some of its key findings (for example, the sociolinguistic gender pattern). The claims of sociolinguists regarding language change will then be considered, and some putative sociolinguistic universals, i.e. general claims about language in society which are presumed to be universally applicable, tested. The module will conclude with consideration of the relationship between social and linguistic structure, and examine some recent work in the field, which challenges the general linguistic tenet that all languages are equally complex.

Find out more about LL845

This course will explore a specific model of formal syntactic theory: Minimalism. By investigating some of the core issues developed within the Minimalist Program, such as the role of phrase structure, the central role of movement processes and the mechanisms which are responsible for them, students will have the opportunity to examine how the Minimalist framework can account for the differences and similarities found in languages, in which ways it is controversial and the assumptions it makes regarding the interaction of syntax with other linguistic components (morphology/semantics/pragmatics). Focusing on a specific model will give students the opportunity to consider in depth not only its methods and its aims, but also the proper nature of syntactic argumentation. The investigation will entail both theoretical and descriptive perspectives, thus emphasizing the importance of description in supporting and testing theory. As such, students will be encouraged to evaluate theoretical claims in the light of observations drawn from a wide range of languages.

Find out more about LL847

This module is an introduction to quantitative research methods in linguistics, with the aim of familiarising students with the main methodologies by analysis of relevant studies from the literature and hands-on experience with study design. Key topics will include: hypothesis formation; experimental design; paradigms for quantitative linguistic research; data analysis and interpretation.

Find out more about LL830

This module will introduce students to the study of semantic meaning. The focus will be on developing a fluency with analytical tools in semantics and pragmatics, and using these to explain a range of phenomena. Topics covered will include truth-conditional semantics, reference, presupposition, conversational implicature, and Speech Act Theory. Students will have the opportunity to reflect upon real data and analyse the processes of conveying and understanding meaning.

Find out more about LL832

This module will consider the reasons for using teaching materials, who should design them and how they should be designed. Frameworks will be applied to critically evaluate commercially produced materials for their authenticity and their appropriacy for specific groups of learners and the contexts in which they are taught. Where materials are considered to be inappropriate for a specific context, students will gain the skills to adapt existing materials or create their own.

Find out more about LL842

This course will focus on the structure of lexical items, the way in which these different lexical items are stored and the nature of the relation between them. Relevant theoretical work in the fields of psycholinguistics and language processing will be outlined and discussed. Students will evaluate the efficacy of these theories on the basis of experimental investigations which they themselves will construct and conduct, for example word association experiments, lexicon decision tasks and parsing phenomena.

Find out more about LL835

This course is an introduction to English Phonetics. It covers how English speech sounds are produced and perceived and what their acoustic characteristics are; it covers how speech sounds are organized into the sound system of English and provides awareness of the types of dialectal variation present in English. Finally, the course will cover the differences between the traditional “static” view of speech sounds as articulatory postures and the organization of running speech, together with the repercussions that our current knowledge about running speech has for our understanding of phonological systems, their organization and formal representation.

Find out more about LL836

This course will equip students with the necessary training in a broad range of research skills, with the express aim of preparing them for postgraduate level writing and research, and ultimately for their dissertation. Key topics will include: academic writing in linguistics; bibliographical search; hypothesis formation; falsifiability; ethical procedures; introduction to quantitative and qualitative methodologies.

Find out more about LL837

Optional modules may include

The aim of the Teaching Portfolio is to develop further the students' ability to independently plan, research, and develop a language course, syllabus, lesson plans, materials, etc. for a specific group of language learners, and to describe the project in a coherent manner within an extended piece of practical written work. The Teaching Portfolio functions both as the culmination of the year's work on the program and as preparation for students’ professional development as language teachers.

The Teaching Portfolio will usually be based on, and develop from, work undertaken relating to the modules undertaken during Stage 1 of the MA Applied Linguistics with TESOL.

