Something we get asked about a lot at open days is the amount of literature on the Oxford Modern Languages course. Prospective students usually want to know how far the course focuses on literature and what the benefits of literary study are. Literature is certainly an important part of a Modern Languages degree at Oxford, and if you study with us you will do at least some literature as part of your course. But you’ll also have the chance to explore other areas, such as film, linguistics, theory, or translation, depending on the language you are studying.
Check out this video from Dr Alice Brooke, tutor in Spanish, for a deeper insight into the role of literature in an Oxford Modern Languages degree…
The competition was stiff in the French Flash Fiction contest this year and we were fortunate not only to have some fantastic winners but also some brilliant runners up. We hope you like them as much as we did.
Alors qu’elle courait, elle s’est sentie exaltée. Elle savait qu’elle ne devrait pas faire ça mais c’était tellement bon. Avec l’herbe sur ses jambes et les étoiles scintillantes au-dessus. Mais pour une raison quelconque, elle avait l’impression d’être surveillée. En le regardant, il se sentait inquiet. Doit-il en parler à quelqu’un? Elle serait mise en prison. Cependant, les satellites qu’il utilisait ont été illégalement accédés. Tout d’un coup, il a réalisé quoi faire. Quand elle est rentrée chez elle, elle a vérifié sur son ordinateur portable pour tout travail scolaire. Pas de travail juste un seul e-mail
«Arrêtez de faire ça» de Absolument firstname.lastname@example.org
(Dexter Speed, Year 8)
Elles sont accrochées aux murs, regardent l’heure et regardent tout: Naissance de bébés Enfants qui grandissent Jeunes qui se disputent Et les horloges sont toujours accrochées, regardant l’heure
Les jeunes adultes partent à l’université Et puis reviennent, mais pas seul Jeunes couples, partent Les adultes seuls reviennent Et le temps passe encore
Les couples repartent Naissance de bébés Et ainsi le processus se répète à nouveau Et le temps passe
Horloges, elles sont accrochées aux murs Disent d’heure à tout le monde Mais tout ce qu’elles ont vu pendant toutes ces années Si seulement elles pouvaient se souvenir
(Ben Whiting, Year 10)
Un Vrai Supplice
La chaleur monte en moi comme le lierre grimpant. Il y a un mille-pattes avec ses minuscules pieds d’enfer qui danse sur mon cuir chevelu. Les muscles derrières mes genoux sont coupés. Le sentiment est viscéral. Pas loin, il y a un froissement de papier. Un bonbon. Les voix douces me parviennent comme le murmure d’un ruisseau. Pas loin, les gens se détendent. Pas loin, les gens attendent. Une main me serre à la gorge. Les mots – viendront-ils? Personne ne sait. Un moment de silence. La lumière se baisse. Le rideau se lève.
In recent months we’ve been enjoying one of our favourite podcasts, LinguaMania, produced by the Creative Multilingualism programme. We were particularly intrigued by this episode on translation, as it’s a question we get asked lots by students who are thinking about what role languages can play in their future. On the surface of it, translation may seem like just the kind of skill a robot could pick up, but it’s actually a very nuanced process which requires a great deal of empathy and creativity. Let’s let the experts tell us more…
Some people ask why they should bother learning a language when there are online apps and websites which can translate quickly and accurately.
In this episode of LinguaMania, Matthew Reynolds and Eleni Philippou argue that translation is so much more than just changing words from one language into another. Translation is creative, it’s personal, and it can help build communities. We also hear from Adriana X. Jacobs, Professor of Jewish and Hebrew Studies, and Yousif M Qasmiyeh, doctoral student researching the translation of Jane Eyre into Arabic.
A few weeks ago, we shared with you the winning entries of this year’s Spanish flash fiction competition. We hope you enjoyed them as much as we did. This week, we are pleased to share some of the stories that came a close second. Here are the brilliant runners up…
Tan cerca y tan lejos. Tus ojos son azules como el océano profundo, tu pelo es un río que fluye, su color es tan oscuro como la noche. Tu piel brilla levemente en la luz de la luna perlada. Bailas en las ondas del agua cristalina. Tu mano se extiende hacia mí, invitándome a unirte a ti en las profundidades zafiros. Extiendo la mano hacia ti, cayendo lentamente en tu abrazo acuoso. Tu belleza se vierte en mi cuerpo y apenas puedo respirar. Alcanzo tu mano pero fluye lejos, solo fuera de mi agonizante agarre. Tan cerca y tan lejos.
