Category Archives: Applying to study modern languages

Last chance to visit us before summer!

Next Wednesday and Thursday we see the final open days before the summer holiday. These open days are taking place across almost the whole university, with most colleges and departments opening their doors to meet prospective students and their parents, carers, companions, or teachers. Here’s what you need to know…

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?

Many students find that attending an open day is the best way to get a feel for the university. These events are opportunities to find out information about the various courses Oxford offers, discover the college system, perhaps go on a few college tours, ask the tutors and current students any questions you might have, and learn about fees and funding, and the application process.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

The university is made up of different colleges and departments, as well as central bodies. Colleges are your home when you’re in Oxford: some of your teaching is likely to take place there, and you would live in college for at least part of your degree. Colleges are small, supportive environments where you can study, socialise, and feel part of an intimate community. Facilities often include: accommodation, a dining hall or cafeteria, a library, tutors’ teaching rooms, music rooms, laundry rooms, and a common room (known as the JCR). Departments are where your subject is based e.g. ‘Modern Languages’. Some of your teaching will take place in the department, and there is usually a departmental library.
The great thing about the July open days is that all the colleges and most departments are open to prospective students at the same time, so you can really get a feel for the different constituent parts of Oxford University. Departments will be running talks on the courses they offer, and on admissions, which will often take place in the morning. Colleges will also be offering talks and tours of their grounds, as well as opportunities for parents to talk to college staff, and for you to find out more about funding opportunities, adjustments made for disabilities, and the welfare system.
Every department and college will have a slightly different way of running their open days and will have different things on offer. Information on topics like bursaries, career pathways, admissions, options for mature students and options for international students will also be available centrally at the Examination Schools. It’s really worth doing some planning in advance and identifying a couple of key talks you would like to attend or colleges you might like to explore, as the city gets very busy on open days and you’ll find yourself pressed for time. That said, you can often just wander in on an open day if a particular college catches your eye.

Full the full list of talks and tours offered across the University, see the open day guide.

 

WHEN?

The open days are on Wednesday 3 and Thursday 4 July.

There will be different timings for different departments and colleges. The Modern Languages programme is available here. We’ll be running formal talks on Medieval and Modern Languages at Oxford at 10.30-11.30 and 2.30-3.30 (the afternoon talk is a repeat of the morning). You don’t need to book for these: we’ll be letting people in on a first-come, first-served basis so just make sure you arrive in plenty of time.

We’ll also be running a drop-in session from 11.30 to 12.30. This is your chance to ask the tutors any questions you might have about the degree.

WHERE?

Everywhere! The open days really do take place all across central Oxford: you’ll probably find that you cover a fair amount of ground as you explore. If you’re not fully mobile, you might consider planning your route between colleges and departments quite carefully using the open day map, and it could also be worth contacting the departments or colleges you would like to visit in advance so that they can advise you about accessible entrances to venues. Oxford’s Access Guide is available here.

The Modern Languages events will take place at The Taylor Institution (number 22 on the map) on St Giles. This building is also the home of our Modern Languages library, and library tours will be running between 9.15 and 10am, and between 12.45 and 2pm.

TRAVEL TO OXFORD

Open days are very busy events and the city sees a high volume of traffic, as well as more congestion on trains and bus routes. Parking in Oxford is extremely difficult. If you are planning to drive to Oxford, we would suggest you use the park and ride facilities and allow plenty of time for your journey. There’s lots of travel advice for open days available here. Helpers will also be stationed at the Park and Ride, and the Railway station to offer advice. You might be able to benefit from help with the cost of travelling to an open day. See here for more information.

WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION?

You can find out all about the Oxford open days on the university’s website. We’d love to meet any prospective students and their parents, carers, or teachers at the open days. If you can’t make it this time, there will be a final open day on Friday 20 September. And if that’s also not an option for you, we’re always happy to answer questions from prospective students – get in touch at schools.liaison@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk.

German at Oxford – the view from the ground

This week we’re highlighting a number of videos that offer glimpses of German at Oxford. German is one of our bigger languages and is currently offered at twenty-three colleges (although not all colleges will offer German in combination with every other language or subject). For a list of which colleges offer the different language and subject combinations, see here.

