Category Archives: Applying to study modern languages

Modern Languages Residential Opportunity

Oriel College is excited to be hosting four one-night Residential Programmes over the Easter holidays!

Their Modern Languages and Linguistics Study Day, aimed at students considering degrees in various combinations of Modern Languages or Modern Languages and Linguistics, is taking place on 25-26th March.

The programme is designed to support Year 12 students from non-selective state schools in the UK who are considering degrees at highly selective universities like the University of Oxford. Participants will experience subject sessions, applications workshops, and opportunities to work with academics at the University of Oxford.

All expenses (accommodation at Oriel, meals, and activities) will be funded by the college. Reasonable travel costs to Oxford to attend a residential programme will also be reimbursed.

Oriel College

Who can apply?

Residential Programme applicants must satisfy all of the following criteria:

  • Currently in Year 12 at a UK state school
  • Predicted A-Level grades equivalent to the University of Oxford’s standard offer for the relevant course (see the university website for full details)
  • Interested in studying a degree level course in Modern Languages or Modern Languages and Linguistics.

Previous programmes have been oversubscribed, so applications will also be prioritised based on the following criteria:

  • Studying at a non-selective (comprehensive) state school
  • Studying at a school with limited history of progression to Oxbridge
  • Home postcode
  • Receipt of Free School Meals/Pupil Premium

Applicants are also welcome to notify the college of any other relevant personal circumstances in the sign-up form.

Apply now!

The application form is available here. The closing date for applications for is midnight on Saturday 9th March 2024.

If you have any questions about the programme, please email the Outreach Officer for Oriel College, Arron O’Connor, via outreach@oriel.ox.ac.uk.

BAME HUMANITIES STUDY DAY 2024 – APPLY NOW!

Following a successful four-year run, Oxford’s University College, Magdalen College, and the Faculties of History and Modern Languages are delighted to announce that the virtual BAME Humanities Study Day will return for 2024 on Thursday 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.

This year, the day will open with a welcome and an introduction to the humanities subjects from current students followed by the opportunity to attend two humanities subject lectures. Students will learn more about the Oxford application process in our subject-specific admissions workshops. The day will conclude with a live student life Q&A where you will have the opportunity to ask your questions to current Oxford students from BAME backgrounds.  

Screenshot of the Q&A with undergraduates from the 2021 Humanities Study Day

For the academic lectures, students will be able to choose from the following subjects: ClassicsEnglishHistoryHistory of ArtModern LanguagesMusicAsian and Middle Eastern StudiesMusicPhilosophy or Theology. You will be able to specify your preferred subjects on the event’s application form below.

Last year, students chose to attend academic taster lectures on fascinating topics such as:

  • Myths and Counter-Myths: Roman Imperialism and French Colonialism in North Africa (Classics)
  • Orientalist painting and how to write it (Medieval & Modern Languages)
  • Popular Music: History and Interpretation (Music)
  • The Shock of the Nude:  Art, Science, and the Racial Imaginary in Modern China (History of Art)
  • The Spirituality of Black Lives Matter: The Enduring Truth of Black Liberation theology (Theology)
  • Mathematics, Magic and Mongols: the forces that shaped medieval Islamic astronomy (History)

Before attending the subject day, I had no prior ideas about attending Oxford, nor was I really interested. This was mostly because I thought Oxford was an unreachable place for someone like me, a coloured girl who does not come from a highly prestigious background, which I believed Oxford to be the opposite. Attending the study day made me realise Oxford is actually a very accessible and open place for someone of my background…

–  2023 Study Day participant

Eligibility Criteria

Students must be…

  • 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.

To sign up, complete this application form. 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. 

Applications will close on 25th February 2024. We cannot guarantee every applicant a place but are aiming to accommodate a large number of students.

If you have any questions about this event, please email us at outreach@magd.ox.ac.uk

MODERN LANGUAGES OPEN DAY – Bookings Now Open!

We are delighted to welcome prospective students to Oxford on Saturday 11th May for our annual Modern Languages Open Day. The event will be held from 10.30am-4pm at the Examination Schools, located on the High Street.

Modern Languages Open Day 2022
photo (c) John Cairns

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 – English, History, Philosophy etc. – will also be represented at the event.

*All of these languages can be studied here at Oxford from beginners’ level. 

Modern Languages Open Day 2022
photo (c) John Cairns

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. Tutors and current students from the Faculty will be available throughout the day to answer questions from prospective applicants and their companions.

*Please note that, due to restricted places, only one parent/guardian/teacher may accompany each student for the morning session.

You can view the full event programme here.

