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Learner Reviews & Feedback for Miracles of Human Language: An Introduction to Linguistics by Universiteit Leiden

2,262 ratings

About the Course

Everywhere, every day, everybody uses language. There is no human society, no matter how small or how isolated, which does not employ a language that is rich and diverse. This course introduces you to linguistics, featuring interviews with well-known linguists and with speakers of many different languages. Join us to explore the miracles of human language! The Miracles of Human Language introduces you to the many-faceted study of languages, which has amazed humans since the beginning of history. Together with speakers of many other languages around the world, as well as with famous linguists such as Noam Chomsky and Adele Goldberg, you will learn to understand and analyse how your native tongue is at the same time similar and different from many other languages. You will learn the basic concepts of linguistics, get to know some of the key features of big and small languages and get insight into what linguists do. This course gives an introduction into the study of languages, the field of linguistics. With the support of the basic linguistic terminology that is offered in the course, you will soon be able to comment both on variety between languages, as well as on a single language’s internal structure. Anyone who wishes to understand how languages work, and how they can give us insight into the human mind is very welcome to join. The course is useful if you want to get a fairly quick introduction into linguistics, for instance because you are considering studying it further, or because you are interested in a neighbouring discipline such as psychology, computer science or anthropology. Furthermore, the course will help you develop analytical skills. If you are curious to understand how language works and how it gives insight into the human mind, this course is definitely for you!...

Top reviews


Sep 23, 2017

Extremely informational, well presented, with questions that stimulate reflection. The optional reading material is food for thought. I hope to see more courses from the same professor and University.


Jan 2, 2017

Excellent! Really enjoyed and learnt a lot. I did not expect such a great content and professionalism in a free course. I am definitely purchasing for the title.

Thanks to all the team! Great job!

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1 - 25 of 682 Reviews for Miracles of Human Language: An Introduction to Linguistics

By Craig H

Jun 5, 2016

The course itself is fine. The quizzes, however, are so frustrating as to lower the enjoyment of the whole thing. Numerous answers are just factually wrong. You end up retaking the quiz time and again and then selecting random answers just to pass.

By Jack K

Jun 19, 2017

Professor Marc van Oostendorp has woven a lovely and living web of an introduction/refresher to Linguistics for anyone with the beginning of a serious interest. His enthusiasm and outright love of the discipline are infectious and are filtered by an evident and generous humanity. This works especially well in his choice of guest speakers who are without exception a joy to hear. He ties it all together at the end with William Labov's wonderful retrospective, showing the student that one doesn't have to be a follower of a particular school of thought to appreciate how its proponents generously pour their discipline, experience, skills, love and humanity into what they are doing. In so doing they, as well as the good Professor, share the essential lesson: approach language with all the scientific discipline you can muster but always keep in mind that it is something human, mysterious and very much alive, and always changing. Something that cannot be caged.

Why only two stars? One star off for each of the following:

First, it is too light and the required readings too short and too easy. Furthermore, there is an over focus on certain topics, especially politeness theory and speech errors, which doesn't really go anywhere. Other topics, such as approaches to syntactical analysis, cognitive linguistics, etc. could well be further explored.

Next, the structure of student participation should be enhanced to require much more lateral work (of better quality) among and between students currently taking the course. Much of the recent input was appallingly poor, leaving one with the impression that participants where just ticking boxes.

Finally, and most importantly, is the failure of the course on this commercial platform. The student receives many emails urging the purchase of a certificate or of other courses, but the course itself is not kept properly updated. It contains many errors that have not been corrected for quite some time. Most are not very important, but some, including a few patently incorrect quiz and exam answers (which have been cited and admitted in the Forum but not changed), are important. The student has, in effect, no way to check where s/he might have gone wrong. The student gets no up-to-date feedback. The course was free, a kind of teaser for the commercial product, but that gives Coursera all the more reason to keep it updated, to keep on improving it. One gets the impression, as things now stand, that Coursera cares about the money a little too much. That it has missed the balance between the search for profit and the search for meaning.

Coursera is letting this course, a lovely living thing, slowly die on the vine.

Jack Kennedy

By Samantha S

Nov 29, 2021

I've taken a number of online courses on linguistics now, and this one was by and far the best. The material covered is indepth and engaging, and the professor's enthusiam makes the videos a delight.

By Ion B

Oct 7, 2018

At times I found the exam questions frustratingly ambigous, so a review of those would be in order so that future misconceptions can be avoided. The other thing that I found problematic is that the course offers a lot of trivial information, so at times I felt that I was wasting my time. In other words, it is maybe too much introductory in character, something which some persons would appreciate, but it was not for me. The best part of the course, in my opinion, are the interviews. I got the chance to hear a lot interesting stuff there. The language informants part is quite nicely done, too. It gives you the chance to sharpen your attention listening to language. The professor makes himself quite enjoyable till the end. It would be really nice if he considers next to start a more advanced MOOC on linguistics, one which will involve more readings and a chance to delve more deeply into the miracles he so cheerfully talked about.