(Alec Müller, Year 9)
Monstruito, Necesitamos hablar. No me quejo de tu trabajo, porque todo el mundo tiene que trabajar, lo sé. A menudo mis padres me lo dicen. Pero estoy harta de sus métodos insuficientes y incompetentes. Eres el monstruito debajo mi cama! Quiero tener miedo, sentir que voy a morir de miedo! Y de momento? Nada. No tienes inspiración. Carcajadas a medianoche? Aburrido. Luces parpadeantes? Débil. Parece que no intentas. Y estoy decepcionada. Si pudiera, se lo diría a mis padres. Pero pensarían que soy mentirosa. Por eso, esta carta. Porfi, monstruito. Intensifica tu juego. Sinceramente, La chica encima de la cama.
(Honor Reynolds, Year 11)
Lleno de nervios, embarcó en su mayor reto profesional hasta entonces. Empezó a calentar el aceite después de haber limpiado sus palmas sudadas en su delantal y respiró profundamente; sintió como si toda su carrera lo hubiera llevado a este momento. El ajo chisporroteante llenó la habitación con un fuerte olor y un calor que no hizo más que aumentar la tensión. Mientras rebanaba las cebollas, una lágrima cayó por su mejilla. Brincó; sintió una mano en su hombro. “Relájate… son sólo mis padres. Les encantará.” su novia dijo. Tal vez tenga razón, pensó ¿Qué podría salir mal?
(Nina Goodland, Year 12)
Es una frase rara, ‘sin techo’. El hombre se sienta, como siempre, acariciando a su perro y cantando fuerte. Siento el peso de las monedas frías en los bolsillos, y le compro su café con nueve terrones de azucar – fumar durante tantos años le ha destruido las papilas gustativas. Cuenta relatos de su carrera en la marina, y de aventuras románticas en tierras de las que yo nunca había oído. No creo que sean verdaderos, pero es un narrador increíble. Samuel no tiene techo; se ha construido un hogar de historias y canciones, y latas de comida para perros vacías.
(Hugo Brady, Year 12)
We think you’ll agree that they gave the winners a real run for their money. ¡Felicidades!
Readers familiar with the blog may be aware that the Oxford German Network normally runs a German Classic Prize for sixth formers. While the Covid-19 pandemic has meant that the prize can’t run this year, they have come up with a great alternative way to engage with another Classic piece of German literature. If you study German and are currently in Year 12/ Lower Sixth, this is an awesome opportunity to immerse yourself in a German text and get some feedback from an Oxford academic. Read on to find out more…
A German Classic: Thomas Mann’s Der Tod in Venedig
Participation Guidelines for Sixth-Formers
We are delighted to announce the launch of the 2020 edition of ‘A German Classic’. Although we are unfortunately unable to run it as a competition this year, we would still like to invite you to read with us Thomas Mann’s Der Tod in Venedig (1912) – one of the most famous novellas in German literature and a masterpiece of European modernism. In his inimitably elegant and sumptuous style, Mann tells a transgressive story of Gustav von Aschenbach, an aging German writer, who falls in love with Tadzio, a teenage boy from Poland, during a holiday in Venice in the midst of a cholera epidemic. Often hailed as a break-through work for the queer community, Der Tod in Venedig might resonate differently now, in the era of the #metoo movement and the coronavirus pandemic.
You can sign up for free to receive a physical copy of the German original and an English translation of Mann’s novella, watch a specially recorded lecture that will guide you through the text, and have the opportunity to get feedback on your written commentary on a passage from Der Tod in Venedig from an Oxford academic. While logistic challenges this year mean that we are unable to compile extensive study materials and conduct our usual essay competition, we hope that you will want to join us for an exploration of ‘A German Classic’ in this adapted format.
‘A German Classic’ was launched in 2017 thanks to a generous donation by Jonathan Gaisman, QC. It is designed to celebrate a different literary classic each year and encourage in-depth study by creating a wide range of resources that open up different perspectives on the concerns at the heart of the work. The links to interviews and discussions, articles and performances remain available on our website to inspire ongoing interest in these works beyond the year of the competition. So far, we have featured Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust (in 2017), Freidrich Schiller’s Maria Stuart (in 2018), and E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Der Sandmann (in 2019).
