With just over one week to go until the deadline, there’s still a chance to enter our Flash Fiction Competitions in French and/or Spanish – don’t miss out on your chance to win £100! A reminder of the competition details and how you can enter can be found below…
What is Flash Fiction?
We’re looking for a complete story, written in French or Spanish, using no more than 100 words.
What are the judges looking for?
Our judging panel of academics will be looking for imagination and narrative flair, as well as linguistic ability and accuracy. Your use of French or Spanish will be considered in the context of your age and year group: in other words, we will not expect younger pupils to compete against older pupils linguistically. For inspiration, you can read last year’s winning entries for French here, and for Spanish here.
What do I win?
The judges will award a top prize of £100, as well as prizes of £25 to a maximum of two runners up, in each category. Certificates will also be awarded to pupils who have been highly commended by our judges. Results as well as the winning, runner up, and highly commended stories will be published on this blog, if entrants give us permission to do so.
How do I enter?
You can submit your story via our online forms at the links below. This year, in response to the amazing number of entries we received last year, we have expanded the competition to include a third age category!
Click on the links to be taken to the correct submission form for your age/year group.
You may only submit one story per language but you are welcome to submit one story in French AND one story in Spanish if you would like to. Your submission should be uploaded as a Word document or PDF.
The deadline for submissions is noon on Friday 31st March 2023.
Please note that, because of GDPR, teachers cannot enter on their students’ behalf: students must submit their entries themselves.
If you have any questions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It has been wonderful to meet so many students at our language-specific open days over the past few weeks. Building on this, we are delighted to be able to welcome prospective students to Oxford for our Modern Languages Open Day on Saturday 13th May, 10.30am-4pm. The event will be held at the Examination Schools, located on the High Street.
This event is a fantastic opportunity for students who are interested in learning more about our language courses, or who are still considering their options, as this Open Day will cover ALL of our languages: French, German*, Spanish, Italian*, Russian*, Portuguese*, Modern Greek*, Czech*, and Polish*. Most of our Joint School degree subjects will also be represented at the event.
*All of these languages can be studied here at Oxford from beginners’ level. From this year’s admissions cycle, students can also apply to study Beginners’ German with our Joint Schools subjects (e.g. English, History, Linguistics etc.) for the first time.
Our Modern Languages Open Day is aimed primarily at Year 12 students and their parents/guardians/teachers, but Year 11 students who are starting to think about university study are equally welcome to attend. The Open Day will offer an overview of our Modern Languages courses and a general Q&A for prospective students in the morning, with individual language sessions and a parents’/guardians’/teachers’ Q&A session occurring in the afternoon. You can view the full event programme here.
Booking for this event is compulsory – you can register your attendance here. Bookings will close at midnight on 10th May 2023. Please note that, due to restricted places, only one parent/guardian/teacher may accompany each student for the morning session.
We look forward to seeing lots of you in May and welcoming you to Oxford!
Are you thinking of applying to Oxford? Come and join us at our online conference! This online event offers you an opportunity to find out more about applying to Oxford, our courses, and the support available for students whilst studying here.
Join the live sessions running in the evenings fromMonday 20 March to Thursday 23 March to hear our academics talk about the courses they teach and from our current student ambassadors as they share their experiences of studying and living in Oxford.
Each session will last 50 minutes and will include a presentation and a live Q&A with a panel of University staff, academics, or current students.
What’s on offer?
Live webinars on applying to Oxford and how we can support you to make the strongest possible application
Live sessions with our subject academics and current student ambassadors
Video content across a broad range of topics (including current undergraduate students from your region talking about their experiences of applying, course videos, advice on how to choose a college and information on support services available)
Information for teachers and HE advisors
A designated session for prospective international students
An opportunity to ask our academics, students, and admissions staff any questions you may have.
In terms of Modern Languages, we would recommend joining on Wednesday 22nd March for the following sessions:
Arts and Humanities information session and Q&A
Arts and Humanities student ambassador experiences
There are plenty of other subject-specific sessions as well as more general information sessions about how to apply and the support available to students – you can check out the full timetable here.
