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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.

Beginning and Intermediate Language Courses

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 0101 during the first freshman semester. All beginning courses (day or evening) and most intermediate courses meet for three hours a week (GER 0101-0103 and 0201 and 0202). After completing Beginning German 2 (GER 0102), students also have the option to choose a more intensive track by taking Intensive Intermediate German 1 and 2 (German 0203 and 0204). These classes meet five times a week and allow students to move more quickly towards the 300-level courses, as GER 0203 and 0204 cover the same material as GER 0103, 0201 and 0202 in just two semesters instead of three. This option is therefore especially attractive to students interested in the major or certificate.


All our beginning and intermediate courses are using the textbook Netzwerk. This textbook series is based on the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference) and helps students to prepare for the respective exams which are offered by the Goethe-Institut and are accepted world-wide. The textbook and accompanying workbook are supplemented by a variety of authentic materials, including music, websites, and films. In the 200-level 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.


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 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 0022, 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 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 (or if they place beyond it).


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.

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,