By Jonathan O D

Feb 26, 2021

The content of this course is great,

The reason I'm giving it this low ranking is because the course was built in a terribly poor way that will make you go loco.

a. The exams - I'm doing everything is possible during the course, I'm taking notes, reading all the required reading materials, etc. and still, in the exams I get questions that are not related at all to what I've learned, some of them were never in the course content, some of them are more matter of opinion, but you will still fail the exam if you get the wrong, this + the fact that the exams in this specific course require a very high score to pass + when you fail you cannot see where you were wrong = recipe for disaster. I'm just guessing time after time in order just to pass the exam, not useful at all for studying, and mostly annoying.

Now multiple this by 6 exams...

b. The Peer to Peer Assignments - they require a terrible high grade, nearly perfect, which basically means that if 1 peer gave you a low rank on 1 parameter, you fail it and need to start it over and wait again to all the peers to score it (which sometimes can take more than a week). This will make sure you will not finish this course fast, and you find yourself doing the same works again and again.

c. The reading materials - they are generally good, and I've read them all so far, BUT, there are too many of them. For each week (there are 6 weeks) you have enough "required content" for hours of reading, I've never seen that much required reading from external websites in other sources, another problem with this is that many of these reading sources won't let you read too much before they ask you to pay in order to continue reading, again, not the most useful thing for learning (instead I would expect this course to provide it's own reading sources, free to the students, and only relevant to the content of this course).

Bottom line - this course could have been a great course thanks to it's great content.

BUT "thanks" to the issues I raised above, this course will mostly make sure you will go bananas before you finish it.

I'm currently trying to finish it for 3 months without success.

By Gehad G M

Feb 11, 2017

I don't know what is the problem as I study the videos well and when it come to taking quiz i never pass so I watch the videos over and aver again but it always the same result

the part of other languages I'm not sure what is the point of it I mean does it help in English to know how to say for example hi in other languages plz if anyone passed the course . could u plz help me

By Barbara M

Jun 14, 2016

The course was often confusing and the quizzes came down to a question of trial and error. I found this very frustrating. Although the topics were interesting, I didn't find them very well presented in spite of the enthusiasm of the lecturer. But there was a lot of ambiguity and bias and the inability to discuss except through the forums was off-putting.

It wouild be good to know why answers were wrong in the quizzes particulalry when you had put a lot of effort into studying them.

In the final exam, there are questions which are evidently wrong, both in their wording and in their marking and nothing has been done to remedy this in spite of the complaints in the discussion page.

By Maxine X

Jun 28, 2016

This course is not so good. A lot of things are just come from the instructor's head without correcting reference from high quality literature. He can say whatever he think is right. But I would not say all animals do not have complex language systems, or we have one single origin of language. I would also suggest the instructor to interview more world-famous linguists, not just play simple ask and answer with his students.

The examples of different languages in the later weeks are interesting. But somehow I expect some better understanding of more aspects of languages. In general I would say it still has so much space for improvement. I would not recommend anyone to spend time on learning this course.

By Diego D C

Sep 24, 2017

Extremely informational, well presented, with questions that stimulate reflection. The optional reading material is food for thought. I hope to see more courses from the same professor and University.

By Diana P

Jan 3, 2017

Excellent! Really enjoyed and learnt a lot. I did not expect such a great content and professionalism in a free course. I am definitely purchasing for the title.

Thanks to all the team! Great job!

By Maria P

Jun 22, 2016

Some of the material could be a bit more analytical, and there were a few problems with the quiz questions. Other than that, perfect! Great introduction to linguistics. Thank you for your hard work!

By Toby P

May 12, 2016

I do not like this course. There are far too many prejudicial ideas - even in the first unit. A language does not have to be used by a single / unified group to define it as a language. Esperanto is a perfectly valid language, fully capable of expression, and does not belong to a single / unified group. There are no native speakers, either - which does not rob it of the fact that there are winners of the Nobel Prize for literature who write in it. The things you are saying about language are not merely willfully ignorant, they are highly offensive & prejudicial. I cannot conscience supporting a course like this.

By Robert C C

Nov 5, 2018

I failed to see what the quizzes had to do with the lectures. There were errors, apparently, and I couldn't see the connection between the foreign language informants and what we were supposed to do in the quizzes. I was thankful that the discussions and peer assignments/ reviews were not required. If it were not for the mentors who helped with some of my trouble spots, I'm not sure what I would have. Even some of the questions on the final were barely discussed in the lesson. The professor Marc made it interesting and at times funny, and thus he did a great job, but because of the quizzes I nearly qu

By Siba K

Aug 19, 2020

the videos were interesting and informative however there was a vast difference between the level of the videos and the quizzes. it caused a lot of guessing and frustration because the questions and/or choices were unclear and the subject or topic being asked about were quite confusing.

