Average student intake: 10 (including Joint Schools)
Course length: 4 years (including a year abroad)
At Hertford we offer four languages: French, Spanish, German and Portuguese. Studying Modern Languages combines intellectual training with the acquisition of important practical skills. Through reading and writing about world literature, you will develop the ability to analyse and argue, to spot ironies and ambiguities, and to relate the specific to the general.
Our small-group teaching method will give you the opportunity to excel at writing essays in the language(s) you are studying, to translate between languages with accuracy and sensitivity, and to become fluent in the spoken language(s).
We value practical experience, and so your year abroad – combined with regular contact with native speakers whilst in Oxford – will allow you to put what you learn into practice. You will develop your knowledge of different styles and registers, and you will broaden your understanding of foreign cultures(s).
If you like reading, enjoy learning languages, and would relish the opportunity to study a broad range of subjects – not just literature but also linguistics, history, politics, film, art philosophy, literary theory, and advanced translation – a Modern Languages degree could be right for you.
Teaching and learning
Every Modern Languages student at Oxford follows the syllabus set by the Modern Languages Faculty, ensuring consistency regardless of which college you belong to. The two main components of your degree will be language and literature. Language work comprises 50% of your degree – throughout your course, you will have weekly classes conducted by native speakers and translation classes with your college tutor.
You will be taught literature subjects in lectures and tutorials. Lectures are organised by the faculty, given by experts in the relevant field, and open to students across the University. Most of your teaching, however, will be in tutorials – discussions with a tutor, either one-on-one or in a small group. In first year, most of your tutorials will be here at Hertford. From second year on, you will have significant freedom in choosing what to study; we will arrange specialist teaching with experts at other colleges when necessary.
Tutorials are a conversation between tutor and student(s), normally starting from a commentary passage or essay question which you will have prepared during the previous week. Every tutorial gives you the chance to discuss a particular topic with your tutor and fellow students. You will develop and refine your reading of individual authors and texts, as well as having the chance to ask questions about what you’ve studied. The more independent study you put in, the more you will get out of each tutorial.
In your third year, you’ll spend between nine and twelve months abroad. Depending on the number of languages you study, you’ll spend your time in one or more countries where French, Spanish, German and/or Portuguese are spoken. You’ll have a number of options available to you: you can work as an English-language assistant in a school, apply for a place on an ERASMUS scheme, enrol at a foreign university, or organise a work placement where you can use your language on a daily basis.
Employers highly value Modern Languages degrees because you can build transferable skills in communication, independent research and critical thinking – a degree in Modern Languages can help to prepare you for careers of every kind. Our former students have gone on to pursue a wide range of occupations and further study, including jobs in education, the law, journalism, interpreting, publishing, charity, banking, accountancy, consultancy, and the Civil Service (in particular the Foreign Office).
Making an application
At Hertford, we admit around eight Modern Languages students a year (normally including two to four students in joint schools). There are no fixed quotas for individual languages. During the admissions process, we’ll take into account your UCAS application, submitted written work, admissions test results, and interview – you can find out about the most up-to-date requirements and deadlines on the faculty website.
If you’re shortlisted, we’ll invite you to two interviews of 20-30 minutes. You’ll have one for each language you intend to study and each will be with two tutors. If you apply for a joint honours course, your second interview will be with tutors in the relevant subject.
We want to gauge your interest in your chosen course and your potential to study it. During the interview, we might ask you questions about a short text we’ll give you beforehand. Most of our applicants haven’t had the chance to formally study foreign literature at school – if that applies to you, don’t worry. We don’t expect prior knowledge of any particular period, genre or writer (unless you mention them in your personal statement or written work!).
We are not looking for set answers in your interview – we want to see that you can grasp the sense and language of a given text, that you can say something relevant and interesting about what you’ve read, and that you can respond to questions thoughtfully.
The interview will probably involve some conversation in the target language too. As with the other elements of the interview, this is designed to help identify potential – we certainly don’t expect you to be fluent at this stage!
Joint Schools: English and Modern Languages
4-year BA including a year abroad
This is an extremely flexible course, allowing you to tailor it to your own interests. On the English side, you’ll be able to choose from courses covering everything from Anglo-Saxon literature to contemporary world literature. The Modern Languages side supplements this with practical linguistic training and a focus on language and literature as a broader field of study.
Both our English and Modern Languages Faculties are among the largest in the UK, offering you a huge range of study subjects, expert tutors and extensive resources. You’ll have access to the English Faculty Library and the Taylor Institution Library (for languages). Both are a short distance from Hertford, and support the resources of the Bodleian Library and 24-hour college library on our doorstep.
This degree brings two disciplines and their respective skill sets together: the contextual, social and political concerns of History, with the linguistic and literary analysis skills of Modern Languages. Our commitment to teaching European history – and the specialisms of our professors in French history – supplement the teaching of languages particularly well.
The Oxford History Faculty is the largest in the world, while our Modern Languages Faculty is one of the largest in the UK. This huge wealth of expertise and resources opens many avenues to you, offering you wide and diverse course choices and supporting your intellectual curiosity.
The combination of Philosophy and Modern Languages brings together fundamental ideas and understanding concerning language and literature. Our Philosophy and Modern Languages Faculties are two of the largest in the UK, offering you a wealth of resources and expertise. In your first year, you’ll split your time equally between the two subjects. In subsequent years in Oxford you can choose to balance the two disciplines as you wish through optional courses.