This section will address how to select which program you should attend.
MOTIVATIONS FOR DEGREE
(Information for this section has been taken from HE+)
Are you interested in studying/learning foreign languages? Do you want to gain a more profound understanding of a country’s culture and native language? If so, an undergraduate degree in Languages may be one of the fields suitable for you.
Through a degree like this, you will, of course, learn how to communicate fluently in more than one language (spoken and written). But you will also gain many other skills, like:
- Strong professional communication skills (verbal and written)
- A comprehensive understanding of globalization
- Knowledge of other cultures
- Sensitivity to different cultural contexts
- Research skills (you can expect to learn how to use academic literature)
- Self-discipline and management
- Adaptability and flexibility
- The ability to approach issues from multiple perspectives
- The ability to construct and defend coherent arguments
- The ability to work independently and collaboratively
- The ability to reflect in a critical manner
What to expect
What to expect during your degree
You can generally expect to be taught through lectures, seminars, placements and independent study as a student in a language course. You will typically be assessed through written exams, practicals, presentations, portfolio submissions and coursework.
Note: this is a general guideline - different universities may follow different modes. For more specific information, please visit your prospective course website. Contact hours (i.e. the number of hours students spend in non-independent study), learning methods and assessment methods will usually be available on it.
What you will study
The typical Languages course aims to teach spoken fluency in both formal and informal settings. You will learn how to write and speak fluently in a foreign language, and will also gain the ability “to translate into and out of the foreign language with accuracy and sensitivity.'' Some courses may take an interdisciplinary approach so you might be able to learn about your language of study through other subjects/lenses - like linguistics, history, philosophy, film studies, art, international literature etc. (HE+).
A number of courses may also give you the option to either study a broad range of texts or focus on a single time period. This may vary by university though, so you should visit your prospective course website for more detail.
Many language courses will give you the opportunity to spend a semester/year abroad in a country where your language of study is spoken widely. This will not only allow you to increase your proficiency and fluency in said language, but will also give you a chance to immerse yourself in another culture and communicate with locals.
If your degree has a ‘study-abroad’ option, it will most likely be a 4-year degree - with the study-abroad year/semester typically falling in the third year of study.
Do visit your prospective course website to find out if: a) the course offers a study-abroad option, b) the length of the course if it does, and c) the year in which you can expect the study-abroad to take place.
Graduates of Languages typically have a number of career pathways available to them. Employers value students of this field because of: a) their ability to speak one or more foreign language(s) fluently, b) the important transferable skills they have gained through this degree, and c) their knowledge of other cultures. UK-based sources say that graduates typically find themselves to be competitive in many areas - like “law, management consultancy, accountrancy, international press agencies, media, advertising, the Foreign Office, performing arts, development studies, NGOs etc.”. You may be able to find similar career opportunities in Pakistan as well, but it is recommended that you try to connect with people (current Pakistani students or alumni of the course you are interested in applying to, your current language teachers in high school, or even the university itself) to find out how students of their course fare in Pakistan/other countries after graduation.
A number of graduates also choose to go into the field of education (translating, interpreting or teaching) - which is something you can definitely consider in Pakistan as well. Some also choose to further their education and apply for postgraduate study.
Keep in mind: the sort of skills that you gain from such a degree do make you eligible for a variety of fields. And if you choose to do a Joint Honours degree (more information below), you may be even more qualified for specific jobs.
TYPES OF DEGREE
The following degrees are available for Modern Languages in the UK:
Degrees may also be divided into ‘Single-Honours’ and ‘Joint-Honours’ degrees.
How to select the best option for yourself (among degrees/programs within this field)
Single Honour degrees
In a Single Honours degree, you will study one main subject, i.e. Modern Languages. You may be able to study subsidiary modules in other subjects alongside it - but you will graduate with a degree only in Modern Languages.
Joint Honour degrees
A number of universities will allow you to study Modern Languages as a Joint Degree, meaning you can study a second subject alongside it. Some choices for the second subject are: Linguistics, Music, History, English, Art, International Relations, Philosophy, Mathematics etc. The two subjects you choose to study (Language and Subject X) will usually be divided equally, so you will spend half your time studying each subject. However, some universities may offer the two subjects in major and minor format which would mean that you spend more of your time studying one subject and less time studying the other. Do visit your prospective course website to find out: a) if you can do a joint degree, b) which other subject you can study alongside the language at that particular university, and c) the amount of time you will spend studying each subject.
