Majors & Programs


Germanic Language, Literatures, & Cultures

What is German Language, Literatures, & Cultures?

The study of German entails not only the attainment of a high level of proficiency in the language itself but the critical engagement with the peoples who speak or who have historically spoken German and with the cultures, nations, and civilizations these peoples have produced. Such study is by its nature interdisciplinary; study of German can overlap with, extend, reinforce, and sustain study in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.

Study of German at Washington University Offers Multiple Courses of Development

  • achievement of proficiency in speaking, writing, listening, and reading German
  • literary and media study in historical and social context
  • the study of nations and cultures over time
  • the study of the language system and language acquisition
  • cross-cultural comparison, both contemporary and historical
  • acquisition of technical language for business environments

Why Study German?

In the 21st century, no ambitious student can afford to graduate without knowledge of a language and a culture other than his or her own. To do so would be to impair one’s ability to prosper in a global economy and a global culture of interrelatedness. The study of German language, literatures, and cultures helps prepare students intellectually and psychologically to transcend provincial thinking and the politics of particularity, to negotiate differ ence, and to become life-long learners capable of adapting productively to change.

  • The U.S. and German-speaking worlds have deep and sometimes troubled historical, political, and cultural ties. Waves of German-speaking emigrants have shaped American values, cultures, and institutions.
  • Knowledge of German creates opportunity in an increasingly international job market:
    • 24 percent of the residents in the European Union speak German as their mother tongue; 68 percent of all Japanese students learn German.
    • Germany awards approximately 2,000 grants every year to American professors and students.
    • Germany is one of the top three nations in the research and deve lopment of high-tech products.
    • Germany is the most powerful country in Europe politically, financially, and economically.
    • Germany is the 5th large st trading partner of the U.S.
    • German is the second language in cyberspace after English.
    • German is the second language in many former east-block countries.
    • Study of German can enhance a student’s study in his or her home discipline — whether it be in the humanities, social science, or natural sciences — by refining techniques of historical, cultural, literary, and film analysis, by introducing students to the principal creative minds in their home academic disciplines, and by making possible experiential learning through study, internships, or lab assistantships abroad. German scholarship and German cultural production are of critical importance to the fields of, to name a few, music, art history, film studies, architecture, politics, anthropology, comparative literature, history, religion, social thought and analysis, psychology, technology, medicine, alternative energy, and environmental studies.

German and Your Future

Our majors have pursued careers in a variety of areas in which they use their knowledge of German language and culture directly in their work. Some majors have used their study of German to pursue their careers or study in a German-speaking country. Examples of careers our majors have chosen:

  • Law
  • Secondary and Post-Secondary Teaching
  • International Affairs
  • Economics
  • Medicine
  • Journalism
  • History
  • Jewish Studies
  • Public Relations
  • Publishing
  • Banking
  • Anthropology
  • Biochemistry
  • Advertising
  • Fund Raising
  • Art History
  • Architecture

The German program at Washington University aims to make life-long learners of its graduates. The work you do here is the platform on which you will continue to acquire knowledge of German language, politics, and culture, be it for career purposes, recreation, or as a citizen of a global world.

The Study of German at Washington University


The German Department faculty is internationally recognized for its scholarship on German literature and culture. Members have won many teaching and mentoring awards at Washington University and are committed to offering undergraduates a stimulating and challenging course of study and to fostering their intellectual grow th both in and outside of class.

Study Abroad

  • Summer Abroad in Göttingen
  • Spring Semester or Year Abroad in Tübingen
  • Semester in Koblenz (through the School of Business)

The Major

The program in German offers multiple points of entry. Students with previous German take a placement test to determine where to begin their study; students with no previous German have a choice of a regular or accelerated track.

A major in German requires 24 hours of credit on the 300 and 400 levels. German majors are strongly encouraged to study abroad.

Our graduating majors have won year-long fellowships from the German Academic Exchange Service, Fulbright, and the Kongreß Bundestag for study in a variety of fields in Germany and Austria.

Honors Program

Students majoring in German can earn honors in German by writing a thesis during their senior year. Students choose a topic with the help of a faculty thesis advisor from the department. Students whose thesis proposal has been accepted present their thesis approximately one month before the conclusion of their final semester at the university.

The Minor

Many students who recognize the value of German for enhancing other areas of study choose to minor in German. The German minor requires 15 units of study on the 300 and 400 levels.

Departmental Awards

  • David Bronsen Prize
  • Achievement in German Prize
  • Elizabeth Hospes Celis Scholarship for Study Abroad

Extracurricular Activities

  • Weekly Kaffeestunde (coffee hour)
  • Monthly Undergraduate Social Meeting (Pizza Pause)
  • Film Series
  • Delta Phi Alpha (national honorary)
  • Readings by contemporary German, Austrian, and Swiss authors


At Washington University you have the opportunity of learning yet another Germanic language. We offer two years of Swedish language study.

Join us. Take the next step.

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