Modern and Medieval Languages

Bill Burgwinkle

March (4th yr) with Bill Burgwinkle (French) and Nicola Morato (Italian)

Welcome to the MML page at King’s! In what follows, we tell you about the subject at King’s, the inter-relation between the University and College teaching, the Fellows and supervisors you might work with in the College and the application process.

MML at King’s

King's has a friendly and diverse student body with a good number of international students, which makes the College a particularly rich environment for students with an interest in languages and cultures across the world. In an average year, there are normally some native speakers of most languages taught on the course. King's travel grants are available to help fund visits to other countries during the vacations.

MML students

Godela Weiss-Sussex (German) with Ben and Chris on Graduation Day

MML is strong at King's, both in student numbers and in academic performance. We have a lively community of around 30 undergraduate Modern Linguists plus a healthy number of Fellows. We offer in-college teaching in French, German, Linguistics, Russian and Spanish. Any combination of languages allowed by the Faculty can be accommodated at King’s.

Students may choose to specialise in any two of the following languages: French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. It is also possible to combine a modern language with either Classical Latin or Classical Greek (both of which are taught by King’s Fellows). With the exception of French and Classical Latin, Cambridge offers you the opportunity to study any one of these languages from scratch (ab initio).

Group looking at a book

Gina and Hannah with Rory O'Bryen (Spanish)

For other languages, which may be studied but do not count as part of your two-language tripos, we maintain exchange agreements for teaching in Catalan, Greek, Ukrainian and Polish.

King's College Library is available 24/7 and provides many pleasant places to study (see the virtual tour), as well as books for the course and a good collection of foreign language films on DVD. The College is one of the closest to both the MML Faculty on the Sidgwick Site and the University Library (see map), as well as having the advantages of being a central College on the river, with easy access to shops, other Colleges and the Language Centre.

Our graduates go on to pursue successful careers in a broad range of fields, often aided by their work experience or studies undertaken during their third year (see below). In the past few years, these have included several in journalism, publishing, the art market, international development, law, banking, drama, the Civil Service, the Foreign Service, politics, arts administration, and teaching and research at both school and University levels.

The MML Tripos (Tripos = course)

The Modern Languages course at Cambridge leads to a BA (with honours) after four years, the third of which is spent abroad. The course is divided into three components, each followed by an examination: Part IA, IB and Part II. The chief emphasis in Part IA (first year) is on language learning in two languages, with emphasis given to oral proficiency, translation, linguistic and literary analysis. This training continues in Part IB (second year) but with the addition of specialised papers on specific literary and linguistic topics pertaining to the languages and cultures chosen.

If you enter with an A-level or equivalent in your chosen language, you take Option B of Parts IA and IB. If you begin a language ab initio, you take Option A in Parts IA and IB with the expectation that by the end of the second year (IB) you will have reached a comparable standard in both languages. From Part IB onwards, undergraduates can specialise entirely in one language, but usually combine papers from their two languages. Some papers from other Triposes (English, Psychology, History, etc.) are open to Modern Linguists.

The year abroad

The third year is spent abroad, in a country in which one of your languages is spoken as a first or second language. Many students enrol in a university course given in the target language (the course may be in any subject, provided that instruction is in the language you have been studying). Others teach English as a Language Assistant at a school through the British Council. Others again opt to work abroad, as interns or in paying positions. The Year Abroad Office keeps files on available internships and students may also find their own employment. This work experience is often key in deciding on future training and employment. During this year you also write a compulsory dissertation or translation topic chosen at the end of the second year.

A full description of the papers offered by the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages is available on the MML website.

Student perspectives

Hannah, Tom and Tish have written about their experiences of studying languages at King's, including their reasons for applying, the papers they chose, the work, social life, and application process. These pieces are well worth reading to get a sense of what King's MML is really like. 

Fellows in MML at King’s

Bill Burgwinkle

Bill Burgwinkle is a Professor of Medieval French and Occitan Literature. He teaches all levels of French language and lectures on medieval literature, psychoanalysis and literary theory. His published work is on troubadour poetry, medieval romance, gender and sexuality, literature in the Mediterranean, sanctity, and the visual arts.