First, we hear from Prof. Almut Suerbaum, Fellow in Tutor in German at Somerville College. Prof. Suerbaum teaches a range of topics as part of the undergraduate degree. These include: German language; German literature, specialising in medieval culture; religious writing, medieval drama and prose narrative, gender, and theory of translation.

Next, we can hear from two students: Martha studied German and History, also at Somerville College, and graduated last year; Nyasha studies German at St John’s College.


We’re very grateful to Somerville and St John’s for putting these videos together, and we hope they have given you an insight into German at Oxford and perhaps whet your appetite for more!

 

Open Days – the big one

We had a lovely time meeting lots of you at our open days for German, Spanish and Portuguese, Slavonic Languages, and Italian in February and March. However, for those of you who were not able to join us at these events, or those of you who are interested in languages not represented at those events, we have another open day on the horizon and we would love to meet any and all prospective students. This is particularly true for Year 12 students, but you are equally welcome if you are in Year 11 and are starting to explore your options.

This open day will cover ALL of our languages: French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Portuguese, Modern Greek, Czech, and Polish. Most of the joint school degrees will also be represented.* It will offer an overview of the degree, Q&A sessions for indidivdual languages, and a chance to chat to current students and tutors.

The open day will take place at the Examination Schools on the High Street on Saturday 4 May. A full programme is below. Booking is compulsory – at this link. We hope to see many of you there!

 

 

*Joint degrees with Linguistics, English, History, and Philosophy will be in attendance, with Classics TBC. Students interested in the degree in European and Middle Eastern Languages should note that the Faculty of Oriental Studies will also hold an open day on the same date. You are therefore advised to visit both the Medieval and Modern Languages open day and the  Oriental Studies open day in the same trip. A programme and booking details for the Oriental Studies open day can be found here.

Another open day – Italian

This week, we bring you news of yet another open day we have coming up later in the Spring. You may remember that we posted a few weeks ago about our German open day, which will take place on Saturday 23 February, our Spanish & Portuguese open day, which will take place on Thursday 28 February, and our open day for Russian and other Slavonic Languages, which will take place on Saturday 2 March. You can book for all of those events at this link.

Now some good news for the enthusiastic Italianists out there – our Italian open day will take place on Saturday 9 March at our beautiful Modern Languages Library, the Taylor Institution. As well as offering an overview of the Italian undergraduate course at Oxford, and guidance about how to apply and different options for the year abroad, the day will offer prospective students a chance to attend mini-lectures on ‘Dante’s Ulysses’ and  ‘Reading Italian’. These lectures will be suitable both for people who are studying Italian at A Level or equivalent, and those who are interested in picking up Italian from scratch. They are designed to give you a flavour of two different elements of the degree – the literature and the language. There will also be a separate Q&A for parents and companions. This day is a great chance to talk to current tutors and students about what it’s really like to study Italian at Oxford. If you are interested in attending, please book a place here. Here is the full programme…

More open days – come and try us out

A couple of weeks ago, we posted about our upcoming German open day, a chance for you to learn about the German course at Oxford. This week, we continue the theme by bringing you news of our open days in Spanish and Portuguese (Thursday 28 February at The Queen’s College), and Russian and other Slavonic Languages (Saturday 2 March at Wadham College).

As with the German open day, these events are a fantastic opportunity for you to explore what an Oxford degree in those languages looks like. They offer a mixture of academic tasters so you can get a feel for the content of the degree, information about applying to Oxford, and interactions with tutors and current students, who will be happy to answer any questions you have about languages at Oxford.

Highlights of the Spanish and Portuguese open day include: an introduction to Portuguese in 15 minutes, an introduction to other peninsular languages (Catalan and Galician – for more on Galician, see our post here); a spotlight on Portuguese-speaking Africa; and a Spanish Translation workshop.

Highlights of the open day in Russian and other Slavonic Languages include: a mini lecture on ‘Home from home: Russian writers in interwar Paris’; a mini lecture on ‘Russian Grammar in Time and Space’; and a parallel discussion for parents and teachers.