Find out more about LL856

The aim of the dissertation is to develop further the students' ability independently to plan, research, formulate arguments and communicate research findings in a coherent manner within an extended piece of written work. The dissertation functions both as the culmination of the year's work and as a bridge between guided and independent research, preparing (and, it is hoped, encouraging) students to continue on to carry out research at DPhil level.

The topic of the dissertation will usually be based on, and develop from, work undertaken on one or more of the four coursework modules undertaken in the course of the MA

Find out more about LL899

Teaching and assessment

Modules are typically assessed by a 2-4,000-word essay, but assessment patterns can include practical/experimental work, report and proposal writing, critiques, problem solving and seminar presentations. You also complete a 12,000-word research dissertation or teaching portfolio on a topic agreed with your supervisor.

Programme aims

  • Provide TESOL practitioners with advanced knowledge of linguistics related to  language pedagogy, informed by research and scholarship, which will enhance, develop and inform their understanding of language learning and classroom practice.
  • To produce graduates who will contribute locally, nationally and internationally to the TESOL community.
  • To prepare students to be more effective in the TESOL classroom.
  • To provide students with teaching and training which is informed by research, scholarship, practice and experience.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

  • Terminology as required for linguistic description, theory and explanation and as applied to TESOL
  • The interdisciplinary nature of TESOL
  • The description and organisation of sound systems, i.e. phonetics and phonology and as applied to TESOL
  • The structure of individual words and sentences, i.e. morphology and syntax and as applied to TESOL
  • The way meanings are generated, i.e. semantics and pragmatics and as applied to TESOL
  • Language varieties, styles and registers and their impact on TESOL
  • First and second language acquisition and its impact on TESOL
  • Teaching methods, strategies and techniques for TESOL
  • Needs analysis for TESOL
  • Syllabus design for TESOL
  • Selection, design and use of materials for TESOL
  • A knowledge and understanding of methodologies and techniques which are applicable to research in areas of applied linguistics and TESOL

Intellectual skills

  • Consider and reflect on research in the fields of applied linguistics and TESOL
  • Critically analyse the theories, principles, methodologies, practices, strategies, techniques in TESOL in the light of research in the fields of applied linguistics and synthesise information from a number of primary and secondary sources to formulate arguments, make sound judgements or propose new hypotheses
  • Interpret, analyse and evaluate teaching and learning materials, language production and language use in the light of relevant theories, frameworks and cultural context.
  • Reflect on past and current learning and past and current classroom practice

Subject-specific skills

  • Apply linguistic and TESOL theories to create or interpret knowledge and experience in the discipline to enhance classroom practice
  • Select and design language teaching and learning materials appropriate to students’ level, interests and learning context
  • Design research tools appropriate for collecting and analysing data in areas of applied linguistics and TESOL
  • Plan, design and conduct an independent research project in areas of applied linguistics and TESOL 

Transferable skills

  • Communication: presenting complex ideas clearly in both written and oral English
  • Teamwork: effective interaction in pairs and groups, exercising personal responsibility and the appropriate decision-making skills
  • Time management: students will manage time, prioritise tasks and adhere to deadlines
  • Problem solving in a variety of contexts
  • IT: high level of competence in information processing using relevant databases and online research


The 2021/22 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

  • Home full-time £8100
  • EU full-time £12600
  • International full-time £16800
  • Home part-time £4050
  • EU part-time £6300
  • International part-time £8400

For details of when and how to pay fees and charges, please see our Student Finance Guide.

For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact

Your fee status

The University will assess your fee status as part of the application process. If you are uncertain about your fee status you may wish to seek advice from UKCISA before applying.

Additional costs

General additional costs

Find out more about general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent. 


Search our scholarships finder for possible funding opportunities. You may find it helpful to look at both:

The Complete University Guide

In The Complete University Guide 2021, the University of Kent was ranked in the top 10 for research intensity. This is a measure of the proportion of staff involved in high-quality research in the university.

Please see the University League Tables 2021 for more information.

Complete University Guide Research Intensity

Independent rankings

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, modern languages and linguistics was ranked 3rd for research quality, 3rd for research output and in the top 20 for research intensity, research impact and research power in the UK.

