Clare College Cambridge

Modern and Medieval Languages

Link to University Subject Page

Link to new joint History and Modern Languages Tripos

Clare College has the largest dedicated Modern and Medieval Languages fellowship in Cambridge. MML at Clare is a close, vibrant community with the resources to offer individually tailored academic guidance and support throughout your degree. We oversee teaching in all the languages offered by the MML Faculty, as well as the established combinations with Classical Latin or Greek and Middle-Eastern languages. We also support students who in their final year choose to take papers in subjects from other Faculties (such as History, Philosophy, English).

Details the languages and courses offered in Cambridge can be found on the MML Faculty website, including advice and information specifically for prospective students.

Studying MML at Clare

Our students at Clare have consistently achieved some of the top results in the final year of the MML Tripos, with an average of at least 50% of them scoring a First. Clare has had in the past years one of the highest number of applicants in Cambridge for MML, which is reflected in the overall number of linguists in the College (30+ spread over 4 years). We have always been happy to accept any of the possible combinations of languages. We also often have a good proportion of students studying a language from scratch (ab initio).

The College arranges small-group teaching (supervisions) for some aspects of language work, and also for optional papers. Clare has a large team of Directors of Studies and teaching Fellows in MML; for details see below. The College has its own audio-visual supervision room, and our library facilities include access to CALL (Computer-Assisted Language Learning) software. Students will study with college fellows and supervisors from other colleges depending on the papers they choose.

Clare has a strong partnership with one of the most prestigious academic institutions in France, the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris. Each year, Clare has a postgraduate student from the ENS as a Lecteur/lectrice who helps with French oral work; there is also the possibility for one student to spend their year abroad studying at the ENS.

MML graduates are very much in demand by employers in a range of professions, not only for their linguistic and intellectual skills, but also for the independence and maturity which they develop as a result of living and working abroad and gaining an in-depth knowledge of other cultures. Clare MML graduates have recently gone on to further training in music and drama, the Civil Service, finance, law, diplomatic careers, teaching, translating, management, market research and arts administration.

Admissions Requirements

All applicants must be studying at least one language at A-level or equivalent. Offers for MML at Clare are based on A-level or equivalent examination results, a typical offer being A*AA at A-level or 7,7,6 (40+ overall) in the IB.

Some tips on applying

  • Check that the Cambridge course really does suit your own interests and aptitudes. For example, conversational fluency in a language is obviously something that we aim at, but it is not the only important aspect.
  • The course is designed to help students gain a deep understanding not only of language but also of cultural context. Whether you are going to continue a language post-A-level or start a new one ab initio, we would expect you to have begun to engage with some elements of the culture of the country in question, whether literature, art, architecture, film, music or history, and to think critically about these aspects. Try to emphasise this engagement in your UCAS personal statement.
  • Try also to look outside the sort of work you are doing at A-level (or equivalent), though we do not require any specific additional preparation, and foreign travel is not essential. The Cambridge course encourages a comprehensive approach, an enquiring way of thought that can be very stimulating and inspiring.
  • See here and here for more information and advice from the Faculty, including links to some learning resources, such as HE+ for Modern Languages.

Interviews and Written Assessment

Candidates who are selected for interview will be interviewed in the second or third week of December. Each candidate will normally have two interviews, one for each of the languages to be studied at Cambridge. If you are intending to study a language from scratch you will clearly not be expected to have the same level as at A-level, but you will still have an interview for that language. A part of each interview will usually be in the foreign language (if you applying to do that language post A-level) or related to that language (if you are applying as a beginner in that language). Candidates, including those applying to take up a new language, will usually prepare a passage in the foreign language for discussion.

All applicants are also required to take a 60-minute MML written assessment at the time of the interviews. You will be given a brief non-literary passage in English and have to answer questions using one of the languages you are hoping to study at Cambridge (no dictionaries). Applicants wishing to combine a modern European language with Classical Latin or Classical Greek will undertake the MML written assessment using the modern European language; their classical language will be assessed during the interview for that language. Further information about the MML written assessment is available here. Applicants wishing to combine a modern European language with a Middle-Eastern language will take the MML written assessment at the time of the interviews, as well as the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (AMES) pre-interview written assessment. Further information about the AMES written assessment is available here.

Directors of Studies and Fellows in MML


Dr Timothy Chesters, University Lecturer in Sixteenth-Century French Studies. Tim has published on ghosts, demons and witchcraft in Renaissance French writing, as well as on nineteenth-century views of the Renaissance.


Dr Helena Sanson, Reader in Italian Language, Literature and Culture. Helena's main areas of interest are the history of the Italian language, the history of linguistic thought and history of women in Italy from the Renaissance to the post-Unification period.


Professor Simon Franklin, Professor of Slavonic Studies. He has written on Russian history and culture of all periods, but his principal research interests are in the medieval era.

Dr Alyson Tapp, University Lecturer in Russian Literature. Alyson works on Russian literature of the 19th century, especially history and theory of the novel.


Professor Alison Sinclair, Emeritus Professor of Modern Spanish Literature and Intellectual History. She works on modern Spanish and comparative literature, with special emphasis on a psychoanalytic approach, and more recently has been working on 19c Spanish street literature.

Dr Rodrigo Cacho, Reader in Spanish Golden Age and Colonial Studies. Rodrigo’s main interests are the 16th and 17th centuries, looking both at European and Spanish-American literatures and cultures.


Please note that we do accept students to study German and we have established relationships with members of teaching staff at other Colleges who teach our first-year Germanists.


Linguistics can be studied as papers within the MML Tripos or as an independent subject through the Linguistics Tripos. Our External Director of Studies in Linguistics is Dr Kirsty McDougall.


Student Profiles: Edward Mills Jessica Lindley