College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities


The German Program at Clemson University

The German program at Clemson University seeks to provide students with a broad understanding in the humanities as well as in the economic and technical aspects of German-speaking countries. Thus preparing them for a variety of careers and graduate school opportunities in different increasingly global work and research environments. Students have the opportunity to acquire and advance German language skills and immerse themselves in the culture of the German-speaking countries through the study of literature, history, the cultural and economic regions and centers as well as their connections to Europe, the US, and the rest of the world.

The German program provides four semesters of rigorous language instruction that includes introductory studies into the various German-speaking cultures. By the end of the language sequence the successful student will be proficient in the German language for everyday conversations, for understanding basic academic topics, to converse in German in a variety of personal and professional contexts, and be able to get around in any of the German-speaking countries.

During the 3rd and the 4th year, students of German will be able to apply their language skills to various content areas, including professional, business and cultural topics as well as literature and film. German classes are taught in German, as are all texts, materials, and presentations. Students are encouraged to speak German at all times in class, and there are numerous opportunities to practice and apply their knowledge outside of the classroom.

The Language and International Trade major with a concentration in German offers students an introduction to the business world and culture of Germany to provide them with the necessary skills necessary for a successful career in a global setting. Emphasis is on knowledge in basic economics and marketing, the German business language and culture, as well as a sound humanities foundation.

Majors in Modern Languages with a concentration in German focus on the history, culture, philosophy, and literature of the German-speaking countries. Besides an awareness and appreciation, students learn to evaluate information, ideas, and abstract concepts, present on and discuss topics relevant to Germany, Austria, and Switzerland today, and enhance their ability to establish, understand, and critically consider connections of various texts and cultural phenomena. The program prepares students for a variety of careers including work for non-profit organizations, national and international governments and diplomatic agencies, the education sector, but also for graduate work in the humanities, law, and education.

The German section at Clemson University offers events and activities throughout the semester and even during summer sessions, supported by the German Club and the German professional Society. Students have the opportunity to engage with Germans and connect with business professionals from the region, visit international companies, discuss films, experience lectures and presentations on cultural subjects, and enjoy different aspects of culture from German-speaking countries as they are celebrated here in the South-East and the US.

German Web Site and Organizations

The German Language

German is the most-widely spoken first language in Europe. In addition to Germany, the most-populated country in Europe, the German language is also the native language of Austria, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. There are several European countries with significant German-speaking populations (e.g. Italy with 310,000 Speakers); as a result 7 countries recognize German as a minority language. Moreover, about 55 Million other Europeans use German as a second language.

German is considered an inter-continental language, meaning it is a valuable language for conducting business in Europe or with European companies and organizations.

German ranks among the top 10 most “influential” world languages (depending on estimates and definition). A total of about 230 million people in the world use German as their first or second language. There are about 2.4 billion primary language-speakers in the Indo-European language family, to which both German and English belong, the most in the world. German world-wide has been on the rise for at least 500 years, except for the period from 1910 and 1980, with significant declines after WWI and WWII.

The country with the highest number of German speakers outside of Europe is Namibia (a former German colony). There are approximately 1.85 million speakers of German in the United States.

Contributions to the Sciences

For most of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, German was the most influential language in the world, with over 200 German scientists contributing significant discoveries and inventions to all areas of the sciences, especially in chemistry, in physics, and in engineering. Inventions range from toothpaste (Ottomar von Mayenburg) to the refrigerator (Carl Paul Gottfried von Linde). Some of the most important discoveries in the last 200 years have been published by Germans, most notably Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity (as well as General Relativity). Otto Hahn, with the help of Lise Meisner, is regarded as the “father of nuclear chemistry” and Max Planck is generally accepted as the founder of quantum physics. The Swiss physician and biologist Friedrich Meischner is credited with having paved the way to the identification of DNA as the carrier of inheritance. Advances in health care and medicine are likewise impressive, whether it be Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen’s x-rays, Paul Ehrlich’s antibiotics, or Robert Koch’s Aspirin—modern medicine would look very different without them.

Economy and Business of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland

Germany remains the largest economy in Europe and the fourth largest in the world, and it is ranked the number one (or two depending on the time period considered) export country in the world.

