Modern Languages | University of Oxford
Modern Language books
Modern Language books
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Modern Languages

mortar boardUCAS codeSee course combinationscalendarDuration4 years with a year abroad (BA)
pencilEntrance requirementsAAAHeadSubject requirements One or more modern languages (depending on course choice)
tickAdmissions test(s)ox.ac.uk/mlattickWritten workTwo/three pieces
bar chartAdmissions statistics*

Interviewed: 90%
Successful: 35%
Intake: 157
*3-year average 2016-18

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+44 (0) 1865 270750
Email Modern Languages

Subject requirements:       Essential       Recommended       Helpful – may be useful on course

Czech (with Slovak)FrenchGermanModern GreekItalianPolishPortugueseRussian and Spanish.

Studying Modern Languages provides both practical training in written and spoken language and an extensive introduction to literature and thought written in European languages. 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 or gender 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 have access to the Taylor Institution Library, the biggest research library in Britain devoted to modern languages, and the University’s central library the Bodleian, as well as many online resources. The University’s well-equipped Language Centre has resources specifically tailored to the needs of Modern Language 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, as well as 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 gives you an understanding of other cultures that cannot be acquired solely through learning the language. It leads you into areas such as gender studies, popular culture, theatre, aesthetics, anthropology, art history, ethics, history, philosophy, politics, psychology and theology, developing your skills as a critical reader, writer and thinker.

International opportunities

Modern Languages students spend a compulsory year abroad, usually in the third year. You may work as a paid language assistant in a foreign school or do an internship abroad, both of which provide valuable opportunities to develop career experience while improving language competence. Alternatively your year may 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 seven-month language course in the city of Yaroslavl’.) You will also be encouraged to spend as much of your time as possible during the vacations in the countries whose languages you 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.

In certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to a course’s requirements for international study. Students who consider that they may be affected are asked to contact their department for advice.

College choice

Please see our guidance on choosing a college, and which language combinations are available at each college.

 Student studying in a library students at a lecture Student studying
“I really have genuinely enjoyed all my modules. People worry about the fact that the modern languages course is so literature heavy and assume that it might become repetitive with so many literary modules. But it doesn't. Each of my literature modules have been so different, raised different questions, shed light on different areas of history and politics. I also love the tutorial system - it's definitely what makes the Oxbridge system so unique I think. You can push ideas as far as they will go and, although there is pressure with there being so few of you and the tutor, it makes you think and argue in a completely different way.”
ROSANNA
“I study French and Portuguese, which is a very niche combination (I'm one of two students in my year group doing it). It involves doing lots of different things and has lots of variety, which I really enjoy, and it is very satisfying to start making connections between the different aspects of culture, literature and language as I have got to know them better.”
OLIVIA
“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 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.”
SARAH

A typical week

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

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 typically three to four hours of introductory lectures and participate in seminars and/or tutorials on literature. 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 may take Polish 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. Deferred entry Students are welcome to apply for deferred entry for any language courses except those including Beginners’ Russian.

YEAR 1

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, 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)

YEAR 2

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
 
YEARS 3 AND 4

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.

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

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

Academic requirements 

A-levels:AAA
Advanced Highers:                    AA/AAB
IB: 38 (including core points) with 666 at HL                                                                          
Or any other equivalent (see other UK qualifications, and international qualifications

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

Subject requirements

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.

For French or SpanishCandidates 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 RussianPlease note there are different course codes for these languages, depending on whether or not you have studied them before (see below). 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 the Modern Languages website
For PolishWe generally expect all students applying for this course to be beginners, though those with experience are also very welcome to apply.

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.

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

Applying

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.

UCAS codes

Single language courses

 FrenchGermanRussianSpanish
UCAS codeR110R200R711R400

Joint language courses

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

Beginners' courses (B.) 

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.

