Modern Languages

Modern Languages – Oxford Interview Questions

“How can I prepare when the interviewer could ask me absolutely anything about Languages?”

By understanding how the interview works and, crucially, what it is that the interviewer is looking for. The interviewer is not looking to catch you out, but rather for you to demonstrate your curiosity, knowledge and passion for Languages.

“How am I able to do that?”

Demonstrate your enthusiasm and personality

You might be asked general interview questions so that the interviewer can learn more about you – review our list of General Interview questions to prepare.

Show that you enjoy studying Languages independently
The easiest way to demonstrate your enthusiasm for Languages is to show that you are self-motivated and have studied the subject in your free-time for enjoyment – for example through online lectures and independent reading. If you don’t know where to start, review our suggested reading list below.

Demonstrate your subject knowledge about and passion for Languages
The key to answering these questions is to always demonstrate your thought process aloud. The interviewer does not expect you to be able to answer every question immediately, but rather wants to determine that you are able to think about and work on unknown topics with confidence, intelligence and clarity – and they won’t be able to do that if you sit in silence! Use the list of questions below to prepare. Perhaps you can have a friend or relative ask you these questions so that you can develop your skills of thinking under time pressure and speaking out loud.

Subject Interview Guide – Languages

Our Subject Interview Guides help you to prepare and go into your interview with confidence.

OIQ Interview Guides

Each guide discusses ten Oxford Interview Questions in depth with answers and approaches – along with possible points of discussion to further demonstrate your knowledge. They have been specially edited for applicants for each subject by a team of Oxford and Cambridge graduates.

Download a sample page from our Physics Guide here.

Please Note: Currently “The Oxford Interview Guide” is available for Chemistry and Physics (available to download below). Other subjects will be available for download in November 2016 – please enter your email below to receive a notification when your subject guide is available for download.

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Modern Languages – Suggested Reading


Languages – Interview Questions

What gets lost in translation?
Think of a painting of a tree. Is the tree real?
How does the literature you have read affect your opinion of that society?
What is the point of poetry?
Should we learn the swear words of another language?
Could you say that an author is actually just another character in their novel or their play?
Why do you want to study a very literature-based degree?
What is the link between art and reality?
Do you think we ought to take literature as a sociological study of society, when you consider that most great authors are considered to have social difficulties?
Is there such a thing as an immoral book?
Which of your other interests demonstrate a European outlook?
How does Le Monde differ from an English broadsheet?
What are the differences between Spain and Latin America?
Why did Dostoevsky choose a city and not the countryside as a setting for Crime and Punishment?
What is the role of a translator?
If we take characters out of Madame Bovary, and look at them as individuals, are they still the same characters as when they were in the book? Why?
How does grammar govern tone and style in literature?
Can you only understand or analyse a text properly in its original language?
Is a sonnet necessarily always a love poem?
Do you think books transfer well to films? Give examples of this.
What is the purpose of comedy?
Was Romeo impulsive?
Why does French food interest you?
Is Wittgenstein always right?
Are you surprised that there is no Russian word for “privacy”?
Why do we psychoanalyse historians?
Think of a painting of a tree. Is the tree real?
Chekhov’s great, isn’t he?
What is language?
Why do you want to study a very literature-based degree?
What do you think Voltaire meant by ‘Il faut cultiver notre jardin’?
Britain declares war on Europe. What advice would you give to the ministry of defence if they asked you what level of French/German/Spanish each of their personnel should have?
Can a language ever truly die?
Compare and contrast Spanish and Portuguese.
Do you think the number of languages in the world will change in the next century?
Do you think we ought to take literature as a sociological study of society, when you consider that most great authors are considered to have social difficulties?
Does a language need to have letters? Can it be made just of numbers?Is grammar therefore necessary?
Does language define our identity?
Give me a brief case study of an area of Middle Eastern politics that has interested you.
How can you tell if a noun is masculine, feminine or neutral in German?
How could music be considered a language?
How do babies learn a language?What is the quickest way to learn a language?
How does Le Monde differ from English broadsheets?
How has travel influenced your relationship with language?
How is literature a different language to speech?
How is the German mindset different to the Russian mindset?
How malleable are our thoughts?
How many cultures are grouped together under the label ‘China’?
How many languages could someone learn?
How would you describe a cucumber to an alien?
How would you describe the relationship between speech and writing, in relation to language?
How would you improve Google translate?
How would you simplify English?
If you could make up a word, what would it be?
If you had £1,000,000 to find out more about the origins of language, how would you spend it?
If you were an anthropologist what aspects of British society would you study?
Is there any point studying languages with the advent of modern electronic translators?
Is poetry a different language to a novel or a short story?
Is there such a thing as an immoral book?
Should we study the swear words of any foreign language we study?
To what extent does a countries culture dictate a language’s vocabulary?
Translation is reproduction. How would you respond?
What was it about your favourite book that particularly caught your attention?
What are the differences between Spain and Latin America?
What are the difficulties in translating books like the Bible?
What attracts you to French/Spanish/Italian culture?
What can we learn from Pompeian excavations as to the quality of their life, especially their dietary habits?
What causes a language to evolve? Can this be stopped? How?
What determines how easy a language is to team?
What difficulties do Europeans have with English? What about speakers of Asian languages?
What do you think Voltaire meant by ‘Il faut cultiver notre jardin’?
What does language mean to you?
Which French/German poetry have you read?
What is a language?
What is an accent? How do they arise?
What is it that interests you about Latin American culture in particular?
What is the difference between Chinese whispers and translation?
What is the link between art and reality?
What is your favourite dictionary?
What is your favourite word?
What is your opinion on ambiguity?
What makes a language modern?
What was the most recent film you saw?
Which difficulties arise if you study two languages at the same time?
Who is your favourite author? Which of their other works have you read?
Why do we desire fluency so badly when we can communicate adequately even as a beginner?
Why can we infer from someone’s accent?
Why do some languages have so many tenses yet others manage with very little grammar?
Why do you want to study a very literature based degree?
Why learn a language in a globalising world?