I really enjoy how varied the subject matter is. It means I’m never bored!
What do you enjoy the most about your course?
I really enjoy how varied the subject matter is. One day I can be writing an essay about a piece of French literature, delving into 17th Century French society and analysing literary techniques; the next day I am drawing anatomical diagrams and producing phonetic transcriptions. It means I’m never bored! Although Linguistics isn’t strictly a STEM subject, it’s still a science, and so I really appreciate studying one of the few degrees which is a true mix between sciences and humanities, as it allows me to consider a topic from a variety of perspectives. I can bring my linguistics knowledge into my French essays and vice versa, which is always very satisfying.
“I really appreciate studying one of the few degrees which is a true mix between sciences and humanities.”
The tutorial system and being able to interact with top academics is also very rewarding, as I always leave them feeling that I’ve been able to approach a topic from a viewpoint which I hadn’t previously considered. Tutorials often feel more like in-depth conversations than lessons, and even though I was definitely apprehensive about the prospect of classes where it’s more difficult to hide, it’s really helped me to engage with my subjects more closely and find what I’m passionate about, as cliché as that sounds.
How is your subject taught?
The first year Linguistics course is divided up into three papers, which each have a lecture a week and a class or tutorial either every week or every fortnight. We’re given a variety of essays and exercises to do, for which there is set reading. French works much like other languages in that there is a focus on both literature, with lectures and seminars for each set text, and language, with translation, grammar and speaking classes. You usually prepare work in advance of each class and it acts as a starting point for discussion. Most of the modules run on a two-week timetable; even if it may initially seem that you don’t have many contact hours with your tutors, you soon find that you have plenty to be getting on with!
“Oriel greatly appealed to me. Everything you could ever need is within walking distance and the college’s location also means that it is relatively tucked away.”
What made you decide to apply for Oxford/Oriel and do you have any top tips on the application process?
For Modern Foreign Languages, the course at Oxford is well-known for its emphasis on literature, which immediately piqued my interest. I also appreciated how varied the modules were for FHS (the content you cover either side of your year abroad) because I felt that no matter what I found I was interested in after first year, I would have options open to me.
In terms of colleges, I based my choice on the cohort size and location. As a small, central college, Oriel greatly appealed to me. Everything you could ever need is within walking distance and the college’s location also means that it is relatively tucked away, giving you the sense of peace and quiet even in the centre of a busy city!
How did you prepare for your interview?
I focused on being able to express my opinions about a piece of writing, whether it was poetry, prose, or a topical newspaper article. The tutors are looking for someone who can genuinely engage with the subject matter so it’s important to be able to think critically about everything you read. I also looked over my personal statement and made sure I could defend all the statements I made regarding the books I’d put on there.
As for Linguistics, I found it was quite useful to look over past paper questions from the Linguistics section of the MLAT as the questions were similar to the ones I was asked during the interview. I would avoid putting too many books on your personal statement, though – focus on being able to interact with and express your thoughts on a few choice texts, as this will mean that you aren’t cramming reading in the weeks before interviews!
What advice do you have for prospective students interested in studying your subject?
“don’t worry if you haven’t had the opportunity to study much foreign literature at school. It definitely isn’t a prerequisite to apply to Oxford.”
Firstly, don’t worry if you haven’t had the opportunity to study much foreign literature at school. It definitely isn’t a prerequisite to apply to Oxford and it’s more important that you enjoy the analysis of literature in general. It can be useful to research about francophone society, or indeed the culture connected to any language you apply for, since this will help you to decide if you’d enjoy studying the language itself. Since linguistics isn’t a traditional school subject, it can be harder to know what exactly it entails. If you have the chance to take part in the Linguistics Olympiad, I would definitely give it a go, as it involves a more scientific analysis of language than in a traditional language class. You can also check out the CrashCourse Linguistics series which has just been released, which I think gives a very good overview of many of the topics covered in the course at Oxford.
What do you like the most about being an Orielensis?
The close-knit community means that, even in my short time here, I’ve gotten to know so many people from different years who do a huge variety of subjects and have interesting backgrounds and passions. Everyone has something to offer to college life and I’ve enjoyed getting involved in the JCR so far this term. The college grounds, like those in many other Oxford colleges, are stunning – just being able to walk around them is lovely!