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English and American Studies: Literature, Language and Politics

Studying due to an enthusiasm for language: Niklas Kleine (26) is in his third semester at Chemnitz University of Technology, where he is studying English and American Studies. He completed his bachelor’s degree there as well.

“After I graduated from high school, I began a degree in sensory and cognitive psychology,” explains the student, adding: “I then realized pretty quickly that it wasn’t for me, though. That’s why I decided to focus on my strengths. I was good at English and enjoyed it when I was at school. I had a look at the bachelor’s programme and then decided to go for it.” For Niklas Kleine, changing from a solid subject to a supposedly insecure humanities subject didn’t pose any problem. “I consciously chose to follow my interests and haven’t regretted it since.”

The bachelor’s degree programme in English/American Studies is a single honours bachelor’s degree at Chemnitz University of Technology, and isn’t combined with any other subject. It is divided into three parts: Literature, linguistics and “social and cultural studies”. There are courses in both British and American English. “The course is very practically oriented”, explains Niklas Kleine. “There are almost no lectures, but seminars and a variety of exercises in which the language is used at a practical level. In linguistics, for example, we practice every sound very intensively with a phonetic table.”

Literature, linguistics and “social and cultural studies”

At the beginning of the bachelor’s degree programme there is an overview of literary history, theories and the methods of English language literature. This is followed by lectures on individual authors or works. In the area of “social and cultural studies”, the students cover the politics and history of Great Britain and the US. In linguistics, the topics are presented in seminars depending on the semester.

“I started with pragmatics,” recalls the master’s student. “That’s when I had that moment when I realised that I was studying the right degree.” Niklas Kleine was fascinated by the theory of communication which people apply subconsciously every day. “This was about the fact that there are subconscious guidelines in communication, such as how much you talk or that you should tell the truth. These partially depend on language or culture. We apply these rules all day without thinking about them.”

Learning a language abroad

Niklas Kleine spent a semester abroad with Erasmus. Because Chemnitz Technical University doesn’t have a partner university in an English-speaking country for his particular topic, he went to Tampere in Finland, where he spent some time studying in English. “I learned a lot in Finland,” explains the student. “There were some very good teachers and interesting courses there. I improved my language skills just by being forced to speak English.”

For his bachelor’s degree, Niklas Kleine focused on “social and cultural studies” and addressed the changed public discourse on immigration before and after Brexit. “I was able to choose which area I was particularly interested in,” he says. “In the later semesters, we had study groups, where we learned how to write a bachelor’s dissertation. Until then, we had only written essays. With the support that we got, I found it pretty straightforward, though.”

A variety of job opportunities

For Niklas Kleine, the completion of his master’s degree is his top priority right now. After that, he can imagine going in several possible directions: “I really like working as a translator. I have done translation work many times during my studies and as a part-time assistant at the university. I would also welcome the opportunity to work at a publishing house for English-language books or in the print media.”

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