Beyond the Classroom
The German curriculum and co-curricular activities are designed to help you meet the five objectives listed here. Everything we do in our program is intended to meet at least one of them. Let’s look at each objective in detail.
Every course in our program will help you develop German language skills in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Some of the courses (1001, 1002, 2001, and 2002) focus directly on building these skills along with grammatical knowledge and accuracy. But other content courses simply use the language while focusing on different subject matter (including
To succeed, students must be “active” learners.
- Learn vocabulary actively. Do it regularly. Keep a small vocabulary notebook that you bring to your courses, co-curricular activities, homework time, and wherever you encounter German. When you notice unfamiliar words, write them down and look them up. Alternatively, you may prefer to use an application to list vocabulary on your cell phone or another device. Review the words in your list frequently. Successful German students do this actively and frequently, as building vocabulary helps them to well in all of their courses and more importantly, helps them to learn the language. Be assured that the more you do this, the easier it gets.
- Keep your grammar notes and texts from language courses. Refer to them and other grammar books when you write in German. Use them to try to make sense of what you read. Ask your professors or other students for help with what is not clear. Realize that the number of grammar rules in German is actually limited. If you think about them and practice them, you will master them, first in your writing and eventually in your speaking. But since you are no longer a child who can simply absorb these rules, you must pay attention to them for this to happen.
- Commit a certain amount of time every day to using German and actually thinking in the language. The reality is: people learn languages when they use them regularly, and they forget what they don't use. Language learners must train their skills, much like athletes or musicians. Successful German students commit several hours each day to "living" in German. During the semester, much of this time will be spent in German courses and doing homework. But some of it will have to happen in other ways.
Learning a language at a university was once considered a means to read literature and little else. Today, the field of German studies has expanded to encompass much more, including the study of language for everyday communication and examining the past and present cultures of German-speaking countries. But literary studies remain a central component of German studies. This continued emphasis on literature makes good sense for several reasons:
- Reading a wide range of literary texts and discussing them has proven to be an excellent way to develop language skills.
- The study of literature provides a window onto the lifestyles, ideas, and cultures of people at various moments in German history. Understanding this history gives a real edge to anyone trying to understand and interact with German speakers today.
- Studying literary texts and writing about them can help to develop analytical skills That have broad applications and are essential in a liberal arts education.
Learning to be a successful communicator is central to a liberal arts education. For students of German, becoming proficient in the German language is a first step. But what we communicate matters as much as how we do it. Having access to good information and knowing how to work with it and communicate the results with authority are essential. Successful students care about locating and interpreting reliable information as the basis for effective communication.
It is often said that we live in an “information age,” and the flood of available knowledge can be overwhelming. Studying an academic discipline like German Studies involves becoming part of a community of learners with a long collective history of gathering, prioritizing, interpreting, debating, and presenting information and ideas. Like all communities, German Studies scholars have developed sets of best practices that help with these processes, and they have created useful networks of information. Think of this part of your German major as an apprenticeship in which you are learning how to participate in the international community of German studies scholars.
In some courses (including
Knowing German Culture
The word “culture” can mean different things. Sometimes it refers to “high culture,” such as great artworks, literature, philosophy, architecture, cuisine, classical music, opera, and so on. At other times, “culture” evokes quaint holiday festivals, folk music, traditional dress, or home cookery. But people also use the word as an anthropologist might, to refer to the dynamic system of unwritten rules, values, assumptions, and practices governing everyday life. When we study German culture, we mean all of these. Acquiring and applying a wide-ranging knowledge of German culture will be central to your German studies at KSU. The common phrase “language is culture” means that we cannot fully understand other people—not the traditions or artworks they value, nor how they view the world—until we have experienced life in their language. All courses in our program examine aspects of German culture (including
While your coursework will provide the foundations, successful students also learn a great deal about German culture outside of the classroom (see also
German majors have many opportunities to encounter German people and to experience German culture. Successful students take full advantage of these opportunities in the classroom, through co-curricular activities on campus, and by studying abroad. Encounters in the classroom will generally happen indirectly and with guidance, as when we take the time to immerse ourselves in a literary text or a German film and then to process the experience. German-related co-curricular activities on campus involve not only such indirect encounters but also opportunities to have real conversations with native speakers, like the Kaffeestunde. Living in the German House is one of the best ways to interact with native speakers. These experiences can be seen as practice and preparation for studying abroad in Germany, where you will have unparalleled opportunities for cross-cultural dialogue and experiences. As the following section emphasizes, study abroad is essential for students seeking a meaningful and immersive engagement with German culture.