The open days are open to anyone in Year 12 who is interested in studying those languages at Oxford, including if you are interested in picking up the language from scratch (with the exception of Spanish, which we do not offer from scratch). Sessions will be suitable for learners who have no prior knowledge of the language, as well as those hoping to apply post-A Level. There are a limited number of places for accompanying parents and teachers. The events are free of charge but a place must be booked through the faculty’s website.

The full programmes are below, or available to view at https://www.mod-langs.ox.ac.uk/schools/meet-us

a uniq opportunity

We’ve posted on here before about UNIQ, Oxford University’s flagship outreach programme. The UNIQ programme, which is for Year 12 students at UK state schools/ colleges, is a fantastic opportunity to immerse yourself in the Oxford environment, sample some of our teaching, and try out life as an Oxford student. The big news this year is that UNIQ has expanded and the University is now able to take double the amount of students for this programme than in previous years. So if you’re in your first year of further education and are thinking Oxford might be for you, send in your application to UNIQ by 28 January 2019. Read on to find out more or check out the UNIQ website….

What is UNIQ?

UNIQ is open to students studying in their first year of further education, who are based at UK state schools/colleges. Students make a single application between December and January and can be selected to participate in one of two activities: UNIQ Digital or UNIQ Spring and Summer.

UNIQ Spring and Summer gives you a taste of the Oxford undergraduate student experience. You will live in an Oxford college for a week, attend lectures and seminars in your chosen subject area, and receive expert advice on the Oxford application and interview process. The timetable also allows plenty of time for social activities; in the evenings you are free to tour the city, sample some of the University’s sports and cultural facilities, and let your hair down at the farewell party.

UNIQ Digital provides comprehensive information and guidance on the university admissions process, and aims to give you a realistic view of Oxford student life through videos, activities and quizzes. The platform offers a range of forums where you can discuss both academic and social topics. These forums are monitored by student ambassadors, who are always on hand to answer questions and offer support.

What does this look like for Modern Languages?

The in-person Modern Languages UNIQ courses have been slightly restructured during the UNIQ expansion. This year, we will be offering courses in French, German, and Spanish, with each of those courses also incorporating an introduction to a language from scratch (Italian, Portuguese, Russian, or German*). What this means is that you will apply for a course in French, German, or Spanish but you will effectively cover two languages during the summer school. The first two days of the course will be spent focussing on the language you study at A Level (or equivalent), including sessions to hone your language skills and knowledge of grammar, as well as lectures and seminars introducing you to an exciting array of topics in literature, culture, or linguistics, from the medieval period to the present day. During the final two days, meanwhile, you will be given the opportunity to study an unfamiliar language from scratch, learning some beginners’ grammar and new phrases, and exploring a new culture through its literature, film, or linguistics. The dates for the Modern Languages UNIQ courses are 14 – 18 July and 21 – 25 July.

* Participants will be allocated to a ‘new’ language by us. Those already studying German at school will not be allocated to German as a new language.

How do I apply?

To be eligible for UNIQ you must be studying in your first year of further education at a UK state school or college and you must reside in the UK. For Modern Languages UNIQ courses, we would expect you to be studying the language for which you apply to A2 Level. Although we would generally expect you to have high GCSE grades, we are aware that, sometimes, circumstances arise which mean you do not perform to the best of your ability at GCSE. If this is the case, you should fill in the extenuating circumstances section of the application form. This doesn’t guarantee you a place on UNIQ, but when we look at the applications we will take this into account.

You should apply online through the UNIQ website. You will need:

  • At least six GCSE/National 5 (or equivalent) qualifications, with a preference for 8-9/A-A* grades
  • A short statement detailing interest in your chosen course
  • School Information (Current UK state school/college and a past school)
  • Your current A-level/Scottish Higher (or equivalent) courses
  • Contact details of a current teaching referee
  • Contact details of a parent/guardian referee

You will receive an email on the 25 February containing the result of your application.

Good Luck!

calling all germanists: come and meet us…

Happy New Year from Adventures on the Bookshelf! To kick off the blog in 2019, we’re diving in at the deep end and bringing you news of our German open day. If you’re thinking about applying to study German as an undergraduate at Oxford, this is an excellent opportunity to meet some of the tutors, try out a couple of academic taster sessions which will give you a flavour of what it’s like to study German, and take a look around Oxford. See below for the full details and programme. If you would like to attend, please book a place via our website.

