Studying in German

41 posts in this topic

Posted

I know there are lots of threads about studying in Germany but this is specifically about following a higher education course / Abitur level course where the language of instruction is German. How did you cope with it? How long/how intensively did you study beforehand to get your skills up to the right level? Did you feel it severely disadvantaged you compared to native German speakers who were educated in German-speaking countries? What particular challenges did it present you with? What tips would you give to someone who is going to study in German when it's not their native language? Anything else?

Thanks.

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Posted

What's your level of German now?

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Posted

Threshold between B2 and C1, have only been learning since last September. I seem to be taking very well to it - I always enjoyed languages (French and Latin) at school, I read as widely as I can, have a mostly German speaking social circle, watch films etc etc plus an Open University course. My boyfriend is of the opinion that I could start now, but I feel that although I can speak very fluently and write well on topics for which I have the requisite German vocabulary, I need to massively widen my German vocabulary of various topics before I intend to study, as well as improve writing skills suitable for higher level study. So my focuses would be on extending active vocabulary and writing academic type texts. I intend to improve my skills for the next 2 years before studying.

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Posted

Im in the same boat. Its at the point now where i just need vocabulary. I am going to try to start up classes again in order to be a solid C1 and pass that damn exam.

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Posted

What's your level of German now?

Sorry forgot to quote you in my last post, see above.

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Posted

Good questions. What are you planning on studying?

Abitur to start with (left school without A Levels), then Lehramt (Gymnasium - English and one other subject, plus the standard education/psychology etc courses it includes). But it's more of a consideration than a concrete plan at the moment. I know it sounds silly, but I was a very high achiever at school (left school for non-academic reasons) and am doing very well in an Open University course at the moment, so I don't know how it would feel to struggle with studying. How would I react to that situation? That's part of the issue for me.

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Posted

I'm goign to be studying medienwissenschaft at Bonn from this October for one year (as part of my university course in England). I'd also like to then come back to Germany post graduation either for a second bachelor's degree or a master's, but for the meantime I can keep you posted on how I find the course this year and next?

Background info: I study German lit and linguistics here, but 90% is taught in English and all but one of my exams (excl. translation) are written in English, as the tutors argue we don't have the level of linguistic sophistication to write about German literature in German (which seems ironic...one wonders how we're ever supposed to acquire that level of sophistication if we're never given the opportunity to even start acquiring it! ah well)

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Posted

I know it sounds silly, but I was a very high achiever at school (left school for non-academic reasons) and am doing very well in an Open University course at the moment, so I don't know how it would feel to struggle with studying. How would I react to that situation? That's part of the issue for me.

I don't think it sounds silly at all. It is scary studying in a different language - it is no longer only the content that you have to grasp but the exp​ression of it too. It can be high pressure and stressful looking at the larger picture early on (at B2/C1 level). So take it step by step. Know that as you complete each step along the way in learning German, you're adding to your box the tools to be able to eventually undertake the academic study in German. The pieces of the puzzle will fall into place and you'll know which further short-term goals you'll need to make to achieve the next step.

It's also important to be strategic. As Engelchen said, for law, for example, reading and writing comprehension is quite important so a future law student might seek to read parts of the civil code and other laws as part of his or her learning to become more familiar with the style of exp​ression and terminology. I guess for your Abitur various materials would be relevant but could you, for example, get hold of some German Abitur literature and start (slowly, probably with a dictionary nearby) reading it so that you are aiming towards comprehension at the right level?

I guess the unknown factor is how much time you'll need to be ready to study in German (which is really hard to judge as progress seems to move forward in leaps and bounds and then plateau and I never knew when it would pick up again). Work hard, set yourself weekly goals and watch your progress unfold.

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Posted

As engelchen points out, you will have to pass the German exam to get into uni anyway and depending on your results (and the uni in question) you may also be required to take additional courses in German if they don't think you're quite up to speed. I had been in Germany for a few years before I enrolled and although I passed the exam, I had to do an extra German grammar course in my first semester, which was actually very helpful.

