Oxford Modern Languages Interview: What You Need to Know
If you want to prepare for your Oxford Modern Languages Interview, we’ve got what you need to know to help you sail through some of those weird Oxford interview questions.
What Do They Look for in an Oxford Modern Languages Interview?
Studying Modern Languages at Oxford is all about originality, attention to detail and flare. This being said, the interviews are not a test of whether you know every grammar point and all the vocabulary of the language, or even that you’re widely read in the language – that’s the task once you get in.
The Oxford Modern Languages interview is much more about enthusiasm, communicating that you have a real passion for reading and literature in a foreign language, and that you can argue a point. This last idea is extremely important because there are times when the tutors try and trip you up by playing the devil’s advocate – “but do you really think that that is what the writer is saying?”, “but why do you say that?” or “explain it for us.” This is the oldest trick in the book but it’s important to remember that they use it for you to stand your ground and explain your reading of a passage in a foreign language.
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So, what is the format and how does the interview work?
The Literature Side:
Oxford Modern Language interviews usually take place in a tutor’s room somewhere in the college. The normal format is that you will be given a poem or passage beforehand that you have about twenty or so minutes to read, gather your thoughts and come up with some good points.
The most useful thing to know about this part is that they will usually – especially if it is a poem – give you a translation of the text along with the original. This allows you to focus on the analysis of the text. However, even though you have the translation, you have to remember that it is a Modern Languages interview and that you should look into the language used in the original. You should note aspects that are unusual, dramatic or out of place, so as to prove that you do understand the importance of how a text delivers its message, not just what the message is.
So, then what happens?
The interview will usually start with the tutor (or tutors) asking you to read out the text in the modern language. They will then begin a discussion of the text, note your reactions to it and what it is trying to say. If you can have a guess at when it was written, who was around at the time in terms of literature and even the historical backdrop then that’s even better.
Then the tutor will maybe go on to discussing a text, or author, that you have mentioned in your personal statement. This is the area that you can really prepare for and be ready to discuss. Try to make sure that you come across enthusiastic and keen to learn more about the text or author.
The Language Side:
The tutor may ask you a few questions from the MLAT test – this will just to test how confident you are in the Modern Language and whether you can think on the spot. If you have no idea, just have a stab. Then you may have a short conversation in the modern language with the tutor or an assistant teacher, which is normally very basic and straightforward: Have you been to the country where this modern language is spoken? What is your favourite part of its culture/history?
Further Help and Guidelines
You can read up on Oxford’s interview guidelines which tells you a little more about what you can expect on the day. If you’re still nervous about the interview itself, don’t forget that you can get personalised tutoring from our expert team.