In this week’s blog post, our colleagues from The Queen’s College Translation Exchange share details of their next International Book Club meeting – a really wonderful opportunity for school students to engage with literature from around the world!
The International Book Club for Schools is a chance for pupils in Years 11, 12 and 13/S4-6 to explore foreign language books which have been translated into English with other like-minded, literature-loving students. We meet once a term over Zoom to discuss a foreign language book in English translation. No knowledge of the original language is required to take part and newcomers are always welcome!
For students thinking they may like to study languages at university, there will also be a chance to hear more about what this would entail and to ask current undergraduates and admissions staff your questions. These meetings are also a perfect opportunity to explore beyond the school syllabus and to engage with some exciting literature in translation.
Our next session will be held on Tuesday 28th March at 7pm, in partnership with specialists in translated Arabic-language fiction, ArabLit, and the Oxford Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. We will be reading Out of Time, by Palestinian writer Samira Azzam, translated from Arabic by Ranya Abdelrahman. These 31 short stories weave a rich and intricate tapestry of life in Palestine and Lebanon in the 1930s and 1940s, exploring how people from all walks of react to volatile circumstances and rapid historical change. Discussion in the session will focus on ‘Tears from a Glass Eye’, whilst also touching on ‘A Roc Flew Over Shahraban’ and ‘On the Road’. We also recommend that you read the introduction (along with as many of the other stories as you’d like to or have time for!).
To take part in the International Book Club, attendees will need to purchase and read a copy of the set book in advance of the session. Arablit have been kind enough to offer a discount for book club attendees: 20% off a paperback or an e-book for $1.79 (this is slightly under £1.50). The exclusive discount code will be shared with the students over email once they have registered for a place. If the financial situation of some students makes it impossible for them to purchase a copy of the book as discounted, please do drop us an email and we will do our best to work something out.
They may also like to make some notes as they go, although all discussion within the meeting will be informal. We will also share some materials in advance of the session, including some prompt questions to get them thinking and an interview with the book’s translator.
Students are able to register to attend our next book club meeting by completing this Google Form.
If you have any further questions about the Book Club, please let us know! You can drop us an email (email@example.com), or find us on Twitter (@TranslationExch).
In this week’s blog post, current French and Linguistics student, Josh Winfield, talks about his time in Montreal, a trip funded by his college. Over to you, Josh!
In March 2022, I was lucky enough to secure a travel grant from my college (St Hilda’s) to go to Montreal for 10 days. This blog aims to recount: what I found in Montreal, both from a touristic and student point of view; why I would recommend Montreal as a potential location for the year abroad; and to explore how Oxford colleges can help with course-related study trips.
If you were to look at the last ten years’ worth of year abroad archives, you would not be blamed for thinking that France is the only option for this exciting part of your degree course. When writing this blog, there were only a few students in the archives who had gone elsewhere. Whilst France is the potential obvious choice, considering its proximity to the UK, and the focus of French language courses on metropole French, I will aim to highlight some of the many advantages of Montreal as the location for your year abroad, or at least to inspire you to travel there as a student of French!
I have been interested in the French speaking region of Canada for a long time, particularly Quebec, using the question over its sovereignty as the focus of my Independent Research Project for my A-level French exam. However, I had never had the opportunity to actually visit it. When I started my course, I was shown the extensive list of bursaries that Oxford students could be eligible for, and as one of these, the travel grant (which is not just a Hilda’s thing, many colleges offer travel grants1) This generous funding allowed me to journey to Montreal, and paid for my accommodation. There are many funds available for undergraduates, with different colleges having differing amounts available, but for course-related travel, a well thought-out application is normally quite successful.
The language of the region
This is obviously one of the most important factors in the choice of the year abroad location, especially how much you are able to use it and learn.
