Germanic Languages

In line with the University’s guidance, the Department of Germanic Languages is open but operating remotely. For general questions, you may contact the administrative staff via email at [email protected].   For updates related to COVID-19 and Columbia, please visit

Major, Concentrate, or Minor in German! Take a tour of our program here.

Explore our German Graduate Program and the focus in Yiddish Studies.


German Placement & Proficiency Exams

General Information

If you have had any prior instruction in German prior to coming to Columbia/Barnard, you are required to take our placement exam. The placement exam will help us in placing you at the level of German that best reflects your ability. To provide a safe testing environment and more flexibility in taking the exam, we have moved our exam online onto a designated Canvas site.

For more information on the foreign language requirements, please visit:



Next scheduled Online Placement Exam dates in the Spring 2021: All placement exams will be administered by individual appointment. For appointments, please contact:

Columbia: Jutta Schmiers-Heller ([email protected])

Barnard: Irene Motyl-Mudretzkyj ([email protected])


Registration Information:

  1. You register for the exam via email. Please email Jutta Schmiers-Heller ([email protected]) for Columbia and Irene Motyl-Mudretzkyj ([email protected]) for Barnard to indicate that you want to take the placement exam.
  2. You will then be added to the Canvas site and receive an invitation to the site that will allow you to take the test.
  3. Please accept the invitation at least 24 hours before you plan on taking the test. Contact us immediately if you cannot access the site.


Information on the Online German Placement Exam

  1. The test will be available as a Quiz on the Canvas site at a time and date that will work for you. The information on the homepage of the site will guide you to the exam.
  2. Please make sure to sign your name to the honor pledge. The exam setup will prompt you to do so.
  3. While you have a window of a few days during which you can take the exam, once you start the exam, you will have 90 minutes to complete it. So please keep that in mind as you complete the different parts. (see below: General Test Information)
  4. Please follow the instructions provided in the test and note that the use of external resources (such as dictionaries) is not permitted, as the goal is to establish your level of German.
  5. The exam should be taken on a tablet or computer using Firefox or Chrome. (Cell phone did not work for listening portion.)
  6. Once you have completed the online portion and it has been evaluated, you will be contacted to schedule a final online Zoom interview to complete the exam. 


General Test Information

Overall the test has 5 sections, divided into two parts:
1. Listening Comprehension

2. Vocabulary (everyday words and verb forms)

3. Reading Comprehension

4. Free writing

5. Speaking


Part I: Online Exam:

Sections 1-4 will be completed in an online exam on our Canvas site and. Items 1-3 consist of 62 multiple-choice items. For the writing portion you can choose one of three prompts.

Part II: Personal Interview

Section 5 will be completed through a personal interview with one of our instructors. The interview will take about 15 minutes and will occur after the completion of part I. For the moment, all personal interviews will occur via Zoom. Once you have completed part I and it has been evaluated, you will be contacted by departmental representatives to set up the personal Zoom interview.

Next scheduled Proficiency Exam dates: Friday, January 22, Wednesday, March 10, Thursday April 22 (see below for times)

General Information

•    For the time being all proficiency exams will occur online.

•    The exam is two hours long.

•    The Reading Proficiency Exam in German consists of the successful translation of one original German text of 300-350 words. You may request a sample exam.

•    Dictionaries (including online dictionaries like may be used.

•    You may not use online translators for whole phrases.

•    You will be able to choose one of two texts.

•    Translations should remain close to the original text, but should be in reasonably fluent English.


Two ways to complete the exam

•    Passing the Proficiency Exam after being enrolled in the second course of the German for Reading Knowledge I and II sequence or its intensive summer course equivalent.

•    Registering for the Reading Proficiency Exam without taking a Reading Knowledge course. You should register with Silja Weber ([email protected]) via email. In that case, you will take the exam on a predetermined date; at the moment these exams are administered online. See below for procedure. Please register at least 2 business days before the test date.


Taking the exam online:

You will be sent an invitation to a Canvas course site that allows you to take the test.

•    Please accept the invitation and make sure you can access the site at least 24 hours before the test date. Contact Silja Weber ([email protected]) immediately if you cannot access the site.

•    The test will be available as a Quiz on that site at the time and date of the test. The information on the homepage of the site will guide you to the exam. You can take the test at any time after 9 am on the day the regular proficiency exam is scheduled and it will be accessible for 24 hours.  Your two-hour time slot will start when you open the exam.

•    Please make sure to sign your name to the honor pledge and to list any advisors or administrators who need to be informed if you pass the exam. The exam setup will prompt you to do both.


For any related questions, please email Silja Weber at [email protected]

AY 2020 - 2021 Course Schedule

As announced by the President of Columbia University in April 2020, the 2020-2021 academic year will be comprised of three semesters:  Fall 2020, Spring 2021, and Summer 2021. The Department of Germanic Languages will therefore offer courses for undergraduate students (and, in some cases, for graduate students) in each of these terms.

This page provides an overview of our course offerings for all three terms, to help students as they make decisions and plans for the academic year ahead. Please note that this schedule may be subject to change, and students are encouraged not only to revisit this page but also to confirm the course listings in the online Directory of Courses and Vergil, where course descriptions and class meeting times are updated regularly. 

Please contact the following people with questions about the courses listed or with questions about undergraduate or graduate programs of study:

Fall 2020 Course Schedule
Spring 2021 schedule
Summer 20201 Course Schedule


Fall 2020

Professor Annie Pfeifer’s course, “Grimm’s Fairy Tales: Power, Gender, and Narrative,” featured in Columbia News Article, “Professors Embrace New Technology to Adapt to Online Instruction.”

Summer 2020

Congratulations to Xan Holt, Ph.D. '20! He has just accepted a full-time lecturer position at Iowa State University. 

Congratulations to Tomasz Kurianowicz, Ph.D. '20!  He has been offered the co-directorship of the Feuilleton of Berliner Zeitung, starting July 1, and with a particular  emphasis on "Society and Debate"/humanities topics.


Fall 2019

The department is excited to welcome Annie Pfeifer to the faculty! Meet our new professor.

Christoph Schaub has joined the German Literature and Cultural Studies Department at the University of Vechta, Germany, as Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter. 

Sophie Salvo has joined the German department at the University of Chicago as Assistant Professor. Congratulations, Sophie! 

Michael Swellander, a Ph.D. from 2018, is now a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of German at the University of Iowa.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has reviewed Stefan Andriopoulos’s new book Gespenster, describing its readings of Kant, Hegel, Schiller, and Schopenhauer as "persuasive, precise, and elegant."

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