There’s a wide range of opportunities out there for employees or freelancers who are fluent in a range of languages. In recent years, the government has made the teaching of languages a far greater priority to ensure that businesses have the skilled workers they need to be able to maintain a competitive economy in a global market.

If your ambition is to become a linguist, studying at one of the nation’s best universities will help to give you the best foundations.

Top 6 UK Universities for Modern Languages

Every year, the Guardian publishes a list of the top universities in the UK for every subject. In 2020, these were the results:

  1. Oxford

The University have been leading the way with Modern Languages since 1724, and its department is currently one of the largest in the UK. All of their Modern Languages students also have access to Britain’s largest Modern Languages research library and their world-class Language Centre. Each of their courses focuses on providing practical training in written and spoken forms, as well as studies in written thought and literature. They also have options for their students to also explore linguistics, philology, film, translation or gender studies. The languages they offer are Czech (with Slovak), French, German, Modern Greek, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

  1. Cambridge

The MML (Modern and Medieval Languages) faculty at the University of Cambridge offer students the opportunity to study any two of the following modern languages: French, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, German and Spanish. The Cambridge course prides itself on being flexible and offering a wide range of opportunities for its students to explore the culture of the languages they are studying, from Italian Renaissance art to German folklore to contemporary Brazilian cinema. They also offer options to study linguistics, including studies in the cognitive and etymological dimensions of your chosen languages.

  1. St Andrews

This University, renowned as the meeting place of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, offers an excellent programme for Modern Languages. Courses in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Persian, Russian and Spanish attract students from all over the UK. The Modern Languages School at St Andrews provides students with the opportunity to relate the languages you are studying to culture, history and anthropology by exploring areas such as literature, film and politics.

  1. Durham

Durham’s Centre for Foreign Language Study has a large department, with over 80 members of staff. As well as teaching languages, the staff offer courses in cultural history, translation, cinema and visual culture. Of all the Universities on this list, Durham offers the broadest range, including (but not limited to): Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Dutch, Greek (modern), Hebrew (modern), Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Swedish and Turkish.

  1. Surrey

The University of Surrey’s School of Literature and Languages aim to give their students a solid foundation in how languages work as well as the culture of the countries where your chosen languages is spoken. Their state-of-the-art Language Labs and Language Study Area which is open 24 hours a day. Focusing their Modern Languages provision on French and Spanish, the University of Surrey offers the opportunity to take transition modules in each year of their undergraduate degree courses.

  1. Southampton

The University of Southampton operates quite differently from the other universities in this list. Instead of focusing on your year of study, their undergraduate programme is based around a seven-stage language learning programme, which focuses on proficiency levels. That being said, they do still offer the traditional third-year year-abroad. Southampton offer language courses in French, German, Spanish and Portuguese. And if that’s not enough, they also offer Latin American Studies, European Studies and Linguistics and allow students to combine their language studies with another subject.

Studying Modern Languages

Don’t think that you need to do your whole degree abroad if you want to study Languages.

A typical undergraduate degree in Modern Languages will last four years, one of which will be a year abroad where you can work or study in a foreign University in a country where one of your studied languages is spoken – make sure to pause your rent and utility bills for this year!

Although there has been some confusion and recently regarding Brexit, universities are all working hard to ensure that year-abroad programmes can go ahead. Typically, students can decide to study two or more languages with the option of combining them with another subject, such as business, politics, sociology, film or history.