 B. 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

Admissions test

Test: MLAT
Test date:30 October 2019            
Registration date:                   6pm 15 October 2019                                                                                                      

All candidates must take the Modern Languages Admissions Test (MLAT) as part of their application. Separate registration for each test is required and it is the responsibility of the candidate to ensure that they are registered for these tests. 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

Description: 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.
Submission deadline: 10 November 2019
  • 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 A-level (or an equivalent standard) before university, by 10 November 2019. 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 A-level (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: 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.

At interview, tutors will 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 text 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. For more detail on the selection criteria for this course, please see the Modern Languages website.

Careers

Oxford aims to produce world-class linguists and the skills gained and fostered by studying languages at degree level are much-prized by employers. Their knowledge and transferable skills ensure that modern linguists are amongst the most sought-after graduates in Britain. 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. Amongst the careers successfully followed by modern linguists are: journalism, the Civil and Diplomatic Services, education, environmental and development work and the law.

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.’

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.)

Latest information for UK undergraduates who will begin their course in 2020 can be found here. Arrangements for EU students starting in 2020 have not yet been confirmed. Read the latest information.

The fees and funding information below relates to those who will start at Oxford in 2019.

Fees

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

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU£9,250
Islands
(Channel Islands & Isle of Man)
£9,250
Overseas£26,235

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

Home/EU

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.

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 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

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.

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 course fee, however, they will be liable for additional administration and visa fees. For students starting their year abroad in 2018 these fees are £145 and £45 respectively.

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 provides applicants with statistics about undergraduate life at Oxford. But there is so much more to an Oxford degree that the numbers can’t convey.

The Oxford tutorial

College tutorials are central to teaching at Oxford. Typically, they take place in your college and are led by your academic tutor(s) who teach as well as do their own research. Students will also receive teaching in a variety of other ways, depending on the course. This will include lectures and classes, and may include laboratory work and fieldwork. However, tutorials offer a level of personalised attention from academic experts unavailable at most universities.

During tutorials (normally lasting an hour), college subject tutors will give you and one or two tutorial partners feedback on prepared work and cover a topic in depth. The other student(s) in your college tutorials will be from your year group, doing the same course as you and will normally be at your college. Such regular and rigorous academic discussion develops and facilitates learning in a way that isn’t possible through lectures alone. Tutorials also allow for close progress monitoring so tutors can quickly provide additional support if necessary.

Read more about tutorials and an Oxford education

College life

Our colleges are at the heart of Oxford’s reputation as one of the best universities in the world.

  • At Oxford, everyone is a member of a college as well as their subject department(s) and the University. Students therefore have both the benefits of belonging to a large, renowned institution and to a small and friendly academic community. Each college or hall is made up of academic and support staff, and students. Colleges provide a safe, supportive environment leaving you free to focus on your studies, enjoy time with friends and make the most of the huge variety of opportunities.
  • Each college has a unique character, but generally their facilities are similar. Each one, large or small, will have the following essential facilities:
    • Porters’ lodge (a staffed entrance and reception)
    • Dining hall
    • Lending library (often open 24/7 in term time)
    • Student accommodation
    • Tutors’ teaching rooms
    • Chapel and/or music rooms
    • Laundry
    • Green spaces
    • Common room (known as the JCR).
  • All first year students are offered college accommodation either on the main site of their college or in a nearby college annexe. This means that your neighbours will also be ‘freshers’ and new to life at Oxford. This accommodation is guaranteed, so you don’t need to worry about finding somewhere to live after accepting a place here, all of this is organised for you before you arrive.
  • All colleges offer at least one further year of accommodation and some offer it for the entire duration of your degree. You may choose to take up the option to live in your college for the whole of your time at Oxford, or you might decide to arrange your own accommodation after your first year – perhaps because you want to live with friends from other colleges.
  • While college academic tutors primarily support your academic development, you can also ask their advice on other things. Lots of other college staff including welfare officers help students settle in and are available to offer guidance on practical or health matters. Current students also actively support students in earlier years, sometimes as part of a college ‘family’ or as peer supporters trained by the University’s Counselling Service.

More about Oxford colleges and how you choose