It has been wonderful to meet so many students at our language-specific open days over the past few weeks. Building on this, we are delighted to be able to welcome prospective students to Oxford for our Modern Languages Open Day on Saturday 13th May, 10.30am-4pm. The event will be held at the Examination Schools, located on the High Street.
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 will also be represented at the event.
*All of these languages can be studied here at Oxford from beginners’ level. From this year’s admissions cycle, students can also apply to study Beginners’ German with our Joint Schools subjects (e.g. English, History, Linguistics etc.) for the first time.
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 full event programme here.
Booking for this event is compulsory – you can register your attendance here. Bookings will close at midnight on 10th May 2023. Please note that, due to restricted places, only one parent/guardian/teacher may accompany each student for the morning session.
We look forward to seeing lots of you in May and welcoming you to Oxford!
Are you thinking of applying to Oxford? Come and join us at our online conference! This online event offers you an opportunity to find out more about applying to Oxford, our courses, and the support available for students whilst studying here.
Join the live sessions running in the evenings fromMonday 20 March to Thursday 23 March to hear our academics talk about the courses they teach and from our current student ambassadors as they share their experiences of studying and living in Oxford.
Each session will last 50 minutes and will include a presentation and a live Q&A with a panel of University staff, academics, or current students.
What’s on offer?
Live webinars on applying to Oxford and how we can support you to make the strongest possible application
Live sessions with our subject academics and current student ambassadors
Video content across a broad range of topics (including current undergraduate students from your region talking about their experiences of applying, course videos, advice on how to choose a college and information on support services available)
Information for teachers and HE advisors
A designated session for prospective international students
An opportunity to ask our academics, students, and admissions staff any questions you may have.
In terms of Modern Languages, we would recommend joining on Wednesday 22nd March for the following sessions:
Arts and Humanities information session and Q&A
Arts and Humanities student ambassador experiences
There are plenty of other subject-specific sessions as well as more general information sessions about how to apply and the support available to students – you can check out the full timetable here.
In this week’s blog post, current French and Linguistics student, Josh Winfield, talks about his time in Montreal, a trip funded by his college. Over to you, Josh!
In March 2022, I was lucky enough to secure a travel grant from my college (St Hilda’s) to go to Montreal for 10 days. This blog aims to recount: what I found in Montreal, both from a touristic and student point of view; why I would recommend Montreal as a potential location for the year abroad; and to explore how Oxford colleges can help with course-related study trips.
If you were to look at the last ten years’ worth of year abroad archives, you would not be blamed for thinking that France is the only option for this exciting part of your degree course. When writing this blog, there were only a few students in the archives who had gone elsewhere. Whilst France is the potential obvious choice, considering its proximity to the UK, and the focus of French language courses on metropole French, I will aim to highlight some of the many advantages of Montreal as the location for your year abroad, or at least to inspire you to travel there as a student of French!
I have been interested in the French speaking region of Canada for a long time, particularly Quebec, using the question over its sovereignty as the focus of my Independent Research Project for my A-level French exam. However, I had never had the opportunity to actually visit it. When I started my course, I was shown the extensive list of bursaries that Oxford students could be eligible for, and as one of these, the travel grant (which is not just a Hilda’s thing, many colleges offer travel grants1) This generous funding allowed me to journey to Montreal, and paid for my accommodation. There are many funds available for undergraduates, with different colleges having differing amounts available, but for course-related travel, a well thought-out application is normally quite successful.
The language of the region
This is obviously one of the most important factors in the choice of the year abroad location, especially how much you are able to use it and learn.
Montreal, and the broader Quebec region are quite unique in the fact that they are both officially bilingual. And, whilst the news and nationalist politicians might make you believe that the speaking of English is minimal here, this is contrary to my experience, in fact the city operates as a melting pot for both French and English communication. 26%2 of the Montreal population acquired neither French nor English as their maternal language, and both Spanish and Chinese are commonly spoken here, making French a lingua franca amongst speakers. This phenomenon means that it is very easy to use French in day to day life, and that there is no presupposition as to which language you are going to speak. When I was there myself, at least 80% of the time I was greeted in French and spoken to in French as if I was a native speaker. This makes it very accessible for learners, and gives you the confidence to use the language more often.
