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Comparative German Studies

Degree Bachelor of Arts
Application required  see “Formal requirements” (below)
Course commences winter semester / summer semester
Standard course duration 6 semesters
Format options full-time / part-time
Focus options 75%; 50%; 25%
Language requirements see Admission Regulations
Language of instruction German


Faculty of Modern Languages


Course outline

The B.A. programme Comparative German Studies (with focus options of 75%, 50% and 25%) offers German and international students the opportunity for in-depth engagement with German linguistics or literary studies. Teaching and research are geared largely to comparative (linguistic) and intercultural issues. The core (subject-specific) content of the course is supplemented by elective classes dealing with topics of interest for budding language professionals, notably Teaching German as a Foreign Language and Intercultural Communication. Prospective careers for graduates include teaching German as a foreign language (schools and higher education) and posts (in Germany or elsewhere) in cultural, economic and political institutions with an intercultural bias.

Successful students can go on to study for an M.A. degree in Comparative German Studies or in German as a Foreign Language. For a detailed overview of the course structure and possible study focuses, go to the website of the Institute of German as a Foreign Language: .

International students looking to supplement a degree already obtained in German Studies with a study sojourn in Germany can take a short-term course lasting 2 semesters with a certificate confirming successful completion.


Course structure

The course normally takes 6 semesters. After successful completion, students are awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree. In the B.A. programme Comparative German Studies, students focus either on linguistics or literary studies. These sectors are supplemented by classes dealing with subject matter of interest for budding language professionals (especially teachers).

The focus on linguistics initially involves engagement with the theoretical and methodological foundations required for the description of language systems, going into greater depth in selected areas in which students are later expected to produce academic work of the requisite quality. The focus is on the traditional pillars of linguistics, i.e, phonetics and phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics. An equally important sector of German linguistics is dedicated to the usage conditions for language utterances, either in pragmatics (which concentrates on language-systematic aspects) or in sociolinguistics (with its focus on the impact of social factors). While teaching at the Department naturally focuses on the German language, the high degree of linguistic diversity among the students at the Institute also invites the teaching staff to address comparative and typological issues. A direct outcome of this is the emphasis on comparative psycholinguistics in the research done at the Institute (investigations on first- and second-language acquisition, the psycholinguistics of language/speech production, language and cognition from a comparative viewpoint).

The course with a literary studies focus begins with an introduction to (a) historically sensitive analysis and interpretation of literary works (German and international), (b) the methodologies of the subject, and (c) aesthetics and literary history. In all cases, the literature of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries is invariably regarded in the context of contemporary philosophy, social history and the history of ideas and against the background of the evolution of the media. Here a number of links are identifiable between literary studies and classes on cultural studies and media communication. We are at pains to regard the issues addressed in class in terms of the cultural competence and the reading and knowledge horizons of our students (who hail from many different countries) and to help them develop an intercultural profile of their own. The central concern is the investigation of literature and its various contexts in terms of the history of culture.

The main focus is on the Enlightenment, the Classical and Romantic periods, classical modern literature since the age of naturalism, the 20th century and contemporary literature (all these epochs are investigated against the background of European culture as a whole and in the context of world literature). Special priority is given to the investigation of intercultural concatenations between literatures and issues posed by fiction and meta-fiction in the context of modern European literature.

Cultural Studies functions as a supplement to these core subjects within the B.A. courses at the Institute of German as a Foreign Language. The classes provide an introduction to cultural history and cultural theory, the function and organisation of cultural processes, and various aspects of everyday culture.

Applied Linguistics/Language Practice is another supplement to the core concerns of the course in that it attempts to extend the discourse skills required in working towards a degree. The emphasis is on imparting to the students analysis and production strategies required in coming to terms successfully with texts relevant for the course as a whole.

Didactics is one of the two profiles in the B.A. course dedicated to issues that pose themselves in later professional life. It is angled at all those contemplating taking up a teaching career or requiring didactic proficiency for some other reason. The theory classes provide an overview of the objectives, subject matter, materials and methods of foreign language teaching in general or (alternatively) German as a foreign language.

The other professionally angled profile - Intercultural Communication - equips students with the journalistic knowhow required both for work in different sectors of the media and for specialists in corporate communication (internal and external). Classes discuss theoretical and practical aspects of the types of discourse occurring in business or media communication. The perspective in all classes is comparative and cross-cultural.