Modern Languages Open Day 2022
photo (c) John Cairns

Booking your place at this event is compulsory – you can register your attendance here. Bookings will close at midnight on 8th May 2024.

We look forward to seeing lots of you in May and welcoming you to Oxford!

New Year, New event!

The Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages is delighted to announce a brand new event for the 2023/24 academic year – a Beginners’ Languages Taster Day!

Alongside our usual Modern Languages Open Day (which will take place on Saturday 11th May), this year we will be running an event dedicated to our beginners’ languages courses. This new event offers students from UK secondary schools in Year 12 or equivalent an opportunity to gain greater insight into our beginners’ languages degree programmes at Oxford. Students in Year 11 who are starting to consider their options for university are also welcome to attend.

The Taster Day will take place on Saturday 2nd March in our main Faculty teaching spaces – the Taylor Institution Library and 47 Wellington Square. After an information and Q&A session in the morning, students will have the chance to attend taster sessions in two of our beginners’ languages.

Photo taken from our Modern Languages Open Day 2022
photo (c) John Cairns

The following languages will be represented at the Taster Day, with academics and current undergraduates present to provide further information about the course(s) and to answer students’ questions:

  • German
  • Portuguese
  • Italian
  • Russian
  • Czech (with Slovak)
  • Modern Greek
  • Polish

The provisional event programme can be found here.

To register for the Taster Day, students should fill out this form by 10am on Friday 23rd February so we know who to expect at the event. Please note that spaces will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, and the form will close once our maximum capacity has been reached.

We are also pleased to be able to help students who are in need of additional financial support with reasonable expenses such as travelling to and from Oxford for the event. There is a space to include this information in the registration form.

Photo taken from our Modern Languages Open Day 2022
photo (c) John Cairns

Our beginners’ languages courses offer an exciting and rare opportunity for students to engage with a new language and culture for the first time, or to pick up languages they studied at GCSE. The courses are challenging yet rewarding, with many designed to bring students up to A-level standard within the first year. Therefore, we would love to welcome students who are strong linguists and/or who are looking for a new challenge at University to this event.

As well as alongside a post-A-level language, most of our beginners’ languages can be studied in conjunction with subjects from the Humanities such as English, History, Linguistics, or Philosophy, for which applicants do not need to be studying a language to A-level or equivalent. With this in mind, we would also welcome students of Humanities subjects who are interested in picking up a language at University.

For further inspiration and information, below are some links to content from our tutors and undergraduates about why taking a language from scratch is so worthwhile:

  • Blog post Why study Czech?
  • Video – Branching Out: Picking up a language from scratch
  • Video – Studying German for Beginners at Oxford:

We look forward to seeing you on 2nd March!

UNIQ Applications still open

Every year UNIQ helps change the lives of young people, helping them to get into Oxford and other highly-selective universities. Apply now to take part!

What is UNIQ?

UNIQ is the University of Oxford’s access programme for UK state school students. It prioritises places for students with good grades from backgrounds that are under-represented at Oxford and other universities. Every year more students from diverse backgrounds get offered places at Oxford with help from UNIQ.

In terms of Modern Languages, we will be offering courses for French, Spanish and German again this year, all of which include the opportunity to taste two beginners’ languages.

UNIQ offers:

  • online support through the application process
  • a residential at an Oxford college for most participants
  • a trip to an Oxford open day for another 250 participants

UNIQ is completely free: accommodation, meals, academic courses, social activities, and travel are all included.

Every year students use their experiences on UNIQ to help inform their university choices and to make successful applications. UNIQ students who apply to Oxford have a higher rate of success than other applicants.

How to apply

UNIQ prioritises state school students with good grades from backgrounds that are under-represented at Oxford and other highly selective universities. UNIQ welcomes 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

We use criteria such as experience of being in care, eligibility for Free School Meals, and information associated with the area that you live in to prioritise who comes on UNIQ.

Find out more and apply here! Applications close at noon on 23rd January 2024.

Preparing for Interviews

Huge congratulations if you have been invited to an Oxford interview over the next couple of weeks! Our tutors from across the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages are very much looking forward to meeting you.

We know that interviews can be daunting and it can be difficult to know what to expect and how to prepare. Therefore, this week’s blog post aims to offer some information and resources that should help with your preparation and calm a few nerves!

First thing’s first…

It’s important to remember that an Oxford interview is designed to simulate a tutorial (aka Oxford’s method of teaching in small groups).

Through tutorials at Oxford, students develop powers of independent and critical thought, analytical and problem-solving abilities, and skills in both written and oral communication and argument. These are the kinds of skills and abilities that tutors are looking to see candidates display/show potential for during an interview.

