Frequently asked questions for the Department of German

We asked the Department of German some questions about what it's like to study with them. Here's what they said.

We are adapting our teaching methods and spaces in accordance with the latest COVID guidelines and therefore the information below may be subject to change.

What makes this department at the University of Bristol unique?

We are a department renowned not only for excellence in teaching and research, but for a strong sense of community, encompassing staff and students alike. We are a large enough department to offer a very broad range of topics and options for in-depth study, and a small enough department to know everyone's name.

Hear from our staff and students about what makes the School of Modern Languages special.

How does the research at the school benefit the experience of the students at the school?

The school offers research-rich teaching in all degree programmes so that students can benefit from our expertise in a wide range of cutting-edge topics and methods. Our research spans twelve languages (Catalan, Chinese, Czech, French, German, Italian, Occitan, Portuguese, Russian, Scots, Slovak and Spanish), and extends from the Medieval period to the contemporary, reaching beyond Western Europe to Russia and large areas of Latin America and Africa.

Our academic staff collaborate with a broad range of partners across the world to respond to global challenges, for example through work on political reconciliation, exile and migration, mental health, cultural heritage, and environmental sustainability. Students are introduced to this work through our teaching.

In this context, our programmes encourage students at all stages of the degree to develop as independent thinkers and researchers themselves. In German, our popular ‘Tee mit Thema’ (‘tea with a topic’) seminar series, outside of the formal curriculum, brings staff and students together to share ‘behind-the-scenes’ insights into current research work.

With experts in art and visual culture, film, history, linguistics, literature, politics, and theatre, a few of our current teaching and research specialisms include:

  • Transcultural encounters (within and beyond Europe; colonial, pre-colonial, post-colonial)
  • Intermediality (the interrelations between word and image from medieval manuscripts to contemporary photobooks; film; theatre; video games; graphic novels; manga; digital culture; auditory culture; art in galleries, on the street and online; the media)
  • Literary, cultural, social and political histories (including gender and sexuality, race, mental health, the environment, sport, heritage, politics, intellectuals, religion, and integration policy)
  • Translation, adaptation, and reception
  • Sociolinguistics and language variation (with a focus on minority languages).

What does the school do to welcome students when they first start at Bristol?

There is normally a programme of introductory events for new students in Welcome Week, the first week of the academic year. This includes a plenary meeting for the entire school, where we introduce important support structures such as the tutoring system, the Wellbeing Service, the Careers Service, the Library, and the Student Union; a department-specific induction; a meeting with your personal tutor; and time to get to know your lecturers and fellow students socially.

There is a thriving student-led German Society, which has a calendar of regular social and cultural events in Bristol and normally organises an annual student trip to Germany or Austria.

What is the first year timetable like for this course?

(The following guide is based on the 2019/20 academic year). 

Students with A-Level German study the core German Language course (20 credit points out of 120 credits across your degree in one year of study). Depending on your degree combination, you will also study a further one, two or three 20-credit units (modules) which give a broad introduction to the study of German at university: German film and literature since 1500; German history and the history of the German language; a course on Germany's rich tradition of thought and thinkers.

If you are learning German from scratch, you will spend more time on language learning with an intensive 40-credit German Language course and, depending on your degree combination, a further unit on the political and linguistic history of German(y). Students studying German from scratch on the three-language degree will take only German Language in the first year, but will have the opportunity to take units on Germany's history, literature, culture and politics in Years 2 and 4.

If you are studying German as a single-honours subject, you will take German Language and the three introductory German units; in addition, you will take a unit on Comparative Literature (the study of different 'national' literatures alongside each other) with other students across the School of Modern Languages, and one 'open' unit. This unit, taken from a university-wide list, could be a new language or another unit from the University's other departments.

Check our course catalogue for the most updated information.

Where can I find out more about the detailed structure and content of the degree programmes?

The precise combination of units taught varies year by year; here is a representative list of recent units in German.

Year Two

  • Effi Briest and Her Afterlives
  • From Caligari to Hitler”? German Film 1919 – 1945
  • From Judgement to Trial: Selected Works by Franz Kafka
  • German Business Communication
  • Inventing Austria
  • Structures and Varieties of German
  • Transnational Nation: Germany 1840 – 1990

Year Four

  • After the Wall: Remembering the GDR
  • Centre of Attraction: Mitte and Mainstream in German Politics
  • Exiles and Migrants in German Literature
  • Freedom in Constraint: The Sonnet in German
  • German Economic Policy Narratives
  • Language Variation and Change
  • The Culture of Classical Weimar

You are also able and encouraged to take units taught across the School of Modern Languages, where you can pursue your knowledge of one or more national cultures in a broader context. Examples of these units include:

Year 2

  • Cinema and Revolution
  • Woman and Nation
  • General Linguistics

Year 4

  • The Cultural Heritage of Historic Towns and Cities
  • Sociolinguistics: Language Variation and Change
  • Black Europe: History, Cultures, Politics

You can also take the professionally orientated units Introduction to Teaching Modern Foreign Languages (Y2); Liaison Interpreting (Y4) and Translation in a Professional Context (Y4).

