Modern and Medieval Languages
Cambridge offers exceptional opportunities to study the languages and cultures of most European (and many non-European) countries. Our students acquire advanced linguistic and critical skills, as well as intercultural sensitivity, which places them among the most sought-after graduates on the job market. The Modern and Medieval Languages (MML) course at Cambridge is uniquely flexible and interdisciplinary. You can pursue your interests in many areas – from Italian Renaissance art to contemporary Brazilian cinema, medieval German folk tales to socialist realism in Stalin’s Russia. MML also includes options in linguistics, such as the historical and cognitive dimensions of the languages you’re studying.
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 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.
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 and Classical Latin, 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 normally available 24/7 and provides many pleasant places to study, 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. It is also 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.
Fellows at King's in MML:
Applying for MML at King’s
We welcome applications for MML from suitably qualified applicants at all kinds of schools, all over the world. On the additional Cambridge questionnaire, 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.
To apply you should already have 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.
Applicants who are invited for interview are also required to take the college registered written assessment for MML, which lasts one hour. You do not need to register for this written assessment as it will be organised automatically by the College if you are invited for interview.
After applying through UCAS, MML candidates will be required 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). We will provide information on how to submit this after 15th October.
Most applicants are asked to come to King's for an interview with two Fellows in your languages or, on some occasions, are interviewed online. 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 initio language), or some grammar questions to think about.
Ellen has written about her experiences of studying languages at King's, including her reasons for applying, the papers she chose, the work, social life, and application process. This account is well worth reading to get a sense of what King's MML is really like.
Reading, Resources and Events
For MML, it is particularly useful to be able to demonstrate critical engagement with the literature and culture of the societies where the languages you want to study are spoken. There are lots of useful online resources to enrich the study of languages. See below, for example, for a European web radio directory and a World newspaper directory. Regular use of phone apps such as Memrise and Duolingo can be useful for developing language skills (or you can study on their websites if you prefer).
Events which may be of interest in the year before you apply (year 12 in the UK) include: The MML Faculty Open Day in March (we normally organise an informal drop-in at King's straight after this event), Oxford and Cambridge Student Conferences, 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.