Good luck!

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Posted

I found it less difficult than I expected to pick up the terminology for my field, although digital design does have a lot of English words pronounced German-style. There was a certain amount of hand-waving and experimentation but people were understanding, and the teachers at my semester in Germany were patient - even trying to teach in English sometimes for practice. I would say that B2/C1 is better than when I went for my semester, so I think you'll be fine especially if you can make friends who can help you out with translating and learning words, and prepping with translations of typical words for your classes.

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Posted

Hi, hope it's okay for me to bring up an old thread (thought it'd be better than starting another one on this topic).

Has anyone ever studied humanities/Geisteswissenschaft at a German university?

I am going to be nearly 28 next year (planning to apply for the 2013 winter semester), and before I get even older, I would really like to study evangelische theologie in Germany. According to university websites, one needs a DSH-2, and if I study a lot from now on (currently I am B2), I think I can pass the exam, but I'm not sure if that is actually sufficient to follow and complete a degree in humanities in German?

Also, according to anabin/daad, students with a high school diploma from my country need to take a "Feststellungspruefung" - is this also mandatory for those who already hold a foreign university degree? Anabin site says something about two languages as well as a science subject, but I never took a science course in my graduating year (which was 10 years ago). If I don't have to take this Feststellungspruefung, that would be really nice, as I can just focus on studying German to pass DSH-2. But if I must take this entrance exam too, does that mean I have no choice but to apply to studienkolleg first and go through their prep courses (which I assume covers far more than German)?

Thanks for your help.

edit: right after I wrote this post I saw another thread about admission to a German uni. hope you don't mind I bumped up this thread.

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Posted

What degree(s) have you already completed? What degree do you want to complete in Germany? Do you already know Ancient Greek, Hebrew, and/or Latin?

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Posted

I have a bachelor and master in economics. Since graduating I've been working in this field, but I can't see myself doing this for much longer.. it's just not me. Since a couple of years ago I have been taking undergraduate theology courses in the evening after work (and very much enjoying them), but because of my full-time job I've only been able to take about five courses in total. Ideally I would like to pursue a bachelor in two majors - theology and psychology (but psych isn't NC-frei, so not sure if I'll be admitted), and after completing the 3-year BA in Germany (most likely 4-year since my knowledge of the three dead languages is very minimal), I will most likely go back to my country to pursue a master in spiritual counselling/pastoral science. (or.. another option would be to stay in Germany, do a master, and work towards becoming a Seelsorgerin, but.. with my limited German.. I don't think that is possible.)

Edit: does my plan sound crazy/impossible? Even if I get DSH-2 and get into the program, I'm afraid of flunking out after the first semester due to not understanding anything.

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Posted

after completing the 3-year BA in Germany (most likely 4-year since my knowledge of the three dead languages is very minimal),

If you need to learn all three languages, you'll not be able to finish in 4 years. It usually takes German students (who didn't have any of them in high school) at least 4 semesters to learn all three languages (some take even longer). I know that all three languages were required in Berlin for the Diplom, however, IIRC you need only two for the Kombi-Bachelor. It really depends on the programme. Either way I'd recommend that you learn the dead languages in English before you move here. Do not nderestimate the difficulty of learning dead languages in a foreign langauge that you can't speak that well.

I will most likely go back to my country to pursue a master in spiritual counselling/pastoral science. (or.. another option would be to stay in Germany, do a master, and work towards becoming a Seelsorgerin, but.. with my limited German.. I don't think that is possible.)

I know quite a few Germans who've studied Protestent theology (Diplom/Kirchenexamen) at the HU and 8 years is considered quick for anyone who had to learn the languages.

does my plan sound crazy/impossible? Even if I get DSH-2 and get into the program, I'm afraid of flunking out after the first semester due to not understanding anything.

