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European and Middle Eastern Languages

This course in European and Middle Eastern Languages (EMEL) enables students to combine papers in one of the languages taught in the faculty of Modern Languages with papers in Arabic, Hebrew, Persian or Turkish, thus providing opportunities to take advantage of the cultural linkages which exist between a number of European and Middle Eastern languages.

For example, appropriate combinations might well be French and Arabic, German and Turkish, or Hebrew and Russian, but even some of the less obvious pairings would provide similar cultural and historical linkage. Thus Spanish and Turkish would be an interesting combination for the history of Sephardi Judaism, while Persian and Portuguese are important for the study of early imperialism.


Through its long-standing traditions and more recent gifts, Oxford has unique resources for the study of Middle Eastern and Modern Languages. The Bodleian Library and Taylor Institute Library (for Modern Languages) have a magnificent collection of books and manuscripts. The Taylor Institute Library is one of the biggest research and lending libraries devoted to modern European languages in the world. Associated with the University is the Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, which houses the Leopold Muller Library with more than 35,000 volumes in Hebrew and more than 7,000 volumes in Western languages.

The course consists of two parts. The first year leads up to the Preliminary Examination, and at this stage the elements of the course are compulsory, while the remainder of the course offers a wide range of options and prepares undergraduates for the Final Examination.

Teaching takes the form of tutorials (involving two or more students) and classes, which will usually be organised and taken by Fellows and Lecturers of the College, although those pursuing some of the more specialised options may receive tutorials from an outside tutor, and in smaller languages and in linguistics some of the teaching is organised on a departmental basis.

Students will normally have one tutorial a week for which they produce an essay (in English) on a given topic, and language classes for each language. In addition, a wide range of lectures will be on offer: these are organised by the University and given by tutors from a variety of colleges. They cover the syllabus but are not compulsory (except for those in the first year). Tutors will advise undergraduates concerning which lectures are likely to prove most beneficial.

The first year

In the European language, the first-year course is intended to consolidate and develop language skills learnt at school and to awaken an interest in areas which may be new. Language work will include intensive study of grammar and vocabulary to lay a firm foundation for the remainder of the course and there will be particular emphasis on developing reading and writing skills. Tutorial work and lectures will introduce students to literature and train the skills of critical analysis. In the Middle Eastern language, students receive intensive language instruction and take introductory courses in the culture of the relevant country or region.

The examinations at the end of the first year comprise three ‘papers’ in the European language and two in the Middle Eastern language. In addition, there is an oral examination for Arabic.

The year abroad

The EMEL course is a four-year course, including a compulsory year abroad in the second year. You will normally spend the second academic year at an approved course of study in the Middle East, and you are strongly advised to spend the adjacent summers where the European language of your choice is spoken. There are arrangements in place with partner universities to help you make the most of your time abroad. The College has an exchange scheme with the University of Trier, which accommodates one student a year. All undergraduate members of the College are eligible to apply for this exchange.

The third and fourth years

Students can design a course chosen from a wide range of options to suit their interests. Oxford is one of the few British universities at which it is possible to explore foreign literature right back to medieval times; on the other hand students are also able to concentrate on modern literature. Options in linguistics permit students to treat the language from an academic angle as an object of study, complementing the development of practical language skills. Language work is intended to foster an accurate and sophisticated use of the language both orally and in writing, and good reading skills.

Four papers are taken in each language, plus an oral examination in each language (except Hebrew) consisting of an oral discourse, conversation and a listening comprehension exercise. Students are also required to complete an Extended Essay, which is intended to form a ‘bridge’ between the European and Middle Eastern sides of the course e.g. a comparison between the work of certain authors writing in the two languages, or a study in the comparative linguistics of the two languages.


Professor Katrin Kohl

Professor Katrin Kohl is a Fellow and Tutor in German. She teaches German literature from 1750. Her research focuses on poetry and poetics, and on the theory and practice of metaphor. Currently she is on research leave, leading an interdisciplinary research project on Creative Multilingualism for the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages.

Professor Caroline Warman

Professor Caroline Warman is Fellow and Tutor in French. She teaches and researches eighteenth and nineteenth-century French literature and thought, and has translated novels and essays from French. She has just finished a book about Enlightenment philosopher Diderot and co-organised a congress on the Enlightenment for 1500 people from all over the world. She teaches French literature and thought and also translation to all years.


Dr Ole Hinz

Dr Ole Hinz, is a German Lektor at Jesus College. His research is situated at the intersection of literature, philosophy, and intellectual history, with an emphasis on 20th-century German literature and critical theory.

Ms Hannah Scheithauer

Ms Hannah Scheithauer is a lecturer at Jesus College teaching German Literature since 1730. Her research interests are Modern and contemporary literature in French and German, memory studies, post-Holocaust and postcolonial literature, transnational and comparative literature, Ingeborg Bachmann, Assia Djebar.

