Linguistics is an increasingly popular area of study amongst our undergraduates, with some opting to study the subject as one half of a ‘joint schools’ degree (a degree where you combine two subjects e.g. ‘Modern Languages and Linguistics’), while others study it within their Modern Languages degree as an optional paper. But, for most people, linguistics is not something they will have had a chance to study at school and the subject will be brand new to them when they start at university.
So what exactly is linguistics? Fortunately, our colleague from the Faculty of Linguistics, Dr Jamie Findlay, has recorded an introduction to the subject. Check it out below and, if you like what you hear, perhaps consider incorporating linguistics into your degree…
In past weeks we have heard from two of the inaugural Lidl prize winners for German, Anna and Cecilia. Today we hear from a third winner. Rachel studies German and History at Merton College. Here she tells us what it’s like to study German at Oxford and how the linguistic and literary sides of the degree intertwine...
A common misconception about studying languages both at school and
university is that its sole function is to learn the language in
question. Although this may be the case at GCSE, A level students will
soon discover that culture, identity, politics and history come hand in
hand with any linguistic studies. These themes become far more prominent
at degree level, and I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that
languages at university is an incredibly exciting and varied area which
encapsulates all humanities subjects.
Although the importance of multilingualism in business and diplomacy is often (and rightly) emphasised in the promotion of language learning, studying German at Oxford has so far taught me that a language degree offers even more than these highly employable skills. As a joint schools student studying History alongside German I have always seen the main focus of my degree as culture; the combination of linguistic and historical awareness is what gives us the greatest understanding of societal and national identities. Oxford’s emphasis on literature as a way of accessing foreign culture is incredibly powerful, as it not only explores the use and intricacies of the language, but also addresses the country’s history and art. This became particularly evident to me during our term of studying German poetry, which explores history and philosophy through methods whose effects would be completely lost in translation. The depth of literary study at Oxford can be daunting given the limited experience A level offers in this area, but the support given through lectures and tutorials means that even the most impenetrable novels can be discussed and appreciated as gateways to foreign language and culture.
The most important thing my first year has taught me is
that languages at Oxford does not demand heavy pre-reading and prior
knowledge; I had only read two German books before and had never even
considered being able to read any pre-twentieth century literature!
Understanding of the language and methods comes with time, but is made
easier by enthusiasm and an open mind to the history and ideas which it
is trying to share.
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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