Participants must fulfil the following requirements as of September 2020:
be beginning their final year of full-time study at a secondary school in the UK (upper-sixth form, Year 13 or S6 in Scotland);
be between the ages of 16 and 18;
hold a GCSE, IGCSE or equivalent qualification in German offered in the UK;
be resident in the United Kingdom.
Participants are not, however, expected to have prior experience of studying German literature.
All interested students should email the German Classic Coordinator, Dr Karolina Watroba (email@example.com), as soon as possible. We will be accepting new participants until the end of July. Students will receive free of charge:
Physical copies of the German text of Der Tod in Venedig and an English translation. Shipping will be administered by the Blackwell’s online bookshop. Students will need to provide an address in the UK to which they would like the books shipped, by which they consent to having their address passed on to Blackwell’s. Shipping may take up to a few weeks. Editions received may vary as they will depend on the availability of stock. Since we depend on the availability of stock, which is currently subject to potential disruption, we cannot unfortunately guarantee shipping: orders will be placed on a first come, first served basis.
Access to a specially recorded, hour-long, university-style online lecture. The lecture will introduce Thomas Mann’s life and work, guide students through Der Tod in Venedig, and discuss additional resources on the text that are freely available online.
A choice of three short commentary passages from Der Tod in Venedig alongside a guide on how to write a good commentary. Students will be encouraged to write and submit their commentaries (c. 1500 words) by email by 1 September 2020. All students who submit a commentary by this date will receive individual written feedback on their work by 1 October 2020. The feedback will not include any ranking or mark. It will be designed purely as informal academic comment on the piece of work submitted.
We would like to ask all students who
request access to these materials to let us know the name and type of
their school (non-selective state-maintained; selective
state-maintained; non-selective independent; selective independent;
other) so we can monitor whether we are reaching a diverse range of
schools around the country.
The French Flash Fiction Competition launched in December and ran until the end of March. During that time, we received more than four hundred entries across the two age categories. A huge well done to every who submitted a story to us – we were blown away by the imagination and linguistic inventiveness on display. We’re pleased to announce the winners today, and we’ll be featuring some of the runners up, highly commended, and commended stories on this blog in the coming weeks.
In the Years 7-11 category the winner is Yohann Godinho, in Year 10, and the runners up are Dexter Speed, in Year 8, and Ben Whiting in Year 10. The judges highly commended eleven entries: Davina Balakumar, Year 9; Georgia Clarke, Year 10; Isaac Timms, Year 9; Jamilya Bertram, Year 11; Joanna Kazantzidi, Year 7; Katy Marsh, Year 11; Megan Beach, Year 11; Ruby Watts, Year 10; Toby Greenwood, Year 8; Tom Clapham, Year 10; and Yuvraj Kambo, Year 9. A further eleven entries were commended: Aiden Politiek, Year 10; Carla Lubin, Year 7; Clémence Buffelard, Year 9; Hannah Uddin, Year 9; Harriet Preston, Year 9; Jonathan Stockill, Year 7; Kairav Singh, Year 9; Lara Hardy-Smith, Year 11; Riya Mistry, Year 9; Ryan Kwarteng, Year 7; and Silvia Rossi, Year 10.
The judges said: “In the younger age category we were absolutely spoilt for choice. So many of the stories demonstrated narrative flair and ingenuity, from the intertextual tales that offered a new take on familiar stories to the historical narratives, from quiet reflections on the state of the world to hard-hitting insights into the climate crisis. In the end, the winning story was one which married a refreshing stylistic simplicity with a moving sense of comfort and reassurance, perfectly encapsulating the current moment.”
In the Years 12-13 category, the winner is Zoe Prokopiou, in Year 12, and the runner up is Ella Hartley, in Year 12. Highly commended are: Allegra Stirling, Year 12; Bethan Mapes, Year 13; Blessing Verrall, Year 12; Emily Bell, Year 12; Harriet Townhill, Year 12; Ketsia-Patience Kasongo, Year 13; Lily Bamber, Year 12; and Nikita Jain, Year 13.