Montreal, and the broader Quebec region are quite unique in the fact that they are both officially bilingual. And, whilst the news and nationalist politicians might make you believe that the speaking of English is minimal here, this is contrary to my experience, in fact the city operates as a melting pot for both French and English communication. 26%2 of the Montreal population acquired neither French nor English as their maternal language, and both Spanish and Chinese are commonly spoken here, making French a lingua franca amongst speakers. This phenomenon means that it is very easy to use French in day to day life, and that there is no presupposition as to which language you are going to speak. When I was there myself, at least 80% of the time I was greeted in French and spoken to in French as if I was a native speaker. This makes it very accessible for learners, and gives you the confidence to use the language more often.
Furthermore, the dialect in Quebec is very interesting (particularly for me as a Linguistics student too!). The accent is not only different to the standard metropole French in terms of pronunciation and slight lexical differences, but it is also not unusual to hear (even native French speakers) switch from French to English in a sentence for certain words, and even phrases. Despite the difference, after a few days there (and some YouTube videos) I got used to this, and didn’t have any trouble understanding people.
Worth considering too, is that the written language is almost exactly the same, making signs and menus easy to read for French students. What I have just discussed about the language may be off putting to some people , particularly the presence of English, but as a student with a disability myself, I am comforted by the fact that in a worst case scenario, doctors, hospital staff, and the majority of the public speak and can understand English. (Plus all the visa applications can be in English which is a huge bonus!)
The atmosphereof the city
Despite the fact that the city was just resurfacing from years of strict COVID regulations when I visited, the city life was still vibrant. There is a plethora of restaurants, night-time activities, sights to see and museums. At every turn there is something historically fascinating to see, an amazing piece of architecture, or just natural beauty. With a thriving Chinatown, Little Italy, Little Portugal and International Quarter, Montreal defends its position as one of the most diverse cities in Canada.
The city is passionate about inclusion and diversity3, and feels very safe, with the Economist naming it the 4th safest city in North America4. There is also a large Gay Village, which hosts many aspects of LGBTQ+ life, including Drag Shows and Montreal Pride. As well as the city life, or is worth mentioning that Montreal has some beautiful natural areas. In the centre of the downtown, Mont Royal (the city’s namesake) occupies a near 700 acre park, boasting beautiful views of the entire city. All around the city there are green areas, allowing you a break from the city feel of Montreal.
Travel and pricing
Inner city travel in Montreal is cheap, easy and fast. Operating on three lines, the majority of the city is only 15 minutes away from a metro stop. For a one way journey it was (when I visited) $1.60, $3 for a return. The metros are clean, open and easy to use. I used it the whole time I was there, and found it easier than the tube in London. In more general terms about cost of living, the city is of equivalent cost to Oxford and London pricing. However, when you take into consideration the exchange rate, the cost of living is not necessarily something to put you off (I also did live like a tourist for my time here – residential areas will no doubt be cheaper). With a student visa, most people are allowed to work up to 20 hours whilst studying which can help with the cost of your time there.
In conclusion, with three excellent universities5, a welcoming accessible environment to speak and learn French, and an exciting and different city life, why not consider Montreal for at least part of your year abroad (or perhaps a shorter trip with a travel grant!).
Bookings for our Russian & Slavonic Languages Open Day are now open!
This year, our Russian & Slavonic Languages Open Day will be held on Saturday 4th March, 10.15am-12.30pm at University College, Oxford.
Like our other language-specific open days, this event is smaller and more focused in its scope compared to our wider open day later in the year, allowing more time to explore a subject.
Our Russian & Slavonic Languages Open Day is designed to provide greater insight into our undergraduate degree programmes in Russian and other Slavonic languages such as Czech, Polish and Ukrainian. These languages are all available to study at beginners’ level here at Oxford, so the open day presents a great opportunity to find out more about these options and what the courses entail. It’s also a lovely excuse to come and visit an Oxford college and the city for the day, meet our current students and academics, and experience a taste of student life.
If you are interested in coming along to this event, you can reserve your place on our open days webpage. Please note that bookings are mandatory for this open day and that the deadline for registering is 20th February 2023.
As a reminder, we’re running several language-specific open days over the next six weeks… take a look at the table below for further details and sign up to attend here!
We look forward to meeting you at these events soon!
