Category Archives: Applying to study modern languages

Learn more about languages at Oxford!

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.

The Taylor Institution Library, Oxford University’s centre for the study of Modern European languages and literatures.

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 day website, where you will also find the event programmes.

Language-specific open days 2023

*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.

We look forward to having you along to our language-specific open days – don’t forget to book your place!

While you’re here: a reminder that applications to our 2023 UNIQ 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 website for further information.

Apply by 23 January!

UNIQ 2023 – Apply now!

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 completely free and prioritises places for students with good grades from backgrounds that are under-represented at Oxford and other universities. 

What does the programme entail?

Find out more here!

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 SpanishFrench, 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.

Comments from previous UNIQ participants

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.

Good luck to all applicants!

Studying Languages at Oxford: Expectations vs Reality

In this week’s blog post, first year French and Modern Greek student at St Peter’s College, Reuben, shares his experiences of starting his course at Oxford and how closely they matched his expectations. Over to you, Reuben!

After a year out of education to decide what I really wanted to study, I could not wait to begin my dream degree course at the University of Oxford. How has the degree lived up to my expectations however? What is the first term studying languages really like? Read on to find out.

View of St Peter’s College from a snow-covered New Inn Hall Street. Copyright © University of Oxford Images / John Cairns Photography — All rights reserved.

Hello readers. My name is Reuben Constantine, I’m a student ambassador for the Faculty of Modern Languages and a first year student of French and Modern Greek at St Peter’s College. I am now at the end of my first term in Oxford and in this article, I intend to compare my expectations of study here with the realities I have experienced. 

I will provide first of all some context so you can better understand my situation in relation to my experience at the university. For my A-Levels, I studied Biology, Chemistry and French. An ‘eclectic mix’ I have been told, and a mix of subjects which left me unsure of what to pursue post-18. For various reasons I decided to take a ‘gap year’ in which I would decide what I was going to do. University was a possibility, but I was unsure of which subject to study. I had enjoyed biology and chemistry, and many people told me I should pursue a career in the medical sector.

I had, however, another passion which seemed to be pulling me – languages. During my studies of French, I fell in love with not only the French language but the process of language learning itself. I had plenty of free time during lockdown and so decided to begin teaching myself a second and  eventually a third foreign language. By the end of my gap year I could confidently converse in French, Modern Greek, Spanish, Italian and even German. I was totally addicted to language learning and so (with the encouragement of some friends who had noticed my apparent enthusiasm) I decided to follow this newfound passion and study languages at university. Which university would I choose? My dream was Oxford: a university with a great reputation and the only university that offered a degree in my favourite language, Modern Greek.

I must admit however that it seemed a long shot. I had not studied any essay subjects for A-Level and I had heard that Oxford degrees were very literature-focused. Would I be the sort of student they were looking for? Nonetheless I was convinced that this is what I wanted to do, and couldn’t believe my luck when I found out I had been offered a place!

How has my first month been then? Frankly, it has been fantastic. However I must admit, it hasn’t been how I necessarily expected.

Copyright © University of Oxford Images

What elements have I enjoyed most about study here in Oxford? First of all, the professors are experts in their subject areas and it is a real privilege to be taught by them – especially in the ‘tutorial system’ which allows for very small class sizes. I have been immensely satisfied with the number of contact hours I receive weekly. On an average week I will spend 12-15 hours in lectures, language classes and tutorials. This means that the timetable is nicely structured and I feel like the professors really care about me and my progress. This contrasts with the experience of some of my friends who study languages in other institutions who receive very few contact hours and are often left to their own devices. At the same time, for a language lover like myself this number of hours does not feel overwhelming and I am comfortably able to support the workload (typically with 1 or 2 essays and 1 translation to do outside of lessons per week).

I must admit, however, I have been surprised by the approach to literature. As mentioned, I was aware that literature constituted a large part of the degree but I was still not quite prepared for this. The texts we examine in are often very thought provoking, but I was quite shocked to find out that the essays we write about these texts are in English and I have sometimes been left feeling as if I were studying a degree in ‘English Literature’. The focus seems to be more what certain writers thought about certain issues rather than the language in which it is written. I can’t say that this isn’t interesting and I know that many of my fellow students love this aspect of the degree. However, for me personally the essays written in English (about French theatre for example) have at times seemed quite distant from my love for languages themselves.

I acknowledge, however, that culture and language are inseparable; a good understanding of societal issues in the lands where the language is spoken is vital to truly master a language. Moreover, in subsequent terms and years, students have greater control over their modules and papers and are thus able to focus their study onto the aspects which are more interesting to them. For me this may well include the linguistics and evolution of the language with lesser focus on literature but time will tell.

