Getting to know the world a bit better

Languages play an important role in the DAAD’s work. It is a question of promoting not only German, but also multilingualism. This approach is supported by various programmes and grants.

Issue 1 | 2023

Text: Miriam Hoffmeyer

Diese Illustration ist in der Kommunikation zwischen Mensch und Maschine entstanden: Wir haben die Künstliche Intelligenz Midjourney um ihre Interpretation von Sprache und Austausch gebeten – in mehreren verfeinernden Prompts.

© Midjourney

This illustration is the result of human-machine communication: we asked the artificial intelligence program Midjourney for its interpretation of language and exchange – giving it several prompts to fine-tune the outcome.

A key, an open window or a path leading to new horizons – many popular metaphors for languages are about breaking out or setting off on a journey. Learning a foreign language is “the acquisition of a new point of view in the previous world view,” wrote Wilhelm von Humboldt, the founder of comparative linguistics, in around 1825.

Languages have always played an important role in the work of the DAAD. “We are committed to German as a language of science and scholarship and to a multilingual Europe,” says DAAD President Professor Joybrato Mukherjee. One of its central strategic objectives is to promote the German language and academic culture worldwide; in addition, the DAAD fosters multilingualism in general. For example scholarship holders from Germany who study or teach abroad are provided with additional grants for courses in the language of their host country. The DAAD’s Lecturers who teach German around the world are also supported in their efforts to expand their foreign language skills.

“Languages are an important tool not only in the international academic context. A person who speaks several languages also has access to different countries and cultures. This regional expertise and the intercultural competencies acquired in the process are key qualifications for one’s professional advancement,” says Professor Hebatallah Fathy, who heads the DAAD section German Studies, German Language and Lectureship Programme. A number of programmes for students from Germany make funding specifically available for foreign language acquisition: the scholarships for students of Asian languages and the semester scholarships for Arabic in Jordan aimed at students of Arabic, Islamic or Oriental studies.

Attractive country with good prospects

Worldwide, more and more people interested in embarking on a course of study view Germany as an attractive country that offers good job prospects. According to a 2021 DAAD study in which more than 4,500 international students were surveyed, con­tinuous language learning is crucial to ensure success in higher education and to reduce dropout rates. The DAAD provides funding not only for German courses that prepare students in their home country for their degree course in Germany, but also for courses they can take while studying. “We are committed to wide-ranging support and integration of international students, and teaching German language skills plays a central role in this,” says DAAD President Mukherjee.

The DAAD-funded University Summer Courses and University Winter Courses offer international students the chance to improve their German while getting to know Germany at the same time. Students from 115 countries can take part in the four- to six-week intensive language courses during the semester breaks.

Motivation for a longer stay in Germany

Evans Musyoka from Kenya, who studies German, was one of the 1,700 or so participants in 2022. The summer course in Leipzig was his first time in Germany. “The best experience of my life,” he enthuses. “We were taught ­using highly effective didactic methods – involving music, games and videos. Now I feel much more confident when using German.”

Many participants find that their summer or winter course motivates them to seek to spend a longer period of time in Germany. Musyoka is also planning to apply for a DAAD master’s scholarship in Germany: “I would really like to discover more about German culture.”

Funding for a complete degree programme in Germany is also available to pupils who perform outstandingly well in their final exams at around 2,000 so-called PASCH schools abroad: these give particular priority to German and are members of the “Schools: Partners for the Future” (PASCH) initiative. Eleni Stratou went to a German-Greek school in Athens called Ellinogermaniki Agogi. In 2019, she began studying at the University of Music and The­atre Munich on a PASCH scholarship. When she graduates later this year, Eleni Stratou wants to apply to orchestras in Germany. “The degree course was even better than I had expected,” she says. “The teachers support us by giving us lots of opportunities to perform outside the university.”

“We are committed to wide-ranging support and integration of international students, and teaching German language skills plays a central role in this.”

Professor Joybrato Mukherjee, President of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD)

German university degree abroad

International students who are unable to pursue a degree course in Germany can nonetheless acquire a German university degree abroad thanks to Transnational Education (TNB) study programmes. The spectrum offered by the 330 or so DAAD-funded TNB projects in Asia, North Africa and Eastern Europe ranges from additional qualifications and individual degree courses to binational faculties and universities. German plays a particularly im­portant role at two binational universities: most courses at the Turkish-German University (TDU) in Istanbul are taught in German, while comprehensive German lessons are compulsory for all students at the German-Jordanian University (GJU) in Amman, making the GJU’s German department the biggest outside Germany.

The DAAD supports German studies institutes around the world, helping them adapt their curricula to the abilities and needs of their students. In September 2023, the programme German Language, Literature and Culture: Institutional Partnerships Worldwide (GIP worldwide) will be celebrating its 30th anniversary. In total, there are currently 27 GIP at 19 German universities working with partners all over the globe. “The German side also benefits from the collaboration, and not only from a professional viewpoint,” says Dr Georg Krawietz, Head of the DAAD section Project Funding for German Language and Research Mobility: “The exchange en­ables students, doctoral candidates and lecturers on both sides to gain international experience and take a fresh look at their research subject.”

It is not only within the framework of GIP worldwide that German as a foreign language has grown in importance in recent years – it is also thanks to Germany’s greater interest in recruiting qualified professionals from abroad. However, German studies courses in many countries are only prepared for this development to a limited extent. The DAAD is therefore deploying more of its Lecturers to teach German and train German teachers abroad. Furthermore, for a programme entitled Dhoch3, ten online study modules were jointly developed with German universities – all state-of-the-art in didactic terms, they have been used in the academic training of German teachers worldwide since 2018.

In the summer of 2023, a Dhoch3 summer school for international teachers and researchers in the field of German as a foreign language will take place for the first time. The goal is to establish a network so that more German teachers and learners around the world can profit from the activities on offer. ―