Following a successful three-year run, University College, Magdalen College, and the Faculties of History and Modern Languages here at the University of Oxford are delighted to announce that the virtual BAME Humanities Study Day will return for 2023 on Tuesday 4th April!
This event offers UK state school students with Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) heritage an exciting opportunity to engage with academic taster sessions from across the Humanities subjects, and also to access insight into Oxford student life and support with the admissions process.
Last year, students chose to attend academic taster lectures on fascinating topics such as:
There is no such thing as the perfect body… and other lessons we can learn from the ancient Greeks (Classics)
Sixteenth-century French Women’s Writing: Challenging Gender Expectations in selected works of the Dames des Roches (Medieval & Modern Languages)
Popular Music: History and Interpretation (Music)
The Shock of the Nude: Art, Science, and the Racial Imaginary in Modern China (Art History)
The Grandfather of Islam in Buganda (History)
Medieval English and Arabic Religious Literature (English)
It was a fantastic insight into what university lectures will be like, and seeing so many passionate students pushed me to work harder to get in.
– 2021 Participant
This year, the day will open with an introduction to the University of Oxford followed by the opportunity to attend two humanities subject lectures. You will learn more about the Oxford application process with additional resources provided to help. The day will conclude with a live Q&A where you will have the opportunity to ask your questions to current Oxford students from BAME backgrounds.
For the academic lectures , you will be able to choose from the following subjects: Classics, English, History, History of Art, Modern Languages, Music, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Music, Philosophy or Theology. You will be able to specify your preferred lectures on the application form. All lectures will be recorded and available to watch after the event. If you are unable to attend live on the 4th April but would like access to the recordings and resources, then please still submit an application via the form below.
Currently in Year 12 (or equivalent)
Identifying as having Black, Asian, or Minority Ethnic (BAME) Heritage
Attending a UK state school (unless you have extenuating circumstances or meet several of the priority criteria listed below)
If spaces are limited, priority will be given to students who meet one or more of the following: first generation in your family to attend university, have experience of being in care, are a young carer, are eligible for Free School Meals/Pupil Premium, are from an area of deprivation or area with a low rate of progression to university.
Applications will close at 23:59 on February 26th 2023. We cannot guarantee every applicant a place but are aiming to accommodate a large number of students. You will find out if your application was successful by 10th March.
If you have any questions about this form please email one of the organisers, Nuala, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rather than racing to get their cards in the post in time for Christmas, the French more often send Cartes de vœux, literally ‘cards of wishes’. These can be written until January 31 and will typically express the writer’s hope that the recipient might enjoy health, prosperity and happiness in the year which has just started. This tradition goes back a long way as a note from tragic queen Marie Antoinette, who was guillotined in 1793 in Paris at the age of 38, demonstrates.
The brief letter is held in the library at Bergamo (Biblioteca Angelo Mai) and addressed to Giovanni Andrea Archetti (1731-1805), an Italian priest who was made a cardinal in 1784. 
Here is a transcription of the letter. Despite the calligraphic flourishes, it is relatively legible as the close-up shows.
Mon Cousin. Je suis si persuadée de votre attachement à ma personne, que je ne doute pas de la sincerité des vœux que vous formés pour ma satisfaction au Commencement de cette Année, les expressions dont vous les accompagnés sont pour moi un motif de plus de vous rassurer de toute l’Estime que je fais de vous. Sur ce je prie Dieu qu’il vous ait mon cousin en sa S[ain]te et digne garde. écrit à Versailles. Le 31. Janvier 1787. Marie Antoinette
There are few differences with the way we would write things. An accent is missing on ‘sincérité’, there is a capital on the name of the month (which is now considered incorrect in French) and, more importantly, the polite ‘vous’ forms of first group verbs, ‘former’ and ‘accompagner’ are here spelled with an ‘-és’ ending rather than the ‘ez’ we would expect. You may also have noticed the full stop after ‘31’ which was a way of transforming the cardinal number into an ordinal number (the equivalent of 31st). Whilst the practice has disappeared from modern French usage, you will find it in German. The signature makes it look as though the final ‘e’ of ‘Antoinette’ has been swallowed into the ‘tt’.
