helloeverybody5
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I'm doing French, English Literature, History and Economics at A-Level and going to drop Economics next year. I'm split between taking a degree in French and Spanish at Cambridge and French and History at Oxford. I'm leaning towards Cambridge as it seems more accessible to me (I'm from an "underprivileged" background) but I have some doubts.

Is there an unwritten expectation that you should take a gap year in France/Spain before starting the degree?

Is it true that an Oxford degree in MML is English Literature + some language, and that there isn't much emphasis on speaking?

How much Spanish am I expected to know at the interview stage at Cambridge? I never had the opportunity to do it at GCSE or A-Level and I know I could learn by myself but right now I'm focusing on French instead of spreading myself too thin at the moment. (I don't have a problem with self-teaching some things, I did teach myself Korean but it kinda fizzled out)

Is there anyone that is doing/has done languages at either university and can tell me why they picked one over the other?


Thanks for reading
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qwertyuiop1993
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(Original post by helloeverybody5)
I'm doing French, English Literature, History and Economics at A-Level and going to drop Economics next year. I'm split between taking a degree in French and Spanish at Cambridge and French and History at Oxford. I'm leaning towards Cambridge as it seems more accessible to me (I'm from an "underprivileged" background) but I have some doubts.

Is there an unwritten expectation that you should take a gap year in France/Spain before starting the degree?

Is it true that an Oxford degree in MML is English Literature + some language, and that there isn't much emphasis on speaking?

How much Spanish am I expected to know at the interview stage at Cambridge? I never had the opportunity to do it at GCSE or A-Level and I know I could learn by myself but right now I'm focusing on French instead of spreading myself too thin at the moment. (I don't have a problem with self-teaching some things, I did teach myself Korean but it kinda fizzled out)

Is there anyone that is doing/has done languages at either university and can tell me why they picked one over the other?


Thanks for reading
Hi, I do French at Oxford so hopefully my experience will be helpful.

I'm not sure why you believe Cambridge will be more accessible to you as someone from an underprivileged background. Oxford uses the same contextual flags system as Cambridge to signal to tutors when they're dealing with applicants who have faced particular educational challenges (in addition to information provided in the reference). I myself am from an underprivileged background, so it's evidently not impossible to get to Oxford!

There is no expectation at all for you to have done a gap year: speaking, at least for Oxford, is probably the least important aspect of admissions, precisely because it's not exactly fair to compare people who have had the time and money to go to France/Spain etc. with those who have not. That's why speaking is not emphasised on the Oxford course until after your year abroad (we have oral classes etc. but we're not examined on speaking until the 4th year, with the year abroad being seen as the great equaliser speaking wise). Speaking provision seems to be the same as at other top universities (I've compared with friends), it's just we're not assessed every year (and, dare I say it, the workload for non language work seems considerably less at other unis compared to Oxford, which makes it seem like language is more important at those universities, when really language provision is similar)

The course at Oxford is pretty literary, but there are other options: I'm doing a linguistics paper and an Advanced translation paper in addition to my literature ones. As a French and History student you'd have one compulsory period paper but then you could pretty much cut out literature from the rest of your course by taking linguistics papers. It's true however that Oxford doesn't offer pure politics or history papers on French culture, like those available at other universities.

I personally chose Oxford over Cambridge because I didn't want to do two languages and because the course looked amazing, with French literature, film and philosophy on the first year course and a dazzling array of literature options later on: not even Cambridge can match the scope available at Oxford for French literature (though they have more 'less/non literary' modules it would seem).

In the end it depends on which course/city you prefer - just don't choose based on any misconceptions about how easy or hard it is to get in to one or the other.
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Mike_123
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(Original post by helloeverybody5)
I'm doing French, English Literature, History and Economics at A-Level and going to drop Economics next year. I'm split between taking a degree in French and Spanish at Cambridge and French and History at Oxford. I'm leaning towards Cambridge as it seems more accessible to me (I'm from an "underprivileged" background) but I have some doubts.

Is there an unwritten expectation that you should take a gap year in France/Spain before starting the degree?

Is it true that an Oxford degree in MML is English Literature + some language, and that there isn't much emphasis on speaking?

How much Spanish am I expected to know at the interview stage at Cambridge? I never had the opportunity to do it at GCSE or A-Level and I know I could learn by myself but right now I'm focusing on French instead of spreading myself too thin at the moment. (I don't have a problem with self-teaching some things, I did teach myself Korean but it kinda fizzled out)

Is there anyone that is doing/has done languages at either university and can tell me why they picked one over the other?


Thanks for reading
I have no experience with MML at Oxbridge, but you shouldn't apply to Cambridge with AS UMS lower than 90% (at an average of top 3). Even above 90% doesn't mean interview/offer. If you do score below 90% I would suggest Oxford. Either way, work hard for good AS scores.
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helloeverybody5
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(Original post by qwertyuiop1993)
Hi, I do French at Oxford so hopefully my experience will be helpful.

I'm not sure why you believe Cambridge will be more accessible to you as someone from an underprivileged background. Oxford uses the same contextual flags system as Cambridge to signal to tutors when they're dealing with applicants who have faced particular educational challenges (in addition to information provided in the reference). I myself am from an underprivileged background, so it's evidently not impossible to get to Oxford!

