Modern Languages | University of Oxford
Modern Languages and Linguistics
A schedule of flights.
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Modern Languages

Czech (with Slovak), French, German, Modern Greek, Italian, Polish,
Portuguese, Russian and Spanish

Studying Modern Languages provides both practical training in written and spoken language and also an extensive introduction to European literature and thought. You will learn to write and speak the language(s) fluently, and will be able to choose from a range of options including linguistics and film studies.

 

 

Modern Languages have been taught in Oxford since 1724. The faculty is one of the largest in the country, with a total intake of more than 250 students a year (including joint courses). Undergraduate students can use the Taylor Institution Library, the biggest research library in Britain devoted to modern languages.

The University’s excellently equipped Language Centre received special praise in the last Teaching Quality Assessment. Some of its resources are specifically tailored to the needs of Modern Languages students.

Language is at the centre of the Oxford course, making up around 50% of both first-year and final examinations. The course aims to teach spoken fluency in colloquial and more formal situations, the ability to write essays in the foreign language, and the ability to translate into and out of the foreign language with accuracy and sensitivity to a range of vocabulary, styles and registers. You will also develop your reading skills to a high level.

The study of literature and cultural developments gives you an understanding of other cultures that cannot be acquired solely through learning the language, and it leads you into areas such as gender issues, popular culture, theatre studies, aesthetics, anthropology, art history, ethics, history, philosophy, politics, psychology and theology. You can study a broad range of literature, or focus your studies on any period from the medieval to the present day.

A wide range of other options allow you to explore subjects including linguistics, philology, film studies or (in French and German) advanced translation.

Course structure

Your first year is closely structured. You will attend oral classes and courses on the grammatical structure of your language(s), translation into and out of the language(s) and, in some of the languages, comprehension. You will also attend introductory lecture courses and participate in seminars and/or tutorials on literature. If you study either French or German as a single language, you will take a range of additional options in that language in the first year, such as literary theory and film studies. If you study any other language by itself then you must also take Linguistics in the first year.

Your other years of study give you more freedom to choose the areas on which you wish to focus, from a very wide range of options. You will have tutorials and language classes each week in each of the languages being studied. Students studying courses with Polish take this as a subsidiary language, beginning in the second year. Catalan, Galician, Provençal, Yiddish and most of the Slavonic languages may also be taken as additional options.

International opportunities

Modern Languages students usually spend the third year of their course abroad. They may work as paid language assistants in a foreign school or do internships abroad, both of which provide valuable opportunities to develop career experience while improving language competence. The year may also be spent studying at a foreign university. (Students taking Beginners’ Russian spend the second year – as opposed to the third year – of their studies on a specially designed eight-month language course in the city of Yaroslavl.) Students are encouraged to spend as much as possible of their vacations in the countries whose languages they are studying. In addition to the possibility of Erasmus funding, extra financial support, including travel scholarships, may be available from your college and/or the faculty.

College choice

For guidance on making a college choice, please refer to our website for details of which language combinations are available at each college.

Deferred entry

Students are welcome to apply for deferred entry for any language courses except those including Beginners’ Russian.

Related courses

Students interested in this course might also like to consider Classics and Modern Languages, English and Modern Languages, European and Middle Eastern Languages, History and Modern Languages, Modern Languages and Linguistics, Philosophy and Modern Languages or Oriental Studies.

Language Careers

Employers value Modern Languages graduates because they are competent in one or two languages, have acquired a range of transferable skills and have first-hand experience of other cultures. Modern Languages graduates from Oxford regularly enter careers focused on languages such as translation and teaching, or go into areas such as law, management consultancy, accountancy, international press agencies, the media, advertising, the Foreign Office and the performing arts.

Catherine is now Director of the Refugee Support Network. She says: ‘Since graduating from Oxford, I have worked in the field of refugee education and education in emergencies for various charities, including Save the Children and various United Nations agencies.

