The theme of this year’s Olympiad is Kafkaesque Kreatures, taking inspiration from the animal stories by Franz Kafka (1883-1924), who gave the German and English languages the word kafkaesk / Kafkaesque to describe a weird, disturbing experience.
There are three Round 2 tasks to choose from this year, with exciting cash prizes for the winners of each task:
Oxford German Network Task
The White Rose Prize: Einen Brief schreiben
Camden House Book Proposal
Winners and runners-up will be invited to a prize-giving ceremony at the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, in June 2024.
Further details about the tasks and the competition in general can be found here. The deadline for all entries is 7 March 2024at 12 noon.
students may enter only one of the three Round 2 tasks
there are age restrictions for each task
Round 1 and Round 2 of the Olympiad are separate competitions. Students may enter both, but do not need to have entered Round 1 in order to enter Round 2.
There’s also still time to enter Round 1! Find details here.
The Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages is delighted to announce a brand new event for the 2023/24 academic year – a Beginners’ Languages TasterDay!
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.
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:
Czech (with Slovak)
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.
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:
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.
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.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to continue studying a subject you love, beyond an undergraduate degree? Well, wonder no more! Further study is a popular route taken by our graduates, whether it’s completing a Law conversion, a PGCE, or a DPhil  . On the blog this week, current DPhil student in German, Isabel Parkinson, explains what this means and entails…
Being a DPhil student is to exist in a strange, liminal space between the student bubble and the real world. You’re straddling the boundary between town and gown; certainly no longer an undergraduate – in fact, you’re probably teaching them! – but still going to college formals, still claiming a student discount whenever the chance should come your way. I was an undergraduate here at Oxford, and I’m a third-year DPhil student now – not quite long enough to have produced a full thesis, but long enough to have noticed the biggest differences between the two degrees.
Even if you are just a couple of weeks into your DPhil research, you’ll have crafted a research proposal that is so niche, and so specific to you, that you are probably already a world expert in your own little field. It’s possible that nobody else in the Faculty will be looking at your chosen author or text, or will have considered your topic with the particular slant that you have put on it, or will have seen the archive material that you’re accessing.
How often you meet with your supervisor will depend on what you both decide, but there is a real possibility that you could go for at least a fortnight without seeing anybody else (theoretically, at least – I do not advise doing this). It’s a personal choice, how much you fill this time and what you fill it with: you may choose to take on teaching commitments, to convene this seminar or that reading group, to deliver outreach, to present at conferences.
Instead of tutors asking you questions to which they already know the answers, your supervisor(s) will ask you for your opinion and input because they recognise it as valuable, informed. It’s a disquieting feeling at first; similar to when the GP asks you what treatment you fancy for whatever ailment you’ve presented them with. But as you’re trusted to set your own working pattern, your hours, your deadlines, as the bare bones of your research proposal get fleshed out, the feeling of being a clueless undergraduate pushed, blindfolded and disoriented, into a world of Real Academics, begins to fade.
The end of an undergraduate degree brings an end to tutorial partners, college classes, lectures. Rather, as a DPhil, you will likely mix much more with people in fora not specific to your degree – the MCR  , perhaps your scholarship or funding group, on projects or at conferences. It generally means coming into contact much more frequently with people working on very different research – oncology, music, archaeology, politics, anthropology… you get the sense very quickly that you could assemble an unbeatable University Challenge team.
Unlike school, undergraduate, and maybe even Master’s, a DPhil cohort is also a much broader cross-section of ages and life stages. I spend an inordinate amount of time saying to new acquaintances, variously, ‘nooo, I can’t believe you’re thirty-seven!’ or ‘wow, so – yes, you were still in primary school when I was a Sixth Former?!’ Mixing with people who have spent years in the working world, or who are married or have children, helps to remind you that life is a little broader and bigger than your laptop screen and your library desk, in a way which the undergraduate world seldom does.
Unlike at undergraduate level, there is more of a sense at DPhil level that you are expected to have a rich life outside of your research. Three senior academics have now told me, independently of each other, that one never has as much free time again after the DPhil – so enjoy that time; read widely; explore new topics; do those things that you didn’t get time for as an undergraduate.
