Language Program


About the Language Program

Our language classes focus on meaningful, contextualized communication. In each of our German language classes, students build language proficiency in the four basic skills areas—speaking, writing, reading, and listening – by acquiring the linguistic tools to communicate in a foreign language. We also want them to develop the cultural literacy and sensitivity necessary in our increasingly diverse and global society. For this reason, our language acquisition curriculum presents language in cultural context, and activities are typically based on a realistic situation rather than grammar drills without a context.

Beginning and Intermediate Language Courses: The Sequence

Many students begin their language studies in our core elementary (first-year) and intermediate (second-year) programs. It is possible for a four-year student to complete the German major by beginning with German 101 during the first freshman semester.

All beginning courses (day or evening) and most intermediate courses meet for three hours a week (Option A). However, after completing Beginning German 2 (GER 102), students also have the option to choose a more intensive track: the courses Intensive Intermediate German 1 and 2 (German 203 and 204) meet five times a week and allow students to move more quickly towards the 300-level courses, as these two courses cover the same material as GER 103, 201 and 202 in just two semesters instead of three (Option B). This option is therefore especially attractive to students interested in the major or certificate, but also anyone who wants to study German in a more intensive manner or attain a higher level of fluency sooner.


Option A (5 semesters)

GER 101: Beginning German 1 (3 credits)

GER 102: Beginning German 2 (3 credits)

GER 103: Beginning German 3 (3 credits

GER 3: Intermediate German 1 (3 credits)

GER 4: Intermediate German 2 (3 credits


Option B (4 semesters)

GER 101: Beginning German 1 (3 credits)

GER 102: Beginning German 2 (3 credits)

GER 203: Intensive Intermediate German 1 (5 credits)

GER 204: Intensive Intermediate German 2 (5 credits)

All our beginning and intermediate courses use the textbook Netzwerk, which is published in Germany. The textbook and accompanying workbook are supplemented by a variety of authentic materials, e.g. music, websites, and films. In the intermediate courses, students also read a short book in German (currently a simplified version of Inge Scholl’s Die weiße Rose in GER 201 and 203, and of Thomas Brussig’s Am kürzeren Ende der Sonnenallee in GER 202 and 204). This allows the students not only to further develop their reading skills, but also introduces them to important periods in German history, and thus prepares them for the more advanced courses on the 300-level and above.

Each semester, students also participate in a group project, and at least once a year, students from all of the language classes will have the chance to present their projects to the department as a whole. Both topic and mode of these projects vary: in the past, students have given poster presentations comparing the situations of refugees in Germany and the US (Fall 2016), and on the German election (Fall 2017), they have created humorous comics illustrating the usefulness of German language skills (Spring 2017), and they have designed websites giving tips to German visitors to Pittsburgh (Spring 2018).

Goethe-Zertifikat: The textbook series Netzwerk is based on the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference). It helps interested students to prepare for the respective Goethe-Zertifikat exams which are recognized world-wide. The University of Pittsburgh is now a testing center for the Goethe-Institut, and the exams will be offered each fall.


General Education Requirements

German 102 fulfills the language requirement of the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. All Intermediate German courses fulfill General Education requirement of Global Awareness and Cultural Understanding (Specific Geographic Region).

Placement Testing

Students who arrive at the University of Pittsburgh with some German language skills are required to take a placement test, which will help to determine their present level of German skills. Once you have taken the placement test, email your result with a brief explanation of your previous German studies to the Director of Language Studies, Dr. Viktoria Harms (, to discuss which course would be best suited for your level.  

Contact Information

For questions about the first-year and second-year language programs, please contact the Director of Language Studies, Dr. Viktoria Harms,

Special Interest Courses: Reading and Professional German

For interested undergraduates or for graduate students seeking to pass reading exams for another University of Pittsburgh department, our two-sequence German Reading courses (GER 21 and 22) serve as appropriate and intensive preparation. Students enrolled in GER 21 learn to identify all of the basic grammar structures of German and begin to develop their translation skills as they work with the textbook German for Reading Knowledge by Richard Alan Korb. At the end of this course, students are able to answer content questions about provided reading material and translate short texts. In GER 22, students to build on knowledge acquired in GER 21 or its equivalent as they translate and interpret specialized materials from their fields of study. Questions of stylistics are also covered.

Students who wish to learn about German business customs and structures and who wish to practice their professional skills have an opportunity to enroll in the courses “Professional German” and “The German Business (Eco)System” after completing the Intermediate Language Sequence. The courses in the “Professional German” sequence can count towards the major, the certificate, or the minor in German.