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Major in German

Article by Rachelle Wiggins

It is to the glory of God that [we] become more connected with our ever-increasing global community… We will be more effective witnesses for Christ when we attempt to learn the language of our friends from different cultures and languages.” ~Janet Davis

Did you know that approximately 8% of all internet pages are written in German? There are currently 1 million German speakers in the United States alone, and close to 100 million native German speakers worldwide. In fact, it is the European Union’s most widely spoken language. Whether you are already fluent in German or just beginning to learn the language, a major in German will allow you to speak, write, and read the language effectively. These are desirable skills in a market that is increasingly global. Whether your goal is to work in business, education, government, communications or social service, a German major will prepare you for a career that effectively interfaces with a German speaking population in the U.S. or around the world.

An appreciation for those from other cultures and an adaptability to different environments is crucial for anyone majoring in a foreign language. Some of the other traits necessary for a German major include strong communication skills (both oral and written) since you will spend much time working with translating, editing and interpreting. In order to become fluent in a foreign language, it is important to be driven and dedicated, seizing every opportunity to gain additional experience with native speakers—whether this means seeking out volunteer or tutoring experiences, an internship, on-line communication or international study. Immersion has been proven to be the most effective way to thoroughly learn a language. Those who push themselves, take risks with speaking the language and persevere for the long haul are those most likely to effectively master their language of choice!

German is an interdisciplinary, liberal arts major, meaning you will draw from other fields of study and take broad-based core classes in addition to your German classes.  Be prepared to participate in class discussions in German, attend lectures or performances in German, or be asked to create a German-based website. It’s highly likely you will be required to study oversees for a semester. In addition to learning the linguistical side of the German language, you will study German literature and culture in great depth. Some of the classes you might take include:

  • German Civilization and Culture
  • Intro to Textual Analysis in German
  • Conversational German
  • Literature in Translation

The skills you’ll gain as a German major are transferable and diverse. Depending upon your career goals, it is not uncommon for a German major to earn a double major or go on for further study in order to prepare for a career in law, medicine, government or any number of other professions. It is impossible to cover the wide scope of career opportunities available to those who are bilingual and well-versed in a second culture, but some of the more common examples are:

  • Education: post-secondary teacher, college professor, textbook writer 
  • Business: International relations consultant, banker, branch manager 
  • Communication: Foreign news correspondent, international broadcasting/ publishing, advertising
  • Culture: Travel agent, cultural events coordinator, tour guide, missionary
  • Social services: Vocational counselor, case worker, health care worker
  • Translator/Interpreter in any of the above fields

If you are passionate about working with a German speaking population around the world or here in the United States, then perhaps a major in German is the next step God has for you!

 

 

A future in Foreign Language

By Amber Gragert

The study of language opens our mind's eye to understanding the world in new ways, identify commonalities within other cultures and learn to respect any cultural differences we may have.

"Language is the road map of culture. It tells you where its people have come from and where they are going." -Rita Mae Brown

Learning a new language changes your perspective and challenges you to think not only of vocabulary but also challenges you to listen to the heartbeat of that culture.  Students who major in a language gain the ability to communicate effectively in spoken and written forms, study the language in its multifaceted presence which includes: history, literature, politics and the arts.  Students are then well-equipped to enter a variety of fields and/or to continue their education through professional or graduate school.

The skills acquired as a language major are increasingly popular and useful in areas like international business and, of course, there are some specific languages that are in particular demand. Interpreters and translators assist in cross-cultural communication and relations. These are crucial elements in today's interdependent world that is constantly expanding and overlapping each other like paint on canvas. For example, the number of Spanish speaking people in the United States has grown exponentially over the last decade. That naturally becomes a desired and needed language among employers that have a need to communicate effectively with Spanish speaking employees and customers. Arabic is another example: Arabic speakers are in high demand particularly in government, international relations and national security sectors for the same reasons.

Staying with these examples, we can say by knowing another person's language, we then have the ability to understand their culture and customs which in turn creates a clearer perspective in how to do business with them and effectively meet their needs. That said, knowing a language is one thing but applying it is another. It is important with this study and line of work to really put it into practice in all areas. Keeping up with their popular media or reading their newspapers and trade publications gives you an advantage in understanding the business environment from their perspective and how that translates into how they do business.

When researching what language(s) you would like to pursue, you should know that translators are in highest demand in what is referred to as "PFIGS" - which stands for: Portuguese, French, Italian, German, and Spanish. Then add on the principle Asian languages like Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. The more language education you have as an interpreter or translator, the better as it widens your view into another culture and helps to shape your world view.

Jobs that best utilize a language degree involve either interpretation via spoken words or translation via written documents. Career opportunities for language majors exist in many outlets such as: diplomacy, education, foreign services, intelligence gathering, international relations, journalism, literature, medicine, non-profit organizations and tourism.

Keep in mind that an arts & humanities degree as a language major is very different from a linguistics degree. Language majors choose a language (and, in turn, a culture) to study and the language and sentence structure. Although requirements can vary dramatically, nearly all interpreters and translators have a bachelor's degree.

There will also typically be study-abroad components to your education which is sometimes required but, at the very least, strongly encouraged. These range from a summer program, a semester or full year program.  Even if you are already fluent in another language, studying it abroad broadens your cultural awareness, enhances your attention to nuances in communication, understanding contextual vocabulary and builds superb communication and listening skills.