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Studying German Language and Literature

Students of German Studies deal with German language and literature.
An article by Oliver Burgard in collaboration with Kathrin Fromm

Studying German Language and Literature
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German Language and Literature

That is what it’s about

Students of German Studies can learn about Goethe and Schiller, but also Feridun Zaimoglu or Helene Hegemann. The three main disciplines of the academic studies are older German literature, newer German literature and linguistics. "In literature studies, students analyse texts using different methods and develop their own scholarly interpretations," says Martin Huber, professor at the Uni Bayreuth and chair of the Deutscher Germanistenverband (Association of German Language and Literature). Linguistics, on the other hand, looks at systematically describing aspects of language such as syntax, word formation or spoken language. The basics of the three main disciplines are taught in overview courses during the first few semesters. In Older German Literature, students analyse texts from the Middle Ages, for example the Nibelungenlied. Newer German Literature begins in the late 16th century, ranging up to current bestsellers or online literary blogs. Students deal with the themes and stylistic devices of different authors and periods or compare written texts with films. Linguistics looks at, among other things, grammatical forms and their functions, dialects and sociolects such as special forms of expression on social media or communication between doctor and patient. After the students get an overview, they choose a specialisation in the third academic year – also for the Bachelor's thesis. "Many new students opt for a degree course in German Language and Literature because of newer German literature," observes Huber. "But I can only advise students to remain open and to seriously engage with topics from other areas. This can be very exciting!"

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suitability, obstacles, misconceptions

It sounds trite, but the biggest challenge for many students is the mountain of books and texts they have to conquer over the course of their studies in German Language and Literature. Reading some 50 pages per day is normal for students of German Literature. And they are by no means just leafing through pages. There are theory texts in addition to the novels, dramas, short stories and poems. Even if you like to read, it is often a challenge to transfer your own reading experience into issues related to literary theory. And, not every student is able to come to grips with the analytical approach of Linguistics. Other students face more obstacles with Old or Middle High German texts because they have a hard time engaging with the unfamiliar language. There is a place for anyone who wants to study German Language and Literature, although not necessarily at the university of choice. At around every second university, there are course entrance restrictions which are often in the two to three range.

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