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Course Description

Romance Studies

Studying Romance Studies in Germany

An article by Gabriele Meister. Cooperation from: Manuel Opitz

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That is what it's about

Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese or maybe Romanian, Catalan or Sardinian? Romance Studies deals with the languages and cultures of very different countries and regions. The degree programs are equally diverse: Depending on the university, you can study one or more languages, get a broad overview or specialise, for example in Italian literature or the cultural area of Latin America.

The main focus is always on languages of Latin origin. The focus is not only on Romance-speaking countries, but also on developments emanating from them: Currently, for example, Romance Studies is interested in how the cartoon controversy in the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo is being received worldwide. Digital methods are also used, for example to investigate the differences in online language atlases. Romance studies is therefore more than a language course with regional studies. It is about examining language, literature and cultural spaces with scientific methods. "By engaging with other cultures, you get to know them so well that they become like a part of your own identity," says Elissa Pustka, a professor at the University of Vienna and on the board of the German Romance Association.

Graduates work as teachers, in publishing, marketing, human resources, tourism and, increasingly, in linguistic information processing, which improves the speech recognition of smart phones, for example.

This is how the course runs

The course is based on the main disciplines of linguistics, literary studies, cultural studies and language practice, with subject didactics added for aspiring teachers. Students learn how their chosen Romance languages have developed. They analyse literary texts, but also investigate questions such as why regional languages are promoted in Spain and marginalised in France. Socio-political aspects, for example in migration literature, or the language of populism are also discussed. Sometimes there are seminars with practical relevance, then the prospective Romance scholars organise exhibitions, for example, or work on text editions and translations. A semester abroad is almost always an integral component of the course.

Typical questions raised within the subject

  • How have Italian dialects evolved in the diaspora from Quebec to Argentina?
  • What influence does magical realism have in Latin American literature today?
  • Why do we use subject pronouns in French but not in Spanish and Italian?
  • Why is Dante so important for the development of the Italian language?
  • What role do experiences of racism play in migration literature?
  • How do you recognise people from Morocco or Mexico by their pronunciation?
  • How does the media self-representation of authors like Michel Houellebecq work?

The subject suits you,...

... you are open to other cultures and curious about how languages are scientifically researched. With French, Italian and Spanish, it is sometimes expected that you already speak the language well. Often there is a language test for placement. Smaller Romance languages such as Romanian can usually be studied without prior knowledge.

Since a lot of the degree course is about culture, the scientific examination of different text genres as well as theatre and films plays a major role. You should enjoy speaking, analysing and discussing your Romance languages.

Is there a numerus clausus?

Romance studies are mostly admission free. Only a small number of universities have admission restrictions. Some require knowledge of Latin, which can be obtained in the first few semesters.