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Romance Studies

Romance scholars learn and study languages that emerged from Latin.
An article by Oliver Burgard in collaboration with Kathrin Fromm

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Romance Studies

Studying Romance Studies:
That is what it’s about

Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese or maybe Romanian, Catalan or Sardinian? Anyone who studies Romance languages is spoilt for choice. The subject is diverse and focuses on the languages and cultures of quite different countries and continents. The Bachelor's degree courses are equally varied: students can study one or more languages or opt for a regional focus such as Latin America. The common thread of all Romance courses offered: languages that emerged from Latin. The degree course is usually based on three main disciplines: linguistics, literature and civilisation studies. Students learn how the Romance languages have developed, they look at novels, films and telenovelas and deal with political and social issues, for example how the economic crisis has influenced Spanish writers. There are also language courses which make up around one-third of the academic studies. In these courses, students learn grammar and conversation and practise writing essays in the chosen foreign language. A study visit abroad is rarely required, but very beneficial. "I can only recommend doing one to everyone because there is no better way to get authentic language practice," says Thomas Klinkert, professor at the Uni Zurich and chair of the Deutscher Romanistenverband (German Association of Romance Scholars). Some universities offer a four-year Bachelor's degree course in Romance studies with an integrated year abroad.

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suitability, obstacles, misconceptions

School leavers often underestimate the theoretical parts of the subject. "Many think: I am studying Italian because I like the language and enjoy travelling to Italy. And then they have to learn historical morphology and read Boccaccio," says Klinkert. Interest in a country is a good motivation, but Romance studies focuses, above all, on studying language and literature as a scholar. To do this students have to read a lot: not only novels but also texts on literary theory and the history and politics of the Romance countries. They can't be afraid of complicated texts and must be open to theoretical aspects like grammar. The seminars are often held in German at the beginning. The proportion of courses held in the foreign language increases over the course of the semesters. Getting off to a good start is easier if students already know a Romance language well at the beginning of the academic studies. In many cases, students may also start from square one; however, the studies are extended accordingly. Some faculties require knowledge of Latin. Sometimes a qualification in Latin is required; sometimes a less in-depth Latin course is sufficient. Both can be made up at the beginning of the studies. Most degree courses in Romance studies do not have admissions restrictions; the course entrance restrictions for the rest are commonly between 2 and 3.

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