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Course Description

German Language and Literature

Studying German Language and Literature in Germany

An article by Gabriele Meister. Cooperation from: Manuel Opitz

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That is what it's about

From the medieval Nibelungenlied to literary blogs, from diaries to comics - the spectrum of German studies is broad. The teaching qualification courses comprise the sub-disciplines of linguistics, older German literature and modern German literature, as well as language, literature and media didactics. Other students may specialise in individual areas. Appropriately, the degree courses are then called, for example, "German linguistics" or "German studies: Language, Literature, Media”.

In literary studies you learn, among other things, how narrative works and what makes lyrical language or plays special. Linguistics focuses on the meaning of words (morphology) and sentences (syntax), for example, but also examines language as a medium of communication. Digital research methods are playing an increasingly important role, for example when scientists use algorithms to analyse linguistic patterns in large amounts of text. Graduates work among others in publishers, communication departments and cultural institutions.

This is how the course runs

Students usually choose between a language and a literary studies major subject. Those who study German Studies for a teaching degree learn the basics in all disciplines of German Studies.

In older German literature, students examine spiritual and secular literature from the Middle Ages. Modern German literature begins in the late 16th century and extends to today's “Twitterature”. The students deal with, for example, the themes and writing strategies of different authors in their respective historical contexts or compare texts with film adaptations. In many universities this degree course includes elements of comparative literature. This involves, for example, interpreting the context in which a particular work relates to "world literature". Linguistics is concerned with grammatical forms and their functions as well as dialects and sociolects, by which is meant the language use of a social group, such as youth language. Multilingualism can also be a topic or the critical consideration of metaphors such as "corona wave".

Typical questions raised within the subject

  • What are neologisms?
  • What role do female authors play in German Romanticism?
  • How does digitalisation change the cultural techniques of reading and writing?
  • How can students expand their language repertoire in school?
  • How does Thomas Mann's early work differ from his late work?
  • What impact do novels have on social conceptions?
  • What is multimodal communication?

The subject suits you,...

... you are interested in how language, culture and identity are connected and are also enthusiastic about examining language and literature scientifically. Anyone whose mother tongue is German and thinks that studying German is therefore easier than English or Romance languages is wrong. It's about analysing language and understanding theories of language, and that's challenging. Some students find it difficult to immerse themselves in the world of a novel and, on the other hand, to deal with the textual structure and the literary models. The analytical approach of linguistics can also be challenging. Also, you should know English well because a lot of research literature is written in English. "The more languages you know, the better, because that means you can also read literature in the original," says Elvira Topalović, professor of German language didactics at the University of Paderborn and chairwoman of the Society for University German Studies in the DGV.

Is there a numerus clausus?

Some universities require proof of proficiency in foreign languages such as English or Latin, sometimes as a prerequisite for admission or by the end of the bachelor's degree. Only a few universities have course admission restrictions, often requiring grades in the two to three range.