Language learning for History postgraduates

Language tuition is encouraged and the Faculty sponsors their acquisition as far as feasible so that students are given the chance to improve existing foreign language skills or to learn a new language in order to extend the scope of their research. The Faculty is keen to support the development of students' language learning. Both the university and the faculty organise a range of classes; there are facilities for independent study, and it is sometimes possible to organise or fund additional provision. Please note that in general teaching is envisaged as accompanying and supporting students' independent study: the aim is not to coach, but to support students' learning.

Language Centre

The Language Centre at 12 Woodstock Road (telephone: (2)83360), provides both courses and a very large collection of audio and video cassettes and equipment for individual study. The excellent facilities are available free of charge to graduate students. The pressure on places in the classes is considerable, and you are urged to register for whatever course you wish to follow as soon as possible after enrolments begin, in Nought Week of Michaelmas Term: for non-native speakers who wish to improve their English there are a variety of courses in English for Academic Studies. Note also their pre-sessional courses, held in July to September. There are also classes (all of them lasting a full year) in French, German, modern Greek, Italian, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Welsh, and English as a Foreign Language. The Library and Language Laboratory have facilities for the independent study of some 130 languages.

European Languages

The University's Language Centre provides courses in major languages at every level, including reading courses, and the Faculty co-organizes with the Language Centre reading classes in certain European languages. In the case of continental European topics, students will need to satisfy their supervisor and the course convenor that they have, or are acquiring, adequate (reading) knowledge of the relevant language(s) to pursue their dissertation work. Those specializing in the history of the British Isles are strongly advised that their research would also profit from linguistic competence in other languages than English, and they are explicitly encouraged also to make use of the opportunities for language training.

Latin (particularly medieval Latin)

All medievalists are invited to attend a Faculty-sponsored pre-sessional Latin class, which will then be supplemented by term-time teaching. Medievalists who are not registering for the pre-sessional classes will be assessed for their basic competence in reading Latin texts at the start of Michaelmas Term, and in appropriate cases again in early March. These tests are not part of the assessment for the degree; they serve to indicate how far the student needs to make further progress in the study of the language in order to undertake competently research in the field of medieval history. Weekly classes for those who need to improve their Latin will be available throughout the three academic terms of the year. Teaching is also available for a wide variety of medieval and modern languages (including medieval Celtic and Germanic languages).
The pre-term Latin course is also made available for non-medievalists, space permitting. The Faculty cannot accommodate absolute beginners in the term-time classes, so students who need Latin for their research, but have never received formal training, should book a place on the pre-term course.

Languages as part of a programme of study

Our programmes in Late Antique and Byzantine Studies and in Modern South Asian Studies are conceived with comprehensive language modules which form part of the programme of study, and in these cases you should carefully consider, in consultation with your supervisor how much additional commitment to language learning you can realistically undertake.

Other languages

The Faculty has also set aside some funds to sponsor language tuition, mainly in non-European languages, for which there is no formal provision in Oxford (e.g., through Language Centre or Oriental Studies Faculty). Our funds are limited, so we will not always be able to cover all the cost involved. We would at the very least recommend that you apply in parallel to your College for support.
In the first instance, you should consult your supervisor about your need of language acquisition, and once you have agreed a way forward you are welcome to apply to the Faculty for support.
There is currently no formal application procedure, an email or free-form letter to the Graduate Office is perfectly acceptable. Before you submit an application you should investigate how you could acquire the language skills you need: are there some standard language courses outside Oxford, or would private tuition be unavoidable? What would be the (approximate) costs for such teaching? How would this fit in with your academic programme of work?
Once we have this kind of information we will be happy to consider what contribution the History Faculty would be able to make in your particular case.