Furthermore, the dialect in Quebec is very interesting (particularly for me as a Linguistics student too!). The accent is not only different to the standard metropole French in terms of pronunciation and slight lexical differences, but it is also not unusual to hear (even native French speakers) switch from French to English in a sentence for certain words, and even phrases. Despite the difference, after a few days there (and some YouTube videos) I got used to this, and didn’t have any trouble understanding people.
Worth considering too, is that the written language is almost exactly the same, making signs and menus easy to read for French students. What I have just discussed about the language may be off putting to some people , particularly the presence of English, but as a student with a disability myself, I am comforted by the fact that in a worst case scenario, doctors, hospital staff, and the majority of the public speak and can understand English. (Plus all the visa applications can be in English which is a huge bonus!)
The atmosphereof the city
Despite the fact that the city was just resurfacing from years of strict COVID regulations when I visited, the city life was still vibrant. There is a plethora of restaurants, night-time activities, sights to see and museums. At every turn there is something historically fascinating to see, an amazing piece of architecture, or just natural beauty. With a thriving Chinatown, Little Italy, Little Portugal and International Quarter, Montreal defends its position as one of the most diverse cities in Canada.
The city is passionate about inclusion and diversity3, and feels very safe, with the Economist naming it the 4th safest city in North America4. There is also a large Gay Village, which hosts many aspects of LGBTQ+ life, including Drag Shows and Montreal Pride. As well as the city life, or is worth mentioning that Montreal has some beautiful natural areas. In the centre of the downtown, Mont Royal (the city’s namesake) occupies a near 700 acre park, boasting beautiful views of the entire city. All around the city there are green areas, allowing you a break from the city feel of Montreal.
Travel and pricing
Inner city travel in Montreal is cheap, easy and fast. Operating on three lines, the majority of the city is only 15 minutes away from a metro stop. For a one way journey it was (when I visited) $1.60, $3 for a return. The metros are clean, open and easy to use. I used it the whole time I was there, and found it easier than the tube in London. In more general terms about cost of living, the city is of equivalent cost to Oxford and London pricing. However, when you take into consideration the exchange rate, the cost of living is not necessarily something to put you off (I also did live like a tourist for my time here – residential areas will no doubt be cheaper). With a student visa, most people are allowed to work up to 20 hours whilst studying which can help with the cost of your time there.
In conclusion, with three excellent universities5, a welcoming accessible environment to speak and learn French, and an exciting and different city life, why not consider Montreal for at least part of your year abroad (or perhaps a shorter trip with a travel grant!).
Bookings for our Russian & Slavonic Languages Open Day are now open!
This year, our Russian & Slavonic Languages Open Day will be held on Saturday 4th March, 10.15am-12.30pm at University College, Oxford.
Like our other language-specific open days, this event is smaller and more focused in its scope compared to our wider open day later in the year, allowing more time to explore a subject.
Our Russian & Slavonic Languages Open Day is designed to provide greater insight into our undergraduate degree programmes in Russian and other Slavonic languages such as Czech, Polish and Ukrainian. These languages are all available to study at beginners’ level here at Oxford, so the open day presents a great opportunity to find out more about these options and what the courses entail. It’s also a lovely excuse to come and visit an Oxford college and the city for the day, meet our current students and academics, and experience a taste of student life.
If you are interested in coming along to this event, you can reserve your place on our open days webpage. Please note that bookings are mandatory for this open day and that the deadline for registering is 20th February 2023.
As a reminder, we’re running several language-specific open days over the next six weeks… take a look at the table below for further details and sign up to attend here!
We look forward to meeting you at these events soon!
