The first meeting of the "German Language" Main Educational Bachelor Programme Council was held at the St Petersburg University. It is composed of employees of diplomatic institutions and non-profit organisations such as the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Russia, the German Consulate General in St Petersburg, DAAD, the Goethe-Institut as well as representatives of major German companies and partner universities.
Jan Kantorchik, Head of the Culture Department at the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Russia, opened the meeting by greeting its participants on behalf of Rüdiger von Fritsch, German Ambassador to Russia. Mr Kantorchik said he was a graduate of the SPbU Master Programme "Asian and African Studies".
The speaker also noted that the Embassy and the German Consulate General highly appreciated the level of SPbU training in Germanic studies. According to him, learning German in Russia and Russian in Germany is the foundation for relations between our states, therefore the Embassy provides all-round support to German studies in Russia and is ready to contribute thereto further on.
This place is so familiar to me, and I am happy to be here again.
Jan Kantorchik, Head of the Culture Department at the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Russia
Elena Menshchikova, Deputy Director of the SPbU Educational Programmes Office, also addressed the audience at the opening meeting. She expressed her gratitude to those present for their eagerness to contribute to the development of education at the first university of Russia.
Beate Kolberg, Chairperson of the Council, Head of the DAAD Information Centre in St Petersburg, thanked the University for the opportunity to chair the board of experts who will be engaged in the improvement of the educational programme.
"DAAD and the University have long been connected by strong ties both in the field of student exchanges and in the field of scientific research. The Centre for German and European Studies is one of our joint projects," said Ms Kolberg.
We also support the strategic partnership between St Petersburg University and the Free University of Berlin. In addition, for many years DAAD has been providing scholarships for both students and junior research workers.
Beate Kolberg, Head of the Information Centre of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) in St Petersburg
Beate Kolberg highlighted the German party's interest in promoting both the development of Germanic studies and the teaching of German at non-major programmes. Speaking of the agenda of the meeting, the Chairperson of the Council outlined the issues of competencies acquired by students at SPbU, qualifications of the teaching staff and the prospects for graduate employment.
German is taught at SPbU in two main forms: as a major and as a second foreign language. Each of them was discussed by the representatives of two academic departments: the Department of German Philology and the Department of German Language.
Thus, Professor Sergey Nefedov, Head of the Department of German Philology, demonstrated the statistics of teaching German as a major, reported on the current trends in this field and outlined the key problems. As Professor Nefedov noted, SPbU trains two kinds of specialists in German, namely linguists and translators. The total of about 60 people are enrolled on this programme. Learning German is a major part of the curriculum: at most courses the language of instruction is German. According to Professor Nefedov, more courses in German (in the field of area studies, linguistics and so on) are planned to be introduced in the future.
Sergei Nefedov added that a three-stage system of language teaching is implemented for bachelor students. The initial stage lasting the entire first academic year is an intensive course of German in the form of comprehensive classes aimed at teaching phonetics, grammar and vocabulary. At the same time the main objective of the first year is the A2 level of German achieved by all students at the end of the academic year, regardless of whether the student has been learning German at school or not. The main stage lasts the next four semesters and is a complex of practical, special theoretical and general linguistic subjects, many of them being taught in Russian. The final stage lasting one year includes graduation paper completion and preparation to two language tests: an examination in the main field of study and an independent language level test at the Goethe-Institut. Professor Nefedov highlighted that the latter was not mandatory, yet over the previous eight years almost all graduates had been passing that test, which is an absolutely independent examination capable of the most fair evaluation of the language proficiency level. The statistics has it that more than one hundred graduation year students have passed it successfully, three students have failed it, and only two persons refused to take the test.
Associate Professor Elena Bessmeltseva spoke about teaching German at the Graduate School of Management of St Petersburg University. According to Elena Stanislavovna, teaching foreign languages to managers corresponds to the international three language system (the native language, English and a second foreign language). The graduate must be able to speak German at the level of business communication and to communicate freely on professional topics. Upon completion of training GSOM students also take an independent CEMS examination for the B1 or B2 levels.
German as a second foreign language is in great demand among students of management and more than half of our students choose it as their second foreign language.
Elena Bessmeltseva, SPbU Associate Professor
SPbU Associate Professor Mikhail Koryshev, Deputy Chairperson of the Council, spoke on the professionally oriented German taught to students of other fields of study According to him, the structure and tasks of teaching German depend on the particular field of study, yet in general they can be divided into three groups: the language of business and everyday communication, the language as a means of scientific communication and the language of the particular specialty. Mikhail Vitalyevich confirmed what the previous speaker has said and noted the growing interest in the German language among students of non-philological specialties, that, in turn, leading to an increase in the number of teachers. Together, this leads to a number of challenges. First, the University starts attracting German partners to staff the educational process and sending lecturers to professional development courses and scientific internships. Second, the problem arises of finding special literature in particular subjects and German-language materials to study at seminars. Mikhail Koryshev said that to date St Petersburg University had about two dozen partners among the German universities and interacted with them constantly.
Graduate employability was also actively discussed. Sergey Nefedov presented the statistics collected by the staff of his academic department during the recent 30 years. It shows that almost half of the graduates work as school teachers and university lecturers, a one-fifth of them are translators and interpreters, another one-fifth are managers and specialists in the service sector and various industries. About 8% of former students became journalists, editors or publishers, a small number of graduates work in the tourist industry (as tour guides, for example). Practical training is an important part of the "German Language" programme, and the students have to pass a lot of practicums and internships, from philological and teaching practice to translation practicum and job placements.
Stanislav Shavelsky, Director, Telecom Division of T-Systems (the major employer among German companies in St Petersburg) noted that German proficiency greatly increases the chances of a job applicant in their company: over 60% of T-Systems employees are fluent in German. He noted that the IT company was ready to hire both Germanists and graduates of other programmes having an idea of software and motivation to work in the field of information technology. The employer organises internships for such employees for the sake of their professional development. And employees who do not speak German are invited to study at St Petersburg University.
Stanislav Shavelsky also expressed the idea to organise a series of presentations and seminars delivered by employers from Germany for Russian students within the framework of the upcoming German Week in St Petersburg. His idea was supported Chairperson Beata Kolberg and other Council members.
The following persons also took part in the discussion: Consul Pietro Merlo, Head of the Department of Culture, Press and Communications at the German Consulate General in St. Petersburg; Dr. Günter Hasenkamp, Director of the Goethe-Institut; Natalya Boykova, Educational Project Coordinator of the Goethe-Institut; Marina Vollstedt, Head of the Internship Department of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Helmut Schmidt University; and Lyubov Grigorieva, SPbU Associate Professor. Almut Hille, Professor at the Free University of Berlin, took part in the work of the Council through video conferencing.
The Council members formulated the most relevant issues to be discussed at the next meeting and made a decision to speak about the development of the system of professional practices for students, methods of increasing their interest in learning German and improving the educational programme. In addition, a proposal was made to conduct a survey among the graduates of the programme devoted their careers and their desire to be enrolled on new master programmes. The results of this research will outline the vector of the Council's further work.