A further option is to take up an additional language in the second year.

The formal public record of what each unit is about, and how it is assessed, is the University's unit catalogue. The programme catalogue shows the structure of each degree programme but, for technical reasons, tends not to show a full list of the units running on each degree programme year by year.

What support does the school offer to new students?

We know that the transition to university can be challenging as well as exciting, and we are determined to provide every student with the support they need in order to flourish while studying with us.

Every student is assigned an academic personal tutor, who is on hand throughout their study at Bristol (including during the Year Abroad) to help with academic and personal development. Personal tutors help in many ways:

  • They are someone you can talk to about your degree programme and the subject-specific academic skills you need to do well;
  • They can give advice on how to juggle your studies and extracurricular activities;
  • They can signpost you to help and advice if you are struggling with financial, health or other problems.

The Senior Tutor in the School of Modern Languages is also available to help students with any concerns.

The University of Bristol provides a range of other support services, including Residential Life Advisers in student halls, Student Wellbeing Advisers, and a Student Counselling Service. See our full list of health and wellbeing support services that are available. 

How will the course set me up for my future career?

We prepare our students to become agile participants and leaders in the global world. We do this not only by helping our students acquire functional competency in one or more languages, but also by fostering a range of other skills and attributes. These include multilingualism, intercultural understanding, analytical and critical thinking, clarity and self-confidence in communication, an aptitude for collaborative work, adaptability, resilience, and creativity. These transferable skills are all highly valued by employers and embedded in everything we do.

For our graduates, the world of work will change radically in the coming decades. This is why our teaching incorporates our cutting-edge research and encourages independent learning by instilling the habits of curiosity, openness, rigour, self-reflection, and evidence-based thinking, which will prepare our students for a flexible future career. We also provide units in professional practice, for example in translation and interpreting, language-teaching pedagogy, and business culture.

In addition, students are able to work towards the Bristol PLUS employability award during the course of their studies. The University of Bristol is the fourth most targeted UK university by top employers (High Fliers 2020).

Are there any employers or other initiatives that the school works with for industry placements?

Students have the opportunity to work with a wide range of employers during their Year Abroad (third year of the degree programme). Students can arrange their own work placements, subject to approval by the School of Modern Languages, and use our extensive contacts with employers overseas. We take great care to support students in this. In their final year, students reflect on how the skills they have acquired while living abroad can strengthen their employability and personal development.

What do graduates go on to do after studying this course at Bristol?

Our graduates go on to a wide range of careers in the private, public and community sectors and achieve the third highest earnings among students from Modern Languages degrees five years after graduation (Institute of Fiscal Studies, 2018). Many also go on to postgraduate study.

Examples of recent graduate occupations: Accountant, Account Executive, Actor, Advertising Executive, Armed Forces Officer, Animator, Arts/Media Public Relations Officer, Broadcaster, Campaign Executive, Civil Servant, Creative Communications Executive, Editorial Assistant, Editorial and Foreign Rights Manager, Event Manager, Film Production Assistant, Fundraiser, Gallery Intern, Graduate Recruiter, Interpreter, Journalist/News Researcher, Librarian, Marketing Assistant, Media Buyer, Product Developer, Public Relations Officer, Research Analyst, Solicitor, Teacher, Translator, Website Customer Services Assistant. We also have a brewer and a magician among our graduates!

Examples of employers our recent graduates have gone on to work for: Allianz Insurance, Ashfords LLP, Atkins, Barbican Centre, Berlitz, Bristol Old Vic Theatre, British Council, British Library, Brunswick Arts, Cognizant IT Services, Deloitte, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Dulwich Picture Gallery, Elwin Street Productions, Financial Times and Suitcase Magazine, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Gü, Hue Animation Studio, L'Oreal, Marks and Spencer, Mergermarket, Mydex CIC, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Proudfoot, Saatchi and Saatchi, Sotheby’s, Sprachcenter Mouroum, Wallace and Gromit’s Grand Appeal, Welbeck Group, Wessex Translations.

What opportunities are there to study abroad as part of this course?

You will spend the third year of the four-year degree on a year abroad, in the country or countries where the language(s) you are studying are spoken. For many students, this is one of the highlights of the degree, and it is one of the points at which the different parts of the degree studied in Bristol come together and 'make sense'.

If you are studying two languages, you are asked to split the third year between two countries, spending a minimum of four months in each. You can, of course, choose to stay for longer. Students on the three-language degree spend 4(+) months in two countries, one of which must be the country of their ab initio language, and a shorter summer period in a third.