How to select the best option for yourself (among specializations and sub-fields within this field)
This UCAS link lists the language courses that are being offered in the UK. You can go through this link to get an idea about which universities are offering which course. A number of universities may expect you to have some proficiency in the language you wish to pursue in your undergraduate degree - so whether or not you have the desired proficiency level should definitely factor into your final decision to apply. In addition to that, you should also go through university websites and look at the modules each course contains, and see which course you find most appealing. Lastly, it is very important to think about the kind of job you want to pursue in the future: if, for instance, you want to be a Language teacher at the high school level, you should definitely consider getting a degree in said Language. But if you want to pursue a Master’s in Classical Literature eventually, a Joint Honours in Latin/Greek and Classical Studies may be more relevant. You can also try to get in touch with your current language teachers - if you want advice on which field to apply for or what the potential career/study opportunities are after a particular degree.
If you are interested in Modern Languages, you might also like:
- English Language
How to select the best option for yourself (among allied fields)
- If you are more interested in learning about language and its structure (grammar, syntax, phonetics), a degree in Linguistics may be more appropriate for you.
- If you are more interested in English/Creative Writing than any other foreign language, a degree in English may suit you.
- If you are more interested in learning about the history and culture of a nation or an era, a degree in History might be more appropriate.
- If you wish to focus mostly on Philosophy (with the language being a small component of your study), a degree in Philosophy may be a better fit for you.
- No. of universities to apply to: You will be able to apply to five universities of your choice on UCAS. Note: you can only apply to one university from Oxford and Cambridge.
When selecting which university you want to apply to, you should take the following things into consideration:
- Do you want to study for 3 years or 4 years?
- How many languages will you be able to learn in your course? Is the course offering one, two or more languages?
- Does the course include study-abroad? If so, where can you study?
- Outside lectures, how many hours of work are you expected to put in each week in independent study?
- Is the course flexible?
- How are students typically assessed?
To find out more about your prospective university, make sure you visit the website and go through all available resources. Universities also recommend that prospective applicants try to attend their ‘open days’ and find out more about the course they want to apply to - since this may be difficult for Pakistani students, it is recommended that you connect with students or alumni of the course you are interested in to find out more about it. Some universities may also upload open-day talks on the course website, which can be watched online - so make sure you watch them if you find them.
Here are some links that could help you with selection:
Note that the ranking of a university should not be the only factor considered when choosing universities. Though the rank is an important thing to keep an eye out for, there are many other things that you should consider when choosing amongst universities/programs (some of which is explained above in the ‘Program Selection’ section).
- UNISTATS: you can go through this link to compare different universities and their Language courses (based on overall student satisfaction, work placement etc.).
- It is recommended that you visit Rankings websites and see how your prospective Modern Languages courses are ranked.
Complement the above field-specific tips with general tips on program selection (under the tab of ‘selection’).
A lot of our tips talk about how you can strengthen your application, but you can build a stronger application when you’ve done the things this program values in the years prior to the application. The application itself is the communication part (in which you communicate what you've done to the admission committee); but this section gives guidance on the substance part (what you can actually do before you apply). In this section we talk about what you can do in the years leading up to applying that can make you an ideal candidate. Supplement the following tips with general tips (under the tab of ‘Pre-Application’) to become a competitive applicant.
Students interested in applying for Modern Languages in the UK will typically be required to have studied Language subjects - especially those that they hope to study in their undergraduate degree - in their A-levels (or final two years of high school). If your school does not offer these subjects, try to see if you can study these languages independently or privately.
Note: although this is the general trend, you should visit your prospective course website to find out the specific subject-related criteria you need to meet.
While the exact requirement will vary by university and specific course, you can expect requirements for top-tier universities to be somewhere between A*AA and AAB. The most competitive schools will typically require As in the languages you are hoping to study at university. The middle-ranked universities will have more lenient requirements (like 1 A and 2 Bs, or 3 Bs). Lower-ranked universities will have lower requirements.
Please note the following:
- This is a general guideline; to find out the exact requirements for the course(s) you are interested in, please visit the course website.
- Some universities may not accept A-levels in certain subjects.
It is advised that you aim for the best grades possible - since your internal transcript and A-level results, both, are very important for the admissions committee. Although some universities may be willing to accommodate students whose A-level results are a grade or so lower than their conditional offer, you should aim to meet your condition.
