Modern Languages and Linguistics | University of Oxford
Modern Languages and Linguistics
Commonly taught foreign languages.

Modern Languages and Linguistics

This course allows students to study one modern language in depth together with Linguistics, the study of language itself. Part of your course will consist of developing your practical language skills to a high level, and you will engage with the literature and culture associated with the language (see Modern Languages).

In your study of Linguistics, you will be introduced to the analysis of the nature and structure of human language (including topics such as how words and sentences are formed, how we make and hear sounds, how languages change and vary and how language is organised in the brain) and you will apply these ideas to the study of your chosen language.

The University has particular expertise in general linguistics, phonetics, phonology, syntax and semantics, psycholinguistics and in the history and structure of many individual European languages and language families. All these combine to offer a mutually reinforcing package: on the one hand the theoretical study of what human language is and how it works: on the other, the detailed study of issues of language structure and change applied to the specific language you are studying. You will find a wide range of options available, allowing you to concentrate on those areas you find most exiting.

International opportunities

Students spend a year abroad before their final year. Please see Modern Languages for more information.


The training in rigorous analysis provided by Linguistics, coupled with highly developed practical competence in a language, gives graduates an excellent basis for a wide range of careers in language-related employment and other areas.

Recent Modern Languages and Linguistics graduates include a management consultant, a brand marketing manager, a market researcher for a company in the chemical industry, a psychology lecturer and a teacher.

Related courses

Students interested in this course might also like to consider other Modern Languages courses, Oriental Studies courses, or Psychology, Philosophy and Linguistics.

A typical week

Your week’s work will include a tutorial on linguistics or literature, in or arranged by your college, a linguistics class and language classes on different skills relating to the language or languages you study, and five or six lectures.

Tutorials are usually up to four students and a tutor. Seminar and language class sizes may vary depending on the options you choose or the language you are studying, but there would usually be no more than around 20 students and would often be much smaller.

Most tutorials, classes, and lectures are delivered by staff who are tutors in their subject. Many are world-leading experts with years of experience in teaching and research. Some teaching may also be delivered by postgraduate students who are usually studying at doctorate level.

To find out more about how our teaching year is structured, visit our Academic Year page.

1st year


Modern Language

  • Practical language work (two papers)
  • Study of important works and/or topics in the literature of the language (two papers)


  • General linguistics
  • Phonetics and phonology
  • Grammatical analysis


First University examinations:
Seven written papers, including translation and literature

2nd and 4th years (3rd year spent abroad)


Modern Language

  • Practical language work
  • A period of literature
  • Optional further subject chosen from a wide range


  • General linguistics
  • History of the language you will be studying
  • Structure and use of that language in its modern form
  • One or two specialist options, for example: Syntax; semantics and pragmatics; phonetics and phonology sociolinguistics; psycholinguistics; linguistic project The options listed above are illustrative and may change.
The options listed above are illustrative and may change. More information about current options is available on the Modern Languages website.


Final University examinations:
Eight or nine papers and an oral examination

You can either study Linguistics with a Modern Language you already speak, or with a Modern Language you’d like to learn from scratch.

For the following course combinations you would usually be expected to have the Modern Language to A-level (or another academic equivalent).

Linguistics and:

 UCAS code

Modern GreekQQ71

The following course combinations allow you to begin studying a Modern Language from scratch.

Linguistics and:

 UCAS code

Beginners' Modern Greek
Beginners' ItalianQR13
Beginners' PortugueseRQ5D

The content and format of this course may change in some circumstances. Read further information about potential course changes.

If English is not your first language you may also need to meet our English language requirements.

Wherever possible, your grades are considered in the context in which they have been achieved.  (See further information on how we use contextual data.)

No experience of studying Linguistics is required, though knowledge of the relevant modern language may be expected, as detailed below. English Language, Mathematics, a science or any other language may be useful for some elements of the course, although they are not required for admission.

If, and only if, you have chosen to take any science A-levels, we expect you to take and pass the practical component in addition to meeting any overall grade requirement.

For Linguistics and French, German, Modern Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish
Candidates would usually be expected to have the language to A-level, Advanced Higher, Higher Level in the IB or another academic equivalent.

All candidates must also take the Modern Languages Admissions Tests (MLAT) as part of their application. 

Oxford University is committed to recruiting the best and brightest students from all backgrounds. We offer a generous package of financial support to Home/EU students from lower-income households. (UK nationals living in the UK are usually Home students.)


These annual fees are for full-time students who begin this undergraduate course here in 2019.

Fee status

Annual Course fees

(Channel Islands & Isle of Man)

For more information please refer to our course fees page. Fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

Living costs

Living costs at Oxford might be less than you’d expect, as our world-class resources and college provision can help keep costs down.

Living costs for the academic year starting in 2019 are estimated to be between £1,058 and £1,643 for each month you are in Oxford. Our academic year is made up of three eight-week terms, so you would not usually need to be in Oxford for much more than six months of the year but may wish to budget over a nine-month period to ensure you also have sufficient funds during the holidays to meet essential costs. For further details please visit our living costs webpage.

