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Frequently asked questions

Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


Frequently asked questions about choosing your course

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Which degree courses does MMLL offer?

We offer three degrees based in the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Language and Linguistics: 

All three offer a wide variety of options within them that allow you to explore different aspects of the subject. Our students are well supported and do well, not only on their courses, but also in their future careers. 

Why should I study an MMLL degree?

Our degree in Modern and Medieval Languages (MML) offers students the possibility to achieve high-level proficiency in at least two foreign languages, through teaching in Cambridge and time on a Year Abroad.

We recognise, however, that learning a language is not an isolated activity and must be part of a deep understanding of the culture and history of the places where those languages are spoken. The MML degree, therefore, also gives students opportunities to explore the literature, cinema, history, philosophy, language variation, art and broader cultures of their chosen language areas. As well as focusing on two main languages, our students can also explore other new languages and theoretical linguistics, if they wish to.

After the core first year, the many opportunities on the degree allow students to specialise in one area (for example, cinema), if they wish to, or to explore a broad range of areas. After the Year Abroad, some students choose to become specialist in one of their two languages, whilst others maintain their study in both throughout the degree.
Our degree in History and Modern Languages (HML) offers the same opportunities to explore the culture and history of the chosen language area, as well as study chosen papers (modules) in European History, World History or Political Thought, taught by the Faculty of History.
Our degree in Linguistics offers students the opportunity to move beyond specific languages and scientifically study human language and languages as a whole. What properties do all languages share? How can and can’t they differ, and what does this reveal about the human mind and brain? Where do they come from, and how do languages vary across time, space, and social groups? How are they learned by children and by adults? How are they produced and perceived? How do they relate to other human cognitive faculties such as mathematics and music?

To address these questions, linguistics draws on methods and knowledge from a wide range of disciplines: for example, the study of meaning draws on philosophy, the analysis of the speech signal uses methods from physics and engineering, and the study of language acquisition draws on psychology.

What careers do those with an MMLL degree go on to?

Students from our Faculty, like those on most Cambridge degree courses, go on to a wide variety of jobs and careers. Some MML, HML and Linguistics students continue to use their languages on a regular basis in business, working abroad or teaching careers; others take up new challenges such as law, management or the charity sector. In addition to these options, many Linguistics students choose careers in speech and language technology (typically at Google, Facebook, or Amazon), speech pathology, editing and book publishing. The confidence and skills that many of our students develop on their courses give them a great advantage in a competitive job market!

Can I combine Modern and Medieval Languages with another subject?

As well as the official Joint Honours course with History (HML), it is also possible to combine one of the MML languages as follows:

  • a post-A level, or equivalent, MML language with one of Arabic, Persian or Hebrew (in which case, apply to the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies course, indicating your choice of language combination)
  • an MML language, post-A level or from scratch, with Latin or Ancient Greek (in which case, apply to MML, indicating your language combination).

There is no official MML and Linguistics degree, but there are many opportunities to take Linguistics papers as part of your MML course and to specialise in this area, and vice versa. Some students switch from the MML degree to the Linguistics degree, typically at the end of the second year.

Can I study any MML language from scratch?

You can study any of the following from scratch ("ab initio"), either as one of your two main languages in an MML degree, or as your language half of an HML degree: German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian or Spanish. 

Can I choose any combination of MML languages?

You can study two languages at post-A level standard, or combine one post-A level language with a language from scratch. There are no restrictions on the combination of the two languages. 

Does it matter that I am only studying one language at A-level?

No, not at all. Many of our applicants are only able to study one language at A-level in their school or college, and relish the opportunity to take up a new language at Cambridge. This doesn’t make you less competitive against other applicants with more than one A-level language.

Do I have to specify which languages I want to study?

Yes, when you apply you will be asked to specify the languages you wish to study. This will ensure that you can be assessed appropriately by colleagues who teach in that language area.

Do I need to have taken History at A-level in order to do an HML degree?

Some Colleges require History at A-level, or equivalent. Check the website of the College that interests you.

Which A-level (or equivalent) subjects are good preparation for an MMLL degree? 

Beyond the required subjects for MML and HML, we admit students with a wide range of subject combinations. Helpful subjects for MML and HML include English Literature, English Language, History, Philosophy, but these are not required nor expected. 

Helpful subjects for Linguistics include English Language, Maths, any science, any language, Psychology, and Philosophy, but these are neither required nor expected, and many other areas are relevant as well.

Can I choose an MML/HML degree if I am bilingual?

Our courses are open to students who come from a bilingual or native speaker background. However, do be aware that the compulsory language classes may not be appropriate for you and that - depending on your level of cultural immersion - you may need to demonstrate during the application process that the course is the right one for you, since it is aimed at students who do not have high levels of proficiency or cultural knowledge of the language area.

Note that essays for scheduled papers are usually written in English. Some colleges discourage bilingual or native speakers from applying to study their language as part of MML or HML; if you think you fall into this category, we therefore advise that you check with the college you are interested in applying to. 

Does the Faculty have mature students?

Yes, the Faculty admits mature students to its courses. Mature applicants are welcome to apply to any College but there are some Colleges, which are open only to mature applicants (defined as aged 21+ on entry to the course).

Is it possible to visit the Faculty?

We highly recommend visiting on a Faculty or University Open Day, so that you can meet a range of staff and students. Colleges also run their own Open Days and will also offer the chance to meet staff, students and Admissions Tutors. If you are unable to attend an open day but are visiting Cambridge, you are welcome to walk around the Sidgwick Site, where the MMLL Faculty is based, alongside several other Arts faculties.

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