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Studying Romance Studies in Germany

Romance scholars learn and study languages that have emerged from Latin
An article by Gabriele Meister

Studying Romance Studies in Germany
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Romance Studies

That is what it’s about

Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese or rather Romanian, Catalan and Sardinian? Romance Studies deals with the languages and cultures of very different countries and regions. The degree programs are equally diverse: You can study one or more languages and later focus on Italian literature, spoken French or a cultural area such as Latin America. The main focus is always on languages of Latin origin. However, students are not only concerned with language but also with socio-political developments in countries such as France, Italy or Spain. "Romanists are not interpreters; rather, they are mediators between cultures, "says Robert Hesselbach, a research associate at the University of Würzburg and responsible for junior scientists in the German Romance Association. In the course of globalization, research is also focusing on themes away from classics such as Cervantes, to include literature in Romance-speaking African countries or oral communication in South and Central America. Language comprehension and knowledge of cultural spaces help graduates to work in international organizations, foundations or overseas departments of large corporations.

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This is how the course runs

The course is based on the main disciplines of linguistics, literary studies, cultural studies and language practice as well as subject didactics for aspiring teachers. Students learn how their chosen Romance languages have developed, they analyse novels, but they also investigate why, for example, minor Romance languages are promoted in certain countries and marginalized in others. Socio-political aspects are also discussed, for example the language of populism in France or the portrayal of Latin American dictators in literature. A semester abroad is increasingly an integral part of the study and also very much to be recommended.

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Typical questions raised within the subject

  • How did the Romance languages come from spoken Latin?
  • How did the French of the Middle Ages turn into today's French?
  • What influence did poets of the Enlightenment have on the French Revolution?
  • How is colonial heritage reflected in Latin American literature?
  • Why is there resistance to Anglicisms in France?
  • What significance does Catalan have for the cultural identity of Catalonia?
  • How is politeness different in France, Spain and Italy?
  • What linguistic features are typical of Portuguese in Brazil?

The subject suits you,...

...if you like to deal with the structure of a foreign language and want to examine it in detail. It is not a prerequisite that this foreign language is already mastered, because students do not even come into contact with rarer Romance languages. "You can also learn the language very well at the university," says Hesselbach. At the beginning, the seminars at many universities are still in German. In the course of the semester, the proportion of foreign languages increases. It is important that you not only like to speak, but also like to read: in addition to outstanding works of literary history, texts on literary theory as well as on the history and political situation of a cultural space.

Is there a numerus clausus?

Romance studies are mostly admission free. Only about 15 percent of study programs have an NC. In French, Italian and Spanish there is often a language test, but mostly only for grading. Sometimes students have to present school grades. Some universities require knowledge of Latin, which can be obtained in the first few semesters.

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