Financial support


A tuition fee loan is available from the UK government to cover course fees in full for Home (UK)/EU students undertaking their first undergraduate degree*, so you don’t need to pay your course fees up front.

In 2019 Oxford is offering one of the most generous bursary packages of any UK university to those on a family income of around £42,875 or less, with additional opportunities available to those from households with incomes of £16,000 or less. This support is available in addition to the government living costs support.  See further details.

(Channel Islands and Isle of Man)

Islands students are entitled to different support to that of students from the rest of the UK.

Please refer the links below for information on the support to you available from your funding agency:

States of Jersey
States of Guernsey
Isle of Man


Please refer to the "Other Scholarships" section of our Oxford Bursaries and Scholarships page.

*If you have studied at undergraduate level before and completed your course, you will be classed as an Equivalent or Lower Qualification student (ELQ) and won’t be eligible to receive government or Oxford funding

Fees, Funding and Scholarship search

Additional Fees and Charges Information for Modern Languages and Linguistics

During the year abroad, students pay significantly reduced fees. For students who started an undergraduate course from 2018, who are going on their year abroad in 2019, the course fees are:

  • Home/EU/Islands students: £1,385 for the year.
  • International students: £8,415 for the year.

We recommend that students begin to research their year abroad options – including the financial implications – as early as possible in the second year of the course. There is plenty of support, information and advice to help you. You may choose to work or study during your year abroad, or you may do both. Students undertake a range of activities while on their year abroad, some activities may receive a salary and thus - depending on individual choices - it is possible for the year abroad to be cost neutral. Actual costs (such as course fees) and living costs will vary depending on the destination and the activity undertaken.

You will need to pay for living costs during the year abroad, including accommodation and travel expenses. Subject to the UK continuing to be eligible to participate in the Erasmus Programme after leaving the EU, students taking part in Erasmus study exchanges will not need to pay course fees to other institutions. However, if you decide to study outside Erasmus you will be liable to pay course fees to the relevant institution.

You may receive salary payments or grants to offset some or all of these costs. Also, if you receive government funding for the rest of your course, you will still be entitled to government support during your year abroad. Hardship funds are available from the Faculty of Medieval & Modern Languages for students who can demonstrate particular difficulties related to their year abroad. These are awarded through a termly application process.

All candidates must follow the application procedure as shown in applying to Oxford. The information below gives specific details for students applying for this course.

Written test

All candidates must take the Modern Languages Admissions Test (MLAT) in their own school or college or other approved test centre on Wednesday 31 October 2018. Candidates must make sure they are available to take the test at this time. Separate registration for this test is required and the final deadline for entries is Monday 15 October 2018. It is the responsibility of the candidate to ensure that they are registered for this test. We strongly recommend making the arrangements in plenty of time before the deadline.

For everything you need to know, including guidance on how to prepare, see the MLAT page.

Written work

For the language part of this course, candidates must submit the same written work as required for Modern Languages by Saturday 10 November 2018.

Additionally, if you are studying an A-level or other qualification involving linguistic analysis (eg English Language), please also send in a piece of written work from that.

For more information, and to download a cover sheet, please see our further guidance on the submission of written work.

What are tutors looking for?

Language tutors look for a good command of any language you have already studied and want to continue studying at Oxford, and a strong interest in literature and culture.

Linguistics is a subject that most students start from scratch at University. Therefore admission tutors look for potential, in the form of an interest in exploring the nature of human language together with an aptitude for describing and analysing it. Furthermore, tutors look for a willingness to learn the formal tools required for rigorous and detailed investigation and leading to a deep understanding of the use, history and structure of the language you are studying.

For more detail on the selection criteria for this course, please see the Modern Languages website.

Suggested reading

Please see the guidance on the FAQs section of the Modern Languages website under the heading 'How can I prepare myself for the entrance procedure?', and the Introductory reading for Linguistics list.


Lucy Hamilton

Watch a series of short videos of students talking about some aspect of their time at Oxford.


'I applied to Oxford on a whim: when I finally received my acceptance letter, I was convinced there’d been a mistake! Like most students, I began Linguistics as a completely new subject. I knew I loved languages, but had no idea what the study of them would entail. What makes this course so absorbing is that it offers such scope for specialisation: you can explore anything from controversial new theories on first-language acquisition to translation of nonsense verse like The Jabberwocky.'


He is an Associate Principal at ZS Associates, a management consultancy firm specialising in sales and marketing issues. He says:  

‘The Oxford tutorial system really mirrors the kind of deadline-driven project work we do for our clients – we understand and synthesise a large amount of qualitative and quantitative data in a short space of time and then make recommendations by layering in insights on top of the analysis to help solve the client’s business problem...when you think about it, the process has a lot in common with writing a good essay!’


The most unexpected thing about my course:

'The fact that language and grammar are almost entirely self-taught and expected to flourish without regular testing.'

I wish they'd told me when I was applying to university...

'It's okay not to love it all the time, and to think Freshers' Week is a bit rubbish.'

