Available on the Potchefstroom and Vanderbijlpark Campuses

German is the language of scientists, inventors, philosophers, composers, artists, poets and authors. More than 100 Nobel Prizes have been awarded to German-speaking individuals who have distinguished themselves in the fields of physics, chemistry, physiology, medicine, literature and peace. Probably the most famous German-speaking Nobel Prize winner is Albert Einstein.

In the light of global connections, the German-speaking countries and German as a language provide a pre-eminent context for business, research, higher education, tourism and job opportunities. The Goethe-Institut states that knowing the language of your German business partners improves your relationships and therefore your chances for effective communication and success. The Goethe-Institut is a non-profit cultural association with 159 institutes worldwide. It promotes the study of the German language and encourages international cultural exchange and relations. This institute also points out that a knowledge of German provides one with access to fascinating worlds in culture and history, and also in literature, art, music and philosophy.

Historically, German was characterised by its many dialects. However, the translation of the Bible into German (1534) by Martin Luther became the basis of Standard German or “High German”. Many dialects still exist today and every German-speaking country like Switzerland, Austria and Germany has its own standard form of German that is taught in schools, used at universities, in official and in professional life. However, Standard German allows one to understand what is said and written in the media and on the internet, in research publications, on television, the radio – and of course in personal communication with any German-speaking person in any German-speaking country.

Worldwide there are around 220 million speakers of German. Nearly 95 million people speak German as their first language, and 125 million people worldwide speak and learn German as their second or third language. German is primarily spoken in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Belgium and Liechtenstein, and in South Tyrol in Italy. However, German is also spoken worldwide as a lingua franca (a common language among people with different native languages). German is a national language of Namibia and there are approximately 12 000 mother-tongue speakers in South Africa. In the USA, more than a million people speak German. Approximately 50 million Americans are of German descent. A tenth of the UK population can either speak or understand German. In South America, there are more than two million people who can speak German. There are various dialects such as Brazilian, Chilean and Venezuelan German. German plays an important role as a lingua franca in Eastern Europe and the European Union. There are not only many dialects of German in Germany and in Europe, but also worldwide – like Standard American German in the USA, Barossa German in Australia, Volga German in Russia and Yiddish in the USA, Israel, Russia and Europe.

Most German-speaking people are serious and deeply sincere in terms of acknowledging and repenting the infamous history of Germany during the 20th century and the Second World War, which ended in 1945. Despite these turbulent times, Germany is currently actively involved internationally in humanitarian assistance. It has also produced individuals like the famous winner of the Nobel Peace Prize , Willy Brandt, and the freedom fighters (during the Second World War) Sophie and Hans Scholl, Clemens August, Graf von Galen and Claus von Stauffenberg (who was portrayed by Tom Cruise in the 2008 film Valkyrie). Another German-speaking winner of the Nobel Peace Prize was Albert Schweitzer.

[Accordion Collapsed]

Why study German?

The value that learning German has for you as a South African is twofold: professionally and personally. It can open many interesting doors for you as a student in literally any field of study, and later in any professional arena. German offers access to exciting worlds of information, skills and experiences. A new language like German makes people and texts accessible to you. Personally it can only expand your horizons. After a few hours in an aeroplane you can be in Germany, Switzerland or Austria. There you will find amazing, wonderful worlds with a wealth of fascinating cities, castles and cathedrals. You will also find museums, forests, snow-covered mountains and magical Christmas markets. These you can discover only in the German-speaking countries. Learning a new language is an individual choice and process. It can be like a hobby with career advantages. If you are curious about other cultures, languages and literature it is fun and it can contribute to your professional success. You can start to learn and love German at any point in your life, but doing it now will enable you to continue with it anywhere else in the world. You may even do that in Germany, where you can polish your skills. The Subject Group: German at the NWU makes it easy and pleasant for you to learn to speak, understand, read and write German. The lecturers are friendly and well-acquainted with the proven, state-of-the-art learning approaches and materials that will suit you as a university student.

Course information

The Subject Group: German works in close cooperation with the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Goethe-Institut. The Subject Group: German (Potchefstroom Campus) is also one of the Goethe-Institut’s licensed test centres for individuals who want to obtain a certificate in the German language at proficiency levels B1, B2 and C1. (Do visit the website of the Goethe-Institut at

Our teaching is communication-oriented and takes a transcultural approach, focusing on:

  • Understanding and speaking German in everyday conversational situations.
  • Reading a wide range of different German texts.
  • Writing a wide range of German texts.
  • Acquiring knowledge of German grammar that is suitable for each level and that supports the communication abilities being developed.
  • Acquiring knowledge of the German economy and communication in German in business contexts. (The latter pertains specifically to the Business German modules.)
  • Learning about German literature and the history of literature. At the beginning of the second year, students start a “literary journey” beginning with the Baroque era and ending on undergraduate level with contemporary literature. The purpose of this focus is to enable students to acquire knowledge about German literature, culture and history, but also, in doing so, to develop their communicative abilities.

Possible career opportunities

  • The tourism and the hospitality industry
  • Trade relations
  • Manufacturing and production
  • Internationally working for German companies and organisations that also liaise with partners in German-speaking countries
  • International public relations
  • Professional services (e.g. assurance, legal consultancy, international tax planning, investments, etc.)
  • Airline careers
  • Science
  • Engineering
  • Information technology
  • Medicine
  • Diplomacy
  • Music
  • Theology
  • Advertising and Marketing
  • Philosophy.

German can support and advance the individual in most fields of study and research, for example:

  • Economic and Management Sciences
  • Law
  • Theology
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Health Sciences
  • Natural sciences
  • Agricultural sciences and
  • Humanities (which includes Communication Studies; Social Sciences and Government Studies)

The individual who has been trained in the Humanities and learned German  could become:

  • A foreign language practitioner (which includes proofreading, copywriting and editing)
  • A translator
  • An interpreter
  • A journalist
  • An academic
  • A researcher
  • A teacher
  • An employee of a publishing company
  • a foreign customer services and/or specialised administration employee
  • an employee in broadcasting
  • A governmental language practitioner
  • A private language practitioner
  • A writer
  • A teacher or lecturer.
  • According to the Goethe-Institut German also offers access to cultural understanding and personal enjoyment of literature, art, music and philosophy which expands one’s horizons also in one’s career.


Interesting links