If you compare the transcription with the photograph of the whole page, you will observe different things even before you look at the meaning of the message: it is written on a very large sheet of paper of which the text only occupies about one third; there are slits down the side of the sheet; a strange seal hangs off an appended strip of paper; you can spot the handwriting of three different people. What explains these surprising aspects?
Paper was a luxury commodity in 18th-century Europe and there was a lot of re-using of scraps. Here, the choice of a sheet much larger than would be necessary for the length of the text is a clear sign of wealth. Unlike most of the inhabitants of France, the queen did not have to worry about waste or expense. In addition, a large sheet rather than a smaller one honoured the recipient: it meant he was being treated with the respect owed to an eminent person. The strange folds and the slits down the side (by the blue-gloved fingers on the first picture and along the opposite edge), as well as the paper-encrusted seal, show that this missive would have been sent with a removable lock. The sealing wax pressed between two sides of paper to ensure it would not get broken is on the strip which served as a lock. This was part of a ceremonial practice again intended to make the document seem important but without including a proper seal. Because of the lack of confidential information on the one hand, but also the important diplomatic value of a letter from the queen of France, a particular closing process was adopted. It allowed for the missive to be opened without breaking the seal—rather like when we tuck the flap in to an envelope rather than sticking it down. The French refer to a seal which does not have to be broken for the letter to be opened as a ‘cachet volant’ or ‘flying seal’. You can discover how it would have been prepared in an excellent video about a similar letter from Marie Antoinette to a different cardinal:
As you will notice if you watch the video, once the single sheet had been folded and sealed, it would have looked a bit like a modern envelope with the addressee’s name on it. No street or town address was included because it would have been entrusted to a courier and delivered by hand.
The letter was written by a secretary, almost certainly a man, who had clear bold and ornate handwriting. You can see a change of ink when you get to the signature. Marie Antoinette is the French version of the names Maria Antonia which the future queen of France had been given at her christening in Vienna in 1755. The third person to have intervened also simply signed. This was Jacques Mathieu Augeard, the ‘secrétaire des commandements de la reine’ who was an important court official and would have ensured the letters were duly sent off to the right people. Clearly, this is not a personal letter addressed by Marie Antoinette to cardinal Archetti, but a formal stock message prepared in her name. She may well not even have read the text before it was signed.
What do the contents of the letter tell us? The first thing to note is that the queen calls the cardinal ‘Mon Cousin’. They were not related. This was a conventional courtesy used between people of a certain rank. The missive is clearly an answer to a letter received from Archetti who had sent his own best wishes—it refers to ‘la sincérité des vœux que vous formez’ and ‘les expressions dont vous les accompagnez’ (modernised spelling). It ends with a pious formula hoping that God will watch over the cardinal. The date of 31 January, the last one on which such wishes could be sent, was usual for the royal family. It bears witness to the eminence of the signatory who has not initiated the correspondence but is providing a response.
We are documenting Marie Antoinette’s letters as part of a project with the Château de Versailles’ CRCV research centre. Oxford student Tess Eastgate is one of the participants thanks to her AHRC-funded Oxford-Open-Cambridge Doctoral Training Partnership. Tess is working on weighty political exchanges from the revolutionary period which are quite unlike the message presented here.
To the casual reader, it might seem disappointing to come across a letter like the one to Archetti, with so little personal content, it is in fact very useful for us to have it. It documents the formal relations between the French monarchs and the Catholic hierarchy. It suggests that there may be other similar missives addressed to different dignitaries across the world (examples of ones to cardinals Boncompagni Ludovisi and Borgia have been located)  so, if you are anywhere near archive holdings, take a look at what they have. Who knows, you may even come across seasonal greetings to a cardinal from the Queen of France!
Written by Catriona Seth, Marshal Foch Professor of French Literature All Souls College, Oxford
 Library reference: Autografi MMB 938-945 Faldone A 2) REGINA MARIA ANTONIETTA DI FRANCIA Lettera con firma autografa da Versailles in data 31 gennaio 1787 portante il sigillo reale diretta al Cardinale Archetti (in francese). My thanks to Dottoressa Maria Elisabetta Manca and the staff at the Bibliotheca Angelo Mai.