Here at the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, we organise and run a range of open days for prospective applicants and their parents/guardians and teachers each year. Open days are one of the best ways for students to get a real feel for a University, helping them to make informed decisions about their futures.
Over the course of February and March, we will be holding our language-specific open days, designed to provide greater insight into our undergraduate degree programmes. In comparison to our wider open day later in the year, language-specific open days are smaller and more focused in their scope, allowing more time to explore a subject in depth.
For example, the German Open Day offers an introduction to German film, German linguistics, and different types of German literature. On the Spanish and Portuguese Open Day, our wonderful academics will provide an introduction to Transatlantic Iberian Culture and attendees will get the chance to learn Portuguese in 15 minutes.
So, if you’re thinking about applying to study languages at Oxford, or want to find out more about a particular course, these open days offer a wonderful opportunity to meet some of our tutors and current students, come along to academic taster sessions which will give you a flavour of what it’s like to study languages, and ask lots of questions.
Below are the details of our 2023 language-specific open days. You will need to book a place at these events, which you can do via our open daywebsite, where you will also find the event programmes.
*Our German Open Day has been designed to be accessible for students considering beginners’ German. From this year’s admissions cycle, applicants can mix Joint Schools subjects with beginners’ German, so if you’re considering a degree in English, History, Philosophy etc., why not come along and try out some German!
You may have noticed that there is no specific open day for French: students interested in French should attend the Faculty’s main open day later in the year or one of the University open days in June or September. Keep your eyes peeled for more information about those events in future blog posts.
While you’re here: a reminder that applications to our 2023UNIQ programme are still open! You can read more about this fantastic opportunity for UK state school students in last week’s blog post, or head to the websitefor further information.
We’re delighted to announce that applications for UNIQ 2023 are now open until Monday 23 January!
What is UNIQ?
UNIQ is Oxford University’s flagship outreach programme for Year 12 students at UK state schools/colleges. It is completelyfree and prioritises places for students with good grades from backgrounds that are under-represented at Oxford and other universities.
What does the programme entail?
UNIQ 2023 offers an online support programme starting in April, academic courses and an in-person residential in Oxford over the summer, followed by university admissions support in August to December.
During the summer residential, students have the opportunity to experience life as an Oxford undergraduate by staying in an Oxford college and exploring the city for themselves. They will also get to know some of our Oxford undergraduates and work with our academics in face to face lectures and tutorials.
What does this look like for Modern Languages?
For Modern Languages, there will be courses available for Spanish, French, and German. All three courses enable students to explore the language, literature, theatre, film, and linguistics of each discipline, while also providing the opportunity to have a taster of other European languages at a beginners’ level.
Our aim is to give students a taste of what it is really like to study Modern Languages at Oxford, and to provide a sense of the breadth of our courses – including several of the languages you can study here as a beginner.
What are the benefits?
Throughout the UNIQ programme, students will explore subjects they love and gain a real insight into Oxford life, helping them to prepare for university, and decide what is right for them. UNIQ also enables students with similar interests in local regions and across the UK to connect with each other through social and academic activities.
Most UNIQ students go on to apply to the University of Oxford and they also get help to prepare for our admissions tests and interviews. Consequently, UNIQ participants are more likely to make successful applications to Oxford.
How do I apply?
We welcome applications from:
Year 12 students from England and Wales, in the first year of A level studies or equivalent
Year 13 students from Northern Ireland, in the first year of A level studies or equivalent
S5 students from Scotland, studying Highers or equivalent
The online application process is quick and easy – it only takes 10 minutes! – and can be completed via the UNIQ website. Applications close on Monday 23 January at 11pm.
As UNIQ is an access programme, admission to UNIQ 2023 will be based on a range of criteria that relate to students’ academic potential and socio-economic background. You can read more about this here.
Continuing our festive theme from last week, in this week’s blog post, Emma (first-year undergraduate at St Hilda’s College studying German and Linguistics) tells us all about Oxmas!