Our submission was the highest ranked nationally to include modern languages – a testament to our position as the UK’s European university. An impressive 100% of our research was judged to be of international quality and the School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of world-leading research.

Research areas

Alongside our research centre below, we also have links with research networks outside Kent, and are involved with national and international academic associations including the Linguistics Association of Great Britain, the British Association of Academic Phoneticians, the Linguistic Society of America, the Association for French Language Studies and the Poetics and Linguistics Association.

Linguistics Lab

The newly established Linguistics Lab is currently housed in Rutherford College and has facilities for research in acoustics, sociophonetics and speech and language processing. English Language and Linguistics (ELL) members also have access to the School of European Culture and Language (SECL) recording studio and multimedia labs which can be used both for research and teaching.

Centre for Language and Linguistics

English Language and Linguistics is the main contributor to the Centre for Language and Linguistics. Founded in 2007, the Centre promotes interdisciplinary collaboration in linguistic research and teaching. Membership embraces not just the members of English Language and Linguistics but also other SECL members with an interest in the study of language, as well as researchers in philosophy, computing, psychology and anthropology, reflecting the many and varied routes by which individuals come to a love of language and an interest in the various disciplines and subdisciplines of linguistics.


Postgraduate work in English Language and Linguistics prepares you for a range of careers where an in-depth understanding of how language functions is essential. These include speech and language theory, audiology, teaching, publishing, advertising, journalism, public relations, company training, broadcasting, forensic and computational work, and the civil or diplomatic services.

Study support

Postgraduate resources

Our students benefit from training by enthusiastic and dedicated staff with expertise in a variety of areas of linguistics, from formal to quantitative and experimental fields.

ELL students also benefit from excellent library facilities and a linguistics laboratory equipped for research in speech acoustics (recording equipment, studio, software for speech analysis), speech and language processing and acquisition (including eye-tracking, DMDX and E-prime), and general data analysis (MS Office Suite, Statistica, R, and Matlab running on both PCs and Macs).

The Department organises seminars with local and invited speakers that take place throughout the year. Additionally the Centre for Language and Linguistics also organises various events from talks to symposia. In addition, postgraduates can attend any one of three reading groups: the Experimental Reading Group; the Stylistics Reading Group; and the Syntax Reading Group. These groups provide a space where staff, final-year undergraduates and postgraduate students have the opportunity to exchange ideas and learn more about current research issues in their area of interest. All three groups meet regularly to discuss recent research papers as well as draft research papers written by individual members of each group.

Although ELL is a new department, the study of linguistics has a long tradition at Kent and the Templeman Library is well stocked in all areas, particularly those in which we specialise, including sociolinguistics, phonetics, acquisition, language processing, language teaching and stylistics.

The School also provides high-quality IT facilities, including state-of-the-art media laboratories, dedicated technical staff and designated areas for postgraduate study. Other facilities include all-purpose teaching rooms, two networked multimedia laboratories equipped for teaching in phonetics and psycholinguistics and a streamed film library. Experienced technicians can provide support with computing, sound recording and digital media.


In addition to one-to-one meetings with their supervisor, our research students benefit from many additional events that are either specifically designed for them or provide them with opportunities to liaise with all staff.

These events include:

  • an ELL-specific induction day for all postgraduates
  • the chance to act as peer-mentors for MA students
  • presentation of their research at LingLunch and our annual Research Day
  • participation in training seminars covering statistics, the peer-review system, experimental techniques in linguistics
  • reading groups, of which three are currently meeting on a regular basis: the Experimental Linguistics Reading Group, the Syntax Reading Group and the Stylistics Reading Group.

For those who wish to gain in-depth understanding of syntax, semantics and phonology additional training is provided through the Advanced Core Training in Linguistics (ACTL) of which Kent is a member along with Cambridge, Essex, Oxford, Queen Mary, University of London, SOAS and UCL. ACTL classes are offered in the autumn and summer and are open to all postgraduates.

Global Skills Award

All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.  

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