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Modern Languages and Joint Schools

Modern Languages (French, Italian, Spanish)
Modern Languages & Linguistics
English & Modern Languages (also see English Language & Literature)
History and Modern Languages (also see History)
Philosophy & Modern Languages

The Oxford Modern Languages course offers opportunities to develop skills that you have started to acquire at school and to add new ones.  It sets the challenges of:

  • high levels of accuracy in both the written and spoken language
  • the absorption of large amounts of reading in the foreign language
  • the development of skills of critical analysis of a wide range of literary texts
  • understanding how language functions in abstract terms.

It offers you the opportunity to sample the culture of your foreign language(s) in different historical periods and, after the first University examination, allows you to concentrate on those aspects of literary or linguistic study that most appeal to you.  Those reading French as a sole language will also study cinema and philosophical writing.  Oxford is rich in resources for the study of foreign languages and cultures.  Candidates for French and Spanish, must be studying those languages to school-leaving level. Candidates for Italian may be studying the language to that level; but it is also possible to apply to read Italian at beginners' level. Intensive language teaching is provided, and students with commitment soon reach a high standard. There are excellent libraries, very good IT, and TV resources in the University’s Language Centre, and Oxford is a cosmopolitan community.

Advantages of Keble

The College specializes in French, Italian, Spanish and Linguistics. A great deal of the teaching is provided by Fellows and Lecturers of the College, but for specialist teaching the College makes arrangements with tutors in other colleges. Our tutors monitor the progress of each student very closely. The College awards an annual prize for the best performance in the first-year examination in Modern Languages and the Roquette-Palmer Prize for the best performance in French language to any first- or second-year undergraduate in College, regardless of subject.The Deirdre Tucker Memorial Prize for French Declamation (£500) is also awarded annually to the best declamation by an undergraduate reading French.

The College is ideally situated, barely minutes away from the University’s Language Centre, the Maison Française, and the Modern Languages Faculty lecture rooms and libraries (known as the Taylor Institution). Keble makes excellent Library provision and has multiple copies of works needed by students preparing for the Preliminary Examination.  We admit students to read for the main School of Modern Languages: students can read French, Italian, or Spanish sole, or in combination with each other. We are also keen to admit for the joint schools with Linguistics, English, History and Philosophy. The College has only recently introduced Italian and would like to build up a strong Romance languages presence. Potential applicants should note that it is possible to be admitted to read Italian without prior knowledge of the language.

Course structure

The course is the same whichever college you are at.  It is in two parts.  The first part is covered in the first year and is meant to form a bridge between school and university work.  At the end of the year you take the University’s Preliminary Examination in your language(s) and have to demonstrate solid linguistic foundations and a grasp of literary analysis.  The second part of the course is covered in the second and final years.  All students have to do the same practical language work.  But you can tailor-make your course in the study of Literature and Linguistics to match your developing interests. In between the second and fourth years of your course you will spend a year abroad.  Most students go to one of the countries whose language they are studying as a Language Assistant in a school on a scheme organised by the British Council in conjunction with the University.  If they are studying two languages, they are advised to spend a substantial part of a long vacation in the country of their other language.  There are other ways of intercalating a year abroad, as long as the College gives its approval.

Typical pattern of teaching

College: Weekly classes in each language to practise writing and develop style.  Weekly oral classes. A literature or linguistics tutorial each week for which you would need to write an essay.

University: Typically about six hours of lectures per week, though more for the adventurous!

Qualities sought for entry

We are happy to consider candidates who have already taken their A-levels as well as candidates applying before A-level.  We regularly admit candidates on deferred entry, though we like to be convinced that they will use the ‘gap’ year to the profit of their linguistic capabilities or their cultural awareness.  We are looking for candidates to whom it matters to be accurate when they speak and write a foreign language, who have thought about the way their foreign language(s) work(s) and can discuss this intelligently.  We are looking for candidates who have the potential to become avid readers in the foreign language(s) and who will develop a commitment to literary study.  Many candidates have not formally studied foreign literature at school.  We are looking for those who show sensitivity to unusual linguistic usage and want to understand it.  The course involves substantial amounts of essay-writing in English and the practice Oxford affords you of writing frequently and at speed, of expressing yourself clearly and cogently, and of submitting all your efforts to the scrutiny of a tutor who will question your arguments and your presentation of them, will make you a highly marketable commodity by the end of your course.  We want to admit people with intellectual rigour and curiosity, who can cope with hard work and benefit from our special teaching methods.

If you are applying to read a Joint School, remember that you will have to convince tutors on each side of the School that you possess the different kinds of potential relevant to the two disciplines.

Written work: Candidates will be asked to send in one piece of school work (typically an essay) written in each language applied for (unless it is being taken ab-initio) and, in addition, one piece of school work in English (on any subject). The work must have been marked by a teacher.

Written tests: All candidates applying to read a modern language (or languages) will be required to take a written test as part of their application (see further details about registration for pre-interview tests). If you are applying for a joint school with Linguistics, English, History or Philosophy, you will also have to sit a test in the joint subject (see details about subject tests).

Interview: It is expected that the majority of candidates will be invited to interview.  At Keble, candidates would typically have two interviews.  In the course of the interviews, candidates are asked to speak for a short while in their foreign language(s) (unless they are applying to read ab-initio Italian).

For further information, see the Modern Languages and Joint Schools pages of the Oxford Undergraduate Prospectus.


Approximate yearly intake Keble: 9 including Joint Schools
Department Website Faculty of Modern Languages


Via the College Office.


Dr Michael Hawcroft MA, DPhil Fellow and Tutor in French

Professor Nicola Gardini MA, PhD Fellow and Tutor in Italian

Dr Imogen Choi PhD Stipendiary Lecturer in Spanish

Dr Howard Jones MA, PhD Fellow by Special Election, Linguistics

In addition, the College has a lecturer in modern French literature (Dr Stephen Goddard) and employs a French native speaker who conducts oral classes. Oral classes in Spanish and Italian are provided by the Faculty of Modern Languages.