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Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


Prospective Applicants

If you have no German or only GCSE German

You can start German at Cambridge with only GCSE or no prior knowledge of German at all, as an 'ab initio' student. More information on our ab initio courses (papers)

If you have A-Level German (or equivalent)

You will follow a course of language classes and lectures on the literature and culture of German-speaking countries. Full details


Why learn German?

Germany has the third largest economy in the world and is the world's most successful exporting nation.

It remains a crucial partner for the UK in both trade and research. Bilateral relationships between the UK and Germany are strong. See here and here for more details. 

German is spoken by over 100 million people in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, making it the most widely spoken native language in the European Union.

It is true that many German speakers have excellent English, but it strengthens our position and influence significantly – in trade, politics, diplomacy, personal relationships, or whatever it is that we are trying to achieve – if we can match that skill.


“Learning other languages can allow you to adopt a new perspective in your own life and to express emotions which are inexpressible in English. I have found German to be one of the best languages for offering new perspectives to my life.” (Zoe, first-year student)


PLUS – German culture is fascinating, it is important, and learning about it is fun!

Click here for more information.



“I found it really interesting that you could feel the history in the streets in Germany in a way you can't in the UK, it was impossible to go anywhere without coming across memorials or works of art to remember the past.” (Katrina, first-year student)


What careers are open to me after a degree in German?

In brief – a huge range!

Just some of the major employers who hire Cambridge languages graduates every year are: Bloomberg, Chatham House, BBC, Deloitte, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, McKinsey, and more.

 Among the most popular destinations for graduates with German are: law, accountancy, journalism, finance, management consultancy, the civil service, the diplomatic service, marketing, teaching, translating… but this is not an exhaustive list! Degrees with languages open doors in all sectors – public, private and charitable. As a graduate with German, you will have a skillset that is highly sought after by employers.

“One of our largest markets is Germany, where Bloomberg has a significant data and product footprint. […]  Our expertise in the market and our employees’ abilities to engage with clients in their native language is of critical importance.” (Bloomberg – for more details, click here.) 

See here for more details about employability.


Is German harder than other languages?

Not really! German shares a lot with English which makes it easy to build up a good vocabulary, and a regular spelling system means that pronunciation is very predictable.  Learning grammar rules needs some attention to detail, but the principles are systematic and similar to other European languages. Click here to read more.

Of course, learning any foreign language has its challenges, and at Cambridge there is lots of support. Students have dedicated ‘Use of German’ grammar classes to help them practise, and there is consistent attention to how the language works through translation exercises, too. We are not expecting people to arrive at Cambridge with perfect grammar or a perfect accent. The point of the degree is for students to immerse themselves in the language and to refine their command of it over time.


“Wielding the language at full force just feels cool, and the more you get a feel for the structure, the more natural the at-first daunting syntax becomes.” (Joey, fourth-year student)



How does German at Cambridge work?

German can be studied from scratch (‘ab initio’, option A), or post A-Level (option B). Students can choose to spend part of all of their year abroad in a German-speaking country.

Students have language classes (writing, speaking and translating) and take ‘scheduled papers’ (i.e. papers on topics in German culture, history or linguistics). In the first year, all students take the same scheduled paper (GEA3 for ab initio, GE1 for post A-Level); this is an introduction to a broad range of topics, including film, history, literature, linguistics and philosophy. From the second year, people choose their scheduled papers.

Click here for more information on Option A, here for more on Option B, and here for an overview of the full course.


“At Cambridge, German is a way into studying a really broad range of stuff. I've studied migration and the far right, cinema, modern and medieval literature, LOTS of politics, and even more history - all as a result of studying German.” (Ella, fourth-year student)


Where can I spend my year abroad, and what can I do?

Students focussing on German can spend their year abroad in any German-speaking country, and they can opt to work or study. It is a great opportunity to gain work experience, to travel and to make new friends. Many students describe it as the chance of a lifetime. Some spend the whole year in one place, while others split the year between two cities, or even two countries.

Click here for a brief video about the year abroad.

Some recent destinations and activities for Cambridge students include studying at universities including Berlin (Free and Humboldt Universities), Leipzig, Göttingen, Tübingen and Vienna.

Work placements with translation agencies (e.g. Cinescript Translations, Berlin, and Translingua Kern AG, Graz), law firms (e.g. Zimmermann & Partner Patentanwälte mbB, Munich, ,and Herbert Smith Freehills LLP, Frankfurt) and other organisations (e.g. Generali Versicherung AG, Vienna, an insurance firm, and Starboxx, Berlin, a model and talent agency. British Council teaching assistantships throughout Germany and Austria.


“I did my year abroad in Austria, and had an absolutely fantastic time, from the basics – affordable rents, the Klimaticket, a decent job, and affordable cost of living – to some of the more amazing stuff: sipping punch on the top of a mountain in Salzburg, or waltzing at a ball in Vienna.” (Saul, fourth-year student)

            Click here for more testimonials:


What makes German at Cambridge unique?


  • Track record: since 2015 Cambridge has been ranked #1 for German in the annual Good University Guide.


  • Range: the range of research expertise in the German Section at Cambridge makes it unique in the UK, and this is reflected in our teaching. In your first year, you will have the opportunity to study topics in literature (modern and medieval), film, philosophy, linguistics and history. As you progress through the course, you can choose where to specialise, and follow those areas that most excite you.


  • Flexibility: you can keep your interests broad or go deep into a particular time period or area of study; after your year abroad, you can continue to combine German with another language, or focus solely on German. The course is designed so that you can tailor it to your interests.


  • Teaching: the variety of teaching methods is stimulating. Cambridge is known for its system of supervisions – that is, teaching done in small groups (often 2-3). Supervisions enable students to discuss topics with an academic and to receive personalised feedback on their work. They are not as daunting as they seem! Click here for a brief video about supervisions. Students also attend lectures and language classes, which are a great opportunity to work with and get to know others.


“Having a senior academic take your opinions seriously and engage with them from day one is rewarding and motivating.” (Saul, fourth-year student)


I enjoyed GCSE German, but my school doesn’t offer A-Level. Can I still apply to study German at Cambridge?

YES! Our advice would be to apply for the course which starts from scratch, or ‘ab initio’. No prior experience of German is necessary for the ab initio course, but for someone has done GCSE, the first few weeks would be a good refresher. Students reach GCSE level by the end of their first term (October – December).


How does the application process work?

For information on both Modern and Medieval Languages and History and Modern Languages, click here