Category Archives: Applying to study modern languages

Q&A with the tutors

If you’re exploring your options with regard to universities, you probably have lots of questions, perhaps about the different courses on offer or the application process, maybe about the year abroad or what kind of jobs your degree with set you up for. Two of our tutors and Co-Directors of Outreach got together to record some responses to frequently asked questions. Prof. Julie Curtis teaches Russian and Dr Simon Kemp teaches French. Here they are providing some answers to the questions you might have…

FAQs

0:33 What is the standard A Level or equivalent offer for Oxford Modern Languages courses?

01:24 Should I try to take four subjects at A Level? Do you take EPQs into account?

02:50 Can I take a gap year before starting my course?

04:58 What do you look for in a personal statement?

06:29 What do your language tests look like?

08:45 What schoolwork should I send in?

10:13 What happens in an interview?

12:57 How should I choose a college?

15:07 If I study two languages are they both studied up to the same level? What if I take one of those languages frm scratch?

17:00 How does a ‘joint school’ affect the Modern Language?

18:57 How do I plan my year abroad? When I’m on it, how do I keep up my studies in the other subject?

22:54 What careers do Modern Languages graduates go on to have?

Student Q&A

Today would have been an Oxford open day, a date we look forward to every year as a chance to meet lots of prospective students and tell them why we think studying languages at Oxford is special. This year, that open day sadly can’t go ahead but some of our current students have come to the rescue!

We know that meeting the undergraduates is one of the best ways to really get a feel for what it’s like to study at Oxford, to feel part of the community and to hear from someone who has been in your shoes not so long ago. We asked eight of our current students some questions that we are frequently asked at open days. They are studying different languages, are at different stages in their degrees, and are at different colleges – we hope this will help you to get a sense of the variety of student experiences here at Oxford. And, of course, we do hope to meet you one day!

Why Literature?

Something we get asked about a lot at open days is the amount of literature on the Oxford Modern Languages course. Prospective students usually want to know how far the course focuses on literature and what the benefits of literary study are. Literature is certainly an important part of a Modern Languages degree at Oxford, and if you study with us you will do at least some literature as part of your course. But you’ll also have the chance to explore other areas, such as film, linguistics, theory, or translation, depending on the language you are studying.

Check out this video from Dr Alice Brooke, tutor in Spanish, for a deeper insight into the role of literature in an Oxford Modern Languages degree…

An Overview of Modern Languages at Oxford

Last Saturday would have been our main open day for Medieval and Modern Languages at Oxford. It’s an event we normally look forward to delivering because it’s an exciting chance to meet lots of prospective students and share with them our passion for studying languages and cultures, as well as introducing them to what it’s like to be a student at Oxford. We’re sad not to have been able to host that open day this year but the happy news is that we are creating some online content to replicate what we would have said, had the event gone ahead as planned.

First up, our Co-Director of Outreach and Schools Liaison Officer for French, Dr Simon Kemp, has recorded an overview of Modern Languages at Oxford: the different courses that are available, what they entail, and why Oxford is unique.

If you were thinking about coming along to the May open day, or to the open days in July (which have also, unfortunately, been cancelled), do check out the presentation below. We would also recommend checking out the video introduction to the course here. We’ll be posting more open day material on here in the coming weeks and we sincerely hope to meet you one day!

Open Days – what to expect

Last month, we brought you news that our open days are coming up in the next few weeks and months. As a reminder the dates are:

You need to book a place for all the open days above in February, March, and May, but you do not need to book for the July and September dates. You can make a booking here.

But you might be wondering what can I expect from an open day? How can I make the most out of my day? Which kind of open day is right for me?

Summer Open Days

Last year, we gave a detailed overview of the university-wide open days in the summer, which you can read here. Most of this advice will also pertain to the 2020 open days in July and September (although note that the dates are different from last year!). This is the right open day for you if you want to explore a few different colleges in one day, or if you’re not sure which subject you’re interested in, as most colleges and departments will be open on these dates. There’s a real buzz around these events but we highly recommend planning your day in advance as the city gets very busy!