There is no expectation at all for you to have done a gap year: speaking, at least for Oxford, is probably the least important aspect of admissions, precisely because it's not exactly fair to compare people who have had the time and money to go to France/Spain etc. with those who have not. That's why speaking is not emphasised on the Oxford course until after your year abroad (we have oral classes etc. but we're not examined on speaking until the 4th year, with the year abroad being seen as the great equaliser speaking wise). Speaking provision seems to be the same as at other top universities (I've compared with friends), it's just we're not assessed every year (and, dare I say it, the workload for non language work seems considerably less at other unis compared to Oxford, which makes it seem like language is more important at those universities, when really language provision is similar)

The course at Oxford is pretty literary, but there are other options: I'm doing a linguistics paper and an Advanced translation paper in addition to my literature ones. As a French and History student you'd have one compulsory period paper but then you could pretty much cut out literature from the rest of your course by taking linguistics papers. It's true however that Oxford doesn't offer pure politics or history papers on French culture, like those available at other universities.

I personally chose Oxford over Cambridge because I didn't want to do two languages and because the course looked amazing, with French literature, film and philosophy on the first year course and a dazzling array of literature options later on: not even Cambridge can match the scope available at Oxford for French literature (though they have more 'less/non literary' modules it would seem).

In the end it depends on which course/city you prefer - just don't choose based on any misconceptions about how easy or hard it is to get in to one or the other.
Thank you so much for your detailed reply, I really appreciate it And with the whole access thing, I know that both unis have the flag system but it seems that my school only promotes Cambridge instead of Oxford, they don't really bother talking about Oxford or it's access schemes so it just gives the impression that it's more unreachable than Cambridge if that makes sense?

Recently I've been considering doing the English & French course but I guess that if French is pretty literary then I might as well do French & History for some variety? I'm quite indecisive so by picking F&H it would kind of allow me to carry on with all 3 of my A2s in a way.

Also, why didn't you want to do two languages? Did you feel like taking up another one would slow down your progress in French? I feel like I might want to just do one language because of this reason, and then pick up other languages after becoming great at French! What literature would you suggest for a beginner like me? I haven't read any yet Finally, what do you plan on doing after your degree?

Again, thank you so much for replying!
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helloeverybody5
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(Original post by Mike_123)
I have no experience with MML at Oxbridge, but you shouldn't apply to Cambridge with AS UMS lower than 90% (at an average of top 3). Even above 90% doesn't mean interview/offer. If you do score below 90% I would suggest Oxford. Either way, work hard for good AS scores.
Ahh okay, is it a case of not having to give Oxford my UMS or that I have to, it's just that it doesn't really matter as much? I've heard that GCSEs are more important to Oxford than Cambridge so do they take that into account regardless of AS?
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Mike_123
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(Original post by helloeverybody5)
Ahh okay, is it a case of not having to give Oxford my UMS or that I have to, it's just that it doesn't really matter as much? I've heard that GCSEs are more important to Oxford than Cambridge so do they take that into account regardless of AS?
The general consensus is that Oxford is more GCSEs and entrance exams, whilst Cambridge is more AS scores
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qwertyuiop1993
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(Original post by helloeverybody5)
Thank you so much for your detailed reply, I really appreciate it And with the whole access thing, I know that both unis have the flag system but it seems that my school only promotes Cambridge instead of Oxford, they don't really bother talking about Oxford or it's access schemes so it just gives the impression that it's more unreachable than Cambridge if that makes sense?

Recently I've been considering doing the English & French course but I guess that if French is pretty literary then I might as well do French & History for some variety? I'm quite indecisive so by picking F&H it would kind of allow me to carry on with all 3 of my A2s in a way.

Also, why didn't you want to do two languages? Did you feel like taking up another one would slow down your progress in French? I feel like I might want to just do one language because of this reason, and then pick up other languages after becoming great at French! What literature would you suggest for a beginner like me? I haven't read any yet Finally, what do you plan on doing after your degree?

Again, thank you so much for replying!
Your reasons for looking at the French and History course seem very good; if you enjoy history and want more variety then French and History seems perfect for you.
I didn't want to do two languages because I really wanted to perfect my French and I was daunted by the whole Oxford admissions process enough without adding an extra point of uncertainty (the Languages Aptitude Test) - this last reason is silly given that if you apply for two languages you can still get an offer for the single honours course. However, I have found that my level of French (especially grammar + knowledge of idiomatic expressions) is generally better than than the people studying 2 languages, purely because I've more time to dedicate to it (those doing single honours are practically obliged to do the linguistics of their language unless they bury themselves in literature papers).


As for literature, I'd recommend:
Plays
Phèdre, Jean Racine (tragedy - very different in style from Shakespearean tragedy)
Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, Molière

For something more modern you could try some of Sartre's plays (Huis clos is very interesting)

Poetry
Les Fleurs du Mal, Baudelaire (The poems, with translations, can be found here: http://fleursdumal.org/1868-table-of-contents)

Other good poets include Lamartine (Le lac is a highlight), Verlaine (Il pleut dans mon coeur...), Ronsard (Mignonne allons voir...) and for something more modern, Prévert is very accessible for a language learner.

I'd recommend getting an anthology like: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Penguin-Book.../dp/0140423850
This will let you to explore a wide range of authors

Novels
Before applying I read L'Etranger by Camus, which seems to be one of the most popular novels for applicants, probably because it's short and simple to read, but intellectually complex.

Un sac de billes
by Joseph Joffo is also very good (It's about a child's wartime experiences)

W, ou le souvenir d'enfance by Perec is also set around WWII but approaches the theme of childhood memories in a very novel and clever way.

I also greatly enjoyed Les liaisons dangereuses by Laclos, though it's pretty long and linguistically speaking is significantly more challenging than the above three.

Finally, I don't have a definite plan after university, though I'm leaning towards further study and eventually becoming an academic, though the Civil Service is also bouncing around in my head...decisions decisions...

All the best for your application!
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