I am not completely sure that I have fully understood all the terms and concepts discussed. very frustrating.

By Isadore S

Dec 30, 2018

This course was very useful despite that I did not do it for credit. I have, overall been very content with the course. I would like to thank the professor, Mr. van Oostendorp and everyone else who helped for creating such an informative and interesting course. I would recommend this course to just about anyone.

By Nabilah I

Mar 10, 2021

The course was well-organised and very interesting. It covered the different aspects of linguistics wonderfully and prompted me to delve further into specific fields of linguistics such as phonetics.

By Mark B

May 18, 2020

This class was incredible and the most enjoyable and informative class I have tried on Coursera so far! The professor was great, very knowledgeable and informative, very charismatic and in depth. I liked the format a lot. He has two students Marten and Inga, also both very charismatic, who every week sit down with him to ask questions they have about subjects he spoke about which really helps get some clarification on things. Inga and Marten also interview various experts on the subjects of the week. There was even a trip or two to talk to experts in the field/lab. This was a great introduction on a field I have a lot of interest in and I now feel more confident to take courses in linguistics and pass them when I return to college for my degree. My confidence in my understanding of linguistics and my desire to learn more have grown. As an added bonus the knowledge I've gained has helped me immensely in my studies and understanding of other languages such as German, Japanese, Turkish, and Arabic! I highly recommend this course to anyone with any interest in linguistics! If there are any other courses offered from this same professor or college on Coursera I do intend to seek them out!

By Edmar O

May 15, 2019

This course has helped me reactivate my writing and critical thinking skills. This has also reminded me of some linguistic principles that I am now applying in my language teaching job. Also, one of my goals is to look for some potential topics for research and the projects have given me some topics for consideration. The format of the course is comprehensive, informative and can be accessed smoothly. Prof. Dr. van Oostendorp explains the topics extensively and he interacts with Martin and Igne and the language informants as if he has everything in mind. The topics are full packed together with the readings. I enjoyed doing the fieldwork as they are potential research topics.

Thank you Coursera!

By Lucas V

Jan 4, 2019

Great course, but the quizzes can be a bit too demanding and without clear answers.

By Kiersten S M

Nov 30, 2020

I am entirely new to the field of linguistics, and I found the course interesting. However, I felt some of the lectures spent too much time on basic concepts, and not enough time explaining the more difficult but equally interesting course material, especially in the readings. The quizzes and exams are much more difficult than the lectures suggest.

By Jacques C

Dec 13, 2020

The course materials are incomplete or incorrect. In at least 3 of the weeks the course refers to information that is either not provided or is no longer available at the source. And there are at least 2 quiz questions that have incorrect answers. (And they acknowledge the questions are incorrect in the forums, but haven't bothered to fix them).

I would say that this course is also more difficult than it needs to be because some of the information required to properly understand the material and, thus, answer the quizzes is not covered in the course. Thus you basically have to troll wikipedia or google randomly to find this stuff out. It should just be provided as this is supposed to be a basic introductory course.

I also found all the peer interactions to be wanting. A lot of the learning is supposed to happen in the forums where you discuss things with your peers. Well almost no one replies to anyone else ... and when they do ... its generally not all that meaningful.

They obviously did a lot of work to get this course done and I appreciate that. But it should be a living thing. Mistakes should be corrected, a better way to have students interact with each other should be imagined.

I did get a good introduction to the concepts of linguistics even though the construction of the course is quite frustrating. So I gave it 3 stars.

By Rawan A

Jan 16, 2019

Was helpful course. I learned a lot of things from this course.

By Hernán M

Jul 13, 2021

Great introductory course for anyone who doesn't know anything about linguistics but has an affinity for languages. Well presented, well structured, interesting throughout. I have two suggestions for the people running this course: 1) The explanation of Grice's Maxims in the context of linguistics was cursory at best. It was mentioned only in a short exchange, yet there were questions on it in the quizzes. 2) It would be nice if students could have access to the correct answers to the quizzes, obviously being impeded to resubmit them after having seen them.

By Amani K

Oct 6, 2021

The course was really fun throughout! Easy enough for beginners to linguistics, although the assessments weren't so easy, sometimes had to reattempt them a couple of times to pass them :/

The last assessment somehow had an glitch, it told me most of my answers were wrong on my first attempt but after several attempts trying all other options and still getting those questions wrong, I chose the same options as my first attempt and this time I got 100% lol. Anyways the final exam was somehow easier than the assessments.

By Gustavo C d M

Jun 26, 2016

VERY good content and classes! Some questions in the quizzes are confusing, and there was the trouble with the required reading for Week 3. The first Honors assignment is confusing - specially its very last input question.