English & French Personal Statement
It has always been my greatest ambition to learn to speak a second language fluently. I firmly believe that languages, as the building blocks of communication, are increasingly vital skills to possess in a modern world in which traditional boundaries are rapidly changing and with this in mind, I studied three foreign languages for GCSE, enjoying the experience greatly, although it was my intention to carry only French onto a higher level of study. I am fascinated by the contrasts and contradictions of French culture and history - such as the way in which France is the Catholic Church's 'eldest daughter', claimed to have the largest concentration of traditionalist Catholics in the world, and yet is also a fiercely secular proponent of "laicite" and free-thinking. However, my main interest is in the language itself, which is truly beautiful.
While I always intended to learn French, it has only been in this past year that I have come to appreciate the level of my interest in English and in the analysis of literary texts in my own language. How authors throughout the centuries have utilised language to manipulate their readers' emotions and beliefs is fascinating both on an abstract level and as a practical skill, used by the media and politicians and in everyday life, to inspire particular responses. For these reasons, translation appeals to me a great deal - how can one preserve these subtle nuances and still render a text readable from a completely different cultural perspective? The Italian proverb <i>traduttore, traditore</I> - translator, traitor - seems at times an accurate summing of the situation. The question has absorbed me ever since reading Les Miserables in translation and realising how many English 'versions' exist, all with different features due to their particular context and publishing history.
I am very committed to improving my understanding of the subjects I study. A two-week stay with a host family in France this summer helped me develop my language skills and the knowledge that I can hold my own in real situations has boosted my confidence tremendously. I have also honed my skills of analysis through constant, voracious reading - some years back I was able to raise over seventy pounds for charity by holding a sponsored 'No-Reading' day at my school! I am also a senior librarian in the school library and very much enjoy fostering an interest in books in the younger pupils.
When reading, my tastes veer towards the fantastic and in particular the works of Tolkien and Frank Herbert's Dune series. To create alternate pasts and futures in such a wide scope, and such detail that the creations become worlds in their own right, with values and cultures both sympathetic to their audience's attitudes but also consistent within the internal structure of the novel and entirely separate from our own... the epic scale of such world-building never fails to amaze me. For much the same reasons, the historical fiction of Dorothy Dunnett and Mary Renault also appeals to me, through the ways in which the authors skilfully recreate a particular time-period.
I also enjoy music, in a wide variety of forms. My musical tastes range from modern pop, via musical theatre, to Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. What I lack in talent, I supplement with enthusiasm both singing with the School Choir for several years and, more recently, studying for the Grade 1 piano exam.
This personal statement was written by helle for application in 2008.
Pretty pleased with this - it's conventional but I feel it gets 'me' across quite well. Probably bits I'd change if I did it again, but still.
Universities applied to: Oxford, Warwick, Liverpool, Durham, St Andrews. Offers from all of them.