How are you planning on financing your studies? I think you're probably better off studying at home and then spending a year as an exchange student in Germany.

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Posted

If you need to learn all three languages, you'll not be able to finish in 4 years. It usually takes German students (who didn't have any of them in high school) at least 4 semesters to learn all three languages (some take even longer). I know that all three languages were required in Berlin for the Diplom, however, IIRC you need only two for the Kombi-Bachelor. It really depends on the programme. Either way I'd recommend that you learn the dead languages in English before you move here. Do not nderestimate the difficulty of learning dead languages in a foreign langauge that you can't speak that well.

I know quite a few Germans who've studied Protestent theology (Diplom/Kirchenexamen) at the HU and 8 years is considered quick for anyone who had to learn the languages.

How are you planning on financing your studies? I think you're probably better off studying at home and then spending a year as an exchange student in Germany.

Thanks engelchen and frollein for your advice. 8 years? oh god what am I getting myself into.. I was looking at the zwei-fach bachelor (90LP+90LP) at Uni Halle, where if I were to study ev.theologie and judaistik, I only have to choose 1 language and in judaistik I will have to take intro to hebrew anyway. But.. you're right, taking a hebrew class in german sound almost.. impossible.

As for financing, I had thought that there is no tuition in Germany? I figured if I budget around 800 to 1000 euro per month I'll be okay. I've been working for four years and while my friends have been saving up to buy a house, I am planning on using them all toward my studies.. (let's just say I'd rather be penniless than continue what I'm doing). But if this is going to take 8 years maybe I'll have to re-think this whole thing as I clearly don't have enough and I probably won't be eligible for financial assistance in Germany (?).

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Posted

Engelchen and I seem to have a similar circle of acquaintance, except that those I know studied in Wuerttemberg and Hessen.

My friends who studied (and are studying) theology are actually from all over Germany, I just met them while they were studying in Berlin (theology students transfer quite often). I've also come to the realisation that I know waaaaaaaaaay too much useless information about a subject I've never studied. :rolleyes:

oh god what am I getting myself into.. I was looking at the zwei-fach bachelor (90LP+90LP) at Uni Halle, where if I were to study ev.theologie and judaistik,

Good question. It would take 8 - 10 years for you to be able to take the Kirchenexamen, however, a bachelors should take less. On the other hand, what would you do with a bachelors in Theology and Judaistik? Why Halle?

I only have to choose 1 language and in judaistik I will have to take intro to hebrew anyway. But.. you're right, taking a hebrew class in german sound almost.. impossible.

I know a girl from Romania with C1/C2 German who took the Hebrew course twice and passed the exam on her second try. She found learning Hebrew in German difficult (and I don't think it is surprising).

As for financing, I had thought that there is no tuition in Germany?

Please don't tell me you're only considering studying in Germany due to the low fees. Wanting to study Protestant Theology in Germany only really makes sense if you are really interested in Protestant Theology (and then you should also choose the university depending on your academic interests).

I've been working for four years and while my friends have been saving up to buy a house, I am planning on using them all toward my studies.. (let's just say I'd rather be penniless than continue what I'm doing). But if this is going to take 8 years

How long it'll take depends on what you want to study. For example, if you are interested in counselling, you should forget theology and study psychology. Evangelische Theologie in Germany focuses on theology and in many Landeskirchen Seelesorge is only an optional Zusatzausbildung.

BTW, what do you do?

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Posted

Just going to add my two cents of general advice as someone who has been in a PhD program since 2006 and spent part of that time learning a difficult language (Chinese) in order to do the research I'm doing now.

1 - based on the people I know in various humanities fields around the world: most humanities PhD programs that include substantial language learning (i.e. something beyond knowledge of a common, modern, romanized language), no matter where you are, will take a native English speaker at least half a decade to finish (and usually 1-3 years longer). The exception would be for people who come in with several years of language training already. Reading and research in one of these languages takes a lot of time, but in the end you're expected to produce the same level of work as someone working entirely in English or with, say, Spanish and French documents.