At the moment, Germany is the leading producer and developer of green technology and alternative energies. The country is also on the forefront of reducing greenhouse emissions. Some of the most important trade shows are held annually in Germany, most notably the CeBIT on the Messegelände Hannover, the world’s largest fairground. Some of the world’s largest companies are headquartered in Germany; among them are Volkswagen, Allianz, Daimler, Siemens, BASF, and BMW. Along with the latter three, other large German companies have operations in South Carolina and the Upstate: Robert Bosch, ThyssenKrupp, Bayer, Aldi, and Adidas.

The Frankfurt Stock Exchange is Germany’s largest, the second largest in Europe behind London and ranks between number 10 and 12 in the world. Frankfurt is also Europe’s main trade and transportation center.

Besides Frankfurt, there are four additional key economic centers: the Ruhr Area between Bonn and Dortmund (traditionally strong in heavy industries), the economies of the two southern states, Bayern and Baden-Württemberg (with important sectors in automobiles, electronics, machine building industries, and medicine), and Hamburg as the second-busiest port in Europe and the 11th largest in the world with almost 10 million containers handled (in 2008). Dresden in the east of Germany has become one of the most innovative technology centers. Germany’s industrial and business centers are connected by dense and modern transportation networks with its famous Autobahn-network, high-speed train network, and several large airports. Advanced communication technologies and modern energy networks provide the necessary infrastructure for continuous support and growth for Germany’s economy.

Austria’s economy ranks number 10 in the world with a unique tourism sector, accounting for almost 9% of GDP (compared to under 1% for Germany). There are almost 70,000 businesses in tourism with over 124 million overnight stays (numbers for 2005 and 2009 respectively). On average over 80 million international visitors travel to Austria. Besides the larger cities like Vienna, Salzburg and Innsbruck, the many skiing, hiking, and mountaineering resorts are of great touristic importance both in the winter and the summer. While the service sector is strong in Austria, industry accounts for over 65% of the Austrian GDP. Germany is Austria’s largest trading partner. Important Austrian companies are Dopplemayr (aerial railways), OMV (mineral oils), Red Bull (energy drinks), Wienerberger (the world’s most important producer of clay brinks), and Schoeller-Bleckmann Stahlwerke (leading supplier for the world’s oilfields).

The economy of Switzerland is considered the world’s most stable; it ranks number 19 in the world (GDP) and number 4 (GDP per capita). The finance sector in particular drives the Swiss economy; its long-term political and monetary stability is most trusted and considered exceptionally discrete in the world. Low interest rates, an independent currency, and very few limitations for trade and financial transactions are famous. Swiss neutrality and national sovereignty have been long recognized by other nations and global industries. At the same time, Switzerland is not a member of the European Union and presents a unique economic alternative to the leading members of the EU. Over the years, the Swiss have achieved one of the highest per capita incomes in the world with low unemployment rates and a balanced budget. Besides the service sector, the industrial and agricultural sectors play an important role. The alpine nation is also famous for its cheese and chocolate products. Likewise, tourism is important, especially in the high mountain areas, and accounts for 3.6% of the GDP (2006). Zurich’s international airport serves as a hub for Swiss Air, while major railways connect Switzerland’s larger cities with the rest of the continent. The Gotthard tunnels play an important role for transportation to and across Switzerland.

Contributions to the Arts and Humanities

The cultural heritage in German-speaking countries is world famous and has been extremely influential across many diverse areas, including theology, the plastics arts, architecture, music, literature, film, and philosophy.

In music and philosophy, in particular, a majority of those composers and thinkers who have had a monumental impact across the entire western world came from Germany or Austria. Johann Sebastian Bach, universally regarded as the greatest composer of all time, marks only the beginning of a line of musical geniuses that runs through Handel to the first Viennese school of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, on to Franz Schubert and Richard Wagner in the nineteenth century, to the radical modernists of the Second Viennese school (Schönberg, Berg, Webern), and up to post-war experimentalists such as Karlheinz Stockhausen. In philosophy the list of names is no less illustrious. After Leibniz, modern philosophy was changed forever by the German Idealists (Kant, Schelling, Hegel), against whom the three greatest nineteenth-century philosophers directed much of their thought: Schopenhauer, Marx, Nietzsche. The twentieth century, too, and much of contemporary philosophy, unfolds under the shadow of two other great thinkers: Austria’s Ludwig Wittgenstein and Germany’s Martin Heidegger.