Is an Oxford Modern Languages degree for you? If your only goal is to become fluent in a foreign language, then I would think again. This can be achieved without needing to invest in a university degree. Oxford language degrees feature much more than language acquisition itself.

However: If you really love the culture and literature of the languages you wish to study, then Oxford may indeed be for you. The resources available in the libraries and support from tutors make it one of the best places in the world to study. If you want a timetable packed with classes and lectures from tutors who’re often experts in their field, then once again, this may be the degree for you. Be prepared however for doors to be opened to various avenues that you may be surprised to see feature in a ‘modern languages’ degree (such as theatre or poetry).

Copyright © University of Oxford Images

To conclude, I must add that my experience of student life has been fantastic: it is easy to get involved in a range of extracurricular activities from sports to societies, and I have already formed many treasured friendships. I enjoy every day living here and I am learning a great number of things, even if not all of them are directly related to ‘languages’ as I had imagined. I am extremely grateful to the university for the opportunity to study here and cannot wait for the coming months and years.

A huge thank you to Reuben for those invaluable insights into starting a Modern Languages degree course here at Oxford, and the ways in which his initial experiences have differed from his expectations.

What would you tell your 17 year-old self?

Every year, we recruit a group of current undergraduates studying Modern Languages to support us with our work with schools.

These students, also known as Student Ambassadors, are integral to our outreach work since they can share first-hand experiences to support the advice and guidance we offer young linguists and prospective applicants. They also act as role models, helping to motivate, encourage and inspire young people through their current and future studies. The presence of Student Ambassadors at events and during our activities is vital to ensuring that the pupils we work with can make informed choices about their futures.

This year, we’ve taken on 15 wonderful new Student Ambassadors from across the different languages we offer at degree level. As part of their core training, we asked them the following question, just to get them thinking about the kind of wisdom they can pass on to pupils over the next academic year:

What would you tell your 17 year-old self before applying to university?

The image below showcases a selection of their responses. We found them useful and inspiring and thought you might too – happy reading!

Advice from our current undergraduates to their 17 year-old selves. Original graphic image by rawpixel.com on Freepik.

Tip: It might be easier to read the image if you open it in a new tab!

FROM AN APPLICANT TO A STUDENT AMBASSADOR…

…MY JOURNEY WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF MEDIEVAL AND MODERN LANGUAGES.

This week, we hand over to Jasmine Kaur, second year BA German and History student at Exeter College, to tell us about her experiences of being a Student Ambassador for Modern Languages here at Oxford over the past year.

My work as a Student Ambassador for the past year has been a great learning experience. I clearly remember how, when I was applying to Oxford for modern languages, I could never have imagined to one day be able to sit on the other side of the table and actually become an inspiration for countless young minds out there (let alone be accepted into the University). Knowledge grows by sharing it. And I firmly believe in this. The more I have shared my journey, my learning experiences and my stepping stones with other students, the more I have gained and learned from them. Each session I had the honour to be a part of, whether in person or virtual, has made me more confident and curious about my own subject.

Jasmine Kaur, second year BA German and History student at Exeter College, MML Student Ambassador

As a Sikh international student from India, languages have been ingrained in my upbringing. I was 4 years old when I could speak 4 languages. Currently reading History and German at Exeter College, University of Oxford, I noticed how much languages impact our daily lives. By being a polyglot, I was able to fit into societies I never encountered before, I was able to bring across my message to a much larger audience and could lend an empathetic listening ear to people from various cultures and backgrounds. Through my ambassador work, I wish to tell every child out there that languages are a powerful tool to connect with the world, to communicate your story, to inspire others but on a more practical side, to also get into a good university and find excellent employment.

In the past year, I participated in two open days and countless school workshops where I noticed how distant certain students feel when they look at an Oxford college and how many misconceptions they carry regarding modern languages. Throughout all the Q&As and presentations that I lead, I recognised how all those barriers were slowly melting down.

MML Student Ambassadors at our Year 9 Languages Day

One of the most memorable moments of my ambassador journey took place during the Year 9 Languages Day at Queen’s College. Over 70 school students attended the day and I recall how a young girl came up to me and pointed out how happy she felt to meet a girl in Oxford who looked like her and also had long braids. She instantly felt more confident and actively participated in all the workshops that day. Looking at her felt like looking at my younger self and I felt happiness knowing that I’m inspiring change but much more than that – I was inspiring hope and confidence. The day ended with everyone being soaked in the study of languages and, in my case, with a full jug of squash, which I managed to spill all over me while transporting it from one workshop room to the other!