Brad Epps

Brad Epps is a Professor of Spanish and will be Head of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese in the MML Faculty from late December 2013.  His research interests include 18th to 21st century Spanish and Latin American literature, Catalan literature and film, Ibero-American cinema, photography, and art, Hispanophone Africa, theories of visuality, modernity, critical theory, gender and sexuality studies, feminist thought, queer theory, urban cultures, immigration, and post-colonial studies, among others.

No photo available

Aileen Kelly (Director of Studies for Part II) is a Life Fellow in Slavonic Studies. She has published widely on the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century literature and intellectual history, with particular interest in such figures as Bakunin, Dostoevsky, Herzen, Chekhov and Bakhtin.

Rory O'Bryen

Rory O’Bryen (Director of Studies) is a University Lecturer in Latin American literature and culture who has published a book on Colombian literature, cinema and history, and is editing a book on Latin American popular culture. His current and future research projects include a book on the novels of Roberto Bolaño (1953-2003), and a cultural history of the Magdalena River in Colombia.

Chris Prendergast

Christopher Prendergast is a Life Fellow in French (retired) who has published widely on nineteenth-century literature, culture and aesthetics. He edited the new Penguin translation of Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu and his latest book, The Classic: Sainte-Beuve and the Nineteenth-Century Culture Wars was awarded the 2008 Gapper Prize by the Society for French Studies as the outstanding publication in that year on a French topic.

Aleksandar Stević

Aleksandar Stević studies the 19th and 20th century novel (primarily in French and English), and is particularly interested in the intersections of literary form and developments in social, intellectual and political history. He is currently studying the development of the European Bildungsroman between 1830 and 1930. Other interests include the history and theory of tragedy, political contexts of European modernisms, problems of Holocaust representation, and the history of literary criticism and aesthetics.

Erika Swales

Erika Swales is a Life Fellow in German (retired) who has written extensively on German drama and prose fiction of the 18th and 19th century, including studies on Adalbert Stifter, Gottfried Keller and Goethe.

Bert Vaux

Bert Vaux is a University Lecturer in Linguistics and Undergraduate Coordinator for the Department of Linguistics, specialising in phonology, morphology (English, Armenian, and Abkhaz), dialectology, and (Indo-European and Turkic) historical linguistics. His research focuses on using historical, geographic, and idiolectal nanovariation in phonological and lexical structure to investigate the nature of the human language faculty and general animal cognition.

Godela Weiss-Sussex

Godela Weiss-Sussex (Director of Studies) is a Fellow in German at King’s as well as a Senior Lecturer in German at the London Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies. Her main research interests lie in the works of German-Jewish writers produced in Germany and in exile; contemporary women’s writing; the representation of the city in literature; and the relationship between literary text, contemporary aesthetic theory and the visual arts.

What we are looking for?

Brad Epps at a conference

Brad Epps (Spanish) speaking in Nanjing, China

Here are some of the qualities we seek in our linguists:

  • delight in learning and speaking a living language;
  • interest in foreign cultures and a readiness to be immersed in them;
  • curiosity about language and the historical development of art and literature;
  • interest in the inter-relation between history and the arts;
  • above all, independent, creative and analytically sharp minds and a relish for reading, discussing and writing.

Applying to study MML at King’s

To apply you should already have a prepared one language to A-level or equivalent (and ideally some background in another as well). We like to see evidence of reading (whether in or outside your school curriculum) in the area of your language, though such reading does not have to be academic. It is equally important that you show signs of curiosity and motivation – this is a demanding course of study.

A guide to the application process is given on our how to apply page, which we advise you to read thoroughly. All candidates apply for Modern and Medieval Languages on the UCAS form. On the SAQ (or the COPA, if you are an overseas student), you will be asked to indicate which two languages you would like to study, and whether you already study your second language or will start from scratch.

After applying through UCAS, MML candidates will be asked to submit one essay written in each post-A level (or equivalent) language they are applying for, plus a second/third essay in English on a subject of literary, linguistic, historical or cultural interest. If you do not have such essays available, you may write them independently (but we would encourage you to have the essay marked by a teacher, if possible).

Most applicants are asked to come to Cambridge for an interview with two Fellows in your languages. In most cases candidates are asked to prepare some material which they collect half an hour before the interview. This may be a text written in one of the languages you plan to study at Cambridge (in English for an ab inito language), or some grammar questions to think about etc. In the morning there is a short essay exercise.

Our standard A Level offer is A* (in any relevant subject), A, and A. Common offers in other examination systems are given on our entrance requirements page.

Resources and events

Further information

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