For MML there are a variety of languages to choose from, some post-A level, and some ab-initio, which means at beginner level. You don’t have to take an ab-initio language, but neither can you take more than one ab-initio language. All MML courses are 4 years long, which includes a Year Abroad. In the first year of the course, for post-A level students, grammar, literature, and translation skills are studied. The literature is wide-ranging, from medieval poems and romances, to films of the French Nouvelle Vague. There is the opportunity of choosing particular texts or periods to which you give more weight, although the possibility of doing this varies by language. For ab-initio students, the first year is mainly occupied with intense language learning, although there is also a literature component. In second year, both post-A level and ab-initio students study approximately the same modules, which give the student a much greater opportunity to specialise than in first year. You can even start a new language, like Portuguese or Ukrainian. In third year, it’s the Year Abroad. You can spend your year as a teaching assistant, studying at university under the Erasmus scheme, or in employment. There is great freedom to choose what you do, as long as it’s in a country where one of your languages is spoken, and the activity which you wish to carry out is deemed sufficiently intellectual. In fourth year, you return to Cambridge and continue the work you started in second year, specialising further into literature, translation, history, or whatever you’ve grown to love.
The course is reasonably heavy as terms as reading is concerned; however, if you prepare fully and read most, if not all, of the set texts before you come up to Cambridge, your workload will be hugely reduced. There are about 4-6 one hour literature lectures per week, and 3 one hour classes. The number of literature supervisions can vary, but you can expect to have at least 3-4 per language per term.
There are positive and negative aspects about studying MML at Peterhouse. The small size of the college means that you get to know the other linguists really well, and there are lots of MML events, like the MML dinner. However, this also has a downside, in that there may not be another linguist at Peterhouse who studies your particular combination of languages. In reality though, this doesn’t mean that you’ll miss out on the social life at Peterhouse, but just that you’ll have more chance to get to know people from other colleges.
If you’re thinking about applying to Peterhouse to study MML, I would suggest that you remember that the MML course is one of great flexibility and that there are numerous possibilities of making the course your own.
If you’re in the fortunate position of having already got an offer, my advice would be to read as much and as widely as possible before you come up. Other linguists may disagree, but the more time you spend preparing in the summer before you come up, the more time you’ll have in Cambridge to do extra reading, or even social activities. It is definitely important to read as many of the set texts as you can before you come up.
MML at Cambridge is a great course, with much flexibility and a really friendly community feel. MML at Peterhouse is also a great course, which, contrary to expectations, is not adversely affected by the small size of the college, and is indeed, improved by its small size.
Jenni Caisley, 2013