The Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (FAMES) at Cambridge is divided into two Departments - the Department of East Asian Studies (DEAS), which covers Chinese and Japanese, and the Department of Middle Eastern Studies (DMES), which covers Arabic, Persian and Hebrew. Both classical and modern versions of the languages are taught. Subjects in the DMES may be taken as either whole or half subjects; the latter can be combined with a language such as French or Spanish from the Modern & Medieval Languages Tripos. Subjects in DEAS cannot be combined with any other subject. For further details of courses please refer to the Faculty website.
These subjects are taught ab initio in Cambridge, which means that no prior language abilities is assumed. However, some prior knowledge will, of course, be very useful as preparation for the course. While there is a strong emphasis on acquiring a detailed knowledge of the language(s) chosen, increasing attention is being paid to the historical, social, and literary aspects of the various cultures. The Asian and Middle Eastern Studies degree normally takes four years (Part IA in the first year, IB in the second year, Part II in the fourth year, with the third year spent abroad).
AMES at Sidney Sussex
Our external Director of Studies in both East Asian and Middle Eastern Studies is Dr Rachael Harris, who is a Senior Language Teaching Officer in Arabic at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. The College encourages applications from students who are interested in any languages of the AMES Tripos.
Qualities we are looking for
None of these subjects is an easy option, and candidates will need a clear head for grammar, the recognition of linguistic patterns and the learning of vocabulary. Although an experience of language learning is extremely useful, several students have excelled in this Tripos from school backgrounds in Mathematics, Sciences or Music, as well as History. Note that apart from language learning all these subjects involve essay writing on a wide range of topics. An independent approach for learning together with evidence of wide reading will be expected. Enthusiasm is also essential, as is the ability to work in small groups.
Your first interview will normally be a general one, focusing on your general interest and wider exploration of your chosen subject. This is intended to inform us of your motivation and your overall intelligence and potential. There will then be a subject interview by a specialist in your chosen language. Candidates applying for a combined course with a modern European language will be given a third interview by a specialist in that language.
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No specific A-levels required. A Levels in modern or ancient languages, humanities and social sciences are useful.
Two essays (where possible on a related subject; if combining with a modern European language, one must be in the target language).
None if taking Asian and Middle Eastern Studies alone; if combining AMES with a modern European language: 45-minute written test at interview, writing in the European language you have chosen to study.
Two interviews. The first will be a more general interview; the second will be subject-related. For those combining AMES with a modern European language: a third interview will focus on your chosen language, and there will be a short passage to read for 15 minutes before the interview (you will be expected to speak in the language for part, but not all, of the interview).
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