The skills I gained at Oxford have helped me to analyse situations thoughtfully and critically, and gave me the confidence to establish the Refugee Support Network in 2009. I never thought I would use my language skills in situations as diverse as Sudanese refugee camps, with Haitian earthquake survivors and with young victims of trafficking in London.’

A typical weekly timetable

Your week’s work will include a tutorial in, or organised by, your college, language classes on different skills relating to the language(s) you study, and probably three to four hours of lectures for each subject.

1st year

Courses

Two-language course

  • practical language work
  • study of important works and/or topics in the literature of each language

One-language course: as above, plus

  • for French or German, additional options: introduction to film studies; literary theory (French only); medieval studies (German only); key texts in French or German thought
  • for other sole languages, linguistics options (general linguistics; phonetics and phonology; grammatical analysis)

Assessment

First University examinations:
Seven or eight written papers, including translation and literature (language only for Beginners’ Russian).

2nd year

Courses

Two-language course
  • practical language work
  • a period of literature in each language
  • optional subjects, including linguistics; medieval literature; authors prescribed for detailed study
One-language course
  • as above, but including a greater range of optional subjects
 
3rd and 4th years

Year 3

Spent abroad

Beginners’ Russian: Students spend the second year in Russia, and the third year following the second-year course in Oxford.

Year 4

Continues the course from year 2, plus special subjects across a wide range of options

The options listed above are illustrative and may change. More information about current options is available on the Modern Languages website.

Assessment

Final University examinations:
Nine or ten written papers and an oral examination are taken, including unprepared translations, literature subjects, special subjects and linguistics. Some special subjects are examined by submitting a portfolio of essays.

UCAS codeCzechFrenchGermanMod. GreekItalian
Czech RR1RRR2PQR77RR37
FrenchRR1R RR12RQ17RR13
GermanRR2PRR12 RQ27RR23
Mod. GreekQR77RQ17RQ27 RQ37
ItalianRR37RR13RR23RQ37 
Polish R1R7R2R7Q7R7RR3T
PortugueseRR5RRR15RR25RQ57RR35
RussianR790RRC7RR2QRQ77RR3R
SpanishRR4RRR14RR24RQ47RR34
UCAS codePolishPortugueseRussianSpanish
Czech RR5RR790RR4R
FrenchR1R7RR15RRC7RR14
GermanR2R7RR25RR2QRR24
Mod. GreekQ7R7RQ57RQ77RQ47
ItalianRR3TRR35RR3RRR34
Polish R5R7R791R4R7
PortugueseR5R7 RRM7RR45
RussianR791RRM7 RRK7
SpanishR4R7RR45RRK7 

B in the table below stands for Beginners. These courses allow students to study a new language from scratch, along with another language which they have already studied to A-level, or equivalent.

UCAS codeB. CzechB.GermanB. Greek B. ItalianB. PortugueseB.Russian
Czech R702RR97RR73 RRN7  R792
FrenchRR1SR101RR19 R1R3 RR1M  RR17
GermanRRF7 RRG9 RR32 RR2M  RR27
Mod. GreekRR7YR910 RR93 RR59 QR7R
ItalianRR3S R301RR39   RR3M  RRH7
PortugueseRR75R501RR5X RR53  RR57
RussianR793R712RR79 RRJ7 RRNT 
SpanishRR4S R401RR49 RR43 RR4M RR47

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

There are several combinations available that allow students to begin studying a language from scratch. However, please note that it is not usually possible for students to study two languages from scratch. Candidates would be expected to have competence in at least one of the languages chosen.

For French or Spanish
Candidates would usually be expected to have the language to A-level, Advanced Higher, Higher Level in the IB or another academic equivalent.

For Czech, German, Modern Greek, Italian, Portuguese and Russian
Please note there are different course codes for these languages, depending on whether or not you have studied them before. Beginners’ courses allow students to start studying one of these languages from scratch – otherwise they would be expected to have an A-level or equivalent (or, for German, an A-level or equivalent proven competence). The Beginners’ German course also includes an intermediate option for those who have studied some German. Find out more at www.mod-langs.ox.ac.uk.