Due to the shorter 8-week terms at the University of Oxford, students head home for their winter vacation on the first weekend of December. Although this might be reason to believe that the festive period doesn’t overlap with term time, ‘Oxmas’ is Oxford University’s popular take on the festive season. Oxmas allows staff and students to come together and celebrate over the final week or two of Michaelmas (Autumn) term. The events act as a guiding light to help everyone over the finish line of what has, no doubt, been a tiring couple of months.
On a surprisingly mild November evening, as 6th week was drawing to a close, staff, students and locals gathered along the High Street in Oxford to watch the Christmas lights get switched on. Twinkling stars, snowflakes and sheets of golden light now illuminated Oxford as darkness began to fall earlier each day. It was at this point in term that wonderfully decorated and beautifully coordinated Christmas trees were starting to pop up, as if by magic, by some of the University’s many departments and in all of Oxford’s 39 colleges.
For me, Oxmas truly started on Monday 21st November, when I was lucky enough to go to Oxford University German Society’s Christmas Dinner. As a German and Linguistics student, I have been attending German Society events all term, including the college bar crawl, Kaffee und Kuchen and Oxtoberfest – Just to name a few! German society at Oxford is a lively hub of community spirit and cultural celebration, brought to life by native Germans and German enthusiasts alike. The events offer an opportunity for people learning the language to fully immerse themselves in fast-paced German conversation and are a time for native speakers to chat to others about shared experiences of coming to study in the UK. The Christmas Dinner was held in the McKenna Room of Christ Church College and included a festive drinks reception and a delicious three course meal, followed by coffee and chocolate. Weihnachtslieder were interspersed between each course: Everyone joined in with renditions of the classic German carols ‘O du fröhliche’, ‘Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht’ and ‘Alle Jahre wieder’. After the meal, we moved across to Christ Church’s main dining hall (used as inspiration for The Great Hall in Harry Potter) and ended the evening with some Christmas Poetry, read aloud in German.
On Friday of that same week, the Linguistics students at my college were invited to a ‘Chrismukkah’ get-together. This was a chance to celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas whilst catching up with fellow Linguistics students and tutors about the joys and challenges that Michaelmas term had brought so far. An inviting spread of doughnuts, stollen, nibbles and drinks awaited us in St Hilda’s Anniversary Tower, which was lit up by a colourful light display.
The final week of term soon raced around and was jam-packed full of Oxmas spirit. Carols rang out across the city: Choirs performed in the University Church and in each of the colleges. St Hilda’s hosted their very own ‘Carols on the Stairs’, where members of the college came together on a crisp winter’s evening to enjoy festive treats while the talented choir put on a brilliant performance. Each college also celebrated by holding an Oxmas-themed formal dinner; students and staff dressed up in formalwear, pulled Christmas crackers and were served tasty food. Tickets for these formals sold out within seconds, which led to festivities being extended to a further Christmas lunch on the final day of term in many of the colleges, such as at St Hilda’s. What better way to mark the last day before saying goodbye to your friends for the winter vacation!
Perhaps the strangest aspect of ‘Oxmas’ is that students arrive home on the first weekend of December brimming with Christmas cheer… Only to find that everyone else has just begun their advent calendars!
We wish all our readers a wonderful break with friends and family over the festive period – see you back here in the new year!
In this week’s blog post, first year French and Modern Greek student at St Peter’s College, Reuben, shares his experiences of starting his course at Oxford and how closely they matched his expectations. Over to you, Reuben!
After a year out of education to decide what I really wanted to study, I could not wait to begin my dream degree course at the University of Oxford. How has the degree lived up to my expectations however? What is the first term studying languages really like? Read on to find out.
Hello readers. My name is Reuben Constantine, I’m a student ambassador for the Faculty of Modern Languages and a first year student of French and Modern Greek at St Peter’s College. I am now at the end of my first term in Oxford and in this article, I intend to compare my expectations of study here with the realities I have experienced.