The literature of German-speaking countries is also rich and varied, and has been widely influential in the development of various modern literary movements. Goethe and Schiller may be household names, but it should not be forgotten that it was in Germany that Romanticism (as a literary and philosophical movement) first began. In the twentieth century, two figures stand out above all others: Franz Kafka and Bertolt Brecht. Each of these writers has left an indelible mark on the shape of literature in the last century that can still be felt today. There have also been thirteen Nobel laureates who wrote in German, including, most famously Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, Nelly Sachs, Heinrich Böll, Günter Grass, and Elfriede Jelinek. Two of these laureates were from Switzerland, a country whose literary tradition also stands strong next to Germany and Austria. Additionally, Zurich was the center of the international avant-garde (Dada) during the first World War; and the country was the home to many German writers who left their country during the reign of the Nazi regime.

Other famous and important names worth mentioning:

  • Otto von Guericke (vacuum)
  • Carl Friedrich Gauss (Mathematics, Physics, Astronomy)
  • Bernhard Riemann (non-Euclidean Geometry)
  • Max Weber (telegraph, with gauss)
  • David Hilbert (Mathematics)
  • Emmy Noether (Mathematics)
  • Felix Klein (Mathematics)
  • Friedrich Bessel (Mathematics)
  • Hermann Grassmann (Mathematics)
  • Nicolaus Copernicus (Heliocentric)
  • Johannes Kepler (planetary orbits)
  • Gottfried Leibniz (co-inventor of calculus)
  • Max Born (Quantum Mechanics)
  • Werner Heisenberg (Quantum Mechanics)
  • Friedrich Hund (Quantum Mechanics)
  • Walter Heitler (Quantum Mechanics)
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Herschel (astronomer and composer)
  • Hans Bethe (Quantum Mechanics, energy production in stars)
  • Justus von Liebig (Chemistry)
  • Gustav Kirchoff (Quantum Mechanics)
  • Arnold Sommerfeld (Quantum Mechanics)
  • Heinrich Hertz (electro magnetic waves)
  • Joseph von Fraunhofer (Spectrograph)
  • Ludwig Boltzmann (statistical mechanics, thermodynamics)
  • Erwin Schroedinger (Quantum Mechanics)
  • Robert Bunsen of burner fame
  • Carl Zeiss (optical instruments)
  • Hermann Oberth (one of the pioneers of rocket science)
  • Wernher von Braun (rocket scientist)
  • Konrad Zuse (invention of the computer)
  • Alexander von Humboldt (naturalist and explorer)
  • Hrosvit of Gandersheim (canoness, Latin language poet, and pioneer dramatist)
  • Walter von der Vogelweide (poet)
  • Wolfram von Eschenbach (knight, poet)
  • Ludwig van Beethoven (composer)
  • Gottfried August Bürger (poet)
  • Albrecht Dürer (printmaker and painter)
  • Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff (poet)
  • Frederick II of Prussia – Frederick the Great (king, philosopher)
  • Georg Friedrich Händel (composer)
  • Joseph Haydn (composer)
  • Johann Gottfried Herder (poet, critic, historian)
  • Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (father of gymnastics)
  • Immanuel Kant (philosopher)
  • Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock (poet)
  • Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (poet)
  • Justus Möser (historian)
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (composer)
  • Nicholas of Flue (hermit, ascetic and mystic)
  • Jean Paul (writer)
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling (philosopher)
  • Friedrich von Schiller (poet and playwright)
  • Adalbert Stifter (author)
  • Thomas, Klaus and Heinrich Mann (authors)
  • Christoph Martin Wieland (poet)
  • Johann Joachim Winckelmann (archeologist, historian and art writer)
  • Martin Luther (translator of the Bible into German)
  • Johannes Gutenberg (printer)
  • Richard Wagner (composer)
  • Johann Sebastian Bach (composer)
  • Franz Peter Schubert (composer)
  • Richard Strauss (composer)
  • Carl Maria von Weber (composer)
  • Johannes Brahms (composer)
  • Heinrich Heine (poet)
  • Sophie and Hans Scholl (German resistance)
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Pastor, German resistance)
  • Ernst von Weizsäcker (politician)