AU Options – GERM 306 – German for Reading Knowledge

GERM 306 is a senior, three-credit course offered by AU’s Centre for Language and Literature (CLL). It ?teaches reading strategies for understanding a German text,? and allows students to ?learn the fundamentals of German grammar . . . and how to decipher the meaning of a text.? GERM 306 has no prerequisites.

?While courses in German reading comprehension have traditionally been a popular draw, most Canadian universities have stopped offering such courses,? says Richard Slipp, a German tutor in the CLL. ?German 306 at Athabasca is therefore a unique course offering that attracts many undergraduate and graduate students from other institutions across the country and around the world.?

?There was a time not that long ago when German was the dominant language of academic publishing. While this is no longer the case in most disciplines, the ability to read German remains invaluable to scholars in history, philosophy, political theory, cultural studies and the natural sciences,? Slipp says. ?Apart from the massive body of secondary literature out there in German, one only has to think of names like Kant, Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, Kafka, Weber, Arendt, Adorno, Habermas (I could go on) to realise how enriching the ability to read original texts in German can be.?

But ?don’t be thrown off by the course number,? warns Slipp. ?It is misleading, but German 306 is not our most senior course; in fact, not only are there no language prerequisites for this course, but students who have credit in German 202 and 203 may not enrol in German 306. German 306 stands outside of our regular language course offerings (German 202, 203, 302 and 303) which seek to develop a more comprehensive communicative competence in German. German 306 is intended to impart strategies to analyze and understand a text with the assistance of a dictionary.?

Meghan Roberts is an AU student currently pursuing a double major in history and anthropology, and planning to one day complete her master’s degree in ?material culture or medieval studies.? Roberts recently completed GERM 306. ?I needed a ?Reading German? course for the grad schools I’m interested in,? she says. ?More than half the literature in my field in published in German.?

Roberts says that she ?found the course structure to be unhelpful? as it ?made heavy use of an English-speaker’s intuition for language? and deliberately presented ideas ?that would be ?obvious? to an English speaker to create a pattern of success.? Roberts found, however, that she has ?studied too many languages to have/trust that kind of intuition.?

?I really took my own path through the materials and found some other grammars and vocabularies to work with,? she explains, ?and used the actual materials more as a guide/self-test.? On the whole, though, she feels that ?the course did an unusually good job of covering the bases,? even though this is often ?tough in a short language course.?

According to Roberts, GERM 306 was ?definitely worth taking . . . It covered the rudiments well enough, and gave me enough grounding to go further on my own,? she says. She also enjoyed the support she received from her tutor throughout the course. ?The tutor was amazing. The best I’ve had!? she says. ?He sat on the phone with me and helped me translate passages for my personal research as practice and to help out with technical terms in my field . . . The [university] should hang on to tutors like these!?

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