Modern Languages

Modern Languages at Balliol College

Balliol admits about six students a year to read either Modern Languages or a Joint School with Modern Languages. Balliol offers the following Modern Languages courses:

Modern Languages

Joint Schools with Modern Languages *


Classics and Modern Languages  (French, German, Italian, Beginners’ Italian, or Spanish)

French and German

English and Modern Languages (French, German, Italian, Beginners’ Italian, or Spanish)
French and Italian History and Modern Languages (French, German, Italian, Beginners’ Italian, or Spanish)
French and Beginners’ Italian Modern Languages (French, Italian, or Beginners’ Italian) and Linguistics
French and Spanish Philosophy and Modern Languages (French only)

German and Italian 

German and Beginners’ Italian  

Italian and Spanish

Spanish and Beginners’ Italian  

*For further information about our Joint Schools with Modern Languages, please see the relevant course page.

The work for an Oxford degree in Modern Languages covers language, literature and linguistics. Work in the first year is on a set selection of texts from a variety of periods. After that, students choose their own papers from a wide set of options ranging from the Middle Ages to the present day. When studying two languages, work is always evenly divided between the two. Students in the Joint School pursue their studies with the same tutors and to the same standards as single-honours students, simply offering fewer papers in each discipline in Finals.

Students are encouraged to build on their existing skills in speaking, reading and writing their chosen languages. A high final standard is expected and, to help students reach it, we offer progressive language teaching throughout the course. Our students spend a year abroad between the second and third years of the course, and we offer help in finding placements either as language assistants or on university courses in their country of choice. Note that a majority of our teaching staff in Modern Languages are native speakers in the language they teach.

In recent years our graduates have chosen careers in commerce and banking, law, the Civil Service, journalism, the media, development and teaching. In most years one or more students opt for further study, either at home or abroad; of these, several now hold university teaching posts in this country and others are teaching abroad in France, Italy, Japan, and the United States.

The College also has an endowment fund, called the Victor Hugo Fund, in support of the European Modern Languages.

Number of places at Balliol: about 6 students a year (see above).


Diana Berruezo-Sánchez
Career Development Fellow in Modern Languages
Elena Lombardi
Professor of Italian Literature, Paget Toynbee Lecturer in Italian Medieval Studies, Fellow and Tutor in Italian
Sophie Marnette
Professor of Medieval French Studies, Dervorguilla Fellow and Tutor in French
Sandra Paoli
Research Fellow in Romance Linguistics
Cecile Deer
Lecturer in French
Jenny Lemke
German Lektorin
Ray Ockenden
Lecturer in German

About the course

General information is available on the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages website. Please see also the University’s course pages.

Course requirements and selection criteria

Balliol requires students applying to read Modern Languages (rather than a Joint School) to choose French or Italian as one of their languages. This ensures that they will be taught by one of the Fellows of the College.

We require those wishing to read French, German or Spanish to achieve an A grade at A-level in that language. For Italian we accept students without formal qualifications, though they must have mastered the essentials before they take up their place. Intending beginners in Italian should approach Dr Lombardi for advice. There is also a two-week pre-sessional residential course for beginners or near-beginners in Italian.

Please see also the University’s entrance requirements.

For information on how applicants are assessed, please see the Modern Languages Faculty’s selection criteria.

How to apply to read Modern Languages at Balliol College

Admissions talk (Open Days 2020)