Alex, who is currently in his second year of a degree in French and History, has this piece of advice for students coming to the summer open days: ” One piece of advice I have for prospective joint schools applicants would be to research which colleges do not offer your preferred combination before you attend a university-wide open day. That way, you’ll be able to prioritise visiting just the colleges which offer your degree, saving time on the open day and hugely simplifying the daunting college selection process!”

Language-specific open days

However, the Modern Languages-specific open days in the spring are a little different…

First, they include more academic content than a wider open day: because the smaller open days are so focussed in their scope, they can spend more time exploring a subject in depth. So, for example, on the German open day you can have an introduction to German film, linguistics, or different types of literature. On the Spanish and Portuguese open day, you can explore women’s writing in both languages, as well as begin to explore other peninsular languages like Catalan and Galician. The Italian open day will introduce you to one of Italian literature’s biggest names, Dante, and on the Slavonic languages open day you can learn about Czech pop stars!

While the bigger open days will provide a wealth of information about the courses we offer, as well as offer a fantastic opportunity to meet our students and tutors, the sheer scale of these bigger events limits the time and space we have to get stuck in academically. That’s why, if you already know you’re interested in a particualr language, we would encourage you to come along to a language-specific event if you can, as it will really give you a flavour of what it’s actually like to study at Oxford.

Second, the pace of the smaller open days is a little slower. While on the big summer open days you might find yourself rushing around the city, trying to fit in visits to three or four colleges and a couple of departments, the smaller open days are more measured and you will be escorted from one venue to the next. This gives you the time to have in-depth conversations with current undergraduates and tutors and to take in your surroundings.

Nadia, a current student, says: “I went on a Modern Languages Open Day. I found it very useful in giving me useful information on the course structure for both single and joint honours and helpful towards giving advice for the Oxbridge process for the admissions testing and courage to take my subject beyond the classroom. It was useful to also have taster sessions, which I found really enjoyable. It is an encouraging experience, so I would tell students on edge on whether to apply to go to these days as it will give you a gist whether the course and the place is the ‘best place’ for you.”

The general Modern Languages open day

If you’re interested in more than one language, or in studying a language in combination with another subject, you might consider coming to our general Modern Languages open day in May. The advantage of this event is that it offers both a wide overview of Modern Languages at Oxford in the morning, witha chance to ask questions about admissions, and plenty of time to speak to tutors from each language in the afternoon. You can therefore be exposed to more than one language but avoid the time pressures that can sometimes affect the summer open days.

So, if you would like to know more about several languages but you’re not able to attend more than one language-specific open day, this event will be a good opportunity for you to explore different options. There is also a separate Q&A especially for parents.

Fred, who is in his first year studying French and Linguistics, says: “I attended the Modern Languages open day in the May before I applied. I found it useful to understand how the individual subjects that interested me fit into the faculty as a whole, and how the faculty fit into the wider university. As someone applying for a more obscure subject (linguistics), the open day was a good opportunity to find out about the specifics of the course (how the teaching works, what module choices are available in second year) and meet the tutors in a more intimate environment.”

We hope that has given you a sense of which kind of open day might be best for you. Our top tips for any open day are:

  • plan your day in advance, particularly your route to and around Oxford. The city is not very car-friendly and open days can be congested so you will want to research transport options well in advance.
  • research the degrees ahead of time. The University outlines its courses online. Come to an open day with a list of questions to make best use of your time spent with the tutors.
  • talk to our current students. They have been in your shoes in the last couple of years and they remember what it’s like to be making a big decision about your future. Their advice will be friendly, honest and a fair reflection of what it’s really like to study at Oxford.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The tutors are very happy to talk to you about the degree, the way they teach, and how to apply. If something is worrying you or you’re not sure, we would much rather you ask for clarification or advice. As always, we’re happy to answer any questions about the degree(s) we offer and the admissions process if you email schools.liaison@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk

Hope to see some of you at one of our open days very soon!

Received an offer from Oxford? Here’s some pointers.

This post was written by Ben, a first-year student in French and Spanish at St Hilda’s College. Reflecting on where he was a year ago, at which point he had just received his offer from St Hilda’s, Ben has some handy advice forYear 13 students who have received an offer to study at Oxford.

