French & German Personal Statement
I want to study modern languages to learn about other ways of life. The language we use is the lens through which we look at the world, colouring our experiences and perhaps predisposing us to certain ways of thinking. I believe the only way we can become aware of how our experiences are influenced by this ever-present linguistic structure is to step outside the frame of our own language and study another.
My two home-stay study visits to France, in St. Savin and Paris, have reminded me that my Anglocentric picture of the world is a minority view. This summer I used my Modern Languages Scholarship to enable me to spend a week in Bremen studying with the Goethe Institut, which not only improved my German language skills but also gave me experience of living almost entirely in another language.
To learn another language is to acquire a skill but also to acquire an understanding. In my arts-based programme of study at college I have learned that culture is made of far more than language: literature, thought, music and popular culture all play their part.
The opportunity to study all these elements within a modern languages course appeals to me, enabling me to learn about them individually and also how language varies between then: the contrast between the precise philosophical definitions of terms like 'pitié' and the emotionally charged language of verse such as Prévert's 'Rappelle-toi Barbara'.
Spoken across the globe, the staggering amount of variation and innovation in French has resulted in a diverse heritage and culture, from the satire of Candide to rap from Abidjan.
I am particularly interested in the challenges faced by 'the second global language' and the efforts made by the Francophone community to protect, regulate and empower their language. In my Extended Project Qualification, 'Where do new French words come from and how are they regulated?', I am examining how French adapts and changes to suit our changing world, and how the creativity that produced Verlan co-exists with conservative language policies that regulate terminology at the word level.
German is known for its regularity, rules and literal quality, yet the poetry of Rilke and Goethe would not be the same without them. This apparent contrast intrigues me. I believe that the way German allows words to be combined encourages both development of new concepts and reevaluation of existing ones, the philosophical idea of 'Weltanschauung' being a case in point.
My interest is not limited to French and German: in addition to having studied GCSE Spanish outside school, I completed a Russian enrichment course and a taster day on East European Languages. I also have a broader interest in linguistics: particularly, the different ways we use language and the different ways it can be manipulated to suit our purposes.
I am similarly interested in the influence of mode on our use of language and how communication is being shaped by the technological age, and how minority languages can survive in an increasingly connected world. I also enjoy investigating the popular culture of other countries, be it Finnish pop music or Icelandic crime fiction.
In my spare time, I enjoy playing flute and recorder: this summer I played with the National Youth Recorder Orchestra. I also have a part-time job as a waitress, which I fit around my study time. I love to travel and intend to use my language skills to allow me to live and work abroad.
To summarise, I believe that studying modern languages at university will enable me to see beyond my own experiences and develop a profound understanding and appreciation of cultures other than my own, as well as helping me develop practical language skills I will use for the rest of my life. A degree is only the next exciting step for me in fuelling my curiosity about other people's worlds.
This personal statement was written by Periwinkle for application in 2012.
I spent a long time on my statement. At the last minute, one of my teachers told me that I should mention more specific reading that I'd done (because Oxbridge like that, she said), so I put some in, which I still think is pretentious. It also caused a lot of anxiety at interview - 'Rappelle-toi Barbara' was the only Prevert poem I'd ever read and when I read more of his works I hated them. To this date I've only read one poem by Rilke. Looking back at the statement, all I can think is how pretentious it sounds and how I agonised over every word - but then again, I didn't think too much of it at the time.
I received 5 offers, from Cambridge, UCL (twice), Sheffield and Edinburgh. I applied to UCL for 2 different courses - French & German and German & Icelandic. I received offers for both, despite Icelandic only being mentioned in passing in the statement - I guess they understand that you're not applying for that at every university and hopefully the statement displays a general interest in languages.