Every journey requires mentorship and a support network. I would like to shoutout to all my fellow ambassadors and students I have met on this journey – I loved meeting and greeting each one of you. I would also like to thank the Department of Medieval and Modern Languages, especially Nicola Brown, for everything they have done for ambassadors like me and the next generation of linguists. Their consistent and passionate work will inspire many more students to come!

********

If you’re an MML student at Oxford and would like to be a Student Ambassador for the Faculty, you can apply here. The application deadline is Thursday 3rd November (tomorrow!) at midday.

Final Summer Open Day!

Come and visit us in September to discover what student life at Oxford is really like.

Oxford is once again ready to welcome prospective applicants and their companions! Regardless of which universities you are interested in studying at, open days are an important opportunity for you to get a feel for the cities and/or campuses in which you might be spending three or four years. We recommend visiting lots of different universities if you can to find out which places make you feel most at home.

Here at Oxford, we have our final University-wide Open Day running on Friday 16 September. This day offers an ideal opportunity for you to explore Oxford, find out more about our courses, tour colleges, and quiz our tutors and current students.

It will be busy and you will probably leave feeling that there just wasn’t enough time, but you will also have a really good idea of Oxford and whether it might be the university for you. The secret to open days is definitely planning, so do explore all the information given here.

It is not mandatory to register for an Oxford Open Day, although we strongly recommend that you do in order to receive our university newsletters, full of top tips on how to make the most of your day.

The Taylor Institution Library (commonly known as the Taylorian) 

In terms of Modern Languages, we will be running sessions across these days in the Taylor Institution Librarybetween 10:30am and 3:30pm. These will be a great opportunity to learn about our Modern Languages courses, talk to our tutors from our different languages, tour the Taylorian, and pick up prospectuses.

We do not take bookings for these sessions, but places are allocated on a first come, first served basis. You can take a look at the programme here for more details.

We look forward to welcoming lots of you to Oxford and the Modern Languages Faculty very soon!

********

MFL Teachers – don’t forget! You can:

  • Sign up to our mailing list here to get updates about our schools events and activities, and for a chance to win £100 of vouchers for your department;
  • Learn more about and book on to our MFL Teachers’ Conference (23-24 September) here.

    Any questions: contact us at schools.liaison@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk

Oxford Is Open!

Come and visit us this summer to discover what student life at Oxford is really like.

After two years of online open days, Oxford is once again ready to welcome prospective applicants and their companions! Regardless of which universities you are interested in studying at, open days are an important opportunity for you to get a feel for the cities and/or campuses in which you might be spending three or four years. We recommend visiting lots of different universities if you can to find out which places make you feel most at home.

Here at Oxford, we have University-wide Open Days running on Wednesday 29 June, Thursday 30 June and Friday 16 September. These days offer an ideal opportunity for you to explore Oxford, find out more about our courses, tour colleges and quiz our tutors and current students.

It will be busy and you will probably leave feeling that there just wasn’t enough time, but you will also have a really good idea of Oxford and whether it might be the university for you. The secret to open days is definitely planning, so do explore all the information given here.

It is not mandatory to register for an Oxford Open Day, although we strongly recommend that you do in order to receive our university newsletters, full of top tips on how to make the most of your day.

The Taylor Institution Library (commonly known as the Taylorian) 

In terms of Modern Languages, we will be running sessions across these days in the Taylor Institution Librarybetween 10:30am and 3:30pm. These will be a great opportunity to learn about our Modern Languages courses, talk to our tutors from our different languages, tour the Taylorian, and pick up prospectuses.

We do not take bookings for these sessions, but places are allocated on a first come, first served basis. You can take a look at the programme here for more details.

We look forward to welcoming lots of you to Oxford and the Modern Languages Faculty very soon!

Opportunity Oxford

Students at an Opportunity Oxford event

Today I’d like to introduce you to Opportunity Oxford, our university’s flagship widening participation programme. Modern Languages entered the programme with a pilot scheme last year, and we have more than doubled the number of language students enrolled for this coming summer.

Opportunity Oxford is a bridging course that happens between the time you receive an offer of a place on an undergraduate course with us in January of Year 13 and the start of the degree course itself the following October.

It consists of:

a welcome day in February,

an online academic course in the summer during July and August,

and a two-week residential in Oxford in September.

It’s part of the university’s drive to recruit students with the highest academic potential, whatever their background, and is open to students who are on track to meet the academic requirements of their chosen course and come from either an area with low progression to higher education or an area of socio-economic disadvantage, or both. Among those students, where admissions tutors feel they might welcome some introductory sessions on a few of the study skills needed for the degree course, plus a taste of Oxford student life before the course proper gets underway, they can decide to include an invitation to the Opportunity Oxford bridging programme in the offer of a place on the degree course .

