Modern Languages

Subject Overview

What will I study on a Modern Languages course?

Studying Modern Languages provides both practical training in written and spoken language and also an extensive introduction to cultural topics covering a very wide range. You will learn to write and speak the language(s) fluently, and will be able to choose from a broad range of options including international literature, linguistics, history, philosophy, film studies, art and advanced translation.

A typical Modern Languages 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. Most Modern Languages courses will focus on the study of literature. This gives you an understanding of other cultures that cannot be acquired solely through learning the language, and it leads you into areas such as gender issues, popular culture, theatre studies, aesthetics, anthropology, art history, ethics, history, philosophy, politics, psychology and theology. You can study a broad range texts, or focus your studies on any period from the medieval to the present day. Reading a great book, for example, or watching a film in the original language provides an experience that is truly unique, giving you an incredible sense of achievement, bringing the whole world at your fingertip, for most languages are spoken on many continents and straddle widely different cultures.

What kind of career will I have?

Employers value Modern Languages graduates because they are competent linguist, fluent in one foreign language (and often in more than one), have acquired a range of transferable skills and have first-hand experience of other cultures. Studying languages enables students to participate in societies whose language they study and to operate within different linguistic and cultural contexts. This enables them to reflect on their own society from new perspectives, thus increasing their understanding of the concept of citizenship. They can compare and contrast diverse visions of the world, thereby promoting intercultural understanding and bringing distinctive benefits both to their own society, for example, in employment terms, and to the societies of target languages.

Modern Languages graduates regularly go into highly competitive areas such as law, management consultancy, accountancy, international press agencies, the media, advertising, the Foreign Office and the performing arts, NGOs, development studies etc. Some graduates pursue careers that make special use of their language skills, including translating, interpreting and teaching, while others continue with graduate training and research.
It’s amazing how far an additional language can get you, especially in a world in which global relationships are often a necessity for businesses and organizations to thrive. Because of this, graduates of modern language degrees have long been in demand across many sectors of business and industry, in roles that extend well beyond interpretation and translation to encompass all elements of business transaction, international cooperation and politics.

Year abroad

A modern language degree is not just about learning a new language – though of course attaining a high level of fluency is one of the goals. Many programs will require students to study courses which develop their understanding of past and present cultures relating to the country (or countries) in which the language of study is spoken. This learning often requires the study of literary texts, film and media, as well as learning about the historical and political contexts of a certain region.

One of the main attractions of a modern language degree is the opportunity to spend either a semester or a year abroad in a country where the language of study is widely spoken. This experience aims to increase proficiency in the language of study, while also allowing students to immerse themselves in another culture and meet the challenge of communicating with a broad range of people. For this reason, many modern language programs are four years in length, with one year (often the third year) spent in a partnered institution abroad, either working or studying. This year abroad is highly valued by all students of modern languages who are often reluctant to come back!

What skills will I gain?

Aside from the most obvious – being able to communicate fluently in more than one language – common skills gained from a modern languages degree include:

• The ability to communicate clearly in a foreign language, both verbally and in writing
• Professional communication, spoken and written
• Sensitivity to different cultural contexts
• The ability to work independently and collaboratively
• General research skills, including use of academic literature
• Self-management, including planning and meeting deadlines
• Analyzing written and visual sources
• Constructing and defending a coherent argument
• Approaching issues from multiple but also in-depth perspectives
• Self-reflection and critical judgment
• Adaptability and flexibility
• Curiosity about other cultures
• In-depth understanding of globalization

  • German Literature: The Brothers Grimm and European Fairy Stories

    Grimms’ fairy-stories are the most-read works of German literature around the world, and are familiar to audiences everywhere.

  • Cinecittà and Italian Cinema

    Cinecittà’s fascinating history comprises over 3,000 films made by Italian directors like Federico Fellini, Roberto Rossellini, Luchino Visconti and Bernardo Bertolucci, to name just a few, as well as foreign filmmakers such as Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese and Mel Gibson. The current studio was built between 1936 and 1937 on the outskirts of Rome. It was soon called ‘the dream factory’ of Italy, since by 1943, just six years after it opened, nearly 300 productions had been made on the Cinecittà lot.

  • Saudade: That Untranslatable Feeling

    Saudade is a peculiarly Portuguese word, being culturally specific and appearing, as we shall see, as an important theme across the Lusophone world from its beginnings to the present day.

  • Spanish: Musical Adaptations of Verse

    In this module, we’ll consider two examples of verse that have been adapted into popular songs over the course of the riotous twentieth century. While the musical performances of two songs may sound a bit dated to our 21st century ears, they both found great success during their respective eras. Most importantly, the texts themselves will help us begin to get a sense of just how collapsible the line is between poet and songwriter, musician and reader, ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture...

  • Italian - Inspector Montalbano

    You might think that the characteristic small towns, the sun and the sea of Italy have nothing to do with the stereotype of a crime’s scene. However, as many thriller authors show, a sprawling metropolis and a body lying in thick fog are not essential to create an engaging detective story. Like many other great Italian and foreign thriller writers, Andrea Camilleri chose Italy, and Sicily specifically, as the setting for his successful crime fiction. Thanks to inspector Salvo Montalbano, his main character, he has had more than 10 million copies published since 1992 and his books have been translated into 36 languages.

  • Spanish: Latin American Poetry From Page to Webpage

    From Shakespeare to Dr Seuss, Wordsworth to Walt Whitman, poetry has always been a vehicle for expressing a wide range of issues, emotions and concerns. In Latin America, examples of poetry can be found as far back as the 14th century, when Aztec poets wrote in the Nahuatl language about their relationship with nature, wildlife and the seasons. More recently, during the 20th century, Latin American poets have attracted the world’s attention with their distinctive approach to articulating personal views on love, desire, politics and conflict.

  • Italian Cantautori

    In Italy, at the end of the 1950s, popular music witnessed a revolution.

  • German Language: The Brothers Grimm

    In this topic you will be able to look at several aspects of the language used in the Grimms' stories.

  • Italian: The Vespa

    Visually Italy is a very easy country to picture, thanks to its many icons that have created a varied but very rich identity.

  • French: The Diary of a Teenager

    It might seem that with the popularity of social media and the ‘selfie’, people are thinking and talking about themselves more than ever before.

  • Italian: Bestiary Lore

    Why is the stork a symbol of parental and filial devotion? And why do we consider the fox to be a fraudulent creature?

  • Spanish: The Art of Oration: Speeches from Latin America

    What makes great speeches great? Why are some more memorable than others?

  • Spanish: Do You Speak Spanglish?

    Everyone has heard about English and Spanish bilingualism – but have you ever heard the term Spanglish?

  • Portuguese: Favelas

    While the historical intricacies of the favelas are mostly unknown by the general public, writers, musicians, composers, filmmakers and artists have depicted its geography, stories and human relations. Such richness and variety of this depiction enables Portuguese language to be approached through its main subtopics, such as class struggle, high and low culture, community and individual values and economic dependency.

  • German: Translation

    For this module you will focus on the topic of translation. You can work through the whole module, completing all tasks in chronological order.