„Die Grenzen meiner Sprache bedeuten die Grenzen meiner Welt.“
The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.
– Ludwig Wittgenstein, TLP, §5.6
Learning German can connect students with 120 million native speakers around the globe. As the official language of Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein, as well as Germany, the world’s largest exporter, German is the language with the largest number of native speakers in the European Union. It is the native language of a significant portion of the population in northern Italy, eastern Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, eastern France, and parts of Poland, the Czech Republic, Russia, and Romania. It is the second-most commonly used scientific language and the most widely spoken language in Europe. In a radius of 1,000 kilometers (625 miles), Germany lies at the center of a European population of 300 million people, taking a decisive role in the political, economic, and educational dynamics of the continent.
Studying German offers students access to a culture of scientists and innovators, philosophers and theologians, writers, artists, and composers. German is the language of Gutenberg and Hertz, Fahrenheit and Einstein, Marx, Nietzsche and Freud, of Luther, Goethe and Kafka, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Mahler.
The German Department offers courses on campus and abroad in German language and culture, including literature, history, and film for both majors and non-majors. A pivotal component of German language study at St. Olaf is study abroad. In keeping with a German tradition dating back to medieval times, German universities today have opened their doors to students from around the world, sharing their research in science and technology, their specialized training in the fine arts, and their rich archival collections in the humanities. St. Olaf students may study for a semester or a full year at the Universities of Konstanz, Flensburg, or the Humboldt University in Berlin. Courses are also available in English, if students wish to study in Germany without advanced proficiency in German,
Beyond the classroom, students can also participate in such activities as the weekly German conversation table (Stammtisch), the German film series, and events at the Deutsches Haus, an honor house where St. Olaf students live together with an exchange student from Germany.
Department Chair: Wendy Allen