Beginning in 2005-2006, the Department of German Studies embarked on a multi-year project to develop an innovative, effective, and intellectually rich approach to learning German at the most basic level.
Though acquiring foreign language proficiency will remain an important goal of the elementary sequence, students will use children's literature, fairy tales, and other readings and activities to study the role that language learning plays in socializing children and transmitting the cultural values of a society. Using children's books from the 18th century to the present as well as fairy tales, films for children, and theoretical readings, students will study how Germany has imparted its cultural values through its language to subsequent generations. Since children have a more limited vocabulary than adults, this topic accords well with a graduated approach to learning German, and will enable students to reflect on language learning itself as as a process of cultural exploration, socialization, and self-actualization. This approach will also provide ample opportunities for students to explore fundamental issues of cross-cultural understanding, develop new forms of self-expression, and take part in other types of humanistic inquiry while they learn the language.
Much like our award-winning intermediate sequence, we intend this new approach to the study of German to serve as a model for German programs at other colleges and universities in the country.
Images: The following images are from Struwwelpeter, the most famous German children's book, which was written in 1845 by Heinrich Hoffmann.