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Languages, Cultures and Visual Studies

Modern Languages and Cultures

Modern Languages and Cultures at the University of Exeter offers a vibrant and current academic program which fosters the acquisition of languages, encourages exploration of diverse cultures and develops an in-depth understanding of intercultural competence and communication. Our department comprises experts in seven languages and related fields, ensuring a high standard of teaching and research. Students benefit from the experience of both native and international colleagues.

Our curriculum allows students to explore film, literature, cultural history, politics, gender and queer studies, museums, arts, linguistics, visual culture, translation studies and philosophy. We promote international study and work placements, encouraging students to experience first-hand the societies they study. This approach equips graduates with the cultural sensitivity and linguistic competence essential for success at home and abroad.

Modern Languages and Cultures at Exeter offer seven languages from Beginners’ level: Chinese (Mandarin), French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

All languages except for Chinese and Portuguese can also be studied post A-Level. There are no pre-requisites if you plan to study a language from Beginners’ level.

No matter whether you have done a GCSE or just dreamt about learning a language for the first time, our dedicated teaching team will guide you through the learning process that covers listening, reading, writing and speaking in the target language.

You can study one, two or three languages. The study of languages and cultures in our Department aside, you can make use of 30 credits of modularity – for example, study a language in the Language Centre, take up specific modules in other subjects such as Business, International Relations, or specialize on TESOL.

Other options include the combination of a language with another subject area such as English, Politics or History (Combined Honours) or if we do not have a preexisting combination, you can study a bespoke programme under the umbrella of Flexible Combined Honours (FCH). In each case your degree title will spell out what you have studied.

You can also adapt your studies – you can, subject to a number of requirements, take up a new language or drop a language; or you can shift the focus towards culture. We all understand that at times it is necessary to make room for new interests!

First and foremost, learning a language is fun, it gives you access to other countries and their people, and you may also find out more about yourself:  we tend to develop slightly different personalities in other languages!

Learning another language fosters your understanding of your mother-tongue. It develops your ability to solve problems and to approach challenges analytically. Linguists adapt with far more ease to new environments. These are just some of the employability skills which employers have highlighted. And last but not least, even in the day and age of online translation sites, the competence to listen, read, and speak another language is a source of power.

At Exeter we firmly believe that language and culture go hand in hand. While the language modules are so-called ‘core’ modules (30 credits), culture modules are optional, carry 15 credits and deepen your understanding of the language too. We offer a wide choice of modules – including those dealing with cultural history, art history, visual culture, intercultural skills, film, literature, gender studies to name but a few.

Each language has a dedicated number of cultural modules, but you will also find Modern Languages and Humanities-wide modules which are available to linguists across the board. Here we cover, for example, topics such as environmental and intercultural studies.

Over time, you can either specialise on a particular topic such as film, linguistics or literature, or you may build a portfolio of topics that shows a wider range of interests. In the final year you have the option to focus on an academic topic of your choice and opt for a 15 or 30 credits dissertation. This is particularly useful if you plan to do postgraduate study. 

The International Placement can be one of the most rewarding aspects of a Modern Languages and Cultures degree. It is also one of the major factors that makes languages graduates attractive to employers: negotiating the challenges of an International Placement is seen by employers as proof of adaptability, independence and resourcefulness. You normally have the choice between work placements (including the language teaching assistantship scheme run by the British Council) and study at one of our international partner universities.

Unless you study a language from Beginners’ level, you can split your time abroad between two countries. If you study a language from Beginners’ level, we expect you to spend at least seven months in that country to ensure the necessary linguistic progress. Please note that for Chinese and Russian we currently only offer study abroad due to visa restrictions.

During your time abroad you will either do the assessments at a partner University or you write a reflective portfolio. On return to Exeter there will be an oral exam.

For many students, the International Placement is the highlight of their time studying with us and time and time again we have seen the transformational impact it can have on students’ language skills, resilience, and confidence. It broadens horizons and helps to set our students apart.

Find out more about the International Placement

Teaching takes many shapes – lectures, seminars and tutorials are based on different group sizes; seminars tend to be more discussion based. ELE (our online Exeter Learning Environment) offers lecture recordings, power points, links to the library and additional material for each module. Learning is therefore a mix between team and individual work. In all our modules we foster your study skills – be it independent learning, teamwork or presentation skills, how to write a blog, how to research a topic or how to write an academic essay and how you can best organize your time.

We offer a wide variety of assessments, including exams, seen exams, portfolios, video recordings essays and dissertations. If you need particular support with any of these, we will make sure the appropriate systems are in place.

An International Placement is an excellent way to boost your employability skills. Our preparation for the third year abroad begins in year two when we talk about intercultural skills and differences between languages and cultures, while also covering practical necessities such as writing a CV or a cover letter or how to address an employee at the bank where you seek to open an account.

Employability skills are firmly embedded in our teaching. This allows you to not only impress with your linguistic and cultural skills, but how best to present yourself. Our Career Zone is available to everybody and helps you maximize your CV but also supports you in the search for internships and placements during your time at Exeter and post-graduation. 

Modern Languages and Cultures is an international community of linguists. Each language has its own society that organises trips, talks or simply meetings that allow you to engage with Chinese, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish in a relaxed manner. We have a regular languages café and events throughout the year. The Language Exepress is an online magazine for students and regional schools.

Modern Languages and Cultures has developed over the years – not least thanks to the input of students past and present. The Staff Student Liaison Committee (SSLC) is a regular meeting that allows students to tell us about things that work well, what could be improved and what kind of modules we should consider.

On arrival, you will be allocated a Personal Tutor who will support you in your academic development, has an open ear for your concerns (and happy news you might wish to share!), provides you with references and also signposts where to find help if you need more specific support.

All in all, you will find a welcoming, nurturing environment with strong support networks in place to allow you and your language skills to flourish.