Here are some students on the programme talking about their experience:

If you’re considering applying to Oxford and think you might be interested in or eligible for the bridging programme, then don’t worry: you don’t have to do anything at all from your side. Just apply to Oxford through UCAS in the normal way. If you’re eligible for the programme, we’ll know from the widening participation data that UCAS includes with your application. And then, once admissions interviews are over, if the subject tutors in your college think you might find the scheme helpful, then they’ll include an invitation to take part in Opportunity Oxford with the acceptance letter you receive in January.

You can find more details of what Opportunity Oxford is and how it works here.

We’re looking forward to welcoming this year’s Opportunity Oxford cohort to the bridging course this summer. And among those of you currently in Year 12 and thinking of applying to Oxford later on this year, some will be getting an invitation early next year to join the 2023 bridging course with us.

We’re Back!

We hope you all had a restful break with family and friends over the last couple of weeks, whether you were observing religious traditions or hunting for chocolate in the garden (or both!)

Here at Oxford, Trinity term is already underway and it looks to be another busy one, albeit much sunnier than the last!

To ease us back into the new term, here are a few exciting events and opportunities to get involved in over the next couple of weeks!

******

Modern Languages Subject Day – Tuesday 10th May, Exeter College

If you are a Year 11 or 12 student who is interested in exploring your options for University, then this day is perfect for you! This Subject Day will include opportunities to experience sessions in French, German, Italian, and Spanish. 

To register for your place, please fill out this form, which should take around 5 to 10 minutes to complete. The deadline to apply is Tuesday 3rd May at 9am.

If you have any questions, please contact outreach@exeter.ox.ac.uk.

******

Songs We Learn From Trees – Thursday 5th May, The Queen’s College

On Thursday 5th May, at 4:30-8pm, the Queen’s Translation Exchange are running an in-person workshop and readings based on Songs We Learn from Trees, the first anthology of Amharic poetry in English.

Sign up here to attend!

Sign up for free here to discuss and celebrate Ethiopian poetry in an evening of readings by Ethiopian poets and their translator, followed by a drinks reception.

The event will feature the following poets:

  • Misrak Terefe
  • Bedilu Wakjira
  • Kebedech Tekleab
  • Alemu Tebeje
  • Hama Tuma [virtually]
  • Mihret Kibede [virtually]

with translator and anthology editor, Chris Beckett.

The poets will read from their own and other poets’ work in the anthology, as well as answer any questions the audience may have about the thriving poetry scene in Addis Ababa.

******

Modern Languages Open Day – Saturday 7th May, Examination Schools

There’s still a week left to sign up to attend our in-person Open Day at the Examination Schools, here in Oxford.

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 companions’ Q&A session occurring in the afternoon. Academics, current students and members of staff from the Faculty will all be in attendance to answer your questions and give invaluable insight into studying languages at Oxford. You can view the full event programme here.

Please note that booking for this event is compulsory – you can register your attendance here

******

Modern Languages Summer School – 15th-19th August, Wadham College

Wadham’s annual Summer School programme is an excellent opportunity for Year 12 state school pupils to be an Oxford languages student for a week.

Students on Wadham’s Modern Languages Summer School, taken from Wadham College’s website

Throughout the week, pupils will take part in an academic programme, live in College, meet student ambassadors studying at Oxford, and receive information, advice and guidance on applying to university. 

The Summer School is completely free and Wadham will provide financial support to pupils to cover any travel costs.

You can find out more information and the application form here. Applications are currently open and the deadline to submit is Friday 3rd June at 5pm.

******

Faculty Open Day Reminder

It’s not too late to register your place at our Modern Languages Open Day at the beautiful Examination Schools (75 – 81 High St, Oxford OX1 4BG) on Saturday 7th May!

We’re so excited to be able to hold this event in person again and to welcome prospective students and their families/teachers to Oxford after two long years, and can’t wait to see as many of you there as possible!

The Voltaire Reading Room in the Taylor Institution, the University’s centre for the study of Modern European languages and literatures

As a reminder, our Modern Languages Open Day will cover ALL nine of the languages we offer here at Oxford: French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Portuguese, Modern Greek, Czech, and Polish. Most of our Joint School degree subjects will also be represented. The event is aimed primarily at Year 12 students and their parents/guardians/teachers, but Year 11 students who are starting to consider their options 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 companions’ Q&A session occurring in the afternoon. Academics, current students and members of staff from the Faculty will all be in attendance to answer your questions and give invaluable insight into studying Languages at Oxford.

You can view the full event programme here.

Please note that booking for this event is compulsory – you can register your attendance here. 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 soon!