German Studies

Polish your language skills in Germany and develop a cosmopolitan view of the world.

In the Department of German studies, faculty members including native German speakers and Japanese instructors team up to provide an intensive and efficient language learning experience. From year one we make use of textbooks published in Germany for language training geared to practical communication. Meanwhile, our area-studies courses explore the language, ideas, politics, society, and media of the German-speaking world, equipping students to enter into German culture, German values, and German ways of thinking. Our program is not just about training experts in German language and area studies. Our central goal is to prepare students to play a meaningful role in international society with the requisite combination of advanced communication skills, expertise, and methodology.

1. Integrated Study Abroad

To achieve these aims, the Department of German Studies has instituted an Integrated Study Abroad system (see the German website for more information), one of the distinguishing features of our program. Integrated Study Abroad seeks to give every student in our department the benefit of one to two semesters of study in Germany. Students can also take advantage of Sophia University’s Exchange Program, so there is a variety of opportunities to study German and experience German culture first-hand. Moreover, thanks to our department’s exchange program with German institutions, our students can continue interacting with their German peers after they return to Japan. By learning and conversing with the German students who flock to our department each year, they come into daily contact with the values and customs of a different culture and gain the perspective and poise to function effectively in international society.

2. Curriculum

Academic planning takes into account each student’s circumstances, including his or her choice of study-abroad options (e.g., a semester or a full year of Integrated Study Abroad, participation in the university’s Exchange Program, or, in some cases, opting out altogether). From their first year through the first (spring) semester of their second year, all of our students (excepting those who earn advanced placement) follow the same German-language curriculum. In both semesters of their first year, students take German I, which provides six 90-minute sessions of language instruction per week. For four of those sessions, they split up into three classes to work on their communication skills. Because of our low annual admissions, splitting our first-year students into three groups results in small classes for highly intensive and effective instruction in conversation and writing. The remaining two sessions are devoted primarily to grammar. Our aim is to ensure that first-year students build the foundation of grammatical understanding and reading skills they will need to communicate at a professional level and conduct research in the field of their choice during their third and fourth years. First-year students also take a required area-studies course, which meets once per week each semester (German Area Studies A and German Area Studies B). In this course they build an understanding of key political, social, cultural, and historical differences between Japan and the German-speaking world, with an emphasis on Germany and Austria. In the process, they develop the ability to express their own ideas in German.

3. Building Communication Skills

In the first (spring) semester of their second year, most students begin intensive preparation for the autumn semester, which they will spend in Germany under our Integrated Study Abroad program. For this purpose, German II includes six weekly sessions of Integrated German, which focuses on communication. As in year one, students split up into three classes for small-group instruction. A full semester of small-group instruction six times a week equips students with the communication skills and confidence to meet the challenge of study in Germany. Students also continue their twice-weekly German grammar lessons during this semester. Meanwhile, German Area Studies C focuses on the kind of knowledge and know-how students will need to avoid cultural misunderstandings and make the most of their study abroad. The majority of second-year students spend the second (autumn) semester in Germany under our Integrated Study Abroad program, but those who opt to remain in Japan for whatever reason attend two weekly sessions of Integrated German and two sessions of German Grammar, along with one weekly session of German Area Studies D. German III is offered in the third year to build further on the German language skills acquired in the first and second years.

4. Transfer of Credits

As noted above, the majority of students in our department participate in our Integrated Study Abroad program beginning in the autumn semester of their second year. Upon successful completion of their program of study in Germany, they are granted 10 course credits (corresponding to the combined credits from German II, German Area Studies, and German III). Those who complete the intensive spring break program in Germany earn an additional 2 credits. Needless to say, these credits count toward the program’s graduation requirements.

5. Back in Japan

After returning from a semester or more of study abroad, our students are ready to begin Advanced Reading Comprehension. These are classes designed to develop vocabulary and reading skills in various specialties and equip students to read and conduct research in the concentration of their choice (from: European Studies, North American Studies, Latin American Studies, Russian and Eurasian Studies, Middle Eastern and African Studies, Asian Studies, Linguistics, International Politics, and Civil Society and International Cooperation). This is also when students typically earn their mandatory 4 credits in Japanese studies or Japan-Germany comparative studies. Here they have the opportunity to participate in class discussions with our German exchange students, who also enroll in the courses, and practice conveying their ideas to others. While taking these courses, students pursue specialized research in the concentration of their choice.

The foregoing merely describes the most typical roadmap to graduation from the Department of German Studies. The course of study can be tailored in various ways to meet the needs of our students, including those who opt to stay in Germany for a whole year under the Integrated Study Abroad program or the university’s Exchange Program. The possibilities are endless!

See the Japanese website for more information