What? The 2019 German Open Day, designed to showcase the Oxford German course and answer any questions you might have.

Who? If you study German at school and would like to continue it at university, this is your chance to see what degree-level German is like, and how we go about teaching it. But equally, even if you do not already study German but think it could be something you’d like to pick up at university, this event is a chance for you to ask any questions about studying German from scratch, and see whether it’s for you. In short, all budding Germanists are welcome, regardless of whether you have already studied German in the past.

Where? The event will start and finish at the Taylor Institution on St Giles, and the middle portion of the day will be spent at Worcester College.

When? Saturday 23 February 2019, 10:30am – 3pm

How? Book a place by registering on our website and signing up for the event.

Here’s the programme…

Keep your eyes peeled for our other open days coming up later in the term.

So what happens in an Oxford interview?

Last week we took you through the practicalities of coming to an interview at Oxford. This week we’ll delve into the interview itself, breaking down what you might typically expect from a Modern Languages interview.  What we cover here is an outline of the general format of Modern Languages interviews but you should be aware that practice can vary a little between colleges. It is worth bearing in mind that the interview is not designed to trick you or make you stumble: it aims to stretch you intellectually and give the tutors an insight into the way you think and your motivation for applying for the degree.

The Format

  • You will have at least two interviews, possibly more, each lasting around twenty minutes. This is so that you have ‘two bites of the apple’, as it were. We know that candidates commonly get nervous during interviews and may not always feel they have performed at their best. Having two interviews gives you two chances to demonstrate what you can do and optimises your chance of showing us your best side.
  • Your initial interviews will be in the college that is hosting you or, occasionally, they might be conducted centrally in the Modern Languages department itself.
  • However, you might also find that other colleges want to interview you in a system we call ‘pooling’. This means that all the languages tutors across all the colleges can view your application and can request to see you. You shouldn’t read anything into this. It does not mean that your first college has rejected you. It simply means that colleges are keeping lots of options open to them. Again, it is another chance for you to show us your best.
  • There will be at least two interviewers in the room. They may split the questioning 50/50 or one may take the lead while another takes notes. Don’t let this faze you – it’s just policy. They will start by introducing themselves and explaining the format of the interview. Some might shake your hand. Others might not. Again, don’t overthink this: whether or not you shake a tutor’s hand will not affect your chance of getting in.
  • The interview is likely to be split into two or three parts, depending on whether you are applying for the language from scratch or post-A Level (or equivalent).
  • If you are studying the language at A Level or equivalent, there will be some conversation in the target language. This is likely to be just three or four minutes and is another chance for us to assess your linguistic skills. We’re not looking for perfection or fluency. We are simply expecting an ability to speak in the target language at the standard expected of a candidate who is predicted a grade A at A Level. We will be assessing your language skills alongside your written work submission and your performance in the MLAT, so this is not the be all and end all.
  • If you are applying for a language ab initio (from scratch) don’t worry, we will not ask you to hold a conversation in that language!
  • Regardless of whether you are applying for a language ab initio or post-A Level, you will probably be asked to do an exercise in close reading. You will be given a text about 20-30 minutes before the interview and asked to read and think about it. This may be a poem or an extract of prose. It is unlikely to be longer than a side of A4. Practice does vary a little between colleges as to whether this text will be in the target language: some may give you a text in English; some may give you a text in the target language with an English translation; some may give you a text in the target language and also provide a dictionary or vocab. list, or invite you to ask about any words you don’t understand at the start of the interview. If you are applying for a language from scratch you will  be given a version of the text in English.
  • Use your preparation time to read the text fully, make notes if you like, and draw some initial conclusions from the text. Ask yourself not only ‘what are my first impressions?’ but, more importantly, ‘why and how are those impressions created?’
  • The tutors will ask you about the text for around ten minutes.
  • There will also be some general conversation as part of the interview. During this portion of the interview you might be asked to talk about: academic work you have completed in the last year or two; any relevant wider reading or work experience you might have done; subject-related issues that are very readily visible in the wider world (you will NOT be expected to have an intricate knowledge of current affairs); things you have mentioned in your personal statement.

