Students interested in majoring in German studies should consult with the department as early as possible. Students majoring in other programs but wishing to pursue their study of German may elect a correlate sequence, which requires six units of graded work in German. The department has seen a recent increase in the number of students who elect a double major with German studies. Course selection is made in consultation with the department. Vassar students graduating with a major in German studies have received numerous grants to study in Germany and have gone on to establish successful careers in law, medicine, business, international affairs, education, and government.
The German Studies Department also offers the opportunity to study abroad for either a semester or a year at universities such as Berlin, Heidelberg, and Munich.
Courses and Requirements
Academic requirements and courses are available in the Vassar College Catalogue.
Jeffrey Schneider: Hallo!
Silke von der Emde: Guten Tag!
Elliott Schreiber: Servus!
Lioba Gerhardi: Herzlich Willkommen! If you’re interested in the histories and cultures of the German-speaking world;
Silke von der Emde: or wanted to visit or live in some of the world’s most vibrant cultural centers, such as Berlin or Vienna;
Elliott Schreiber: or dreamed of studying at any one of the renowned universities in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland;
Lioba Gerhardi: or ever considered interning with the German parliament, a German arts or advocacy organization, or a business in Europe’s economic powerhouse;
Silke von der Emde: or are interested in studying art history, music, German history or other fields where knowledge of German is essential,
Jeffrey Schneider: then start by taking a course in the Department of German Studies at Vassar College!
Jeffrey Schneider: I’m Jeffrey Schneider. I’m currently the chair, but I also teach in women’s studies, queer studies, and international studies.
Silke von der Emde: I’m Silke von der Emde von der Emde. I also teach in film, women studies and disability studies.
Elliott Schreiber: I’m Elliott Schreiber. I also teach in a variety of multidisciplinary programs, such as Media Studies, and Science,Technology and Society.
Lioba Gerhardi: I’m Lioba Gerhardi. In addition to teaching in German and film studies, I also direct Vassar’s self-instructional language program.
Jeffrey Schneider: As you can see, our faculty represent a wide range of academic interests. We’re also joined each year by a German Language Fellow from the University of Münster whom we carefully select to work closely with us and our students.
Elliott Schreiber: Over the past 20 years, we’ve developed a cutting-edge liberal arts curriculum. All our German courses closely integrate language and cultural study, so right from the get-go, you are immersed in the cultures and history of German-speaking Europe, even as you continue to develop your skills as a speaker of German.
Lioba Gerhardi: We also offer many different study abroad opportunities and are the only liberal arts college invited to belong to the prestigious Berlin Consortium for German Studies, which includes Columbia, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, and several other top-tier universities.
Silke von der Emde: Our majors and correlates have gone on to pursue a wide range of careers—in the arts, education, medicine, government, the nonprofit sector, law, business, translation, you name it!
Lioba Gerhardi: Maybe you’ve taken German in high school, or grown up speaking German in your household, or even spent some time in a German-speaking country, and are wondering what class to take in our department.
Elliott Schreiber: As a small and flexible department, we don’t administer a placement exam. You can check out our brief video about how you can place yourself. But if you still have questions, we invite you to consult with any of us.
Silke von der Emde: We also offer fun ways to practice German outside of class, such as our informal Kaffeeklatsch or weekly coffee hour, often with home-made pastries. All are welcome, regardless of your level as a German speaker!
Jeffrey Schneider: Well, we look forward to meeting you and answering any questions you might have! We’ll also be hosting some live online sessions during first-year orientation--so check the orientation schedule. Until then, take a look at our additional videos about specific courses. Or send us an email! So: Welcome! Herzlich willkommen in Vassar!
How to Place Yourself in a German Course at Vassar College
Text for German Placement Video
Hi, I’m Jeffrey Schneider, chair of the Department of German Studies at Vassar College. I would like to tell you about our policies for registering for classes. As a small and flexible department, we don’t administer a placement exam. Instead, we encourage students to place themselves. And this video will tell you how.
Students who have never studied German should enroll in the year-long Beginning German course that begins in the fall (German 105-106) or in the one-semester Intensive Beginning German (German 109), which counts as two courses. Our Beginning German courses offer a new, innovative and intellectually rich approach to language learning, and I recommend that you check out the video about that course to get a sense of how it works.
For students with previous training in German we recommend the following:
Generally, students with less than two years of German in high school should enroll in German 105 or 109; students with more than two years and less than four should enroll in German 210; students with more than four years of high school should enroll in German 230 or 240, which are offered in alternating years.
Students who receive a score of 4 or 5 on the AP examination in German language or German literature should register for German 230 or German 240.
