Key facts

Average number of students offered a place per year


Average number of applicants per year


The study of Modern and Medieval Languages (MML) at Downing centres around a dedicated scholarly community pursuing an interest in the very roots of how we use language today.

The subject will appeal to those with an interest in why humans communicate the way we do. This could equally be as a topic of historical interest or as a tool for innovating new methods of reaching out to one another in the digital age.

Our standard conditional offer for this subject is usually A*AA at A level or 41 - 43 points overall and 7, 7, 6 at Higher Level in IB.  All Colleges may modify offers to take account of individual circumstances.  Further information can be found here.

All Colleges require A Level/IB Higher Level in at least one of the languages you want to study. It is not possible to study ab initio French at Cambridge.

At present, Modern and Medieval Languages applicants receive two or three 20-30 minute interviews on the same day, each with either one or two interviewers. Along with the majority of Colleges in Cambridge, Downing now conducts a written test for all students coming to interview.

This test will consist of an essay in a foreign language of the candidates choosing written in response to a short passage in English. More information about the test and examples can be found at the Faculty website.

You may be asked to arrive ten minutes early for one or more of your interviews to look over a written passage in an appropriate language studied at A or AS Level. Also, prior to interviews, we ask to see some of the written work you have produced during your studies, which may provide some of the basis for discussion.

Further advice about entry requirements and interviews for all subjects can be found in the Applying to Downing section of this site.

The teaching team

Downing College has a strong team providing teaching for the Modern Languages Tripos. The Fellows and College Lecturers in MML cover a number of European languages and a broad range of research areas. Downing has three Fellows in MML.

The Director of Studies for MML, Professor Ian James, specialises in twentieth-century and contemporary French literature and philosophy and teaches French literature of the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries, comparative literature and literary/post-colonial theory. He has a special interest in the intersection between technology and culture and interfaces between the arts and the sciences.

Professor Adam Ledgeway, is a Senior Lecturer in Romance Philology and specialises in the history and structure of the Romance languages (Catalan, French, Italian, Occitan, Portuguese, Rumanian and Spanish), Italian dialectology and generative syntactic theory, all areas in which he currently teaches.

Downing also has a particular strength in the area of Linguistics. Professor Ian Roberts is a Professorial Fellow in Linguistics and researches in the areas of generative syntactic theory and the historical syntax of the Romance languages (especially French, Italian and Portuguese), the Germanic languages (Old and Middle English, Old Norse, German and Dutch) and the Celtic languages (Welsh, Irish, Breton and Scots Gaelic). He also teaches Introduction to Linguistic Theory, Syntax and the Structure of English.

Dr Charlotte Woodford , College Lecturer in German, is a specialist in early modern and nineteenth-century German literature, especially women’s writing.

Downing has extensive arrangements with other Colleges to ensure that teaching in all languages and areas covered by the MML Tripos are provided at highest level.

Further details about the Modern and Medieval Languages course can be found at the University of Cambridge site.

Resources to help you explore subjects related to languages further can be found at