Dr Elena Lombardi

Dr Elena Lombardi, a Fellow of Balliol College, is a Lecturer in Italian for Jesus College. Her teaching interests focus on Dante, early Italian poetry, and Medieval Studies.

Dr Daniela Omlor

Dr Daniela Omlor, Fellow in Spanish at Lincoln College, also looks after Jesus students. Her research focuses on contemporary Spanish literature, with a particular emphasis on memory, trauma and exile. Her first book examined the role of memory and self-representation in the works of Jorge Semprún. Currently, she is exploring the interaction between memory and fiction in recent novels by Javier Cercas, Javier Marías and Antonio Muñoz Molina and others, in order to investigate how the recovery of historical memory in Spanish novels increasingly extends beyond the Spanish Civil War.

Dr Nick Mayhew

Dr Nick Mayhew is a lecturer in Russian at Jesus College. His research focuses on gender, sexuality and religion in Russian literature and culture, with a particular focus on religious discourses of sexual deviance.

The deadline to submit your application for undergraduate study via UCAS is 16 October (please note that this date is usually 15 October, except where this date falls on a weekend). Please refer to the University’s webpages for detailed information on how to apply.

Places available at Jesus College

In a total College entry of about 100 undergraduates, 9-10 will typically be studying Modern Languages and its Joint Schools.

Academic requirements

Academic requirements for this subject can be found here.

Selection Criteria

The specific selection criteria are given on the Modern Languages and Oriental Studies websites.

Admissions tests

Separate registration for the tests is required and it is the responsibility of the candidate to ensure that they are registered by the deadline of 29 September 2023. We strongly recommend making the arrangements in plenty of time before the deadline. Everything you need to know, including how to register and guidance on how to prepare, can be found can be found here. Please refer to the faculty website Modern Languages and Oriental Studies.

Written work

Candidates are required to submit two marked pieces of recent school or college work: one piece written in the European language applied for (if currently studied), plus one piece written in English (perhaps on literature, or history, or some other subject you are studying at school or college) to show how you construct an argument and express your ideas in English.

Additionally, if you have studied the Middle Eastern language applied for, you should submit a piece in this language too.

The deadline to submit all written work is 10 November 2023. Further information on the written work requirements can be viewed here.


The interview for the European language will last approximately 30 minutes and will be mainly in English, but it will include a brief conversation in the language offered if studied to A2 level. We aim to encourage candidates to do themselves justice at interview, and we will ask them about their course rather than expect them to have done a certain type of course. We expect candidates to be motivated to do a course with a focus on literature, but do not assume that they will have studied literature formally. Interviews for the Middle Eastern language are arranged by the Oriental Institute.

Deferred Entry

Please refer to the Departmental website for subject-specific advice.

The Tutors have no objection in principle to offering a place to a candidate who wishes to defer entry for a year, provided this intention is made known at the outset. You must apply for deferred entry at the time of application to Oxford: you cannot change your mind after an offer has been made.

You should be aware that applicants who are offered places for deferred entry will generally be among the very strongest of the cohort for their subject, and the College limits its offers of deferred places in order not to disadvantage candidates applying in the following year. In some cases, an applicant for deferred entry may be offered a place for non-deferred entry instead.

Candidates are selected on the basis of academic record (e.g. GCSEs) and potential, as shown by their UCAS reference, submitted written work, performance in written tests and in interviews if shortlisted.

Joint Schools

Modern Languages can be studied as a single discipline and is also available as a joint course as follows:

Please note that Jesus College does not accept applications for single discipline courses in any of the Middle Eastern Languages which come under the Oriental Studies course options.

Oxford has a large, varied, and active teaching and research community in Modern Languages. There are over ninety members of the Faculty, with research interests spread across the full chronological range of the languages and into most areas of linguistics and literary study. The College welcomes applicants for the following degrees in Medieval and Modern Languages:

  • MSt or MPhil Modern Languages
  • DPhil Medieval and Modern Languages
  • MSt Women’s Studies

Beyond the subject-specific aims, the undergraduate course trains students’ critical faculties and gives them a wide range of other ‘transferable skills’. Students learn to organise their time and cope with working under pressure, and the course provides intensive training in communication skills: weekly essays demand quick assimilation of material and foster writing skills, while discussion in tutorials and classes develops confidence in presenting an independent view clearly and comprehensibly.

Oxford graduates in these subjects regularly go into highly competitive areas such as law, finance, commerce, management consultancy, accountancy, the media, advertising, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the arts.

If you have any questions about entrance requirements, or about applying to study at Jesus College, please contact the Admissions Officer: