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University of Pittsburgh

language program

nefertitiAbout the Language Program

Largest and Most Diverse German Program in the Region

The language acquisition program at the Department of German is the largest in the region, with over 300 students attending courses each term. Over the last several years our program has produced a record number of Fulbright and DAAD scholarship winners, as well as some of the area’s most prominent teachers of German. At present, we have the largest number of current majors in Western Pennsylvania and many participants as well in our certificate and minor programs.

Beyond Grammar: Communicative Language Learning

German students at the University of Pittsburgh don’t just learn a language; they learn more about the world and about themselves.

Every German language class at the University of Pittsburgh allows students the chance to build language proficiency in the four basic skills areas—speaking, writing, reading, and listening. In building proficiency, students also find access to new means of self-expression—through conversation, e-mail, teleconferencing and telephone exchanges, and the writing of descriptive and critical essays. The high number of national and regional awards won by our students attests to our success in this area. However, in the Department of German, our goals for our students are even more wide-reaching; we seek to provide them with the linguistic framework to develop communicative, interpretive, and cultural skills that will serve them well beyond the classroom.

From the first day of German 0001, students are asked to go well beyond the study of grammar toward an understanding of the target culture. In addition to acquiring language structures, they are assisted in developing sensitivity to cultural similarities and differences, as well as interpretive skills and the kind of critical awareness that they can then constructively use for the rest of their lives.

Above all, the language acquisition curriculum presents language in cultural context rather than structural isolation. Our classes are student-centered and personalized; our highly trained instructors aid individual students in developing the linguistic and interpretive tools they need in order to guide themselves through their own encounters with authentic German culture. Our language-acquisition classrooms and media labs are dynamic places in which students are exposed to real cultural artifacts from the first day of class: film, literature, Web sites, music, television, print media, and much more.

Elementary and Intermediate Core Courses: German 0001–0004

Many University of Pittsburgh 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 0001 during the first freshman semester. The elementary program (day or evening) allows students to interact with German culture, in the classroom or the Language Media Center, for five hours a week. The intermediate program (day or evening) provides students with sufficient skills with three hours a week in the classroom or the Language Media Center.

The first-year courses (GER 0001–0002) use the Treffpunkt Deutsch series (textbook, workbook, CD, digitized video) as an instructional foundation; however, a wide variety of authentic supplementary materials is also used in the classroom and in the Language Media Center.

The second-year courses (GER 0003–0004) use as a grammatical basis the Handbuch zur deutschen Grammatik as well as the anthology Stimmen eines Jahrhunderts and the authentic children’s books Neben mir ist noch Platz and Lisa: eine deutsche Geschichte. Here again, text materials are heavily supplemented by realia and other multi-media materials.

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 0021 and 0022) serve as appropriate and intensive preparation.

Students enrolled in GER 0021 learn to identify all of the basic structures of German while working with the Korb/Jannach text German for Reading Knowledge. This knowledge enables them to answer content questions about provided reading material and translate short texts.

Enrollment in GER 0022 enables students to build on knowledge acquired in GER 0021 or its equivalent as they translate and interpret specialized materials from their fields of study. Questions of stylistics are also covered. Students are provided with a course reader (Klett) and an extensive series of handouts.

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 our Professional I (Ger 1003) and Professional II (Ger 1004) courses after completing German 0004. Here such diverse topics as professional self-presentation (resume-writing and interview skills) and government and economic structures are featured. Students work heavily with video and the latest technological resources while the text Geschäftsdeutsch serves as a solid general foundation.

Occasionally we offer other special interest language courses, such as Yiddish, German 0011 (Beginning Conversation) and German 0012 (Conversation).

Placement Testing

Students who arrive at the University of Pittsburgh with some German language skills are required to take the departmental placement test, which will determine their present level of German skills. Students will also have access to the nationally-known Brigham Young University achievement test in order to determine their placement.

Because of our large number of course offerings, every student who wishes to take a German course at the University of Pittsburgh can be successfully placed, whether she or he is just beginning a course of study or has lived in Germany for a number of years.

Language Assessment

In addition to regular course-specific assessments, the Department of German regularly tests the language proficiency of students in the Beginning and Intermediate sequences, as well as graduating seniors.  At present we use the STAMP Proficiency Assessment tool by Avant Assessments, which correlates results to the OPI scale.  For more information, visit

Contact Information

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