Main research interests

Linguistic research at our Institute centres on cognitive language typology, comparative psycholinguistics, and early and later second-language acquisition. Research is interdisciplinary in approach, there are joint research initiatives in conjunction with computational linguisticians, psychologists, physicists, art historians and medical researchers. At present projects on the following topics are running at the Institute:

  • language-typological research (a) on the expression of spatial and temporal concepts and (b) on information structure in Germanic, Romance and Slavic languages, Arabic, Japanese and Chinese
  • language processing from a comparative perspective (with emphasis on the languages referred to above) using experimental methods like eye tracking, process chronometry, MEG, EEG
  • second-language acquisition and language-learning support involving two projects: Deutsch für den Schulstart) for improving language proficiency in nursery schools and elementary schools, and Deutsch als Zweitsprache)
  • intercultural business communication (with emphasis on language- and culture-specific information patterns in external corporate communication and audience media)

These projects offer interested students an opportunity for research-related learning.

In literary studies, research projects concentrate (a) on fields that are of relevance on the intercultural and comparative plane and (b) on topics related to social history, media history and cultural studies. They are sustained by a wide range of national and international collaborations, e.g. with the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Federal Institute for the Culture and History of Germans in Eastern Europe (Oldenburg), the Max Hermann Neisse Institute at the University of Düsseldorf, the Department of German at Dalhousie University in Halifax (Canada), the Willy Brandt Centre and the Institute of Germanic Studies at the University of Wroclaw (Poland), the Central European Association of Germanists (MGV), and the Institutes of German Studies at the Universities of Gdansk (Poland), Olomouc (Czech Republic), Vészprem (Hungary), Kaunas (Lithuania), Tartu (Estonia) and Kutaissi (Georgia). Thematically, research focuses on the following areas:

  • literature from the 18th to the 20th century in an intercultural and comparative perspective (esp. imagology, thematology, alterity, intertextuality, intermediality); editorial activities are another major interest (Johann Georg Hamann, Ludwig Tieck, Max and Elsa Bernstein, etc.)
  • reality-related narration, with theoretical reflection on the functions of narration and the reality content of fiction; the development of this hybrid literature between reality and fiction is investigated for its historical relevance and its significance for literary life (e.g. writing under censorship, literary scandals, fact-fiction formats); the manual Fakten und Fiktionen. Werklexikon der deutschsprachigen Schlüsselliteratur published in 2012 is a product of this project
  • regionalism as a post-national paradigm for describing the interaction between literatures in different languages and from different cultures existing side by side in the same geographical space (and not describable in terms of “national” literatures); research findings have been published in the form of monographs, essay collections and articles on northeast Europe (the Baltic and neighbouring countries), German-Polish loci of contact and conflict, Lusatia, central Europe in general, etc.

These projects offer students and doctoral candidates an opportunity to hit upon research topics of their own.


Formal requirements

Application and Admission

Click here for the Admission and Enrolment Regulations for the B.A. course.

There are special regulations for international applicants. Please consult Heidelberg University’s International Relations Office (Akademisches Auslandsamt, Seminarstraße 2) for more information.

Given the specific study profile of this course, prospective students from Germany are strongly recommended to get in touch with the academic advisors listed below to find out about the specific requirements for German native speakers.

Subject combinations

Subject combinations are listed in the Catalogue of Subjects

Study and examination regulations

Examination regulations B.A. (06. July 2017)
Examination regulations B.A. (14 June 2010)
Examination regulations B.A. (8 January 2009)
Examination regulations B.A. (8 February 2007)

Module Handbook

Please click here to find the latest Module Handbook.


Tuition fees at Heidelberg University are payable at the beginning of each semester.

M.A. course

Heidelberg University offers consecutive M.A. degree courses in Comparative German Studies and German as a Second Language.


Academic advisors

Dr. Michael Haase (literary studies)
Plöck 55, Office 126
Wednesdays 11 am – 1 pm in term time
phone: +49 (0)6221 547550
Personal website announces short-notice changes to office hours.

Dr. Ute Kohlmann (linguistics)
Plöck 55, Office 116
Mondays 12 noon – 1 pm and Tuesdays 1 – 3 pm in term time
phone: +49 (0)6221 547316
Personal website announces short-notice changes to office hours.



Institute of German as a Foreign Language
Plöck 55
D-69117 Heidelberg

phone: +49 (0)6221 547545
fax: +49 (0)6221 547597


E-Mail: Seitenbearbeiter
Letzte Änderung: 2018-11-05
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