The interview is also a chance for tutors to understand students’ motivations for studying their chosen subject(s) and where their specific interests lie.

For more general information about Oxford interviews, the University has a bank of FAQs and resources available on their admissions website.

What about Modern Languages?

For Modern Languages, interviews can vary depending on the academic tutor conducting them, but here are a few things to expect:

  • You may be given a short piece of text (in English or the target language) to look at and discuss during the interview. Further questions may be asked based on your responses and analysis of the text.
  • You may be asked about something you’ve mentioned in your personal statement, so be ready to discuss any wider reading or interests you’ve referenced!
  • You may be asked to speak or read a short passage of text in the target language. This part of the interview is often fairly short.

Below are some example videos that demonstrate how (aspects of) a Modern Languages interview might be conducted.

In this demonstration video, Jane Hiddleston, Tutor in French, and Joanna Neilly, Tutor in German, will take you through what to expect during the interview process.
A mock interview for French at Jesus College, Oxford. This video is representative of a typical Modern Languages interview.
Prof. Jennifer Yee, French tutor at Christ Church, discussing a poem with an undergraduate student, Chloe. This type of discussion is a typical component of a Modern Languages interview.

Advice from a former undergraduate

To round us off, here is some sage advice from Isabel, current DPhil researcher in German, and former undergraduate in German & Philosophy at Worcester College:

My biggest tip for the interview is to remember that your interviewers are not expecting you to know absolutely everything. Case in point: I had to ask – in a German interview – what an English word meant.  

Show your thought process when you’re addressing a question – maybe you don’t know the answer, but maybe the question pertains to something that you do know about, so you can take an educated guess. Maybe you’re being shown a word in your foreign language that you don’t recognise, but maybe you can tell it’s from the same root as a word you do know. Are they showing you a poem that you haven’t seen before, but from a literary period that you’re passingly familiar with? Maybe there’s something you can say about the wider culture or concerns at the time.  

If you already knew everything, you wouldn’t be applying to university. Use your interview to show that you can respond to new information, offer ideas, and think deeply and critically about what you’re being asked. 

To that end, one of the best ways to prepare for your interview is to read widely around your subject: podcasts, the news, scholarly journals, extra books by your favourite author. Show that you are far too interested in your chosen subject to be constrained by the curriculum!  

Thanks Isabel!

We hope this has been helpful in preparing you for the interview process. Best of luck to all candidates next week – you’ve got this!

Exeter Plus

Exeter College’s flagship outreach programme, Exeter Plus, is now accepting applications!

Exeter Plus is a sustained contact programme for Year 12 students from non-selective UK state schools who want to find out more about the University of Oxford.

Exeter College

The programme combines in-person visits and with online sessions that run from March to September. The sessions start off as an introduction to Oxford and Exeter College, including tours and workshops. Later sessions delve into more detail about the Oxford application process and give the students the opportunity to explore topics related to the degree subject(s) they are interested in studying, including Modern Languages.

Throughout the programme, participants have the opportunity to speak with Student Ambassadors and Tutors of Exeter College, and to take part in mock tutorials enabling them to discuss the subject they would like to study at University with experts in that field.

Exeter College covers the travel costs upfront and offers free lunch to all participants. They also run in-person visits on Saturdays and virtual sessions out of school time.

Participants on the 2023 Exeter Plus programme

Previous participants in the programme have said:

Thank you for running such an insightful programme, the in person visits really do make a very good experience.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime and allow me to meet some brilliant people who I intend to cherish for life.

If this programme is of interest to you or to any of your students, the application form can be found and completed here. The deadline for applications is Monday 8th January 2024 at 11am. 

If you have any questions, please get in touch: outreach@exeter.ox.ac.uk.

Save the Date! Modern Languages Open Day

We’re delighted to announce that our annual Modern Languages Open Day will be taking place on Saturday 11th May, once again in the Examination Schools in Oxford city centre. Save the date! Mark it in your calendars!

The Examination Schools, Oxford
Modern Languages Open Day 2022
photo (c) John Cairns

Bookings are not yet open but you will be able to reserve your place soon via our open days webpage.

This event, which runs from 10.30am-4pm, 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. 

Modern Languages Open Day 2022
photo (c) John Cairns

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 provisional event programme here.

SUPER-curricular resources

The Oxford application process can look very complicated at first. Unlike other universities, we collect a lot of different information about applicants so that our admissions tutors can make informed decisions about who will be best suited to our courses. We recommend that prospective applicants familiarise themselves with the Oxford admissions timeline and what each step entails – the earlier the better!