I will provide first of all some context so you can better understand my situation in relation to my experience at the university. For my A-Levels, I studied Biology, Chemistry and French. An ‘eclectic mix’ I have been told, and a mix of subjects which left me unsure of what to pursue post-18. For various reasons I decided to take a ‘gap year’ in which I would decide what I was going to do. University was a possibility, but I was unsure of which subject to study. I had enjoyed biology and chemistry, and many people told me I should pursue a career in the medical sector.
I had, however, another passion which seemed to be pulling me – languages. During my studies of French, I fell in love with not only the French language but the process of language learning itself. I had plenty of free time during lockdown and so decided to begin teaching myself a second and eventually a third foreign language. By the end of my gap year I could confidently converse in French, Modern Greek, Spanish, Italian and even German. I was totally addicted to language learning and so (with the encouragement of some friends who had noticed my apparent enthusiasm) I decided to follow this newfound passion and study languages at university. Which university would I choose? My dream was Oxford: a university with a great reputation and the only university that offered a degree in my favourite language, Modern Greek.
I must admit however that it seemed a long shot. I had not studied any essay subjects for A-Level and I had heard that Oxford degrees were very literature-focused. Would I be the sort of student they were looking for? Nonetheless I was convinced that this is what I wanted to do, and couldn’t believe my luck when I found out I had been offered a place!
How has my first month been then? Frankly, it has been fantastic. However I must admit, it hasn’t been how I necessarily expected.
What elements have I enjoyed most about study here in Oxford? First of all, the professors are experts in their subject areas and it is a real privilege to be taught by them – especially in the ‘tutorial system’ which allows for very small class sizes. I have been immensely satisfied with the number of contact hours I receive weekly. On an average week I will spend 12-15 hours in lectures, language classes and tutorials. This means that the timetable is nicely structured and I feel like the professors really care about me and my progress. This contrasts with the experience of some of my friends who study languages in other institutions who receive very few contact hours and are often left to their own devices. At the same time, for a language lover like myself this number of hours does not feel overwhelming and I am comfortably able to support the workload (typically with 1 or 2 essays and 1 translation to do outside of lessons per week).
I must admit, however, I have been surprised by the approach to literature. As mentioned, I was aware that literature constituted a large part of the degree but I was still not quite prepared for this. The texts we examine in are often very thought provoking, but I was quite shocked to find out that the essays we write about these texts are in English and I have sometimes been left feeling as if I were studying a degree in ‘English Literature’. The focus seems to be more what certain writers thought about certain issues rather than the language in which it is written. I can’t say that this isn’t interesting and I know that many of my fellow students love this aspect of the degree. However, for me personally the essays written in English (about French theatre for example) have at times seemed quite distant from my love for languages themselves.
I acknowledge, however, that culture and language are inseparable; a good understanding of societal issues in the lands where the language is spoken is vital to truly master a language. Moreover, in subsequent terms and years, students have greater control over their modules and papers and are thus able to focus their study onto the aspects which are more interesting to them. For me this may well include the linguistics and evolution of the language with lesser focus on literature but time will tell.
Is an Oxford Modern Languages degree for you? If your only goal is to become fluent in a foreign language, then I would think again. This can be achieved without needing to invest in a university degree. Oxford language degrees feature much more than language acquisition itself.
However: If you really love the culture and literature of the languages you wish to study, then Oxford may indeed be for you. The resources available in the libraries and support from tutors make it one of the best places in the world to study. If you want a timetable packed with classes and lectures from tutors who’re often experts in their field, then once again, this may be the degree for you. Be prepared however for doors to be opened to various avenues that you may be surprised to see feature in a ‘modern languages’ degree (such as theatre or poetry).
