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German Studies

Academic Departments and Programs


Buildings in Berlin, Germany

Berlin, Germany (image courtesy of Kenneth Meadwell)

A pink sky over Hamburg, Germany

Hamburg, Germany (image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Cityscape of Dresden, Germany

Dresden, Germany (image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The winding and misty Saar River, Germany

Saar River, Germany (image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The modern German language was born in the 16th century when two groups of dialects known as Frankish and Alemannic merged into a single language. As a result of the wide circulation of Martin Luther’s German translation of the Bible (1534), the new language quickly grew in influence and prestige.

First taught as a language of culture, German was the mother tongue of many brilliant writers such as Goethe, Schiller, Kafka, Thomas Mann, Bertolt Brecht and Günter Grass and many well-known composers such as Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Wagner and Mahler. From the 18th century onwards, German has been at the forefront of intellectual inquiry, German-speaking intellectuals having shaped the Humanities with philosophers such as Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche and Heidegger, political thinkers such as Marx, Engels, Nietzsche and Hannah Arendt, psychoanalysts such as Freud and Jung and philologists (linguists) such as Humboldt, Schlegel, Schleicher and Grimm.

German is key to understanding the complexities of 20th century European history, culture and identity, given Germany’s role in World Wars І and ІІ, the Holocaust, the Cold War, the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the evolution of the European Union (EU) following the reunification of East and West Germany. Now spoken by over 100 million people in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, German has more native speakers than any other European language in the European Union, and is second only to English as the language of business within the European Union.

Here in Canada, German occupies an important place in Manitoba's linguistic and cultural mosaic due to multiple migrations of German-speakers from around the world. Not surprisingly, the University of Winnipeg boasts a Chair in German-Canadian Studies and a Chair in Mennonite Studies, established to promote the study of the history and culture of German-speaking immigrants.

Why study German?

Acquiring a second language will enrich your life and open up many career opportunities. Whether your goals include visiting the castles and beer gardens of Europe, enjoying a performance of Mozart's Magic Flute in the original, watching a film by Wim Wenders, rediscovering your heritage, reading the works of Wittgenstein, delving into the legacy of the Cold War, analyzing Freud or embarking on an international career in business, commerce or finance, learning German is a definite asset.

But if you plan to continue on to graduate studies in the Humanities, learning German is a must! Given the prominence of the German tradition of research in the Humanities, German is one of the required languages for many PhD programs.>

About our program

In the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, we offer the 3 or 4-year BA (Major or Combined Major) in German Studies with challenging courses where you will discuss topics of current interest, reflect on problems of the modern world, explore the culture of Germany, Austria and Switzerland and read short texts dealing with the social and political issues of our time. As you develop your command of oral and written German, you will also develop the cultural understanding that is needed in the global community through the study of literary and other texts.

Each year, UW students have the opportunity to take part in our exchange program with the University of Bamberg in Germany. If you are interested, contact the German Studies facilitator for further information.