Modern Languages: German

German is spoken as a first language by over 100 million people, and is widely used as a second language, especially in Eastern Europe.

Germany is the UK's most important trading partner and remains the powerhouse of the European Union. Contacts with Germany are of ever-increasing importance for the governments, businesses and citizens of the new Europe. German is of course spoken in Austria and is the principal language of Switzerland: the culture of the German-speaking countries is exceptionally rich and vibrant.

18% of the books published worldwide each year are in German. German-speaking writers, thinkers and artists have long been and continue to be at the forefront of intellectual life, and German literature, art, cinema and philosophy is influential worldwide.

If you do not have an A-level or equivalent knowledge of German, it is possible to study German from scratch alongside another language you have already taken to A-Level or equivalent, or with several Joint Schools subjects (see below).

Options for studying German at Oxford

German can be studied on its own or in combination with one of the following languages/subjects:

  • A modern European language: French, Spanish, Russian, Italian, Portuguese, Modern Greek, or Czech (with Slovak). Students who do not have an A-level or equivalent in the relevant language may (in all cases, except French or Spanish) combine post-A-level German with a beginners’ version of the other language. It is also possible to combine post-A-level German with Polish. We generally expect all students wishing to study Polish to be beginners, though those with experience are also very welcome to apply. It is also possible to start German from scratch in combination with another European language which you have studied at A- Level or equivalent. 
  • A Middle Eastern Language offered by the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies: Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, Turkish. These languages are all available to beginners with no prior knowledge of the language.
  • English*
  • Classics*
  • History*
  • Linguistics*
  • Philosophy*

*It is possible to study German from scratch in combination with one of these subjects.

The study of European languages at Oxford provides both practical training in written and spoken language and an extensive introduction to the literature and thought of the language(s) you have chosen.

You will learn to write and speak the language(s) fluently, and will be able to choose from a broad range of options including linguistics, film studies and advanced translation. You can study the literature of a language chronologically or focus on particular periods - the medieval, the early modern or the modern era - or on particular themes.

A degree in German, or German combined with another language/subject, is normally four years in length. Modern Languages students usually spend the third year of their course abroad (except if they are taking beginners’ Russian, in any available combination, in which case they spend the second year abroad). This is often as a paid language assistant in a foreign school, though you may work abroad or study at a foreign university.

German on its own

If you study German as a single language, you will in the first year take additional courses in German film, Medieval German, and German Thought from Kant to Freud.

Thereafter, because you will only be doing one language, you will be able to study a broader range of German culture than a two-language student, which will typically include options in Medieval German, Early Modern German, and linguistics.

German with another European language

If you are studying for a joint degree combining German with another language, you will spend around half your time studying German language and literature, and around half studying the other language and related literature.

German with a Middle Eastern language (BA in European and Middle Eastern Languages)

If you are studying for a joint degree combining German with Arabic, Hebrew, Persian or Turkish, you will spend around half your time studying German language and literature, and around half studying the other language and related literature.

In the first year, there is less literature in the European language to allow for intensive focus on the Middle Eastern language. You will normally spend your second academic year at an approved course of study in the Middle East. You are strongly advised to spend the adjacent summers where the European language of your choice is spoken.

German and another subject (English, Classics, History, Linguistics, Philosophy)

If you are studying for a joint degree combining German (either post-A-level or equivalent, or from scratch) with another subject, around half of the degree programme will consist of German language and literature, and around half will be made up of courses related to the other subject.

Visit German on the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages website for more information.