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Modern Languages and Linguistics

The study of Modern Languages provides both practical linguistic training in the language and an extensive introduction to many areas of European literature and thought, while the Linguistics allows you to focus on language itself.

Oxford’s Modern Languages Faculty is one of the largest in the country, with a total intake of 310 students a year (including joint degrees). We enjoy the advantages of a central building – the Taylor Institution – as the focus for our work. This building houses the Taylor Institution Library, which is the biggest research library in Britain devoted to modern languages, and also an undergraduate lending library for modern languages. The University’s modern and excellently equipped Language Centre received special praise in the last Teaching Quality Assessment. It has a library of taped, self-instructional courses in all major European languages and a large collection of reference works, listening comprehension and video materials, some of which are specifically tailored to the needs of Modern Languages students. It is also equipped with satellite TV and computer-assisted language learning facilities.

Jesus College accepts students for all the languages taught at Oxford, and has Fellows in French and German, Lecturers in Italian, Russian and Spanish, and Lectors in French and German. We also accept students for all the Joint Honour Schools, combining one language with Classics, English, History, Linguistics, Philosophy, or a Middle Eastern language. Each subject is studied to the same level, i.e. there are no subsidiary subjects. The focus of the Modern Languages course is on language, literature and (optionally) linguistics.

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 Modern Language element of the Modern Languages and Linguistics course will be like one half of the main Modern Languages course, i.e. students of a particular language follow the same programme, regardless of the combination of languages or other subjects taken. Please note that Czech, Polish, and Beginners’ Russian are not available in combination with Linguistics. You will receive both practical linguistic training and an extensive introduction to the literature and thought of the European language you choose.

The Linguistics half of the course allows you to focus on language itself. You will be introduced to the analysis of the nature and structure of human language in all its aspects. Oxford offers facilities for the linguistic and philological study of European languages that are unmatched anywhere else in Britain. The University has particular expertise in general linguistics, phonetics, phonology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, and in the history and structure of many individual European languages and families of related languages.

The year abroad

Modern Languages and Linguistics is a 4-year course involving a year abroad. Many students spend the year abroad as a paid language assistant in a foreign school, though you may do work abroad or study at a foreign university. If you need further information, you can consult with the college of your choice. We encourage you to spend as much as possible of your vacations in the countries whose languages you are studying. Financial support, including travelling scholarships, may be available from your college and/or the Faculty.

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.

Starting a language from scratch

This is possible in the case of Italian, German, Portuguese, Russian and a Middle Eastern Language. Candidates must combine study of the new language with a language which they have taken to A-level or equivalent, and they will be expected to have achieved a high level of proficiency in the grammar of the language studied to A-level. In the case of Italian, an accepted candidate will be expected to complete a programme of work in the vacation before coming up to Oxford, since they will be examined at the end of their first year on a par with students who commenced their university course with A-level Italian.


Professor Caroline Warman

Professor Caroline Warman, 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.Professor Katrin Kohl

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.

Dr Daniel Altshuler

Dr Daniel Altshuler, Fellow and Tutor in Linguistics. He teaches general linguistics, as well as semantics and pragmatics at all levels. His research focuses on context dependence, with the aim of better understanding how compositional semantics interacts with discourse structure and discourse coherence. He has just finished a book on the syntax, semantics and pragmatics of coordination and is editing a volume entitled “Linguistics meets Philosophy”, with the aim of empowering new interdisciplinary discussion.


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.

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.

The deadline to submit your application for undergraduate study via UCAS is 15 October. 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 are offered places in a typical year to read Modern Languages and related 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 website.

Admissions tests

All candidates must take the Modern Languages Admissions Tests (MLAT) as part of their application. The registration date and test date will be confirmed on the University’s website soon. Everything you need to know, including how to register and guidance on how to prepare, can be found here.

Written work

Candidates are required to submit marked pieces of recent school or college work: one piece in each of the languages they are currently studying, 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 are studying an A-level or other qualification involving linguistic analysis (eg English Language), please also send in a piece of written work from that.

The deadline to submit all written work is 10 November 2024. Further information on the written work requirements can be viewed here.


All shortlisted candidates will have an interview lasting approximately 30 minutes with our Modern Languages tutors, with additional interviews with lecturers in the other language(s) applied for as appropriate. Interviews will be mainly in English, but will include a brief conversation in the languages offered if they are being studied to A-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. Candidates will also receive an interview with our Linguistics tutor.

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.

Joint Schools

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

Linguistics cannot be studied as a single discipline for a degree, but it is available as a joint course as follows:

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 applications for the following postgraduate degrees:

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

The following degrees are offered by the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics at postgraduate level:

  • MSt or MPhil Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics
  • DPhil Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics

The undergraduate course in Modern Languages at Oxford is intended to transmit an awareness of one or more foreign cultures in relation to students’ native culture and to equip students with a sophisticated command of the language or languages they study. Beyond these subject-specific aims, the 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.

Recent studies indicate that an increasing number of British employers are realising the value of recruiting trained linguists, and Oxford Modern Languages graduates regularly go into highly competitive areas such as law, management consultancy, accountancy, international press agencies, the media, advertising, the Foreign Office and the performing arts.

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