Downing Outreach Blog

English, MML, & Linguistics Taster Day

24 May 2017 | Lauren Payne | Uncategorised

On Friday 21st April Downing College welcomed 10 budding linguists and literature buffs to experience what life studying either English, Modern and Medieval Languages (MML), or Linguistics at Cambridge is like.

This Taster Day event allowed students to sample different types of learning environments as they worked with academics on various sessions. The morning was spent in mini-seminars, where English students learnt about Hamlet and Shakespearean Tragedy with English Faculty PhD student Tessa Peres, and linguists got to try out Romanian with Downing College Fellow Professor Adam Ledgeway (who is also the Chair of the MML Faculty at the University!).

Attendees were then able to grill some of our current undergraduates in English, MML, &, Linguistics. The questions ranged from asking about the average day in the life as a student in these subject areas, what the workload entailed, and how they prepared for their Cambridge interview. The undergraduates then took the students on a tour of the College grounds, showing them all of the highlights. This included the accommodation at Downing, the social places like the Butterfield Cafe where students can relax, and the various facilities such as the Howard Theatre, where the undergraduates involved in the Downing Dramatic Society put on performances.

More academic sessions followed in the afternoon as students were able to sample taster supervisions in their field of interest. Supervisions are the small-group teaching sessions that are virtually unique to Cambridge (Oxford have a similar system called ‘tutorials’) where usually around two-four students sit down with an academic for an hour to discuss a piece of work they have prepared in advance. In humanities subjects, this tends to be an essay submitted before the session and the group will discuss interesting things that came up in the essays and research completed by the students, all guided by the academic.

If you are interested in studying one of these subjects at Cambridge, please click on the following links for more information (English, MML, Linguistics).

Also, check out the Discover Downing Resources section to find ways to #ExploreYourSubject interest in these fields – my particular recommendations for some quick finds would be as follows:


Take a look at the English Faculty’s Virtual Classroom. This is an amazing resource that I used as a prospective student when I was applying for English at Cambridge! Set aside an hour to really work through the activity, which aims to introduce you to Practical Criticism (one of the key approaches to textual analysis central to the Cambridge English course). This will be particularly helpful for students wanting to understand how to break down and analyse texts closely and improve their understanding of literary devices.

Modern and Medieval Languages

The Faculty has produced a number of great resources, which can be found here, including free materials from the University Language Centre! Also, check out the Adventures on the Bookshelf blog from Oxford, which is particularly good for students interested in French.


A great blog for budding linguists is CamLangSci, run by  graduate students in the Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics at Cambridge. Posts on this blog are really varied, with one of the most recent articles titled ‘The Syntax of an Emoji‘!

Lauren Payne

I studied English at Emmanuel College from 2012-2015, before moving over to Downing to start as the full-time School and College Liaison Officer. My role involves organising outreach work primarily in the South West, advising both students and teachers in all things related to Cambridge and Higher Education more generally.