Modern and Medieval Languages

Peruvian drummers at a festival in Peru

Modern and Medieval Languages at Cambridge

If you like learning languages but also want to learn more than just the words, then the Modern and Medieval Languages (MML) course at Cambridge may well be for you. Alongside intensive language study, MML gives you a wide range of opportunities to learn about the culture, literature, cinema, history, philosophy, art and ideas of other countries, or about the nature of language itself (linguistics).

The MML course at Cambridge lasts four years, with the third year spent abroad. The main languages available for study are: French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish, with Dutch, Modern Greek, Catalan, Polish and Ukrainian as options after the first year. It is also perfectly possible to combine a European language with a classical language, e.g., classical Greek or classical Latin, or with a language from Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, like Arabic.

You would take two languages during the first two years of the degree: some students continue with two languages that they have already studied at A Level (or equivalent) and some continue with one language that they have studied at A Level while starting a new language (or one that they have not studied as far as A Level). The chief emphasis in the first year is on developing your language skills, although there are also papers that introduce you to literature, linguistics, film and history, giving you an idea of what you might like to pursue later in the course. During the year abroad and the fourth year, you would choose how to divide your time between the two languages you're studying. At this stage, you'd have the opportunity to pursue your interests in significant depth, and the wide range of papers on offer would allow you to focus in great detail, for instance, on particular historical periods, cultural movements, critical theory, the body as represented across different media, intellectual history and more besides.

Leaders in world-class scholarship and teaching, academic staff at the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages are pioneering researchers in a wide range of fields that include the phenomenon of human language itself, individual European languages and language families, and the literatures, art forms, film, history, and cultures associated with those languages both today and in the past. The Faculty came top of the league table for Modern Languages and Linguistics in the University Guide 2017 published by The Guardian newspaper.

Full details are provided on the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages website, and summarised in the University Undergraduate Prospectus.

Modern and Medieval Languages at Churchill

Churchill would be an excellent place for you to study MML. Although much of your teaching would take place in the Faculty, quite a bit of it would also take place in the College, depending on your choice of subjects. For example, intensive native-speaker language work and small-group teaching (‘supervisions’) are often held at Churchill. We are fortunate in having an extremely strong group of teachers at Churchill — dynamic, enthusiastic, and supportive. We have Teaching Fellows in French and German literature and culture, with an affiliated expert in Spanish and Latin American literature and culture. We have regular native-speaker language teachers in French (a Senior Language Teaching Officer), German and Spanish. For subjects areas that we do not cover in-house, we would send you to good, carefully-selected supervisors in other colleges. All Cambridge colleges work in this way, to ensure that you get a mix of teaching inside and outside your College. There is a well-stocked College library, and suggestions from undergraduates for further acquisitions are always welcome.

We welcome applications to study any of the languages taught in the Faculty. Whatever languages you are studying, the person with whom you would plan and discuss your academic progress would be your College Director of Studies (DoS) in MML. Your DoS will be keen to help you develop to your full potential during your time here: we want to help you find out what courses of study suit you best, what you are most interested in, what you enjoy most, how to build on your natural strengths and how to improve your knowledge and skills as much as possible. We would treat you as an individual rather than expecting you to follow the same course of studies as your peers or to improve at the same rate.

Our students come from very different backgrounds; they have all kinds of different personalities and interests. We give them lots of practical support too: College aims to give financial help to students wishing to follow vacation courses abroad, and a dedicated fund has been established for such support. Our students regularly do extremely well in their degree examinations, with a number of Churchill students featuring at or near the top of the University rankings in recent years. Recent graduates have gone on to a wide range of careers, such as journalism, marketing and finance, teaching, law and the Civil Service, often using their languages with jobs in Europe or elsewhere.

Student Testimonials

Read about studying MML at Churchill from current students.

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Admissions

We will assess you as an individual, using your application form and interviews to build up as full a picture of you as we can. Almost all applicants are invited to interview.

Subject pre-requisites

Essential Highly desirable/useful
A Level/IB Higher Level in at least one of the languages to be studied No specific subjects

Standard entry requirements

Written assessments

Cambridge University uses a system of common format written assessments, specifically tailored to each subject. These give us valuable additional evidence of your academic ability, knowledge base, and potential to succeed at Cambridge. For more information about written assessments in this subject, click on:

Written assessments

Written work

We will ask you to send us two or three teacher-marked essays from your A Level (or equivalent) courses, preferably completed during Year 13 but otherwise during Year 12:

  1. If you are studying two languages at A Level , whether or not you are applying to continue both here, we will ask you to send us one essay written in each of those languages (on one of the topics you’ve been studying, for example). If you have also written an essay in Year 13 for an A Level subject such as English, History, Psychology, Sociology, Politics, or Geography (human), then we will ask you to send us that too.
  2. If you are studying one language at A Level , we will ask you to send us one essay written in that language and, if possible, another from one of your other A Level subjects, particularly if it’s English, History, Psychology, Sociology, Politics, or Geography (human). If you’re not doing such a subject, then we ask you to send instead a second essay in the language that you’re studying.

We wish to see only teacher-marked essays that you have produced in the normal course of your studies, sent to us exactly as your teacher returned them to you; that is, we don’t want you to rewrite, copy out, type up or word-process essays especially for us.

Interview

If called, you will normally be interviewed by two language specialists, one of whom will be a representative for any language(s) that you are taking at A Level (or equivalent) and that you wish to continue studying here. If you are applying to study one language from scratch (as about half our students do) then one of the interviewers is likely to be a specialist in that language. Even if you have no knowledge of that language, they will want to ask you why you wish to study it. During the interview, you will be asked to speak for just a few minutes in any language that you are doing at A Level and wish to continue studying. You are also likely to be asked:

All of this might seem daunting; but if you feel that you haven’t done well on one item of assessment then try not to worry, since we’re assessing you on many criteria, not just one, and it’s quite possible not to do yourself justice on one aspect but still to be offered a place. We don’t want to catch you out or intimidate you — we want to give you every opportunity to show us your potential. And it’s potential that we’re really looking for: students who are inquisitive, who like reading books of any kind, who have an open mind, who like learning languages but also want to find out about other things, and who are willing to think about ideas that are new to them, even if they don’t fully understand them at first. If you think you fit the bill, then we’ll be delighted if you apply to us!


Contact

For more information and for all admissions enquiries, please contact the Admissions Office.

Admissions Office

Peruvian Drummers. Photograph: J G Blanchard Lewis

Directors of Studies & Teaching Fellows

Professor Andrew Webber

Fellow in German and Director of Studies – Part II

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Dr Edmund Birch

Fellow in French and Director of Studies - Parts 1A and 1B

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Hildegard O'Kane

Language Tutor – German

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Sebastian Bianchi

By-Fellow and Language Tutor – Spanish

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Dr Christophe Gagne

Fellow and language Tutor – French

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Dr Marie Kolkenbrock

Postdoctoral By-Fellow, German

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Dr Geoffrey Kantaris

Supervisor, Hispanic Literature and Culture

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