Modern and Medieval Languages

St John’s College usually admits about ten undergraduates each year to read Modern and Medieval Languages (MML). The College is able to provide tuition in any of the areas taught by the MML Faculty, and there are Fellows of St John’s who teach French, German, Italian and Portuguese. Native speaker tuition is available in any of the languages taught by the Faculty, and St John’s employs its own French Lector/Lectrice. Modern linguists at St John’s are able to benefit from generous travel and book grants. There is an active College Modern Languages Society, and the College Library provides very well for undergraduate needs in the subject, including a wide selection of foreign DVDS. The College also has long-established student exchange arrangements with the Universities of Heidelberg and Pavia.

Subject Video

Subject Video
A short introduction to the Modern and Medieval Languages Tripos at St John's College, filmed for St John's September Open Days 2020. Featuring our Director of Studies Dr Georgina Evans.


Courses in Modern and Medieval Languages 

The Cambridge modern languages course (the MML Tripos) is immensely rich and flexible, offering opportunities to study linguistics, literature, history, philosophy, film and other aspects of visual culture, as well as achieving an extremely high standard of competence in one or more European languages.

These different dimensions of the subject can be linked in a variety of ways, and at all levels the study of literature tends to be combined with aspects of the history and thought of the language-area concerned, as well as with the theoretical thinking that helps in the analysis of cultural issues.  Students are free to choose whether to focus their studies in the modern or the medieval period, or in any other area of specialisation offered by the Faculty. Details of particular courses can be found on the Faculty website. It is also possible to combine the study of a European language with Classical Latin or Greek, or with certain languages taught by the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.

In the first two years (Parts 1A and 1B) there is a strong emphasis on practical language learning, including oral work, in two languages, of which one may be a language you have not studied to A2 level.  First-year courses typically offer you the opportunity to sample the kinds of study in which you can choose to specialise at higher levels, ie a combination of literature and film, the linguistics of the language in question, and elements of history and thought.

Modern linguists normally spend their third year of study abroad. They have the choice of studying at a foreign university, or working as an English assistant in a school, or doing some other kind of paid work on their year abroad, during which time they are required to write a dissertation, or a translation project, or a linguistics project, which counts towards their final exam results, and generally continue their preparation for their final year’s study (Part II).

In Part II the emphasis is on the advanced study of the literature, thought, history, culture or linguistics of the European nations and of those parts of the Americas and Africa where Spanish, Portuguese and French are spoken. Linguistics options can be studied either as part of the MML Tripos or in the separate Linguistics Tripos.

To see more details of the course please click here.

Entry Details

UCAS Code: R800

Typical Entry Requirements

A Level: A*AA

International Baccalaureate: 40-42 points, with 776 at Higher Level

Essential Subjects: A Level/IB Higher Level in at least one of the languages taught by the MML Faculty 

Desirable Subjects: A Level/IB  (or equivalent) English Literature, English Language, or History can provide useful preparation for some elements of the course, but since students of MML are able to choose from a very wide range of options we do not impose any specific limitations on the combination of A level subjects we expect applicants to have.

Submitted Work:Two recent pieces of written work, these can include timed essays. Ideally, one should be in English and the other in the language you wish to study at Cambridge (please contact the Director of Studies if you want to discuss what combination of items would be appropriate in your particular case).

At-interview Assessment: Written assessment consisting of 40 minute Discursive response in Foreign Language, and 20 minute Discursive response in English.


There are many possible ways to succeed in Modern Languages. When considering applicants for admission we naturally expect a high standard of competence in at least one of the languages taught by the MML Faculty. But what matters at least as much for us is flair and intellectual curiosity for one or more of the kinds of study that are pursued in depth in MML. St John's will consider any application for Modern Languages based on a predicted strong exam performance, provided that it includes Grade A in at least one of the languages taught by the MML Faculty. 

We are also very happy to consider applications for any appropriate combination of languages. If you want to take advantage of the opportunity that exists in Cambridge to study a language from scratch (this option applies to German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish), then we shall expect to see some evidence at interview that you are making serious efforts to find out what the study of that language and its culture will entail.


Admissions Interviews

Details regarding the operation of admissions interviews in the 2020-2021 admissions round have yet to be confirmed. 

More information on the Cambridge MML written assessment, a specimen paper and the marking scheme can be found through the Cambridge admissions page for MML.

Student Perspectives

Follow the links below to learn about our students' perspectives of studying MML at St John's in their own words.

Clare Cassidy

Claire Huxley

Further Information

Further Information

The Modern Languages Faculty website gives detailed information on course content and other activities in the Faculty, including Faculty Open Days. Alternatively you can phone the Faculty Office on 01223 335000, or email the Faculty at