Oxford University Modern Languages Extended Essay Ib

Modern Languages have been taught in Oxford since 1724. The faculty is one of the largest in the country, with a total intake of more than 250 students a year (including joint courses). Undergraduate students can use the Taylor Institution Library, the biggest research library in Britain devoted to modern languages.

Language is at the centre of the Oxford course, making up around 50% of both first-year and final examinations. The course aims to teach spoken fluency in colloquial and more formal situations, the ability to write essays in the foreign language, and the ability to translate into and out of the foreign language with accuracy and sensitivity to a range of vocabulary, styles and registers. You will also develop your reading skills to a high level. The University’s excellently equipped Language Centre has resources specifically tailored to the needs of Modern Language students.

The study of literature gives you an understanding of other cultures that cannot be acquired solely through learning the language. It leads you into areas such as gender issues, popular culture, theatre studies, aesthetics, anthropology, art history, ethics, history, philosophy, politics, psychology and theology, developing your skills as a critical reader, writer and thinker.

Course structure

Your first year is closely structured. You will attend oral classes and courses on the grammatical structure of your language(s), translation into and out of the language(s) and, in some of the languages, comprehension. You will also attend introductory lecture courses and participate in seminars and/or tutorials on literature. If you study French, German, Spanish or Russian as a single language you will take a range of additional options in that language in the first year (see below). All other languages must be studied in combination with another language or another subject.

Your other years of study give you more freedom to choose the areas on which you wish to focus, from a very wide range of options. Students studying courses with Polish take this as a subsidiary language, beginning in the second year. Catalan, Galician, Provençal, Yiddish and most of the Slavonic languages may also be taken as additional options.

International opportunities

Modern Languages students spend a compulsory year abroad, usually in the third year. They may work as paid language assistants in a foreign school or do internships abroad, both of which provide valuable opportunities to develop career experience while improving language competence. The year may also be spent studying at a foreign university. (Students taking Beginners’ Russian spend the second year – as opposed to the third year – of their studies on a specially designed eight-month language course in the city of Yaroslavl.) Students are encouraged to spend as much as possible of their vacations in the countries whose languages they are studying. In addition to the possibility of Erasmus funding, extra financial support, including travel scholarships, may be available from your college and/or the faculty.

College choice

Please see our guidance on choosing a college, and which language combinations are available at each college.

Deferred entry

Students are welcome to apply for deferred entry for any language courses except those including Beginners’ Russian.

Related courses

Students interested in this course might also like to consider Classics and Modern Languages, English and Modern Languages, European and Middle Eastern Languages, History and Modern Languages, Modern Languages and Linguistics, Philosophy and Modern Languages or Oriental Studies.

Language Careers

Oxford aims to produce world-class linguists, and the skills gained and fostered by studying languages at degree level are much prized by employers. Their knowledge and transferable skills ensure that modern linguistics are among the most sought-after graduates in Britain. Employers value Modern Languages graduates because they are competent in one or two languages, have acquired a range of transferable skills and have first-hand experience of other cultures. Among the careers successfully followed by modern linguists are: journalism, management, the law, teaching and lecturing, arts and administration, civil and diplomatic service, environmental and development work, and many more.

Catherine is Director of the Refugee Support Network. She says: ‘Since graduating from Oxford, I have worked in the field of refugee education and education in emergencies for various charities, including Save the Children and various United Nations agencies.

The skills I gained at Oxford have helped me to analyse situations thoughtfully and critically, and gave me the confidence to establish the Refugee Support Network in 2009. I never thought I would use my language skills in situations as diverse as Sudanese refugee camps, with Haitian earthquake survivors and with young victims of trafficking in London.’

A typical weekly timetable

Your week’s work will include a tutorial in, or organised by, your college, language classes in the language(s) you study, and typically three to four hours of lectures for each subject.

To find out more about how our teaching year is structured, visit our Academic Year page.

1st year


Two-language course

  • practical language work
  • study of important works and/or topics in the literature of each language

One-language course: as above, plus

  • for French, German, Russian and Spanish, additional options: film studies; literary theory (French); medieval studies (German/Spanish); key texts in French or German thought; short fiction (Spanish); Polish and Church Slavonic (Russian) 

Other languages must be studied in combination with another language or joint school.


First University examinations:Seven or eight written papers, including translation and literature (language only for Beginners’ Russian).

2nd year


Two-language course
  • practical language work
  • a period of literature in each language
  • optional subjects, including linguistics; medieval literature; detailed study of individual authors
One-language course
  • as above, but including a greater range of optional subjects
3rd and 4th years

Year 3

Typically spent abroad

Beginners’ Russian: Students spend the second year in Russia, and the third year in Oxford

Year 4

Continues the course from year 2, plus special subjects across a wide range of options including film studies

The options listed above are illustrative and may change. More information about current options is available on the Modern Languages website.


Final University examinations:
Nine or ten written papers and an oral examination are taken, including unprepared translations, literature subjects, special subjects and linguistics. Some special subjects are examined by submitting a portfolio of essays.

Oxford university modern languages extended essay

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