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Connecting Fellows, alumni and students to celebrate enriching studies in Modern and Medieval Languages

Prof Emma Gilby at a podium beside a screen with a black and white image of women

In the age of Google translate and AI is the study of languages dead? This notion was wholeheartedly refuted at Girton College’s Modern and Medieval Languages symposium on Saturday 8 June.

The rich tapestry of knowledge gained from exploring languages – whether about history, politics, cultural identity or diverse perspectives – was on full display. Attendees acquired new understandings from scholars discussing wide-ranging topics such as:

Set alongside these fascinating research talks, current Girton MML students shared the experiences of their year abroad where opportunities included studying linguistics at an Italian university and gaining valuable translation experience at a Berlin firm specialising in museum publicity and art publications.

The afternoon was rounded off with two Girtonians, Adam Gee and Kate Littlewood, sharing the extraordinary career paths the study of MML had led them to develop. 

  • Adam is an award-winning producer and commissioning editor, with 6 BAFTAS, an Emmy and various other awards to his name. He is  a pioneer in digital and interactive media, with expertise ranging from multiplatform TV to AI. 
  • Kate is an acclaimed director, actor and translator with a specialism in Shakespeare. She is also a Trustee for Kent Opera, a charity that works through music and drama to improve the lives of marginalised and disadvantaged people. Her next project is a book introducing the language and meter of Shakespeare to 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds.

Over dinner the Mistress, Dr Elisabeth Kendall, shared her experiences of studying languages – especially Arabic – and her cutting-edge approach to understanding militant jihad groups through their prolific use of Arabic poetry to communicate and influence, with specific relevance for counterterrorism work. Her speech powerfully illustrated the importance relevance of language studies today and how language research can have an impact beyond academia.

Bringing together such a fascinating group to share their ideas and trajectories is a regular occurrence at Girton College. It’s one of the hallmarks of the Girton experience – where the extraordinary is everyday.