If you have any questions about these guidelines, feel free to consult directly with any of us via email. We can also set up individual consultations on zoom. But even after the start of the semester, we will work with you to find the right course. Thus, if the course that you select feels too easy or too hard, just talk to the instructor about a different option. You can also just sit in on a class at a level that you think might be right for you, and speak with the instructor afterwards.
We look forward to working with you in the coming semester.
Beginning German – Orientation Video
Silke von der Emde: Hallo!
Lioba Gerhardi: Guten Tag!
Silke von der Emde: Hi, it’s so nice of you to check in.
Lioba Gerhardi: We want to tell you a little bit about our Beginning German sequence at Vassar College. I am Lioba Gerhardi
Silke von der Emde: and I am Silke von der Emde. We have three sections in our beginning German sequence: 2 full-year courses (105-106) and 1 one-semester intensive (109) (that counts for two courses) in the spring.
Lioba Gerhardi: Our year-long course meets three days each week, and we also have two 30-minute drill sessions” that are taught by our student assistants.
Lioba Gerhardi: Aside from teaching you the language, our greatest mission as a language department is to teach you how to recognize and evaluate cultural differences.
Silke von der Emde: You might want to know why we use Children’s literature in order to reach that goal and here are some reasons:
Lioba Gerhardi: Of course, children’s literature is fun and adds a playful aspect to a language course. Yet, this is only one aspect of what makes children‘s literature useful.
Silke von der Emde: Though children‘s books are, on the whole, linguistically accessible, good children‘s books also make use of complex and interesting language.
Lioba Gerhardi: The children‘s books that we love and remember are the ones that engage children--and adults. They may have a didactic function--that is, they may be useful in teaching young children how to read (and increase vocabulary) as well as how to behave properly.
Silke von der Emde: Authentic language and complex narratives, then, are what makes children’s literature particularly useful for cultural analysis. Even when books for children seek to merely entertain, they nonetheless remain deeply ideological to the extent that they inscribe particular norms, enact particular exclusions, and construct their readers in a particular way. This makes them ideal materials for studying how a culture passes on its values to the next generation.
Lioba Gerhardi: In order to help you with your still emerging language skills, we organize the course as a progression of text genres, much the way that children’s literature itself progresses. Here are some examples:
Silke von der Emde: Just when you learn that German nouns have a gender, and that you must also memorize the plural forms, we explore ABC books and students collaboratively create their own Vassar alphabet book.
Lioba Gerhardi: We also talk about Gender in childrens’ books by having you read Oliver Wenniges Prinzessin Horst, which plays with gender roles and expectations.
Silke von der Emde: In historical texts such as a Nazi reading primer (Fähnlein Fibel) you will see how children’s literature has been politicized and embedded with ideology throughout history. But even more modern and innocent looking children's book contain ideology.
Lioba Gerhardi: In the second semester, we focus most of the course around fairy tales or Märchen. In addition to reading the Märchen from the Brothers Grimm, we also consider their more recent political uses, such as Marxist retellings in East Germany and their Americanization and commercialization in Disney.
Silke von der Emde: We still have the same focus on grammar, vocab, reading, writing, listening, speaking but you will understand better that language is not transparent and that aside from learning the language it is also real fun to think about how language works.
Lioba Gerhardi: Our approach combines language learning with study of literature and culture and leads to a more holistic understanding of German Studies.
Silke von der Emde: Thank you so much for listening.
Silke von der Emde: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lioba Gerhardi: email@example.com
Study Abroad in Germany or Austria
Hi, I’m Jeffrey Schneider, chair of the Department of German Studies at Vassar College. I know from our students and my own personal experience that spending a semester or year abroad can be transformative opportunity. My colleagues and I make sure that each of our students going abroad has the linguistic and cultural preparation to succeed. And we also offer courses that build on that experience when you return to Vassar.
Though study abroad might seem a long way off, it’s best to start preparing your freshmen year. You should know that all study abroad programs at Vassar require the equivalent of two years of college foreign language study. If you’ve already started studying German, you are on your way. But if you haven’t, I would encourage you to begin taking German your freshman year. Check out our videos on placing yourself or on the Beginning German sequence.
Vassar students interested in studying for a semester or a year in Germany or Austria have many approved options to choose from. Several programs offer a chance to study in small, romantic university towns, while others are based in large, bustling cities like Munich or Berlin. Some programs include a special focus, such as the ies program in Austria, which draws many music majors as well as other majors. But all our approved programs allow students to study a variety of disciplines directly at a German or Austrian university.
Probably the most popular program for Vassar students is The Berlin Consortium of German Studies. Vassar is the only liberal arts college invited to belong to the Berlin Consortium for German Studies, which is run jointly with a small number of distinguished universities, such Columbia, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, and Chicago. The BCGS program celebrates its 25th anniversary this year! To learn more about the program, I encourage you to watch the rest of this video.