The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

German major to end at UWEC

Languages program hopes to continue to provide students with culture and language-related opportunities
Photo by Maddie Kasper
The UW-Eau Claire languages department offers classes in Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Ojibwe language and Spanish.

The languages department at UW-Eau Claire has made what looks to be a permanent decision to end the German major. Students interested in the program will still be able to get either a minor or a certificate in German. 

Carter Smith, professor of Spanish and languages department chair, said the decision to end the availability of the major stems from the low number of students who annually declare German as their major. 

We just didn’t have enough students declaring the major to continue to offer the necessary courses,” Smith said. “We continue to have a German minor [and certificate], but it is very unlikely that the major will be reinstated.”

Smith, whose focus is mainly on Latin American and Latinx studies, said that with shrinking German programs in middle school and high school levels of education, it is unclear whether or not it would be possible for the major to start back up again in the future.

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“I really don’t know how many students it would take to bring the major back,” Smith said. “Middle school and high school programs in the language in the Midwest are shrinking or closing so it is unlikely we will see numbers increase here.”

Though the German major is ending, the program still holds the intention of, as the UW-Eau Claire website puts it, rooting teachings in “German history, culture and language” and providing students with the opportunity to enhance cultural competence and language skills. 

The program will also continue to offer students the opportunity to enroll in the cultural immersion program, join Der Deutsche Verein (German Club), participate in international internships and study abroad. 

The end of the major, luckily, will not pose any issues for students who are currently declared as German majors, as the small group of them that remains is set to graduate at the end of the semester.

Anna George, a fifth-year German education and social studies student, is one of the students graduating at the end of the semester. George, who intended initially to become a social studies teacher after attending college, said she was inspired to go the German route.

“I did not always know I was going to study German. When I was in high school, I planned to be a social studies teacher,” George said. “My high school German teacher is the one who really inspired me to study German as well. I really liked her, and she made me more interested in the language and teaching it to others.”

George said that as someone who intends to become a German teacher, it’s sad to see a program she cares so much for shrinking.

“Seeing German programs dry up is saddening for me, as German has allowed me to experience new cultures and engage with experiences and viewpoints that I never would have been exposed to without it, and I want others to be able to access that,” George said.

Smith said that in a time when the availability of the German language is shrinking, he hopes people recognize the need for language programs in educational institutions and recognize their importance.

“Languages matter because as people, goods, and ideas flow across regional and national boundaries, the need for adaptable communication, collaboration, and innovation increases,” Smith said. “Languages also work to foster good citizenship and inclusivity in linguistically diverse communities.”

Braun can be reached at [email protected]

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