What Qualifications Do I Need to Study German at University?
It may not surprise you to hear that if you want to study German at university, then it’s good to have a qualification in German already, whether it’s an A Level, BTEC or HNC, as you may struggle if you don’t know the basic lingo.
But what about your other sixth form options? What other subject choices could enhance your chances and impress universities? According to Dr Caroline Summers, a Lecturer in Comparative Literary Translation at the
University of Leeds, the best thing to do is to “take the A-Level subjects that interest you....and find areas of overlap between German and your other subjects.
"For example, if you’re taking History A-Level you could consider the German perspective on the two World Wars and how this might differ from the British perspective, or if you’re taking English you could try looking at how German writers have approached the literary text types (poetry, novels) you’re studying."
Should I Study German at University?
You should study German at university if you have a passion for learning languages. If you’re going to be studying German for three years (and maybe more), you need to love it and be eager to learn more about both the language and its history. That’s right, German studies isn’t all about pronunciation and learning the right verbs...
Dr Summers explains, "The area of German Studies goes far beyond language itself to include literature, film, history, politics and society, and the course is ideal for students who want to deepen their knowledge of one or more of these aspects of German-speaking culture, either building on what they have done at school or discovering something completely new.
"Alongside this, the course is best suited to students who are independent learners: students spend the third year abroad to improve their language skills by immersing themselves in German-speaking culture, and when they return they complete an individual dissertation or translation project (with supervision from a member of staff), which is an exciting chance to plan and complete a project in a topic they find interesting."
How Long is a German Degree?
Most German degrees last three years, and normally either your second or third year will be spent abroad in a German speaking country. This may sound daunting, but it’ll massively improve your German language skills, help you understand the culture and history and teach you things you wouldn’t’ in a lecture as you’ll be fully immersed in it and be getting a firsthand experience.
What Will I Learn Studying German at University?
In terms of what you’ll generally be taught, expect to develop your reading, listening, writing and overall speaking of the German language.
However, every university will teach you different modules, so it’s worth researching your options and picking a course where you’re interested in the individual topics or one that could help you in your future career if you know what you want to do.
Dr Elystan Griffiths from
University of Birmingham elaborates and says, "Different universities offer quite different degrees: some are quite language-focused, but most offer a mix of modules involving language-learning and modules involving the study of the linguistics, history, politics, economics, literature, film of the German-speaking countries.
"It is worth looking closely at the specialism offered in different universities. Some focus more on the study of these areas in the last 50 or 100 years, whereas others cover the whole range of German history and culture since the medieval period. It is also worth looking closely at the level of options you have at different stages of the degree, as it varies considerably between universities."
How Useful is a German Degree?
There are tons of reasons why studying German at university is a great choice. It’s spoken in over 40 countries for a start, meaning you’ve got potential to work in or for different countries. In fact your degree can be used for a range of careers in the future, so you’ll have more choice in terms of jobs once you graduate.
Dr Summers explains that "The critical thinking and communication skills that languages students develop alongside their specific competence in a particular language are one of the reasons why languages graduates are so attractive to potential employers."
Where Is German Spoken?
German is a global language, so there’s certainly plenty of places you can travel to and use your degree. Countries where you can show off your German include:
What Can I Do With a German Degree?
Obviously you don’t want to study hard for three years and then never use that qualification ever again, so what does the future hold for German graduates? Well quite a lot actually...
Dr Summers highlights, "Typical careers for languages graduates include teaching, translating and journalism, but a languages degree broadens your options rather than narrowing them, and our recent graduates have also gone into careers in international affairs, marketing, investment banking and management consulting. A number of our students also choose further study, either at Leeds or at another university."
What is it Like to Study German at University?
Case Study: Amy Simcock, BA German 2015, University of Leeds
So what’s it actually like studying German? Amy shares her story...
"The German course as a whole offered a varied range of modules so you were able to build upon A Level knowledge in the first year and then tailor your degree to your interests and strengths in the second and final years. The modules that were offered were well taught (particularly when you could discuss the secondary reading with person who wrote it!) and the assessments were designed so that each module was not only essay assessed or only exam assessed - there was a good balance.
The year abroad boosted my confidence with my spoken German and allowed me to practice the best away possible. The year abroad not only improved the academic German I had gained from first and second year, but also expanded upon the cultural knowledge of Germany and gave me the chance to apply what I had learned. Studying at a university gave me insight in to how German universities approach studying and improve my autonomous learning skills.
I now work at The Taylor Partnership, an immigration law firm in Bingley, and I assist Schools with their Tier 4 compliance as well assisting students to apply for their study visas. I love speaking to people from all over the world every day and I like the challenges that immigration matters bring, particularly the logistical challenges that applying for visas can bring.
My German degree gave me the confidence to speak to people that I normally wouldn't and I can also understand what it’s like to study and live in another country. I’m therefore able to identify with my clients, which helps me tackle problems and means I’m compassionate and sympathetic to sensitive cases.
Through my degree, the "non-language" skills also helped massively. For example, time-management and using initiative are very important, as well as having the confidence to make decisions or even give seminars and presentations, skills which I undoubtedly developed during my time at Leeds."
NEXT STEP: SEARCH FOR GERMAN DEGREE COURSES