The general range for IB is 30-42 points. If you are hoping to apply to the most competitive places, you should aim to get a score between 38-42 points. Middle-ranked universities will typically require a score between 33-37 points. The less competitive universities will accept scores between 30-33. Do visit your prospective course website to find out the exact score requirements (and HL requirements).
If you have done something other than A-Level or IB, contact your prospective university to find out what their requirements for your system are. Note: some universities may allow students to apply for foundation year if they don’t meet the general entry requirements. Visit your university website for more information on this.
While research experience is not a requirement, it is highly advised that you extend your learning beyond what is being offered in the classroom. Try to read books or short stories in the language of your interest, or watch films (either in the language, or films on the language/culture of the place you are interested in learning more about). If you have not studied the language before, “get to know some of the culture’s literature (in English translation) or try watching films with English subtitles” (Which? University). You need to engage with the language on a personal level - outside of your high school syllabus. Not only will that augment your interest in and knowledge of the language/culture of the place, but it will also be appreciated by the admissions committee (when you eventually mention it in your personal statement).
There are a number of language learning centers in Pakistan as well (like Alliance Francais in Karachi and Lahore) that you can consider joining to learn more about the culture and language of a particular country. These centers offer classes and workshops, and often have cultural events as well - attending one of these would really add value to your overall application. However, if the city you live in does not have such centers, you need not worry. You should use the resources you have at your disposal, i.e. the internet. You can easily access video tutorials, or watch films, or read books online to learn more about the language you are interested in pursuing.
Resources for additional reading:
- This Cambridge resource will allow you to learn more about a number of topics, while also giving you more questions to think about and suggestions for further reading.
Note: If you have not studied the language before (and are not studying it in high school), it is highly recommended that you try to learn them in your own time.
Professional experience is not a requirement for this field. But if you can get an opportunity to work in a capacity that can help you gain valuable transferable skills for a degree in Languages, you should definitely go for it.
Volunteer work is also not a requirement for this field. However - if you are proficient in the language you are hoping to pursue in university, you can try to teach it to other people (from your own school, or even at a different school, or outside of a school too).
Extracurricular activities are looked upon favourably in this field. Try to participate in language competitions, or consider teaching the language you hope to apply for, to other students in your school. Participating in other activities, that are not directly related to this field, can also be useful if they help you gain important transferable skills (like dedication, commitment, independence, open-mindedness, etc.).
This section provides an overview of general guidelines pertaining to the application process. It also delineates the key components of the application process.
While your application will be reviewed holistically, some components like your transcripts and statement may be evaluated with more scrutiny. You may or may not have an interview or assessment but if you do, you should be extremely well-prepared for those as well.
Refer to the Program Selection Section for further information.
Is this component required?
How important is this component (in the overall review of the application for admission)?
Overall Application Deadline
January or earlier
Standardized tests or entry exams
Standardized tests - required
Written Assessments - may be required
Standardized tests - important
Written assessments - very important
Transcripts (past academic records)
Letters of recommendation
Resume or CV
May be required
Complement the above field-specific tips with general tips on overview (under the tab of ‘overview’).
Pakistani applicants suffer most because of inadequate information -- or wrong information -- about essays and personal statements. This section will address those inadequacies specifically in relation to applying for this program. Supplement the following field-specific tips with general tips (under the tab of ‘essay’) to craft a stellar personal statement.
You will be required to submit one personal statement to the 5 universities you are applying to via UCAS. In your essay, you will need to display your enthusiasm for and knowledge of the subject in just 4000 characters -- meaning you will have to be economical and to-the-point in your writing. Your main aim is to explain to the admissions committee why you should study Languages at the undergraduate level, and what academic and/or non-academic experiences have led you to this decision.
Which resources should I make use of?
- Read the following links before you start planning your personal statement:
- This is a good resource to help you understand what admissions tutors are usually looking for in applicants’ statements of purpose.
TIPS ON GOOD AND BAD STATEMENTS
What is essential in the statement:
- Think carefully about the type of language course(s) you are applying for, and write your personal statement accordingly. Are you applying for linguistics? Or are you applying for applied languages? Does the course take an interdisciplinary approach? Or is there a strong literature component? Do research on what the course is offering, and then talk about why you wish to apply for such a course. Which aspects of the course interest you most? Why do they interest you? And what do you hope to learn from them?
- You can also talk about how you have acquired an interest in learning different languages. Talk about the aspects of studying language that you enjoy the most.
