In studying foreign languages, students acquire not only a linguistic skill but also an understanding of other peoples' literatures, histories, and cultures. They gain a new perspective from which to view their own country, way of life, and language. Knowledge of a second language is an important facet of the liberal arts program. Proficiency in a second language at the 201 level is a graduation requirement.
German courses at all levels emphasize speaking, reading, writing, and listening while addressing topics related to German culture. The disciplinary basis for the program, German Studies, draws on literature, history, gender studies, popular culture, music, architecture, and film (among other things) to aid students in the development of a critical understanding of the German-speaking world and their own. The German Studies curriculum uses a genre- and literacy-based approach to foreign language learning that is dedicated to integrating linguistic knowledge, cultural learning and textual analysis throughout the four-year major curriculum, top to bottom. For example, through genre-focused courses such as those on film and contemporary German culture, the German program recognizes the importance of new media in the 20th and 21st centuries and how these media have reshaped the nature of German culture. Other advanced courses take a wider historical view, examining the changing nature of German culture through the lens of a particular genre (such as drama) or theme (such as questions of German-Jewish identity).
Most Kalamazoo College students participate in the study abroad program; for students interested in German, there are opportunities in Erlangen and Bonn. Course work and off-campus experiences are complemented by on-campus opportunities that maintain or improve a student's language skills, including conversation groups led by native speaking teaching assistants, a German club at a local elementary school, and a quarterly film series.
Faculty members meet students inside and outside the classroom, participate in campus activities, and counsel students regarding career choices in foreign service, education, publishing, international business, and other fields. A number of German majors, as well as students in the German program, have been able to participate in Career and Professional Development internships with German companies, both in the United States and in Europe.
As part of the study abroad program at Kalamazoo College, scholarships for one year of further study at the German universities of Bonn and Erlangen are available to qualified graduates of the College. Kalamazoo students have often succeeded in obtaining Fulbright fellowships and other support for further study in Germany. Competition for these scholarships is not limited to German majors.