The judge said: “There were so many outstanding flash fiction entries in our Years 12-13 category this year. It was a pleasure to read them, and a real challenge to pick the best. I was very heartened by the amazing creativity and enthusiasm to express yourselves in a second language, conjuring up vivid feelings, colourful characters and sometimes whole worlds in just a few lines of text. In picking the winners I’ve paid more attention to the imagination on show than the strict grammatical accuracy, although the quality of French was very high throughout. I’ve also leaned a little more towards those entries that somehow managed in that tiny space to tell a whole story over those that were a little more like an essay or character portrait. And in choosing the overall winner, I was definitely influenced a bit by the fact that it managed to bring a tear to my eye in only ninety-four words. You’ll see why.”
Congratulations to all the winners, runners up, highly commended and commended entrants! The selection process was a tough one because so many of the stories we received had merit: we would like to underline the fact that writing a short story in another language is far from easy and that everyone who entered deserves to feel proud of their efforts.
Here are the two winning stories, and more entries will be featured over the weeks and months ahead…
Je me suis réveillé. Je suis descendu les escaliers et ouvrit le frigo. Le frigo était vide. Je n’avais plus de lait ! Je suis parti de ma maison. Le soleil se a leva doucement au-dessus de l’horizon. Les trottoirs étaient déjà chauds, de prélasser à ses rayons. La brise tranquille a fait tiède. L’herbe a émis son parfum fraîchement coupé. Les arbres ont bruissé pendant que leurs résidents ailés se ont bavardé. C’était tous les signes d’espoir, qu’aujourd’hui serait un jour meilleur, plein de lait somptueux. Je suis entré dans le magasin. J’ai vu le lait.
Elle a fermé la porte derrière elle et elle a respiré profondément. L’air frais a coulé dans ses poumons pour la première fois depuis un certain temps. Le ciel était bleu clair, peint avec des nuages blancs, et le soleil brillait. En commençant à marcher, elle a remarqué que le manque de gens dans la rue et le silence auxquels elle s’était habituée, avaient été remplacés par un nouveau bruit. Les trottoirs étaient pleins de gens qui souriaient. Elle pouvait sentir le soulagement commun de chaque personne que le monde revenait à la normale.
Late last year we launched our annual Spanish Flash Fiction Competition, which closed in March. The competition was open to students in Years 7 to 13, who were tasked with writing a short story of no more than 100 words in Spanish. We had a terrific response, with entries coming in from across the UK and beyond, and in total we had nearly four hundred submissions.
The judges commented on how difficult the selection process was, given the high standard of so many of the stories submitted. We would like to thank everyone who entered the competition and say well done to you all for your hard work and creativity in writing a piece of fiction in a different language – it’s no easy feat and you should be proud of yourselves!
We are pleased to say we are now in a position to announce the winning entries. So, without further ado, here are the winners of the 2020 Spanish Flash Fiction contest …
In the Years 7-11 category, the winner is Haneen Ali in Year 11. The runners up were Honor Reynolds in Year 11 and Alec Muller in Year 9. The judges also highly commended Maia Delin in Year 7, and Elizabeth Brawn in Year 9, and they commended Flora Moayed and Martha Pearce, both in Year 10.
In the Years 12-13 category, the winner is Caspar Pullen-Freilich in Year 12. The runners up were Nina Goodland in Year 12 and Hugo Brady in Year 12. The judges also highly commended Siena Cheli in Year 12, and Antonia Veary in Year 12, and they commended Luca Lombardo in Year 13 and Martha Wells in Year 12.
¡ Felicidades! You’ll be receiving your certificates in the post soon.
And if anyone is curious to read the winning entries, here are the top stories from each category. Some of the other stories will be featured on this blog in the months to come.
La sustancia roja espesa goteaba de mi cuchillo. Acababa de hacer la sopa de tomate. Una mezcla confeccionada con cuidado, me hicieron falta sangre, sudor y lágrimas para perfeccionarla- pero al fin y al cabo, valió la pena. Antes el tono pálido de fresas verdes, ahora brillaba al rojo vivo, como sangre saliendo a borbotones de una herida recién cortada. Su olor, ligeramente dulce, un poco salado, me recordaba a la última brisa suave de la playa; el último soplo antes de que se murió el verano. Borré la sustancia roja espesa de mi cuchillo, satisfecho con mi creación.