From swapping between ten or so subjects at GCSE, three or four at A-Level, a plethora of assorted papers or modules at undergraduate – a DPhil is the culmination of an increasingly specialised focus across your academic journey.
Rather than the constant working towards deadlines as an undergraduate – handing in a completed essay for a tutorial and, Sisyphus-like, beginning the whole process again with a fresh title – you spend three or four years focussing on one title, one big research question. That focus will shift as you get better at research, get worse, and then get better again, as you read more texts and soak up more opinions – but that’s what keeps the whole process so absorbing.
St Hugh’s College | DPhil in German
 Doctorate of Philosophy. The PhD is known as the DPhil in Oxford.
 MCR (Middle Common Room): The self-governing body and social centre for graduate students in a college. Fourth year students are also granted MCR membership. The MCR is also a room located in the college.
The Oxford German Network have launched the 12th edition of its annual Olympiad Competition! The competition will run between now and March 2024 with winners being announced in June.
2024 theme: Kafkaesque Kreatures
This year’s competition is all about animals – but from perspectives with a difference. The tasks take inspiration from the animal stories by Franz Kafka (1883-1924), who gave the German and English languages the word kafkaesk / Kafkaesque to describe a weird, disturbing experience. Imagine waking up one morning and finding you’ve turned into a beetle. Or that you’re an animal living in a burrow, worrying about your animal enemies up above. But the animal perspectives aren’t all about weirdness – Kafka was a vegetarian. And his story about the ape Rotpeter shows deep concerns about how humans treat animals.
The Competition Tasks
There are a variety of different challenges aimed at pupils in Years 5 and 6 all the way to Years 12 and 13. Some are for individuals to enter, others are aimed at groups. There is even a taster competition for pupils who have never studied German before! From drawing and painting to writing stories and planning conferences, there’s something for everyone! Take a look at the Olympiad website for more details.
Choose one of the tasks appropriate for your age group.
Complete all tasks in German, unless indicated otherwise.
The Anthea Bell Prize for Young Translators is a creative translation competition for students aged 11-18 studying French, German, Italian, Mandarin and Spanish. The competition also runs from French into Welsh. The Prize is free to enter and open to all schools across the UK.
The 2023-24 prize launches today (20 September), when creative translation teaching packs will be shared with teachers in time for European Day of Languages on 26 September and International Translation Day on 30 September. These teaching packs are designed to help teachers bring creative translation into the MFL classroom as well as to help students prepare for the competition task.
Don’t worry if you have not yet registered! There is still plenty of time for teachers to do so as the competition itself will run over several weeks from 5 February to 28 March 2024. Area and national winners will be announced in May or June 2023. They will receive certificates and national winners will receive book prizes.
The Oxford German Network are delighted to announce the launch of the 2023 edition of ‘A German Classic’ – Oxford’s essay competition for sixth-form students. This year we invite you to read Franz Kafka’s DerHeizer (1912/13).
It is the first chapter of the unfinished novel Der Verschollene (‘The Man Who Disappeared’), narrating the beginning of the story about 17-year-old Karl Rossmann. The story addresses themes including family and friendship, migration, identity and encounters with the foreign, be it a person of a different nationality, social status or gender. It is a story about growing up, finding one’s way in a foreign land, and personal (in)stability. The experiences Kafka evokes for the reader with his narratives are so distinctive that they have given rise to the word ‘Kafkaesque’. Get a sense of what it means by studying Der Heizer in the original – one of the iconic works of world literature!
Entrants must fulfil the following requirements as of 8 September 2023:
be beginning their final year of full-time study at a secondary school in the UK (upper-sixth form, Year 13 or S6 in Scotland);
be between the ages of 16 and 18;
hold a GCSE, IGCSE or equivalent qualification in German offered in the UK, or have at least an equivalent knowledge of German, as confirmed by their teacher;
be resident in the United Kingdom.
Entrants are not expected to have prior experience of studying German literature.
Up to three prizes will be awarded: a first prize of £500, a second prize of £300, and a third prize of £100. Prizes will only be awarded if work is of sufficient merit. All entrants will receive a Prize Certificate or a Certificate of Participation. Results will be announced in early October 2023.