To conclude, I must add that my experience of student life has been fantastic: it is easy to get involved in a range of extracurricular activities from sports to societies, and I have already formed many treasured friendships. I enjoy every day living here and I am learning a great number of things, even if not all of them are directly related to ‘languages’ as I had imagined. I am extremely grateful to the university for the opportunity to study here and cannot wait for the coming months and years.
A huge thank you to Reuben for those invaluable insights into starting a Modern Languages degree course here at Oxford, and the ways in which his initial experiences have differed from his expectations.
Every year, we recruit a group of current undergraduates studying Modern Languages to support us with our work with schools.
These students, also known as Student Ambassadors, are integral to our outreach work since they can share first-hand experiences to support the advice and guidance we offer young linguists and prospective applicants. They also act as role models, helping to motivate, encourage and inspire young people through their current and future studies. The presence of Student Ambassadors at events and during our activities is vital to ensuring that the pupils we work with can make informed choices about their futures.
This year, we’ve taken on 15 wonderful new Student Ambassadors from across the different languages we offer at degree level. As part of their core training, we asked them the following question, just to get them thinking about the kind of wisdom they can pass on to pupils over the next academic year:
What would you tell your 17 year-old self before applying to university?
The image below showcases a selection of their responses. We found them useful and inspiring and thought you might too – happy reading!
Tip: It might be easier to read the image if you open it in a new tab!
In this week’s blog post, recent graduate in Spanish & Czech from St Peter’s College, Joe Kearney, reflects on his decision to study Czech at Oxford and where the journey has taken him…
I chose to study Czech at Oxford because I wanted to try something completely different. At school I had studied French and Spanish, and I wanted to learn a language from a totally new language family.
The first year of Czech was certainly the challenge I’d been looking for. I sat in my first language class of the year, in front of the Czech lady (Vanda, she is lovely) who had been tasked with teaching me and my three classmates Czech from scratch, and wondering how I was ever going to learn what any of this stuff meant. The learning curve was steep, but incredibly rewarding. We started with the absolute basics: how the alphabet works, how to introduce yourself, how to order food in a restaurant. By the end of my first year I’d read my first short stories in Czech and I’d been to Prague and worked for a couple of months as a waiter in a pizza parlour! Learning a language from scratch is fantastic for anyone who fancies a bit of adventure.
We spent second year developing our speaking, listening, writing and translating skills, as well as reading more and more literature in Czech. Because Czech is a small course, with just a handful of undergraduate students every year, the course is really flexible. 20th century Czech history and literature fascinated me, and I was able to shape all of the rest of my degree around it. I learned about the interwar period in the First Czechoslovak Republic, the Czech experience under communism, and the Czech journey out of communism in the 90s and 2000s. Writers like Jiří Weil, Ludvík Vaculík and Bianca Bellová captured my imagination, and I was able to take my newfound interests with me on my year abroad, where I studied New Wave Czech film, a history of Czech photography, and modern Czech politics at the University of Ostrava.
In Ostrava I got a job as a waiter in a tearoom (the best language training anyone could get!), I went climbing in the hills with my Ostravák friends, and I travelled with a great group of Erasmus students. One of the best things about the Czech Republic, we quickly found, is that it is a fantastic basecamp from which to travel all around Europe. I visited France, Germany, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Poland, and even Sweden that year, as well as making use of the ridiculously cheap trains to get all around the Czech Republic. Some highlights were České Švýcarsko (Czech Switzerland), Skiing in the Slovakian High Tatras, and visiting Kraków, in Poland, and Stockholm, in Sweden.
My love for Czech grew immensely on my year abroad, and final year went by in a blast. More learning, and more opportunities to take the voyage of discovery further and further.
I would highly recommend learning a new language from scratch at Oxford. My Czech degree was a fantastic awakening to a new world of culture, travel, and wonderful people. I have never looked back!
A huge thanks to Joe for sharing his wonderful experiences of studying beginners’ Czech as well as the stunning photos taken on his year abroad in Ostrava last year (2021-22).
If you’re interested in following a similar path, you can find out more about Czech at Oxford here.
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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