2 - first look for English-language programs that would provide you with a scholarship/tuition remission in exchange for TA'ships, research work, etc. Do not choose Germany just because of the fee situation - while this may be appealing (it was to me), consider that the situation in North America is not entirely horrible for those who can find funding. Mind you, not everyone is so fortunate, but one of my stipulations for leaving my full-time job to go back and study was finding an institution that would pay for all of it. Like you, I did not have any previous degrees related to what I'm doing now, but I had been taking classes on the side related to what I wanted to do (I started learning Chinese and auditing history courses). Also like you, I had been working for nearly four years in an unrelated job* by the time I went back to do the PhD. All it takes is some research into programs, sending off informed e-mails of interest, a bit of networking/talking to others, and writing good personal statements that will entice people to admit you with full funding.

*Previous job and degree was in IT/computer programming and I was working first as an IT consultant and then as a web developer.

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Posted

I'm going to generalize, but the following is still true for many students:

If you plan to work as a Seelsorgerin, studying evangelische Theologie in Germany is not a good idea. The main focus there is on translating old scripts and trying to find a better translation. In fact, I've heard several students of ev. theology and ev. pastors say that studying ev.theology is the shortest way to losing your faith in God.

Two of my relatives started studying it, both had had old Greek and Latin at school and so only had to learn old Hebrew. One of them quit after the first year, the other after two years - not because of the languages, but because of the problems which arose when they stated they believed in God.

They attended two different universities.

Two of their friends stayed on, both have decided to stay at the university and not go into congregations.

I'm religious and attend church, but none of the pastors here at my church has had any idea about counciling anybody.

If you plan to help and council people, psychology is the better choice of studying.

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Posted

I did a psychology course with the Open University last year (exam was in June this year).

Now the Open Uni. will guide you through the statistics side of things.

I looked at the Fernuniversität Hagen. I could do their psychology courses - the whole degree for what one year with the OU costs. However, they expect you to have a high level of mathematics. And i got the impression that they wouldn't be holding my hand and guiding me step by step through the statistics side of psychology. (You need the statistics side to analyse the results of various experiments.)

From my three months at Göttingen (Easter to summer holidays), doing Germanistik - I was doing German Studies at Manchester, this was a compulsory part of the degree course, I can tell you that I was left more to my own devices - no counselling, no advice, no tutor assigned to me, no-one I could talk to. The lecturers didn't give a damn and the teaching quality was atrocious.

One course I went to for a few weeks started off with about 250 pupils. By the time I gave up (I'd not managed to make any notes.. the lecturer... complete rubbish.. never said anything I could note down), there were a lot fewer students. In the end, only two people attempted the exam.

Farcical.

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On moving to Berlin in 2007, I did the 6-month Grundkurs to become a registered city guide. Topics included local and national history, including lectures by a guy who taught Prussian history at the Humboldt, the law - how it affects freelancers, architecture, city development...and much else besides. Written and practical exams came at the end of the course.

Experiences:

Note-taking during lectures. Despite the language of tution being German, I wrote my notes in English. Gawd knows why, but I did.

Presentations: Fine. Time to prepare and deliver.

Guiding on walking-tours in German. The pace was slow enough to have time to think, talk to people face-to-face and deal with questions on the hoof.

Guiding on bus-tours in German - not so easy - couldn't be as spontaneous as I wanted, came over a bit stilted at times.

(Passed the exams, though).

Self-assessment - reading: C1 pushing C2, at least as far as Fachliteratur was/is concerned. Speaking - B2. Listening/understanding: C1 maybe pushing C2. Writing - ermmm...B1, but fortunately the emphasis was on practical, rather than written work.

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Posted

Like telling the diff between MR Ed and Eddy Vedder speaking.

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Posted

Hi joaupair,

Just thought I'd write up a quite summary, since I'm in a position to respond.