For Polish
We generally expect all students applying for this course to be beginners, though those with experience are also very welcome to apply.

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.)

Fees

These annual fees are for full-time students who begin this undergraduate course here in 2017.

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU£9,250£0£9,250
Islands
(Channel Islands
& Isle of Man)
£9,250£0£9,250
Overseas£15,755£7,350£23,105

For more information please refer to our tuition 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 on the impact of the result of the UK referendum on its membership of 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 2017 are estimated to be between £1,002 and £1,471 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

Home/EU

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

Tuition fee support arrangements for EU students commencing their studies in 2017 have not yet been confirmed by the UK government. Information will be updated on this page as soon as it is announced.

In 2017 Oxford is offering one of the most generous bursary packages of any UK university to those on a family income of £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.

Islands
(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

Overseas

Please refer to the "Other Scholarships" section of our Oxford support 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

During the year abroad, students pay significantly reduced fees. For students who started an undergraduate course from 2012, who are going on their year abroad in 2017, the tuition fees are:

  • Home/EU/Islands students: £1,385 for the year.
  • International students: £7,880 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. Students taking part in Erasmus study exchanges will not need to pay tuition fees to other institutions. However, if you decide to study outside Erasmus you will be liable to pay tuition 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.

Beginners’ Russian

Courses including beginners’ Russian are slightly different, as they are the only courses with a prescribed year abroad option. Students have to take an 8-month Russian Language Undergraduate Studies course in Yaroslavl (www.rlus.co.uk) during their second year. Students will not incur an additional tuition fee, however, they will be liable for additional administration and visa fees. In 2015/6, these fees were £145 and £35 respectively.

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.

Candidates are normally required to submit one piece of work in the target language to be studied, and one piece in English. Please read below for further details. 

Written work in the target language

All candidates must submit one piece of marked classwork, normally a few hundred words in length, written in each language which you plan to study, and in which you will have A2 (or an equivalent standard) before university, by 10 November 2016. This will demonstrate to interviewers how you are developing in your use of the target language(s) in work you have completed in the normal course of your A2 (or equivalent) study.

If you are applying for a language in which you will not have reached this standard before university, you do not need to submit anything in that language.

Written work in English

All candidates must also submit one piece only of marked writing in English. The particular topic of your essay and the A-level (or equivalent) subject from which it is drawn are not important; it is intended to show how you construct an argument and express your ideas in English.

If you do not have any recent marked work written in English (for example, because of the combination of subjects you are currently studying), you may submit a separate piece of work, such as an essay in English on one of the topics you have been studying for your language A-level (or equivalent). It may be helpful to seek guidance from your teachers in devising a suitable title. In such circumstances, it would not normally be expected for this piece to have been marked, as it will not have been done in the normal course of your studies. As detailed in the selection criteria for Modern Languages, all submitted written work is considered in the context of the individual circumstances in which it was completed.

Examples of written work required for different subject combinations

So, for example, if you are applying to study French and German, you will need to submit three pieces of written work: one in French, one in German and one in English. If you are applying to study Spanish and Beginners' Russian you will need to submit two pieces of work: one in Spanish and one in English.

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

Written tests 

All candidates must take the Modern Languages Admissions Tests (MLAT), normally at their own school or college, on 2 November 2016. Separate registration for this test is required and the final deadline for entries is 15 October 2016. It is the responsibility of the candidate to ensure that they are registered for this test.

Please see further information about written tests.

What are tutors looking for?

Tutors will be looking for a good command of the grammar of any language you have already studied at school and want to continue studying at Oxford, as well as an interest in literature and culture.

Tutors want to find out as much as possible about your intellectual interests and academic potential, so you may be asked about your reading, your interest in the culture of the relevant country, or the work you have submitted. You may be asked questions about a short passage in English or the relevant foreign language(s). You will be given the opportunity to speak in the relevant foreign language(s) which you have studied to an advanced level. As far as possible, interviewers will try to let you show your strengths, interest in the subject(s) you intend to study, and reasons for applying to Oxford.