1529. Caminamos incansablemente por el laberinto de
cedros y helechos salpicados de ranas punta de flecha. Las copas de los árboles
se estremecían por la disonancia de los monos aulladores que oscilaban de liana
en liana. Los quetzales enjoyados despegaron de la copa de los cedros como si
fuesen guerreros mayas en fuga. Su plumaje verde esmeralda relució en el sol
veteado. Atravesamos un barranco casi asfixiado por el peso de la hojarasca y
poco después, atisbamos el contorno de una conurbación imponente de ciudadelas
estucadas y estelas jeroglíficas. Delirantes y deslumbrados nos preguntamos:
“¿Será esto un espejismo?”
Huge congratulations to all the winners, and many thanks to everyone who entered the competition. If you’re also interested in the French competition, keep an eye on this blog for the results in the next couple of weeks…
Last Saturday would have been our main open day for Medieval and Modern Languages at Oxford. It’s an event we normally look forward to delivering because it’s an exciting chance to meet lots of prospective students and share with them our passion for studying languages and cultures, as well as introducing them to what it’s like to be a student at Oxford. We’re sad not to have been able to host that open day this year but the happy news is that we are creating some online content to replicate what we would have said, had the event gone ahead as planned.
First up, our Co-Director of Outreach and Schools Liaison Officer for French, Dr Simon Kemp, has recorded an overview of Modern Languages at Oxford: the different courses that are available, what they entail, and why Oxford is unique.
If you were thinking about coming along to the May open day, or to the open days in July (which have also, unfortunately, been cancelled), do check out the presentation below. We would also recommend checking out the video introduction to the course here. We’ll be posting more open day material on here in the coming weeks and we sincerely hope to meet you one day!
This week on Adventures on the Bookshelf, we revisit the Babel: Adventures in Translation Exhibition, which was curated by the Creative Multilingualism programme and ran at the Weston Library last year. You may remember that we featured two resources from the exhibition on the blog: one on translating fables, and one on translating Cinderella.Now we bring you the final resource in that collection, this time on the exciting theme of translating nonense…
One of the items displayed in the exhibition was a collection of translations of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, his 1871 sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alice is a popular topic in Oxford, as Carroll himself was a scholar in Maths at Christ Church College. The daughter of the Dean of Christ Church at the time, Alice Liddell, is said to be the original Alice who inspired Carroll’s stories.
In this sequel, Alice goes through the looking-glass, or mirror, in her sitting room to find an alternative world on the other side, a world a bit like our own but also a bit different. While exploring this world she comes across a looking-glass book, a book where the words are written backwards and need to be read in a mirror. The text that she reads is the poem ‘Jabberwocky’.
You might have come across this poem before as it has taken on a life of its own outside of Carroll’s novel. The poem recounts the adventure of a warrior who slays the fearsome beast, the Jabberwock. But the intriguing thing about the text is that it is written in nonsense: half the words were invented by Carroll.
Of course, this poses something of a problem if we’re thinking about translating the text, because how can we go about translating words that are made up? Because Carroll invented these words, no dictionary definition of them exists, and meaning can therefore be elusive. Take the second word of the poem, for example, ‘brillig’ – does this mean brilliant, bright, murky, rainy, cold, a particular time of day, or something else entirely?
Nonetheless, lots of translators have risen to this challenge, creating versions of ‘Jabberwocky’ in other languages which are just as playful as the original English. We might even approach the translation of a text like this as an opportunity to have some fun with the translation process: if meaning is not fixed, perhaps as translators this is a chance to focus on other elements of the text, such as rhyme, rhythm, or onomatopoeia. Take a look at the resource we’ve linked to below for more ideas about translating ‘Jabberwocky’. Perhaps even have a go yourself at translating the poem yourself – it could be frabjously good fun!
tend to think of metaphors as poetic language, but we actually use them
all the time in our everyday speech. But how do metaphors in different
languages work? And can the metaphors we use affect our thinking? In
this episode of LinguaMania, we explore how we use metaphors across the
world, looking at the different ways of representing abstract concepts,
such as emotion and time, through idioms and metaphors.
The episode features researchers Jeanette Littlemore, Lera Boroditsky, Zoltán Kövecses, Sally Zacharias, and one of our brilliant tutors in German, Katrin Kohl. Thanks for the insight!
Listen to the episode below or on the Oxford University podcasts website.
A blog for students and teachers of Years 11 to 13, and anyone else with an interest in Modern Foreign Languages and Cultures, written by the staff and students of Oxford University. Updated every Wednesday!
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