I'm currently in Erfurt, studying at the Fachhochschule here as an exchange student(1 year). My German skills were pretty minimal, as I only had a year (2 classes; 2nd class was garbage) of German under my belt, but I made the (extremely good) decision to take several intensive courses before the start of the semester here. Now, I sit around the B1 level.

Along the way, I've gotten know a lot of exchange students or foreign students studying full-time in Germany, most of whom didn't have a stellar level of German. Surprisingly, most have done well with their studies. Of course, it takes work, a bit of tenacity and discipline seeing as you are at a disadvantage, as the language instruction is not in your mother tongue. However, as I'm rolling into my second month of classes - it really isn't that bad. Of course, it doesn't hurt that I study computer science (Informatik) and a lot of the words for concepts are similar (if not exactly as in English), and it doesn't hurt that I'm somewhat familiar with the material. However, what's most significant is that the education system is not the same; you only have a particular course once a week (!!!). That is, in my opinion, the most significant attribute of the education system here that makes it possible to coup with the difference in language, as you have the most important thing on your side - time. So you have time to study, translate, and most importantly - relax (this was a new concept for me!).

Seeing as you're at a B2/C1 threshold, I don't think you'll have much problems. Of course, that's from my prospective of an exchange student, but I don't think it would change much as a full-time student (except for the fact that you'd have to write your thesis auf Deutsch).

Hope this helped!

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Posted

Good question. It would take 8 - 10 years for you to be able to take the Kirchenexamen, however, a bachelors should take less. On the other hand, what would you do with a bachelors in Theology and Judaistik? Why Halle?

I am leaning towards doing the BA in Theology in Germany and going back to Canada (where I'm from) to do a master in counselling & spirituality (for which I need two years worth of undergrad courses in theology and psychology). My first choice was doing a combined BA in theology & psychology, but almost every university I looked at has NC for psych, and the wait list thing for psych was one of the longest (at least for Humboldt.. unless I totally misunderstood the list). So I went with Judaistik, which is NC-frei and supposedly I get to learn biblical hebrew as part of the BA module, rather than it being a pre-req. Having said that, I read one of your posts in another thread, and is it true that it's not impossible for a foreigner like me to get into a program like psych (supposedly a program a lot of students apply to), because it might not be one of those popular majors that foreigners would want to study (just guessing..)? In addition to Halle, I plan on applying to Humboldt, Heidelberg, Goettingen and Bonn.

Please don't tell me you're only considering studying in Germany due to the low fees. Wanting to study Protestant Theology in Germany only really makes sense if you are really interested in Protestant Theology (and then you should also choose the university depending on your academic interests).

Well, that's one of the reasons, but definitely not my main one.. I always wanted to learn German, but I just never got the chance to take it in university because I used up all my elective spots to take math courses for grad school (back then.. I really liked what I was studying). Anyway, right after I finished my MA and before I started working, I went to Germany and spent three months learning intensive German.. and I loved it a lot. Ever since then, I always wanted to return some day.. to either study or work in Germany. And then the whole theology thing happened.

BTW, what do you do?

I work as an economist in the public sector. Eventually I want to work in hospitals or prisons though.

Just going to add my two cents of general advice as someone who has been in a PhD program since 2006 and spent part of that time learning a difficult language (Chinese) in order to do the research I'm doing now.

Thanks, your story gave me some hope about learning a difficult language in a foreign country (at least I know it's not impossible). May I ask what your field is?

I'm going to generalize, but the following is still true for many students:

If you plan to work as a Seelsorgerin, studying evangelische Theologie in Germany is not a good idea. The main focus there is on translating old scripts and trying to find a better translation. In fact, I've heard several students of ev. theology and ev. pastors say that studying ev.theology is the shortest way to losing your faith in God.

I heard that here too.. I guess I'll never know if I don't try it, however. Now, more and more I wish I could get into BA in psych with maybe a minor in theology (or vice versa).

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