The best thing that Oxford did for me:

'It provided me with amazing friends, amazing buildings to work in, amazing tutors (my teachers were world experts), incredible sporting opportunities (rowing!) and it prepared me for the world.'

My favourite Oxford memory is...

'1) Saturday of Summer Eights 2012

2) Picnics in Christ Church Meadows

3) Walking past the Rad Cam every day and still being impressed.

4) Sitting in Exeter Fellows' garden and taking in the view

5) Working on the balcony seats in the Taylorian (definitely the most breathtaking library in Oxford!)

6) Survivors photo at 6am at Magdalen ball after dancing to Labyrinth all night.'


Current job

Currently I work within the University of Oxford Development Office. I am also in the middle of translating a 17th century Portuguese book about native medicinal trees, plants and herbs, which was written in Kerala, India during the Renaissance Period (which is what I specialised in at University).

How did Oxford prepare you for this type of work?

As for the translation side of my work, it just so happened that not many others in the world have the combination of languages that were needed for the translation of this work: Malayalam (my native language), Portuguese (which I studied as a beginners' language) and English. My final year project as part of Linguistics was on the vocabulary and loan words in Portuguese and Linguistics, so I had already done a lot of legwork in finding words in Portuguese which were borrowed from Malayalam (often with their origin being other countries that traded with South Indians). As for my office role, my background in linguistics allowed me to analyse databases and gather information with ease.

What was the most important thing your time at Oxford taught you?

Studying at Oxford made me realise that I could, if I so chose to, do pretty much anything I wanted to in the world. That I studied at such a prestigious university was important consideration given by the employers (and can often be the difference in getting a job or losing out to someone from a non-Russell Group university).

Being from a state school background, it was eye opening to see how much work was involved in an Oxford degree, and I struggled at times. However, the tutors recognised hard work and I was able to share my passion for my chosen subjects with academics who were thought-leaders in the field.

Click on the UCAS code list below to see KIS data for each subject option.

KIS data linksUCAS codes
French and LinguisticsRQ11
German and LinguisticsRQ21
Modern Greek and LinguisticsQQ71
Beginners' Italian and LinguisticsQR13
Italian and LinguisticsRQ31
Beginners' Portuguese and LinguisticsRQ5D
Portuguese and LinguisticsRQ51
Russian and LinguisticsRQ71
Spanish and LinguisticsRQ41

Contextual information

The Key Information Sets provide a lot of numbers about the Oxford experience – but there is so much about what you get here that numbers can’t convey. It’s not just the quantity of the Oxford education that you need to consider, there is also the quality – let us tell you more.

Oxford’s tutorial system

Regular tutorials, which are the responsibility of the colleges, are the focal point of teaching and learning at Oxford. The tutorial system is one of the most distinctive features of an Oxford education: it ensures that students work closely with tutors throughout their undergraduate careers, and offers a learning experience which is second to none.

A typical tutorial is a one-hour meeting between a tutor and one, two, or three students to discuss reading and written work that the students have prepared in advance. It gives students the chance to interact directly with tutors, to engage with them in debate, to exchange ideas and argue, to ask questions, and of course to learn through the discussion of the prepared work. Many tutors are world-leaders in their fields of research, and Oxford undergraduates frequently learn of new discoveries before they are published.

Each student also receives teaching in a variety of other ways, depending on the course. This will include lectures and classes, and may include laboratory work and fieldwork. But the tutorial is the place where all the elements of the course come together and make sense. Meeting regularly with the same tutor – often weekly throughout the term – ensures a high level of individual attention and enables the process of learning and teaching to take place in the context of a student’s individual needs.

The tutorial system also offers the sustained commitment of one or more senior academics – as college tutors – to each student’s progress. It helps students to grow in confidence, to develop their skills in analysis and persuasive argument, and to flourish as independent learners and thinkers.

More information about tutorials

The benefits of the college system

  • Every Oxford student is a member of a college. The college system is at the heart of the Oxford experience, giving students the benefits of belonging to both a large and internationally renowned university and a much smaller, interdisciplinary, college community.
  • Each college brings together academics, undergraduate and postgraduate students, and college staff. The college gives its members the chance to be part of a close and friendly community made up of both leading academics and students from different subjects, year groups, cultures and countries. The relatively small size of each college means that it is easy to make friends and contribute to college life. There is a sense of belonging, which can be harder to achieve in a larger setting, and a supportive environment for study and all sorts of other activities.
  • Colleges organise tutorial teaching for their undergraduates, and one or more college tutors will oversee and guide each student’s progress throughout his or her career at Oxford. The college system fosters a sense of community between tutors and students, and among students themselves, allowing for close and supportive personal attention to each student’s academic development.

It is the norm that undergraduates live in college accommodation in their first year, and in many cases they will continue to be accommodated by their college for the majority or the entire duration of their course. Colleges invest heavily in providing an extensive range of services for their students, and as well as accommodation colleges provide food, library and IT resources, sports facilities and clubs, drama and music, social spaces and societies, access to travel or project grants, and extensive welfare support. For students the college often becomes the hub of their social, sporting and cultural life.

More about Oxford’s unique college system and how to choose a college

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