Modern and Medieval Languages
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
- The MML Tripos
- The Year Abroad
- Fellows in MML at King's
- What we are looking for?
- Applying to study MML at King's
- Resources and events
- Student Perspectives
- Further Information
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 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, Cambridge offers you the opportunity to study any one of these languages from scratch (ab initio).
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.
Fellows in MML at King’s
There are eight MML Fellows at King’s, five of whom are active teaching Fellows.
Bill Burgwinkle (Director of Studies) is a Professor of Medieval French and Occitan Literature and Head of the French Department in the Faculty. He teaches all levels of French language and lectures on medieval literature, psychoanalysis and literary theory. He has published on troubadour poetry, medieval romance, gender and sexuality, literature in the Mediterranean, sanctity, and the visual arts.
Alexander Etkind is a Reader in Russian Literature and Cultural History who has published books and essays on Russian literature and culture from the 19th to the 21st centuries. His current research interests are internal colonisation in the Russian Empire; narratology from Pushkin to Nabokov; and comparative studies of cultural memory.
Aileen Kelly is a Life Fellow in Slavonic Studies (retired). 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 (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.
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.
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 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 (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?
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. 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
- Please read our general advice about developing your interests.
- There are lots of useful online resources to enrich the study of languages. See, for example, a European web radio directory and a World newspaper directory.
- You may find the guidance for offer holders useful in general terms.
- Events which may be of interest in the year before you apply (year 12 in the UK) include the MML Faculty Open Days, Oxford and Cambridge Student Conferences, CU Masterclasses, and King's Open Days. Students from backgrounds where there is little tradition of entry to Higher Education might like to think about applying for the Sutton Trust Summer Schools or the CUSU Shadowing Scheme.
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.
- Full details of the Tripos and its options are available on the MML Faculty website (see, for example, first year papers). There is also an MML prospectus available to download.
- Course outline and film
- Cambridge University Language Centre: Introduction and Resources
- Applying with limited support or advice
- International Students
- Extenuating Circumstances
- If you have further questions about applying for MML at King's, please do not hesitate to email King's Admissions Office.
- Students interested in MML may also like to consider Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Classics, or Linguistics.