Modern Languages | University of Oxford
Modern Languages and Linguistics
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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. As well as learning to write and speak the language(s) fluently, 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.

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.

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 University’s excellently equipped Language Centre has resources specifically tailored to the needs of Modern Language students.

The study of literature gives you an understanding of other cultures that cannot be acquired solely through learning the language. It leads you into areas such as gender issues, popular culture, theatre studies, aesthetics, anthropology, art history, ethics, history, philosophy, politics, psychology and theology developing your skills as a critical reader, writer and thinker.

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. From 2018, if you study French, German, Spanish or Russian as a single language you will take a range of additional options in that language in the first year (see below). All other languages must be studied in combination with another language or another subject.

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. 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 spend a compulsory year abroad, usually in the third year. 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

Please see our guidance on choosing a college, and 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 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 in each of the language(s) you study, and typically 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

  • from 2018, for French, German, Russian and Spanish, additional options: film studies; literary theory (French); medieval studies (German/ Spanish); key texts in French or German thought; short fiction (Spanish); Polish and Church Slavonic (Russian) 

Other languages must be studied in combination with another language or joint school.

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; detailed study of individual authors
One-language course
  • as above, but including a greater range of optional subjects
 
3rd and 4th years

Year 3

Typically spent abroad

Beginners’ Russian: Students spend the second year in Russia, and the third year in Oxford

Year 4

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

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.

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

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

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 or a language on its own from scratch. Candidates would be expected to have competence in at least one of the languages chosen. We expect you to have taken and passed any practical component in your chosen science subjects.

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.

All applicants
All candidates must also take the Modern Languages Admissions Test (MLAT) as part of their application. Please see how to apply for further details.

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 2018. Please note that for both Home and EU undergraduate students, tuition fees are currently subject to a governmental fee cap, which has not yet been confirmed by the government for 2018. As a guide the 2017 tuition fee for Home, EU and Islands full-time undergraduates has been included below and will be updated as soon as further details are confirmed.

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£16,230£7,570£23,800

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 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 2018 are estimated to be between £1,014 and £1,556 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)/EU students undertaking their first undergraduate degree*, so you don’t need to pay your tuition fees up front.

In 2018 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.

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 2016, 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.

Information regarding tuition fees for undergraduates who are going on their year abroad in 2018 will be published in the autumn.

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. For students starting their year abroad in 2017 these fees are £145 and £45 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.

Written tests 

All candidates must take the Modern Languages Admissions Test (MLAT) in their own school or college or other approved test centre on Thursday 2 November 2017. 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 Sunday 15 October 2017. 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.

Further information about all our written tests can be found on our tests page. Details about the MLAT can be found at www.mlatoxford.org.uk.

Written work 

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 Friday 10 November 2017. 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 specially written 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.

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

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

Catherine

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

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

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

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!'

Sarah

First job after graduating

I spent a year after graduating doing various internships with NGOs and publishers in the UK and Brazil: Canning House (British NGO), Catalytic Communities (Brazilian NGO), And Other Stories (British publisher). I balanced this alongside freelance paid employment, including as a translator, editor and teacher.

Current job

I work as an Editor at Oxford University Press, as part of the Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) team in the UK Secondary Education division…. I am responsible for project-managing French textbooks and digital resources. I'm so pleased to have found job at a prestigious publisher and which gives me the opportunity to practise my language skills on a daily basis.

How did Oxford prepare you for this type of work?

My course at Oxford helped prepare me for my job at OUP in many different ways. Most obviously, the rigorous language-learning element of the Modern Languages course has equipped me with a good level of French for my job and a high degree of confidence in using my written and spoken language skills in a range of different situations. The content of the course, with a focus on the literature and culture of the French-speaking world, has helped me become a good editor of Modern Languages textbooks. More generally, my course helped me gain excellent analytical, research and communication skills which have come in handy, as well as the ability to manage a varied workload and to work well under pressure too.

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

I loved the Modern Languages course at Oxford. I felt like I was constantly being 'pushed' (maybe not the right word) intellectually and was always invited to think and study widely. I think this impulse to push myself to learn is something I've taken with me into the internships and jobs I have done since I graduated. As part of my degree I lived and worked in France and Brazil: my experiences in these two countries have hugely shaped my interests and movements post-graduation. It was the main reason that I went back to live in Brazil after leaving Oxford and the main reason that I wanted to work in Modern Languages education upon my return to the UK in 2015.

It might be interesting to note that I am still in touch with many of my tutors from the French and Portuguese departments at Oxford. I feel that this is a good sign of how invested and supported the Oxford staff body is towards its students.

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

UCAS codes

Single language courses

 FrenchGermanRussianSpanish
UCAS codeR110R200R711R400

Joint language courses

UCAS codeCzechFrenchGermanModern
Greek
ItalianPolishPort.RussianSpanish
Czech RR1RRR2PQR77RR37 RR5RR793RR4R
FrenchRR1R RR12RQ17RR13R1R7RR15RRC7RR14
GermanRR2PRR12 RQ27RR23R2R7RR25RR2QRR24
Modern GreekQR77RQ17RQ27 RQ37 RQ57RQ77RQ47
ItalianRR37RR13RR23RQ37  RR35RR3RRR34
Polish R1R7R2R7    R791R4R7
PortugueseRR5RRR15RR25RQ57RR35  RRM7RR45
RussianR793RRC7RR2QRQ77RR3RR791RRM7 RRK7
SpanishRR4RRR14RR24RQ47RR34R4R7RR45RRK7 

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. Mod. GreekB. ItalianB. PortugueseB. Russian
Czech  R702 RR97 RR73 RRN7R792
French RR1SR101 RR19R1R3RR1MRR17
German RRF7 RRG9 RR32RR2MRR27
Mod. Greek RR7YR910  RR93 RR59 QR7R
Italian RR3SR301RR39 RR3MRRH7
Portuguese RR75R501RR5X RR53 RR57
Russian R793R712RR79 RRJ7 RRNT 
Spanish RR4SR401RR49 RR43RR4MRR47
 

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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