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Modern Languages and Linguistics

Modern Languages and Linguistics at Balliol College

The work in Modern Languages covers language and literature. In the first year work 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. The other half of the course focuses on Linguistics, where you will be introduced to the analysis of the nature of human language. Topics include the structure and history of languages.

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.

In recent years our graduates have chosen careers in commerce and banking, law (after a conversion course), 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: Balliol admits about 6 students a year to read either Modern Languages or a Joint School with Modern Languages, including Modern Languages and Linguistics.


Note that a majority of our teaching staff in Modern Languages are native speakers in the language they teach.

About the course

Please see the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages website and the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics website, as well as the University’s course pages.

Course requirements and selection criteria

At Balliol, students may study Linguistics with French, Italian, or Beginners’ Italian. There is no expectation that you will have studied Linguistics before applying. We require applicants wishing to read Linguistics with French or Italian to achieve an A grade at A‑level in that language. For Beginners’ Italian and Linguistics we accept students without formal qualifications in Italian, though they must have done some preparation on their own before they arrive. 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 website.

How to apply to read Modern Languages and Linguistics at Balliol College