Sign up here by 5pm on Friday 30 June 2023 to receive free physical copies of the German original and an English translation of Kafka’s novel Der Verschollene, the first chapter of which is the set text of the competition. The website will also give you access to a set of free multimedia resources and essay writing guidelines created and curated by us especially for this competition. All physical study materials will be dispatched in early July.
For further information, please have a look on our website.
Here at Oxford, the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages welcomes applications for German at all levels. This means that if you haven’t studied the language at A-level, you can still apply to study Beginners’ German as part of your degree.
Excitingly, 2023 marks the first year that prospective students can apply to study Beginners’ German as part of our Joint Schools degrees. This means that you can combine learning German from scratch with another of the following Humanities subjects:
So, if you’re hoping to study one of these subjects, but are interested in learning a new language, why not choose Beginners’ German?!
Take a look at our brand new video below to learn more about studying German for Beginners at Oxford, and to hear about the experiences of our current students who have chosen this excellent option!
Students taking Beginners’ German will receive intensive language tuition during their first year and further targeted language support specific to their needs during their second year. From the start of their course they will have some teaching on narrative works together with the post A-level group, and they will be fully integrated from the start of the second year, with access to all the course options in linguistics, literature, film and culture.
During the course, Oxford’s tutorial system and small-group language teaching will enable students at all levels to receive the appropriate tuition for their needs, which will build on the knowledge they have already acquired.
Happy Wednesday all! After some technical difficulties last week (apologies if anyone had issues accessing the blog), we’re back with a couple of reminders about upcoming events for (prospective) Modern Languages students… have a read below!
N.B. The deadlines for applying/registering for these opportunities/events fall within the next week, so don’t hesitate to sign up now!
Wadham College’s Modern Languages Summer School
When: Monday 21st August – Friday 25th August 2023
Where: Wadham College, Oxford
What: Summer Schools are designed to give UK pupils studying in Year 12 a taste of what it’s like to be an undergraduate studying at the University of Oxford. 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.
Who: Year 12 French, German, and Spanish students from UK state schools
More information: You can find more information here and email the Wadham Access Team at email@example.com with any questions.
Modern Languages Open Day
When: Saturday 13th May 2023, 10.30am-4pm
Where: Examination Schools, 75-81 High Street, Oxford
What: Our Modern Languages 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.
Who: The 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.
How to register: Booking for this event is compulsory – you can register your attendance here.
Deadline to register: Bookings will close at midnight on Wednesday 10th May 2023.
Calling all Year 12 French, German, and Spanish students from UK state schools – an exciting opportunity awaits!
Wadham College are running their annual Modern Languages Summer School in Oxford from Monday 21st August – Friday 25th August 2023 . This is a wonderful opportunity for Year 12 students who are interested in pursuing a degree in languages to get a feel for life at university and at Oxford more specifically.
Pupils will engage in a seminar series led by Wadham’s language tutors, including language classes in their selected language of study (French, German, or Spanish) with opportunities to try other languages as beginners (including German, Portuguese, and Russian). Students will complete an assignment on a main topic with feedback from tutors. Pupils will also be able to receive support from current undergraduates and from the College on making successful applications to top universities.
Why attend a summer school?
Summer Schools are designed to give UK pupils studying in Year 12 a taste of what it’s like to be an undergraduate studying at the University of Oxford. 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.
Summer Schools are completely free. Accommodation and meals are provided by the College. Wadham will also provide financial support to pupils to cover their travel costs.
Wadham College is delighted to be able to run these events in-person allowing participants the best experience of life at the university. The feedback from last year’s Summer Schools was hugely positive with over a third of participants subsequently securing offers to study at the university.
After the summer school I am much more confident that I would fit in at Oxford and feel like I am more ready to move away from home
– Summer School participant, 2022
If you are interested, please apply here by the deadline of 5pm on Friday 5th May 2023. You can email the Wadham Access Team at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
A blog for students and teachers of Years 11 to 13, and anyone else with an interest in Modern Foreign Languages and Cultures, written by the staff and students of Oxford University. Updated every Wednesday!
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