- Talk about yourself and your interest in languages: how did that interest develop, and why do you wish to pursue it at university. Start by telling a story about yourself -- about why you are interested in this degree. Use clear and simple language.
- Emphasize on the relevant skills. Some courses are very practical, others are more literature-based. Make sure you understand what sort of skills your courses of interest require, and then show the admissions committee that you have those skills.
- Authenticity: your statement needs to be a reflection of you. Isle Renaudie, Lecturer in French Language at the University of East Anglia, says “clear and genuine statements stand out”. Matthew Jefferies, Professor of German History - University of Manchester, says: “I will always prefer something that was clearly a personal response”. So make sure your statement is: i) personal, ii) authentic, i.e. it is an accurate representation of you, your skills and your goals, and iii) genuine.
- Your statement also needs to be a reflection of your personality. Admissions tutors want to learn more about you and the skills/characteristics you have. You need to come across as someone who is motivated, communicative, and willing to learn. You also have to show that you are open-minded and can deal well with challenges. These skills are crucial for many language courses.
- If you are planning on applying for a Joint Honours degree, talk about the second subject as well. In fact, it is recommended that you divide your statement equally between the two subjects. Don’t focus solely on the Languages portion of the course.
- If you are applying for a language you have not studied before, “you should indicate what makes you feel that you are likely to be successful”. Talk about what has motivated you to choose to study this language (and culture) in particular. Answer the question “why do I want to study a new language and a new culture at university?” (Source: Which? University)
What are some elements of exceptional statements:
- Go beyond your school syllabus: if you just give a list of books/literature you read in your high school, it won’t impress the admissions committee. You need to show them that you have been able to engage with the discipline outside of your classroom. You can do this in a number of ways: perhaps by “offering views on recent news stories or political events in foreign-language countries” or “by talking about what interests you - for instance, if you have an interest in Latin American magical realism literature, or if you write a blog on issues related to the Spanish speaking world”, talk about that (Dr. Darren Paffey, Lecturer in Spanish and Linguistics, Director of Undergraduate Admissions). Admissions tutors want to see how passionate you are about the subject, and how you have pushed your classroom learning forward (Source: The Guardian).
- Admissions tutors want to see “evidence of your enthusiasm for, and immersion in, the language(s) outside your A-Level subject” (Dr. Lucy Bell, University of Surrey). You can try talking about films you may have watched or literature you may have read that have strengthened your interest. Admissions tutors want to learn more about “how you have engaged with different cultures and communities...and your thoughts on the cultures, histories or politics of the societies where these languages are spoken” (Irina Nelson, University of Southampton). You can show your “cultural engagement” by reflecting on simple experiences (like reading a short story in the German or watching a documentary on languages or listening to French radio. Ultimately, you need to prove that you have engaged with the language in a unique way - one that displays your enthusiasm and passion for it. (Source: Which? University)
- “Try to string together your evidence of cultural engagement to show some development of interest. For example, if you watched a certain film, did you then watch another by the same director, and how would you compare them? Or, if the film was based on a book, did it prompt you to read it and think about issues of cinematic adaptation? Or, if you're applying for two languages, did you watch something in the other language on a similar theme?” (Dr. Helen Swift, University of Oxford, Which? University)
- If you have been to a country where the language you wish to study is spoken, mention that. Talk about how travel helped you augment your passion for the language, and how it helped develop some skills. However, if you have not travelled to such a country, it is completely all right. Maybe you have not had the opportunity to travel abroad yet, but what you can talk about is the ‘Year Abroad’ in the course (visit the Motivation section for more information). You can talk about what you would like to see in that country, or do on your year abroad if you are offered a place in this program (Matthew Jefferies, Professor of German History, University of Manchester).
- Show that you are a well-rounded candidate. “We are not just looking for brilliantly academic people; we want to know what else you will contribute” (Dr. Darren Paffey, Lecturer in Spanish and Linguistics, Director of Undergraduate Admissions). If you have been involved in extracurricular activities (like participating in a languages competition, or being a member of the Language/Linguistics society in your high school) that have helped you gain relevant transferable skills, then mention them here. Additionally, if you have any research experience or expertise, you should mention that here as well (Source: The Guardian).
