Ramapo to Offer German Language Courses in Fall 2015

Photo by Nicole Williams

After about a year of planning, German language courses will be offered for study at Ramapo in the fall.

The decision was made after Sam Mustafa, history professor, and Paula Straile-Costa, head of the language department, urged Stephen Rice, the dean of the Salameno School of Humanities and Global Studies (SSHGS), to add German to the list of languages Ramapo offers, which currently includes Spanish, French, Italian and American Sign Language.

Mustafa said that Ramapo used to offer German, in addition to other languages, but most were dropped over the years. German is being revived because every semester students have expressed interest in taking it, Mustafa explained.

“Students taking three or four years of German in high school had to switch languages when they got to college,” he said. “It seemed like the obvious thing to bring German back.”

German classes will begin in the fall of 2015.

“The idea is that we’re going to restart it with German 101 in the fall, and I’ll be teaching that. Then, we’ll do 102 and 201,” Mustafa explained. “By the time we get around to 201 [in fall 2016], there’ll be more freshmen, so we’ll hire someone else to teach.”

Next fall, German 101 will be offered on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:40 p.m., with Mustafa. Dr. James Allen will be teaching German 102 in the spring 2016 semester. Both professors lived and studied in Germany.

“We’re not language professors full time, but we can start it up and hopefully get it to a critical mass,” Mustafa said.

As of now, there are no immediate plans to make German into a major or minor, but Mustafa hopes it will happen in the future.

“A year from now we’ll know. We’ll have students registering for 201, and a bunch of freshmen coming in, and we’ll know and hopefully be able to hire someone new, instead of having history professors do it part time … It’d be beautiful if we could start offering courses like German conversation, German for business, German in the arts,” he said.

For now, German is just being offered to give SSHGS students more options for their language requirement, but Mustafa says students in the School of Contemporary Arts could also benefit, as there are many acclaimed art schools in Germany, but students need to be able to speak the language to take advantage of them.

“I’ve seen many Americans go abroad with the attitude [that others should simply learn English] and they miss everything. If you don’t speak the language, you don’t get the context. You will never truly be in, you will never truly get it,” Mustafa said. “Think about the arrogance of that. It makes you forever an outsider.”

He emphasized that German has relatively easy pronunciation and no silent letters, although he admitted that the grammar is more challenging. Mustafa hopes that if German can be implemented and expanded at Ramapo, other languages might soon follow.

“I would love to see them all back. I think learning a foreign language is such a wonderful thing. It changed my life, literally,” he said. “I am who I am because I learned a foreign language, and I would love for students here to have that kind of opportunity.”