Top Tips

  • The first thing to remember is that the interview simulates a tutorial. Tutorial-style teaching is really the USP of Oxford and Cambridge: it is a method of teaching that focuses on discussion in very small groups (usually a tutor and two or three students) on a more-or-less weekly basis. The interview is a way for us to see how you would fare in this type of teaching environment.
  • As such, we are interested in seeing your ability to contribute to an academically challenging discussion: this will partly be a matter of forming, expressing and, at times, defending your opinions on a particular topic, but we will also want to see your ability to think analytically, to read perceptively, and to be flexible in your thinking.
  • Try not to be too rigid in your approach. Be open to receiving new information and to changing your opinion based on that information if appropriate.
  • Go back and re-read your personal statement – there is a good chance you will be asked about it. Make sure you can talk about any books or films you have mentioned, or explain your interests further.
  • Decisions are not based on your manners, appearance, or background, but on your ability to think independently and to engage with new ideas beyond what you have learnt in school.
  • The questions will be focused and challenging but this is not a trap and it is not a vocabulary test. If there is anything you are unsure about, whether that’s the questions you are being asked or a particular word you might not understand, it is absolutely fine to ask the tutors to repeat or clarify their question.

So that’s a rundown of Modern Languages interviews at Oxford. It’s a lot to think about and we understand you may justifiably be feeling a little nervous. Of course, not everyone who is interviewed can be offered a place, and we know that this can be disheartening. But remember, you have already done incredibly well to reach interview stage. Whatever the outcome of your application, you should be proud of what you have achieved simply by getting into the room. Above all, try to enjoy the process – it’s not every day you will have the undivided attention of world-leading experts in your subject who are interested in what YOU have to say.

Check out our other interview related posts on this blog by clicking the ‘interviews’ tag. All that remains to be said is good luck!

Oxford Interviews: the Practicalities

A few weeks ago we published an admissions checklist for everyone applying to Oxford in this admissions round. By now you should have submitted your UCAS application, sat the admissions test(s) or ‘MLAT’, and be about to submit your written work, the deadline for which is this Saturday, 10 November.

You’re probably now beginning to turn your attention to the interview. For many candidates, interviews are the scariest part of the process. Today we’ll walk you though the practical elements of the interview period. Stay tuned for a break down of the academic aspects of Modern Languages interviews, which we’ll cover next week.  

The Practical Stuff

  • Interviews for Modern Languages courses take place between Tuesday 4 and Saturday 7 December 2018. Precise dates will depend on which course you have applied for, but take a look at the interview timetable here.
  • Shortlisting for interviews happens in mid- to late- November. The college considering your application will write to you indicating whether or not you have been invited for interview, and the practical details. You may not receive this until a week before the interviews are due to take place. Usually the college contacting you will be the college to which you have applied. If you made an open application, it will be the college to which you have been allocated. Sometimes you might be invited to interview by a different college than that to which you applied: this is because we reallocate some candidates during the process to ensure an even spread of applicants across the colleges and give you the best chance of getting an offer.
  • You will be asked to come to Oxford for several days. Dates will be confirmed in your invitation letter or email. Once you arrive you will find out when your interview(s) will take place.
  • Your accommodation and meals during this period will be provided free of charge by the college which has invited you.
  • During your time in the college, undergraduate helpers will be around to meet you and advise you. They will take you to your interviews so you don’t get lost, and they are always happy to have a friendly chat and facilitate social activities in the times between interviews. You can see a helper’s account of the interview period here.
  • Most colleges will have a hub where candidates are encouraged to spend time when they are not in interviews. This hub is a social environment, often with TV, games, and other activities. Feel free to take this time to meet new people, ask the student helpers any questions, and essentially try to have fun!
  • If you have any additional needs, the college will support you. Mentioning your disability or specific learning difficulty will not affect your application: admissions decisions are made on academic grounds alone.

Join us next week when we’ll discuss the academic aspects of the Modern Languages interview at Oxford.

