Congratulations on your offer of a place to read Modern and Medieval Languages here at Downing.

 

In Part IA of the Modern Languages Tripos, you have to prepare four papers in your post-A-level languages and three if you’re taking an ab initio language.

For post-A-level languages, three of your papers will focus on developing your language skills, with the fourth taking the form of a combined introduction to the literature, culture and, in some cases, linguistics of the language (this varies from language to language; see course websites for further details). This last paper is known as a ‘scheduled paper’.

For ab initio languages, you will have two papers focusing on development of language skills, and a third paper introducing you to the literature and culture of your ab initio language.

The details of the papers you will be taking for your chosen languages in Part IA, along with information on how best to begin your preparation for them can be found at the following sites:

French
http://www.mml.cam.ac.uk/fr1

German
Ab initio students:
http://www.mml.cam.ac.uk/german/courses/ugrad/initio.html
Post A-level students:
http://www.mml.cam.ac.uk/german/courses/ugrad/alevel.html

Russian
Ab initio students:
http://www.mml.cam.ac.uk/slavonic/courses/ugrad/iaadescr.html
Post A-level students:
http://www.mml.cam.ac.uk/slavonic/courses/ugrad/iabdescr.html

Spanish
Ab initio students:
http://www.mml.cam.ac.uk/spanish/papers/part-ia#optiona
Post A-level students:
http://www.mml.cam.ac.uk/spanish/papers/part-ia#optionb

Portuguese
Ab initio students:
http://www.mml.cam.ac.uk/portuguese/papers/part-ia#optiona
Post A-level students:
http://www.mml.cam.ac.uk/portuguese/papers/part-ia#optionb

Italian
Ab initio students:
http://www.mml.cam.ac.uk/italian/courses/ugrad/Part_IA(a).html
Post A-level students:
http://www.mml.cam.ac.uk/italian/courses/ugrad/Part_IA(b).html

It is very important that you should have read as many as possible of the books you will be studying before you come up to Cambridge. An eight-week term, with a heavy load of written work does not leave much time for reading long books in foreign languages, so if you have not done plenty of reading beforehand, you will find yourself struggling.

Please consult the reading lists for your scheduled papers carefully and obtain the books relevant to you as soon as possible. Books can be purchased online and delivered promptly from booksellers such as Amazon or Blackwell’s (European sites such as fnac.com are also very good). If you have any difficulties accessing the departmental reading lists via the internet, please contact me immediately at irj20@cam.ac.uk for further advice. If you have any trouble getting hold of books in advance of your arrival at Cambridge, again do please contact me.

Beyond the reading specified for your scheduled papers, you should also try to read as much in your foreign languages as you can. Current literature and journalism are two very good options. You will also find it useful to listen to foreign radio stations, particularly news bulletins and current affairs programmes. Getting into the habit of noting down all the linguistic points (words, phrases, idioms, unfamiliar usages, etc.) that are not part of your active language is also an excellent practice to start developing before you come up. Remember that Part IA in Modern Languages is primarily a linguistic test of a very high standard.

An integral component of Part IA is an oral examination (held at the beginning of the Easter Term). You will greatly improve your chances of a good result in Part IA of the Tripos by both reading widely and conversing as much as possible in your respective foreign languages at this stage. For those taking a gap-year, I would also stress the obvious value to be derived from any period you can spend abroad between now and coming up.

That aside, you should also be aiming to read as much as you can in English about your chosen languages and their culture. You will find that, if you take it seriously, reading and thinking about all the prescribed works and also the wider context associated with your chosen languages will be of tremendous benefit to you on coming up. 
I look forward to seeing you in October. Meanwhile, if I can advise or help you in any way, I will be only too pleased to do so.

All the very best
 
Dr Ian James
Director of Studies

irj20@cam.ac.uk