Modern and Medieval Languages

All students of Modern and Medieval Languages (MML) in Cambridge study two languages. You may begin any language except French from scratch, or you may wish to continue with languages you are already studying at A Level. The varied nature of the Cambridge course in Modern and Medieval Languages means that linguists at Catz have the opportunity to study literature and culture, including history, linguistics and film, alongside intensive language courses. All students spend their third year in a foreign country: students from St Catharine's regularly teach or study in France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Russia, Latin America and Francophone Africa.

Faculty website:

MML is one of the principal Arts subjects offered at St Catharine's. At any one time we have between twenty-five and thirty undergraduates studying various languages in the College, and another eight or nine students studying abroad for the year. There is a lively and cohesive community of linguists in college.

Students at Cambridge study two languages, at least for their first year. In subsequent years it is possible to specialize in one language, but most students prefer to keep both languages going. Here at St Catharine's we accept students in Modern Languages for any combination of the multitude of languages offered by the Faculty, provided that you will have an A Level or equivalent in at least one of the languages you wish to read here.

Teaching of languages other than those taught by our Fellows will usually take place outside college and is organized by the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages. We are happy to accept students in a variety of languages. In recent years we have had students reading German, Russian, Portuguese, and Modern Greek.

Please note: although the College does not admit students to read the full three-year Linguistics course, St Catharine's Modern Language students are welcome to select any modules from the MML course, including the Linguistics ones.

Modern and Medieval Languages at St Catharine's has a good academic record and has helped its students produce excellent results in recent years. This is based on several factors. First, on the fact that we have an integrated team of in-house teachers (Dr Sura Qadiri in French; Professor Geoffrey Kantaris in Spanish and Professor Abigail Brundin in Italian). Second, on the innovative approach to teaching MML in college: in addition to regular seminars and supervisions we provide the opportunity for students in different languages to come together and exchange ideas in a course of seminars on Literary and Cultural Theory. Third, on the strength of the research interests of our teaching staff, which are wide-ranging and dynamic, ranging from the literature and culture of medieval France, through women's writing and dictatorship in Latin America, and Spanish and Latin American cinema, to the literature, art and culture of the Italian Renaissance. Last but not least, St Catharine's College Library is one of the best in Cambridge for MML, containing all the primary texts you will be studying in the major languages and much secondary criticism as well.

St Catharine’s participates in an exchange with the École Normale Supérieure in Paris: each year, we have a French lecteur or lectrice from the ENS, and St Catharine’s students have the opportunity to spend their year abroad studying in the ENS.

Our usual offer is A*AA at A Level. In line with the policy of the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages, we do not specify the subject in which we require candidates to gain an A*.

Candidates are usually invited to submit a couple of pieces of written work in advance of the college interviews. The first interview will last 30 minutes, and is a general interview to explore your interest in and aptitude for language learning. The second interview focuses on the languages you are applying to study at Cambridge. If you are applying to study two languages post-A Level (or equivalent), your interview will last 40 minutes; if you are applying to study one language post-A Level (or equivalent) and one language from scratch, then your interview will last 30 minutes. Part of this interview will be conducted in these chosen language(s), if you are studying them at A Level (or equivalent). The interview will also include a number of formal tests, including questions focusing on grammar and translation; and the discussion of a passage in the foreign language, which you may pick up 30 minutes prior to your first interview.

Find out about the general advice for anyone applying for undergraduate courses at St Catharine's.

Catz is a great place to study MML, especially considering we’re the friendliest college of them all! Studying MML at Cambridge is really varied and interesting. As well as lectures on literature, history and film, we take classes in translation and grammar (a tempestuous and ongoing love-hate relationship). You’ll also have oral classes every week; their frequency depends on whether or not you’re studying a language ab-initio. Also, depending on which languages you’re taking, you’ll have supervisions in college once a week. The MML fellows at Catz are all fantastic, so you’ll be sure to get loads out of your weekly supervision, and there tends to be the opportunity to do extra stuff, including academic things like extra seminars and film screenings, or the friendly Catz MML garden party after exams. For a term in your first and second year, you’ll also attend a fortnightly literary theory session, where you’ll be introduced to the (sometimes baffling and often mind-boggling) world of post-structuralism, post-colonialism and psychoanalysis amongst other things. Catz puts on these seminars especially for its linguists, and they really help with your essays and get you used to reading some difficult texts. There tends to be quite a decent amount of linguists in every year as well, which means there’s always someone who will engage in intelligent linguist related conversation with you for when your other friends get bored of your incessant Cervantes chat. Last but not least, in your third year you’ll get to escape Cambridge for sunnier climes (unless you’re heading to the Siberian hinterland) where you’ll be the envy of all your friends stuck doing their finals back in Cambridge. We’ll definitely miss Catz whilst we’re away, but when we come back we’ll be the enigmatic, world-wise, travelling-pants clad linguists of fourth year. 

Rachel Balmer (Spanish and ab-initio Russian) and Tim Calliafas (Post A-level Spanish and French), second-year linguists