With a history spanning longer than that of the United Kingdom, a rich diversity of colleges each functioning in a slightly different manner, and the bragging rights of being known as the ‘place where Harry Potter was filmed’, the University of Oxford might appear to be shrouded in mystery and magic. Perhaps it’s for this very reason that all those on the inside (myself included) are consistently asked variations on the question, “what’s it like to be an Oxford student?”.

In a somewhat ironic turn of events, it’s this very question I found myself pondering about this time last year. Following the eternity that the month or so awaiting a response after interviews seems to last, I received that fateful email confirming my place to study French and Spanish at my current college, St Hilda’s. Relief, joy, excitement, uncertainty, a faint nervousness – these are all emotions I would use to describe my reaction to that moment, and emotions I’m certain that some of you kind enough to be reading this blog will be all too familiar with right now, offer obtained, yet unsure as to what to expect.

Photo by Sidharth Bhatia on Unsplash

Thankfully, help is at hand. Now a term into my first year, perhaps the benefit of hindsight will help to shine some light on the process of receiving an offer from Oxford. Here are ­­four pieces of advice if you do so happen to be about to embark on your journey with the University.

1. If you have been made an offer by a college different to the one you originally applied for, don’t sweat it. Whilst it is true that each has a different atmosphere, every student I have spoken to in the first year already cherishes the college that they have ended up at. And this isn’t just smooth phrasing copied and pasted from the university website, no – I’m speaking from personal experience. I myself originally applied to another college, and if I can settle in perfectly, you most certainly will too.

2. Keep an eye on your inbox. Oxford’s team of tutors and academics will often give you advice and support from the moment you’re made an offer – be that in the form of answers to any academic questions you may have, or reading lists to prepare you for the course. If you haven’t turned on notifications for your email app, now’s the time.

3. Go to an offer holder day. Many colleges will run a day specifically designed for the incoming year group. Meet others you may well be sharing a tutorial with, grill those already on the course, perhaps even just get to know the college a little better – regardless of how you spend it, it’s an event well worth attending.

4. Join Freshers’ pages. Oxford students come from a wide range of different places, yet that distance is nothing social media can’t handle. Prospective language students’ group chats are particularly lively, and a great way to meet people if talking to those on the offer holder day is just too twentieth century.

To finish this blog, whilst it may seem daunting at first, arguably the most important piece of advice is that of not panicking. Both your college and other students are fully aware that everything is novel, and that the jump from Sixth Form to university requires some getting used to. Surprising though it may sound, Freshers’ Week is in this sense far more than a social event: it will give you all the valuable information you could possibly need, settling any doubts whose answers you haven’t already found.

And so for now at least, as the expression goes, ‘keep calm and carry on’.

Oxford is open!

If you’re considering your university choices, one of the best ways to get a feel for different universities is to visit them. To that end, we offer a number of open days for propspective students – a chance for you to meet current students and tutors, look around the facilities, find out about the course and the lifestyle, and get a taster of what it’s like to study a particular subject at that university.

In the Medieval and Modern Languages Faculty at Oxford, we organise several different kinds of open day: some are small open days for individual languages, where you can attend sample lectures and immerse yourself in a specific language; we also run a big open day in May which covers all of our languages in one day, offering an overview of Modern Languages at Oxford and Q&A sessions for the different languages and joint degrees; and finally, there are University-wide open days in the summer when most of the departments and colleges are open so that you can get a sense of the University as a whole.

Below you will find the dates of our 2020 open days. You need to book a place on the language-specific open days and on the main Modern Languages open day, but you do not need to book for the university-wide summer open days. You can book here.

  • German, Saturday 29 February
  • Spanish and Portuguese, Friday 6 March
  • Russian and other Slavonic Languages, Saturday 7 March
  • Italian, Saturday 14 March
  • General Modern Languages (all languages we offer and joint schools), Saturday 2 May
  • University-wide open days, Weds 1 and Thurs 2 July, Friday 20 September

Programmes for each of these open days are available here. Please note that there is no specific open day for French: students interested in French should attend the open day in May or one of the open days in July or September.

Stay tuned for more posts about open days – what to expect and how to prepare – but, in the meantime, if you’d like to meet us in person do book a place on one of these events. If you have any questions please get in touch at schools.liaison@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk and we look forward to meeting you later in the year!

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.