Selection criteria

Candidates may wish to refer to the selection criteria for this course.

Suggested reading

Please see the guidance on the FAQs section of the Modern Languages faculty website under the heading 'How can I prepare myself for the entrance procedure?'.

Apply

Lorena Vila, 4th year

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

Catherine, who graduated in 2004

She is now Founder and Programmes Manager at the Refugee Support Network. She says:

‘Since graduating from Oxford, I have worked in the field of refugee education and education in emergencies for various charities, including Save the Children and various United Nations agencies. The skills I gained at Oxford have helped me to analyse situations thoughtfully and critically, and gave me the confidence to establish the Refugee Support Network in 2009. I never thought I would use my language skills in situations as diverse as Sudanese refugee camps, with Haitian earthquake survivors and with young victims of trafficking in London.’

Jenny, French and German, who graduated in 2011

The most unexpected thing about my course:

'Finding out that not everyone who studies languages is either a native speaker of, or bilingual in the foreign language! In fact, only a very small minority of languages students are!'

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

'Be yourself at interview, socially and academically.'

The best thing that Oxford did for me:

'Taught me that anyone and everyone, regardless of background, can have a fair shot at being the absolute best that they can be.'

Sarah, French, who graduated in 2011

The best thing that Oxford did for me:

'Oxford has only made me love my subject even more and has provided me with all the resources I need to pursue that love.' 

My favourite Oxford memory is...

'An epic snowball fight on my birthday which began on the steps of the Bodleian, took us past the Rad Cam, along Queen's lane and all the way across Magdalen Bridge and back to Hilda's.'

 

Louise, Modern Languages, who graduated in 2009

My favourite Oxford memory is...

'The Havana Ball at the Oxford Union in Hilary Term (the spring term) 2011. Terms are remembered not only for the modules covered during that period, but also for the special events or nights out that take place during them. There are always, regardless of the function, plenty of cameras around, just in case you could forget such memorable moments!'

To see the KIS data for each course click on the UCAS course code below. 

Single Modern Languages
FrenchR110 PortugueseR500
GermanR200 RussianR711
Modern GreekQ710 SpanishR400
ItalianR300   

 

UCAS codeCzechFrenchGermanMod. GreekItalian
Czech RR1RRR2PQR77RR37
FrenchRR1R RR12RQ17RR13
GermanRR2PRR12 RQ27RR23
Mod. GreekQR77RQ17RQ27 RQ37
ItalianRR37RR13RR23RQ37 
Polish R1R7R2R7Q7R7RR3T
PortugueseRR5RRR15RR25RQ57RR35
RussianR790RRC7RR2QRQ77RR3R
SpanishRR4RRR14RR24RQ47RR34
UCAS codePolishPortugueseRussianSpanish
Czech RR5RR790RR4R
FrenchR1R7RR15RRC7RR14
GermanR2R7RR25RR2QRR24
Mod. GreekQ7R7RQ57RQ77RQ47
ItalianRR3TRR35RR3RRR34
Polish R5R7R791R4R7
PortugueseR5R7 RRM7RR45
RussianR791RRM7 RRK7
SpanishR4R7RR45RRK7 

B in the table below stands for Beginners. These courses allow students to study a new language from scratch, along with another language which they have already studied to A-level, or equivalent.

UCAS codeB. CzechB.GermanB. Greek B. ItalianB. PortugueseB.Russian
Czech R702RR97RR73 RRN7  R792
FrenchRR1SR101RR19 R1R3 RR1M  RR17
GermanRRF7 RRG9 RR32 RR2M  RR27
Mod. GreekRR7YR910 RR93 RR59 QR7R
ItalianRR3S R301RR39   RR3M  RRH7
PortugueseRR75R501RR5XRR53  RR57
RussianR793R712RR79 RRJ7 RRNT 
SpanishRR4S R401RR49 RR43 RR4M RR47

 

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