For German, you have three options for the year abroad:
(1) Study at one of our partner universities in Germany and Austria.
(2) Work as an English Language Assistant at a school in Germany or Austria, through a well-established scheme run by the British Council.
(3) Work or undertake work experience in Germany or Austria. For this option, you will be encouraged to use your own initiative to arrange a work placement that suits and interests you, with the support of your tutors and with a 'bank' of previous students' placements to draw upon.

What are the facilities like on campus that students will use to study this course?

The School of Modern Languages is housed in the Arts Complex on Woodland Road, on the main University of Bristol campus in Clifton. In addition to a range of lecture and seminar rooms and a welcoming student common room, the school benefits from a state-of-the-art Multimedia Centre that includes a cinema suite, a large collection of foreign-language DVDs, an audio recording and video editing studio, a language lab, and several study areas for independent and group work. 

How many hours (on average) are required outside of lectures for additional work and study?

Based on the 2019/20 academic year, students are expected to spend an average of 40 hours per week engaging with their degree programme, of which typically 12-13 hours will be contact time (lectures, seminars and language classes) and the rest will be independent study.

How do assessments work for the department?

You will be assessed by a range of different methods during your degree, reflecting the range of different strengths with which you arrive at university and the range of skills and resources on which you will need to draw after you graduate.

Some of our assessments will look familiar: essays, written exams and oral presentations. Others may be new and put an emphasis on working collaboratively and on non-written work such as group presentations and projects (eg designing an online resource to a specific brief), video presentations, blog posts or oral debate.

All units incorporate more than one form of assessment, and learning the skills needed for different types of assessment is an integral part of the course.

First-year marks do not contribute to your final degree result (but they appear on the detailed transcript of your academic performance. First-year units have to be passed in order to move into Year Two). The second year counts for approximately 30 per cent of the final degree, the year abroad assessment for 10 per cent, and final year for the remaining 60 per cent.

What would you say are the main differences between studying at school and study at university?

You are encouraged to develop and follow your own academic interests, guided by our specialist academic staff. Students can tailor their pathway through their degree by choosing to focus on areas such as film, literature, history, or linguistics, or on specific topics: gender, race and ethnicity, memory, political identities.

You have greater responsibility for directing and organising your own learning. In our experience this is liberating and exciting, both intellectually and personally, but it can also be daunting at first, and our first-year curriculum and support systems are set up to ease this transition from sixth form to university.

You contribute to an ongoing process of cutting-edge research. You learn ways of working which model academic research, and our academic staff often run courses related to their current projects. Some students' independent work, notably, in the final-year dissertation, is original research in its own right. 

What are examples of final year projects/dissertations that students have worked on when they study this course?

Students in German have written dissertations on visual, literary and popular culture; on how the German past is memorialized, whether in monuments and specific sites or in film and TV series; on political identity in contemporary Germany and Austria; on German photography and on popular music; on women and the '1968 movement'.

Students with more than one language or subject sometimes opt to write dissertations on topics that bridge and compare the two, eg a current dissertation on 'rubble films' (set in the destruction of European cities after 1945) in German and Italian.

One popular option is to do an extended translation as a final-year dissertation, which involves translating a substantial piece of text which hasn't been translated before, and writing an introduction and notes explaining your approach to the work.

Recent specific topics and titles have included:

  • German colonial contact languages: the similarities and differences in formation and social significance of Unserdeutsch and Kiche Duits.
  • Gender-inclusive Language in German Job Advertisements: A Corpus Linguistic Study
  • A project on 'Babylon Berlin', the hit German TV series that beautifully (and acerbically) captures aspects of 1920s Berlin life
  • Innovation in stage design and production in German contemporary theatre (by a student who spent the Year Abroad working at a theatre in Hamburg and is now employed by the Bristol Old Vic)
  • The Alps in German and Austrian literature in and around the First and Second World Wars
  • Jewish identity in Germany since 1945.

In addition, students on the Year Abroad undertake two smaller research projects based on their personal interests and their study destination. These are presented in German. We have had projects ranging from 'Hexenverfolgung in Hessen' ('Witch-hunts in Hessen') to 'Graffiti als politisches Ausdrucksmittel in Leipzig' ('Graffiti as a means of political expression in Leipzig') – with much else in between!

Anything else I should know about?

We warmly welcome contact from our applicants, especially if you have questions we haven't been able to answer here and elsewhere online. The best way to get in touch with us currently, other than through the University's Admissions Enquiries team, is by e-mail to sml-office@bristol.ac.uk.

We encourage you to follow our Facebook page and/or our Twitter feed @BristolGerman. We always enjoy meeting applicants and we're sorry that under the current circumstances we can't – so we look forward to meeting you virtually now, and in person when we can.

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