As our degrees are so competitive, one of the things that we get asked most often is how can I stand out against other applicants? The simple and honest answer is that in your personal statement and during your interview, our modern languages admissions tutors are most interested in reading/hearing about:

  • why prospective students love the subject(s) for which they are applying;
  • what it is that they find particularly engaging and exciting about the subject(s); and,
  • how they have furthered these interests through super-curricular activities.
What does ‘super-curricular’ mean?

‘Super-curricular’ activities are educational activities which go above and beyond the school curriculum to expand your knowledge and understanding of the subjects you are studying. This can be anything from podcasts, documentaries, trips to a museum, books, magazines, online programmes and more. 

If you’re not sure where to start, don’t panic! We recommend talking to your teachers or your school librarian about finding additional reading, but we’ve also included some resources below that might also be useful for furthering your interest in language and cultural studies.

Podcasts

  • Linguamania podcast
    Produced by researchers from Oxford University-led Creative Multilingualism, the series explores some fascinating perspectives on languages and language learning, asking: Do we really need human translators? Why do we use metaphors and what do they teach us about other languages and cultures? Can languages help protect the natural environment? And so much more… So stop what you’re doing and start exploring the wonderful world of multilingualism!
  • Les Liaisons dangereuses podcast
    Choderlos de Laclos’s eighteenth-century epistolary novel, Les Liaisons dangereuses, has been intriguing audiences since 1782, and has been adapted into different media many times. It is also one of the core texts studied by students of French in their first year of an Oxford degree. In this podcast series, Prof. Catriona Seth, Marshal Foch Professor of French Literature at All Souls College, and Catriona Oliphant, founder of Chrome Radio, delve into the text, covering a variety of topics.
  • Oxford Spanish Literature Podcast
    Listen in on our conversations with Spanish tutors at Oxford to find out what’s so fascinating about the literature they teach, why they love teaching it, and why they think you might love it too.

In Our Time
Radio 4’s flagship series, In Our Time, hosted since the beginning by author, TV presenter and critic Melvyn Bragg, has become the BBC’s most downloaded weekly podcast globally, as well as one of the most popular for people under the age of 35.

The winning formula is a recorded conversation, over 45 minutes, in which Bragg quizzes academic specialists about almost any subject of interest in human life, including history, science, philosophy, religion and the arts. 

In terms of modern languages and cultures, here are some episodes (featuring our very own academics) that we would recommend (not that we’re biased!):

  • This episode on Olympe de Gouges, advocate for women’s rights during the French Revolution, featuring Professor Catriona Seth;
  • This episode on the great Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, featuring Professor Cláudia Pazos-Alonso;
  • This episode on eclectic German philosopher and cultural critic, Walter Benjamin, featuring Professor Carolin Duttlinger.

Videos

Each year, the Faculty runs a Literary Masterclass for local state sixth formers studying French, Spanish and German, designed to support them with reading and critically analysing literature in the target language. During the pandemic, this event was delivered online, and the pre-recorded videos are still available to view on our YouTube channel here.

The Oxford German Network runs an annual essay prize for sixth formers on a classic work of German literature. In the past, they have often created and collected a series of videos connected to the work in question. Click here for a playlist about Goethe’s Fausthere for a playlist about Schiller’s Maria Stuart, and here for a playlist about Hoffmann’s ‘Der Sandmann’.

*****

We hope these resources are helpful and provide a good starting point for you to develop your academic interests – don’t forget the importance of super-curricular activities for your UCAS application!

Please note: If you’re in Year 13 or equivalent, there’s still time to apply for Oxford! You need to make sure you have registered for your admissions test by 29th September (this Friday!) and have submitted your UCAS application (which includes your personal statement) by 6pm on 16th October.

If you’re in Year 12 or equivalent, the resources above will hopefully complement and develop your A-level/IB/Advanced Highers MFL studies and provide some excellent for your future personal statement.

Oxford Open days

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

The University of Oxford is once again ready to welcome prospective applicants and their companions to our annual Summer Open Days! 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 28 June, Thursday 29 June and Friday 15 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 ahead, so do take some time to 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.

In terms of Modern Languages, we will be running the following sessions between 10:15am and 3:30pm across these days:

  • Modern Languages at Oxford – Taylor Institution Library
    Presentation overview of our courses and resources followed by a Q&A with tutors and current students.
  • Meet the tutors’ drop in session – 47 Wellington Square
    Tutors will be available in this period to answer any individual questions about our courses and the application process.
  • Library tours – Taylor Institution Library
The Taylor Institution Library (commonly known as the Taylorian) 

These sessions are a great opportunity to learn about our Modern Languages courses, talk to our tutors from our different languages, look at our resources and study spaces, 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!