Modern Languages (French and Spanish) BA (Hons) at University of Surrey

Welcome to a brief overview of the Modern Languages undergraduate course at the University of Surrey. I’m a final year student who joined Surrey in 2020, starting with Post A-Level French and ab initio Spanish. You can study two languages at Surrey, with the requirement being at least one of them studied at A-level. You can then study your other chosen language ‘ab initio’ which means ‘from the start’ with intensive classes in your first year to help you reach an advanced level quickly.  

Languages at Surrey is quite a small department with class sizes of around 10-20 students so all of the classes are seminars which is really beneficial for speaking practice and participation. The academic year is divided into two semesters with four modules in each. Most modules include a piece of coursework such as a written assignment on a specific topic which is submitted online via SurreyLearn; followed by an online exam in January or May-June. 

First year 

As my first year was 2020-2021, most of my seminars were hybrid with some online and in person. I had four modules for Semester 1 which were:  

  • French Language for Academic Purposes  
  • Skills for Language Specialists 
  • Ab initio 1A Grammar and Structures 
  • Ab initio 1A Developing Skills  

The French class was for Post A-Level students, focusing on developing academic skills such as summarising and grammar revision which was very useful. Skills for Language Specialists was taught in English and explored language learning techniques, including how the brain processes and learns language which helped us to apply techniques to our own language learning. The Ab initio modules focused on learning Spanish from scratch, including grammar, vocabulary and verb tenses. These modules were intensive but very helpful in getting me to a high standard of Spanish quickly.  

For Semester 2, I had these modules:  

  • French Language for Professional Purposes  
  • Introduction to France and the French Speaking World 
  • Spain: Introduction to History, Culture and Society 
  • Ab initio Language II  

I really enjoyed French for Professional Purposes as we learnt about workplace culture, how to write a French CV and practice interviews. It also was really helpful preparation for applying for placements in second year. Both history modules provided an overview of French and Spanish history, which helps you to gain a deeper understanding of both countries. My final Ab initio module consolidated the work from semester 1 and further advanced my language level.  

Second year  

I had more flexibility to choose my modules this year as I didn’t have any optional modules in first year due to being Ab initio. For Semester 1, I chose:  

  • Translation Spanish-English (optional) 
  • Introduction to Sociolinguistics (optional) 
  • French for Research Purposes  
  • Spanish for Research Purposes  

Both Research modules are compulsory to help prepare you for your dissertation in final year as these modules require in-depth research, critical thinking and academic writing. We had the opportunity to participate in focus groups whilst practising our oral skills and then writing an essay using the recorded content. Sociolinguistics is the study of how language is affected by society, where we learnt about how age, class and gender can impact language, which was very interesting. However, my favourite was Spanish Translation where I got to translate a variety of texts, from Dia de los Muertos to churros recipes. 

Semester 2:  

  • Translation English-French (optional) 
  • Introduction to TEFL (optional) 
  • Spanish America: Introduction to History, Culture and Society  
  • France since 1945: Politics, the Economy and Society  

French Politics was fascinating to me, especially as our seminars took place during the French elections. I learnt so much about the current political climate in France which felt really relevant. Spanish America highlighted the history of Latin American countries, including their fight for independence. TEFL helped me to gain experience and understanding of teaching English as a foreign language which was really useful for my placement year. 

Placement year  

My summer internship in the South of France [Phoebe Holmes]

I’d like to cover my placement year abroad in another blog, detailing my experiences and skills I learnt so I’ll just mention here the academic work required at the end of placement year. For a full year of work, which is what I did, you write a 4000 word report in one of your languages about your experience and acquired skills. Then, at the beginning of final year, you present a poster to other students about your experience and answer their questions.  

Final year 

This year has the most flexibility for choosing your modules. You can choose between a long dissertation (8000 words) which is equivalent to 2 modules, or you can do a short dissertation (4000 words) equivalent to 1 module. You can even do two short dissertations if you like!  

The only compulsory module is Advanced Skills in Semester 1 in the chosen language of your dissertation, in my case: Spanish. I’m also doing several Translation modules and I’m really looking forward to the Arts in France module next semester. I have learnt so much during my time here and my language level has improved significantly whilst gaining an invaluable insight and deeper understanding of the culture, history and politics in French and Spanish-speaking countries.  

I hope you have enjoyed my brief overview of the Modern Languages course here at Surrey! Feel free to watch the short video below with one of our lecturers for some information about why Surrey is an excellent place to study languages.