Admissions Checklist

It’s that time of year when we are looking forward to receiving lots of applications from prospective students so we thought it would be useful to include an Oxford admissions checklist on this week’s blog. Year 13 students: if you are thinking of applying make sure you have prepared for all the points below. Year 12 students: it’s never too soon to start thinking about your applications for next year.

Step 1: UCAS application – remember that the deadline for Oxford is earlier than the usual UCAS deadline. Submit your application by 6pm on 15 October 2018.
You’ve probably been hard at work on your UCAS application for a little while now and will know that it consists of: your actual grades (e.g. GCSE), your predicted grades (A Level or equivalent), your personal statement, and a reference from your teacher. Here are some key things to remember about the personal statement…

  • You’ll submit the same personal statement for all the universities you apply to. Therefore, focus on the course/ subject, not the universities.
  • Show us your academic ability and potential, and your commitment to the subject. It’s not enough just to say that you have a passion for something: you need to show how you have engaged with your subject, above and beyond schoolwork.
  • Only mention your extracurricular activities if they are relevant to the subject for which you are applying. We want to see how your interests beyond school have helped to stretch you academically or motivate you to pursue your subject.
  • Be honest and be yourself – we’re interested in you as an individual. Also remember that this is not the time for false modesty – feel free to sell yourself!
  • Don’t list qualifications like your GCSE grades or anything else that’s covered elsewhere on the application.
  • Be sure to re-read your personal statement before an interview – the tutors may ask you to talk about things you’ve mentioned.

Step 2: Admissions Tests. The deadline to register for a test is also 6pm on 15 October. Your schools or test centre must register you. Ask your school or test centre for your candidate number now so that you know you have been registered.

  • You will sit the test in your school or test centre on Wednesday 31 October.
  • For Modern Languages, you must take a test in each language you apply for which you are studying at A Level or equivalent. For example, if you are applying for French and German and are sitting an A Level in both of these languages, you will take the tests in French and German. If, on the other hand, you are applying for French and Italian ‘ab initio’ (from scratch), and you will only have the A Level in French, you do not need to take the Italian test.
  • For languages for which you are applying post-A Level, the test is a grammar test, so it’s useful to start revising things like tenses, prepositions, subjunctives, adjectival agreement etc. The test is not designed to be a vocabulary test and there are likely to be words you don’t know: do not worry about this. We are not expecting a perfect score – we just want to get a sense of how solid a grammatical foundation you have in your language at the point of application.
  • If you are applying for a language from scratch you will need to take the Language Aptitude Test (LAT). This takes a made-up language and asks you to spot patterns and rules within that language, based on some sample sentences. We are interested in your instinct for language learning and your ability to spot potential grammatical structures based on the internal logic of a language. There are examples of this and other admissions tests online – have a practice in timed conditions so you get used to the exercises.
  • If you are applying for a ‘joint schools’ degree (a language in combination with another subject: English, History, Classics, Middle Eastern Languages, Linguistics, Philosophy) you may need to take additional tests in those subjects. Check here for details.

Step 3: Written Work. The college considering your application will contact you about submitting written work. The deadline for submission is 10 November. You will need to complete a written work cover sheet for each piece of work that you submit.

  • For Modern Languages, you will need to submit one piece in each language you intend to study, and in which you will have A Level standard (or equivalent) before university.
  • AND one piece in English (e.g. an essay on literature, history…)
  • If you are applying for a joint schools degree you will need to check what schoolwork is required for those subjects.
  • The work you send in should be your original school or college work, marked by a teacher, and not re-written or corrected in any way. It may be typed or handwritten – as long as it is legible – and photocopies are acceptable.
  • We would expect the piece in English to be no more than 2,000 words.
  • The piece in the Modern language can be much shorter: we would recommend around 300-500 words.

Step 4: Interviews. These take place in early December and, for many applicants, are the scariest part of the process. We’ll do another blog post in the coming weeks about interviews so stay tuned…

Step 5: Decisions! You will be told if you have an offer on 9 January 2019.

Best of luck to everyone who is applying. Remember, you can always ask us any questions you might have about admissions by emailing schools.liaison@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk