Linguistic Change and Politics

Vocational Studies – a Master's in "German as a Foreign Language" in Jena

Logo Master-DaF; Copyright: master daf/Universität JenaNot only at the Faculty of Philosophy in Jena is the Master DaF course a shining example. In 2006, it was voted one of the ten best international master's degree courses in Germany by the Donors' Association for the Promotion of Sciences and Humanities.

Thursday morning, 9.30 am. A seminar room at Friedrich Schiller University in Jena. It is the final day of the four-day block seminar entitled "Planning a Vocational Lesson in German as a Foreign Language". Today, the students attending the seminar are to gain an insight into the practical side of the profession. Lecturer Christina Kuhn has invited four guest speakers to lecture on the subject. One of them is Anne Sass, who works as a language coach at Henkel, where she designs vocational language courses and intercultural training seminars for the company's staff. Today she is ready to answer the many questions of the inquisitive students who are training in Jena to become teachers of German as a foreign language.

Postgraduate programme for tomorrow's language teachers

The international master's degree course in "German as a Foreign Language" has been on offer in Jena since 2002. "Master DaF“ is a postgraduate programme open to students with a first degree in subjects such as German studies, German, German as a foreign language or European Studies specializing in German. The course, which is designed to cover four semesters, is targeted at anyone wishing to teach German as a foreign language in any form, either in Germany or abroad, or who wants to work in a cultural profession.

"In terms of its contents, what makes our degree course special is its vocational orientation towards didactics and methods“, explains Hermann Funk, who built up the course in cooperation with Hans Barkowski. "More recent issues in teaching are also a focus: classroom management, accompanying the learning process, development of teaching media, vocational language teaching.“ Both professors and all the teaching staff at the Institute for International German Studies in Jena have specialized in the area of didactics.

"I believe that an uncompromising focus on teaching practical, job-related skills throughout the course is what is crucial for and attractive to future teachers“, explains Hermann Funk, who received a chair at Friedrich Schiller University in 2000. As part of the course, students are required to undergo a compulsory practical teacher training of at least four weeks in duration.

130 students from over 50 nations

33rd  Experts' Conference 'German as a Foreign Language' in Jena: Booth of the Master's in 'German as a Foreign Language'. Copyright: master daf/University of Jena "In 2003, we were the very first DaF master's course in Germany to receive accreditation“, reports Hermann Funk. "When we were setting up the course, we were helped by the fact that we were one of ten degree courses in all German faculties to receive a grant from the DAAD as part of its "International Master's Courses" programme in 2002. This enabled us to set up our infrastructure in terms of the course and teaching staff, and to get the programme established within the university. This certainly would not have been possible without the grant.“

In the meantime, over 60 students have successfully completed the course. "At the moment we have 130 master's students, 119 of whom are currently on schedule to complete the course in the recommended period of time“, explains Funk, adding proudly: "Not bad for a philological faculty.“ Roughly 90 percent of the students come from abroad. Over 50 nations are represented, the largest groups in terms of numbers currently coming from Greece and China.

Cooperation with universities in Ireland, Hungary and Greece

However, there is another aspect which makes the course international: it is offered in cooperation with three foreign universities - University College Dublin of the National University of Ireland, Aristoteles University Thessaloniki and Eötvös Loránd University Budapest. This means that students have the opportunity to attend part of the course at one of the partner universities and acquire a joint diploma from both institutions.

However, cooperation with the university in Dublin, says Hermann Funk, is currently less intensive than expected: "Although a few students from both universities have completed modules in the courses offered by the other, these have tended to remain the exception rather than the rule, for two reasons. The fact that the faculty in Dublin is being reorganized and restructured at the same time has delayed the awarding of the dual diploma, while the drastic rise in the cost of living in Dublin in recent years is making it difficult for our students to afford to spend a semester there.“ On the other hand, cooperation with the university in Budapest has got off to a good start. "We have agreed that our graduates will be awarded a joint master's degree from both universities if at least 30 ECTS credits have been acquired by studying modules at the other university.“

One of the vocational skills acquired during the master's course in Jena is the practical use of new media in foreign language lessons. E-Learning, in other words, plays an increasingly important role during the course, not only on the theoretical side. "Already today, virtually all master's seminars have Internet access points. In future, we plan to extend the Web-based parts of the course and also step up our cooperation in this respect with the other two universities in our network, namely Leipzig and Halle.“

Dagmar Giersberg
works as a freelance journalist in Bonn.
Translation: Chris Cave

Copyright: Goethe-Institut, Online-Redaktion

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May 2007

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