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Studying German at Cambridge Testimonials

Guten Tag! I’m Harri, a second year linguist studying French, German and Dutch. I’ve just completed my first year at Cambridge, here are my thoughts…

The German course at Cambridge is exciting, engaging and flexible – you certainly won’t tire of it! For me, the best thing about the course was its flexibility. Not keen on studying lots of literature? Fear not! German students have the opportunity to focus on history, thought and linguistics as well. Even within the literary side itself, there is enormous flexibility: freshers are offered the chance to delve into three different periods with two texts from each. For someone who is as indecisive as I am, this is perfect as I was able to gain insight into many different areas that I had perhaps not studied at school, before selecting the topics I wanted to focus on for the exam.

‘Students have to work endlessly on tricky grammar questions until their grammar is perfect’ was one of my (perhaps naïve) preconceptions of Cambridge. The thing is, this is absolutely not the case! Of course, you have to work hard, ensure your work is in on time and answer tricky grammar questions but Cambridge’s German department uses an interesting system, whereby students have supervisions in groups of two or three, in we can discuss any particular aspects that we find difficult and these are answered directly. On top of this, we have ‘Use of German’ classes made up of approximately ten students, which focus on German grammar in a fun, interactive way. Nobody expects you to be 100% perfect in your first year, but you are expected to improve. With the (extremely useful) help of the supervisors and teachers (as well as practising in your own time), this is almost guaranteed. Cambridge is sure to break any negative preconceptions you may have of it, so keep an open mind! Yes, there is a lot of work (grammar, reading, essays, comprehensions, lectures, supervisions…) and it can be difficult to juggle it all – it’s very different to anything I had ever experienced before - but there are so many people looking out for you if it becomes too overwhelming.

As mentioned above, I am rather indecisive and therefore have no set plans for the future. One thing I am certain of, however, is that I would like to split my year abroad and visit two countries: a German-speaking region and a French-speaking region. The obvious choices would of course be France and Germany, but I am deliberating over travelling further afield, to somewhere I have never been before to begin my third year adventure…


My tips for preparing for the course:

Before coming to Cambridge, I would recommend doing as much preparation as you possibly can by reading the primary texts first and then, if possible, reading some secondary sources too. (These can be found on the MML webpage). It may help to look at an English translation too, just to make sure you understand the gist of the text, but don’t forget to use it with the original German! This exercise can be quite useful for the translation part of the course as well. Language practice is also a must – you don’t necessarily have to go abroad for this (you could speak to a teacher, an exchange student, someone from your German class…), though travelling to a German-speaking region would be helpful as you’d be completely immersed and would arrive at Cambridge thinking in German!

Whether you are looking to apply to Cambridge, or are already going through the application process, remember to enjoy every moment, no matter how big the workload whilst applying and once you’re here – time passes so quickly! The German course leaves plenty of opportunity to do this!   Harri L.



My first year studying MML (French and German) has been brilliant. I came to Cambridge feeling very worried about the literature side of the course. I was really looking forward to the language work but having not done much writing since GCSE English literature (which I did not particularly enjoy), I was not at all convinced that studying literature would be something I would like, or be remotely good at. The best thing about my first year was that it was far more interesting than I could have hoped for, and that I loved even the side of it which I had been most sceptical about!

The language work lived up to my expectations- there was a lot of it, and it was hard work, but it was really good fun. The combination of supervisions and small classes; and the variety between translation, grammar and oral; meant that it was never boring, and that if something was particularly difficult, there was always someone willing to explain it.

For me, the best thing about the course was that it was so varied. Alongside the language work, there are chances to study thought, history, literature and linguistics. I was supervised on all of the set texts, which I would thoroughly recommend doing, because I gained a better idea of what I particularly enjoyed, which wasn't necessarily what I would have chosen without trying it first. For example, I was surprised to find that the literature (particularly the Goethe and Kleist) was one of my favourite parts of the course! The highlight of the course for me was learning about Imperial Germany in the history modules and looking at some of Nietzsche's work in the thought module. Whilst Nietzsche's language and ideas were very hard to understand at first, spending time thinking about his work was really rewarding, and a lot of fun to discuss in supervisions.

In preparation for the course, I would recommend getting to know the set texts. It makes life a lot easier as you probably won't have much time to do so when term gets underway! In terms of language work, going back over the grammar from A-level and reading widely to pick up vocabulary is definitely a good idea, but the classes make sure that everyone is at the same basic level, so don't worry too much if you haven't done so much grammar at school as others may have done. Katie W.




In both my second and fourth year I “borrowed” papers from the Linguistics Tripos and these focused on the English language, which made an interesting change from the foreign. You can also borrow papers from English, History and Classics, for example, - lots of options are available to MML students. In fact I think the best thing about the MML course is the flexibility, both between your two chosen languages and between different subject areas.

At the end of your degree it is very rewarding to look back and see how your language skills have developed over the four years - even though it won't always seem like you're making lots of headway during term! This is particularly the case after the third year spent abroad because you will become much more fluent by being immersed in the language. What I found best about the year abroad was the opportunity to try something different after two years of being a student. I spent my year in Germany as a British Council English Language Assistant in a primary school but you can find other work (or carry on studying at a university). It was a very different experience to lectures, essay deadlines etc. and lots of fun! Helena N.




"Studying German ab initio was certainly intensive, but ultimately extremely rewarding. My first and second years involved almost daily German classes and supervisions, as well as brief language courses in Heidelberg and Berlin, which allowed me to put what I’d learnt into practice. By the time I came back from my third year in Berlin, I had forgotten I had done German ab initio!" Myrto A.



First year beginners’ German:

Students have 4 hours per week, classes are taught by native speakers and cover all four skills. In classes, we cover a range of subjects related to the culture of German speaking countries. There are weekly classes on top of this to help build up vocabulary and speaking. After their 2nd term, students start reading German literature, and there are extra classes in the final term to help students understand, discuss and analyse the texts.


Second and final year beginners’ German:

Students join the first year post A level cohort. This may sound daunting, but we often find that the former ‘beginners’ can stand their own ground very well. In 2014, the best result in a language examination was achieved by a former beginners student! For a description, please see below. In the final year, former beginners join their original cohort. It is quite usual for former beginners to achieve first class results in their final examinations, both in their language and other papers.


Hassorte in Cambridge


Singen (und Vokabellernen) in Cambridge

Learners' Zone

Keyboard and Hands