Mission of Our Department

The German department at Northwestern University offers a broad spectrum of courses either in English or in German in an effort to serve not only potential majors or minors but also a variety of students from different fields within the college and from other schools across campus, such as engineering or communication. It is our goal to expose students in our classes to a variety of learning approaches, content areas, and a broad range of texts so that they can gain a rich understanding of the language, the history, and the culture of the German-speaking world.

The courses we offer strive to combine the acquisition of intellectual content with the acquisition of language on all levels of our curriculum. We think that students learn best when their attention is focused on form and content: therefore, we have designed integrated sequences of courses across all instructional levels that emphasize the explicit and implicit acquisition of both. For example, a carefully designed language acquisition sequence in the first two years allows students to acquire a basic knowledge of German quickly without compromising the acquisition of literature, culture, and history. Conversely, courses in the third and fourth year are designed to deepen literary, cultural and historical knowledge while emphasizing the refinement of language accuracy and fluency, coupled with increasing the language complexity. We have outstanding faculty members who excel in teaching in a variety of situations. In addition, we regularly have visiting professors from Germany with additional expertise who spend time with students and faculty: the DAAD is sponsoring a two-year Visiting Professor Position in the areas of Culture and Literature and the Max Kade foundation is supporting a quarter-long Visiting Professor position for highly esteemed scholars from Germany.

The pedagogical approach underlying our curriculum, whenever possible, is task-based teaching and learning on all levels of instruction from students in the first year interviewing a mystery guest to students in the fourth year researching a topic, interviewing relevant people, and producing a film sequence in German. We recognize that language learning does not proceed in a predictable linear fashion but is a complex organic process. In our judgment, a task-based or project-oriented approach to learning offers a better way of engaging and teaching students and works well to support our students in becoming well-rounded independent learners who can successfully employ their German knowledge in a wide range of intellectual and professional activities upon graduating from Northwestern University.