This is Thalia’s experience of a Queen’s College Oxford languages interview – if you’re applying for the languages at Oxford then this will be a great indicator to what you need to think about when it comes to your languages interview.
My Queen’s College Oxford languages interview had an interview for both subjects and they took place in the tutor’s room. The French interview was with the head of French and another tutor. It was an analysis of a poem, then a discussion of areas of my personal statement, and finally a brief conversation in French.
The German interview was with a German assistant, the German tutor and a student, but only the tutor asked me questions. We discussed a poem, that I had been given twenty minutes before, in German with an English translation. We then discussed piece of work I had written about in my personal statement. We then spoke in German for a couple of minutes.
For both interviews, we discussed the poem which I had been given twenty minutes prior to the interview with a translation. We spent about ten minutes on each topic (there were three topics).
For French we mainly talked about Zola (the tutor’s main author) and for German, Die Leiden des jungen Werthers. The questions were surprising and challenging and I felt a lot more comfortable in the French interview because it was second. I think that the tutors were friendly, but a little distant, so that you do not feel too much at ease and still feel as though you have to impress them.
I think the thing that surprised me the most was how quickly it went and how many questions they asked about each subject. In addition, I think that the fact that there was more than just me and the tutor in the room was a little intimidating.
I think that the format was generally what I had expected, however, the section in the foreign language was a lot shorter than I imagined it would be.
Before my Queen’s College Oxford languages interview, I went through my personal statement very thoroughly to check that I knew every aspect of it and I wrote out questions that I could imagine them asking me. I think this was definitely one of the most useful things that I prepared.
In addition, I went through a compilation of other texts, poems and essays that I had read and not mentioned in my personal statement so that I would be able to show that I has a passion for my subject and really enjoyed reading around it.
I think, overall, I found it an extremely interesting and overwhelming process. The notable memories I have of it are leaving my jumper in the German tutor’s room and rushing back in, completely flustered, to grab it. That, and messing up my first sentence in German so terribly that I paused, let out a long breath and began nervously talking about Zola only to look up at the French tutor and realise that all of the books behind him were on Zola – probably written by him.
I would recommend that you look up the tutors and their special subjects for the college you are applying to!
I definitely think that the main thing is to come across enthusiastic, not only about your subject, but about reading in general (in English as well). Also to prove that you are determined to read and love the cultures that you have chosen.
Try and lead the discussion and, if at all possible, stand your ground if you feel strongly about a point. The aim is to show what you already know and how this is a very good basis for the Oxbridge course structure – literature, literature, literature!