What are bad statements/ what things to avoid:
- Using quotes by famous people: avoid starting your statement with a quote by a famous person. They don’t tell the admissions tutors anything about you - the student. Mike Nicholson (Director of Admissions, University of Bath) says: it is a “waste of space” and “just demonstrates that you can copy-paste” (Source: The Guardian).
- Avoid spelling mistakes. This is extremely important for language courses. “Nothing leaves a worse impression than quoting in the original language, but quoting incorrectly because of spelling mistakes or grammatical errors” (Matthew Jefferies, Professor of German History, University of Manchester). Make sure you review and revise your finished statement to catch any spelling/grammatical errors (Source: The Guardian).
- Write in a simple and easy-to-comprehend way. Complex language will not impress the admissions tutors -- it will just make the task of reading and evaluating your statement even more difficult for the tutors. Using complicated language also seems insincere and inauthentic. Be as genuine and as honest to your writing as possible. Write in a voice that is yours.
- Do not claim to have read something you have not actually read. Admissions committees are trained to pick these out, and if they find out you have been misrepresenting or misquoting information, your application will suffer. Also admissions committees are very likely to bring up points from the personal statement in the applicant interview (if you have one) - so make sure you are completely honest in your statement.
- Avoid using cliches: saying things like “I have always been extremely passionate about Language X” or “I have loved Language X since I was a young child”. While displaying passion is important, you need to talk about what you plan on doing with that passion. How will you turn it into something concrete? What are your aims? How does an undergraduate course in this discipline help you achieve it?
How can applicants manage the process of writing?
- Don’t panic: writing your personal statement can seem like an intimidating task, but you need not worry. As long as you can plan ahead and make sure you have enough time to write several drafts, you will be able to write a strong personal statement.
- Before you start writing, make sure you come up with a plan for the essay.
- The UCAS form usually times-out after a few minutes, so to avoid losing work you should: begin writing your statement in Word/Notepad and saving it regularly. Once you have written your final draft, you can copy-paste it into the online form. Note: no formatting is allowed on the UCAS form, so any bold, italicized or underlined words will disappear when you transfer your essay to the UCAS form.
- You should also request a few people to review your statement for you (perhaps a Languages teacher, or a family member). They can also help you identify grammatical/spelling errors, and can also give you feedback on your statement. You should only incorporate advice that you want to incorporate - the statement still has to be written in your voice.
This section will cover the basics about recommendation letters, which are one of the most important parts of the application process. Supplement the following field-specific tips with general tips (under the tab of ‘recommendations’) to ensure you have strong letters of recommendation.
You will be required to submit 1 letter of recommendation when applying for a degree in this field. Your reference should ideally know you academically and should be able to speak to your work ethic, how you interact with other students, and your ability to fare well in university (in a foreign language course). Keeping this in mind, you should try to request your high school (A-level, FSc, IB) Languages teacher to write you a recommendation letter. If - for any reason - a Languages teacher is unable to write you a recommendation letter, you should request your English Language/Literature teacher to write you the letter instead.
- Before requesting your recommenders for LoR, go over the following links carefully:
This section will cover everything else related to the application process; including transcripts, interviews, resumes, and standardized tests.
Some courses will have interviews. To find out what your prospective course does, please visit its website -- and follow the stated guidelines.
- Universities will typically use information from your personal statement as a prompt, so make sure you know your statement inside out. And as mentioned in the Statement section, avoid listing down books/movies you are not too interested in. In your interview, you will need to display both - passion and knowledge, for the book/movie you claim to have liked.
As an international applicant, you will be required to take English language proficiency tests. Most universities will allow you to choose between the TOEFL and IELTS -- websites will also state the minimum score you require (in individual reading, writing, speaking and listening components; and overall) to be considered for admission.
It is advised that you take the test well before your application deadline, to ensure that your score is sent to your prospective university at the required time.
Additionally, if you are applying for a modern foreign language course, you may be asked to demonstrate your proficiency in said Language(s) by completing a written language test. This requirement will vary by university, so you should visit your prospective university website for more specific information.
Complement the above field-specific tips with general tips on preparing for standardized tests (under the tab of ‘tests’).
These tips were compiled with the valuable help of SHAHEEN volunteers.
We thank our volunteers for their contribution and hope their tips and advice help you in your application.
The following sources were consulted in developing this tip-sheet and we encourage you to consult these sources for additional information and guidance on your application.
Furthermore, the following sources were also consulted in developing this tip-sheet: HE+, Which? University, The Guardian - Personal Statement, Target Jobs, Studying Languages.