Here at the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, we organise and run a range of open days for prospective applicants and their parents/guardians and teachers each year. Open days are one of the best ways for students to get a real feel for a University, helping them to make informed decisions about their futures.
Over the course of February and March, we will be holding our language-specific open days, designed to provide greater insight into our undergraduate degree programmes. In comparison to our wider open day later in the year, language-specific open days are smaller and more focused in their scope, allowing more time to explore a subject in depth.
For example, the German Open Day offers an introduction to German film, German linguistics, and different types of German literature. On the Spanish and Portuguese Open Day, our wonderful academics will provide an introduction to Transatlantic Iberian Culture and attendees will get the chance to learn Portuguese in 15 minutes.
So, if you’re thinking about applying to study languages at Oxford, or want to find out more about a particular course, these open days offer a wonderful opportunity to meet some of our tutors and current students, come along to academic taster sessions which will give you a flavour of what it’s like to study languages, and ask lots of questions.
Below are the details of our 2023 language-specific open days. You will need to book a place at these events, which you can do via our open daywebsite, where you will also find the event programmes.
*Our German Open Day has been designed to be accessible for students considering beginners’ German. From this year’s admissions cycle, applicants can mix Joint Schools subjects with beginners’ German, so if you’re considering a degree in English, History, Philosophy etc., why not come along and try out some German!
You may have noticed that there is no specific open day for French: students interested in French should attend the Faculty’s main open day later in the year or one of the University open days in June or September. Keep your eyes peeled for more information about those events in future blog posts.
While you’re here: a reminder that applications to our 2023UNIQ programme are still open! You can read more about this fantastic opportunity for UK state school students in last week’s blog post, or head to the websitefor further information.
We’re delighted to announce that applications for UNIQ 2023 are now open until Monday 23 January!
What is UNIQ?
UNIQ is Oxford University’s flagship outreach programme for Year 12 students at UK state schools/colleges. It is completelyfree and prioritises places for students with good grades from backgrounds that are under-represented at Oxford and other universities.
What does the programme entail?
UNIQ 2023 offers an online support programme starting in April, academic courses and an in-person residential in Oxford over the summer, followed by university admissions support in August to December.
During the summer residential, students have the opportunity to experience life as an Oxford undergraduate by staying in an Oxford college and exploring the city for themselves. They will also get to know some of our Oxford undergraduates and work with our academics in face to face lectures and tutorials.
What does this look like for Modern Languages?
For Modern Languages, there will be courses available for Spanish, French, and German. All three courses enable students to explore the language, literature, theatre, film, and linguistics of each discipline, while also providing the opportunity to have a taster of other European languages at a beginners’ level.
Our aim is to give students a taste of what it is really like to study Modern Languages at Oxford, and to provide a sense of the breadth of our courses – including several of the languages you can study here as a beginner.
What are the benefits?
Throughout the UNIQ programme, students will explore subjects they love and gain a real insight into Oxford life, helping them to prepare for university, and decide what is right for them. UNIQ also enables students with similar interests in local regions and across the UK to connect with each other through social and academic activities.
Most UNIQ students go on to apply to the University of Oxford and they also get help to prepare for our admissions tests and interviews. Consequently, UNIQ participants are more likely to make successful applications to Oxford.
How do I apply?
We welcome applications from:
Year 12 students from England and Wales, in the first year of A level studies or equivalent
Year 13 students from Northern Ireland, in the first year of A level studies or equivalent
S5 students from Scotland, studying Highers or equivalent
The online application process is quick and easy – it only takes 10 minutes! – and can be completed via the UNIQ website. Applications close on Monday 23 January at 11pm.
As UNIQ is an access programme, admission to UNIQ 2023 will be based on a range of criteria that relate to students’ academic potential and socio-economic background. You can read more about this here.
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!
Data Protection: Like most websites, this site collects some user data in order to function properly.
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.