The Goethe-Institute

Tamara Berger-Prößdorf
Foreign Languages
Eastern Montana College

"Nations should discover one another, understand one another, and if they cannot find mutual love, at least learn to tolerate one another."
(J.W. Goethe, 1749-1832)

The Goethe-Institute is a non-profit, public-funded organization, originally founded in 1932 on the 100th anniversary of the death of the famous poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and again in 1951 when it was reestablished after the war, with its headquarters in Munich. Even though most of the funds for the institute's cultural work abroad come from the German Federal Finance Ministry, the institution's independence from the state was guaranteed in a special "Framework Agreement" between the Institute and the Federal Government of Germany. Other funds come from such sponsors as local subsidiaries of German businesses and banks. German book publishers contribute to libraries through discounted or donated books.

According to the Framework Agreement, the Institute's purpose is to "cultivate the German language abroad and promote international cultural cooperation." Thus it is involved in a variety of cultural activities in the field of cultural relations and is represented by approximately 170 offices around the world--from Addis Ababa and Bangladesh to newly planned centers in Vietnam and Zimbabwe. More offices have been established in recent years, especially in Eastern European countries with the opening of the former Eastern bloc. Approximately 10 million people are currently engaged in German studies in Eastern Europe. New institutes were opened in Warsaw, Cracow, Prague, Budapest, Sofia, and Moscow. In Moscow, all courses were fully booked after the first hour of the Institute's opening. Three further Goethe-Institutes are planned for or already established in the commonwealth of Independent States, as well as in the Baltic states and in the Ukraine. Because of the geographical dimensions of Russia, the Goethe-Institute is establishing an "Educational Liaison Network" with local teachers as is the case in the United States, especially in the geographically widespread Western region.

In the United States, the GoetheInstitute is represented by 12 offices. The Western U.S. is represented in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. There are three institutes in Canada: in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver.

At its centers worldwide, including the Federal Republic of Germany, the Goethe-Institute offers a variety of German language courses at all levels. It also organizes special language courses for professional people who need to use German at their work. They provide information about German life and culture as an integral part of every language course.

It is important for us to be aware that one of the Goethe-Institute's primary tasks is to promote German language teaching in other countries, i.e., also in the United States, Canada, and the Latin American countries. It forms close links with educational institutions, universities, associations of German language teachers and institutes of adult education, and works in cooperation also with such cultural institutions as theaters and museums in the host country.

One special aspect of the institute's work is to help local teachers, instructors, and professors of German to improve their teaching methods. This is accomplished through workshops and seminars for in-service (including often pre-service) German instructors, which provide training and skills in the latest developments in German language teaching. There are hardly any German teachers on any level in the United States who have not had the opportunity to become acquainted with and to have benefited by the work of the GoetheInstitute and who in turn were able to better contribute to the education of the students at their institutions. Through liaison networks, teacher trainers trained through the Goethe-Institute are also able to contribute skills and knowledge to their colleagues in their region.

The Goethe-Institute also supplies a great variety of instructional materials from videos to textbooks.

They award scholarships for German studies in the Federal Republic of Germany.

They offer and assist in their host country in examinations leading to internationally recognized qualifications in German, such as the

The Goethe-Institute also organizes in cooperation with institutions and individuals in the host country a wide range of cultural activities in the arts and humanities:

Another important aspect of its work worldwide is organizing and running a network of libraries and multi-media resource centers which provide a comprehensive lending, reference and information service about Germany. The head office in Munich coordinates the work of the GoetheInstitute at home and abroad. In addition, it organizes training and professional development for its staff. Specialist departments, assisted by advisory committees, are responsible for the German language teaching and cultural programs offered at every Goethe-Institute center. The head office also develops new teaching materials, demonstrates innovations in educational technology, and generally promotes the exchange of ideas and information in the field of German as a foreign language.

As Janet Schayan points out in her article on "The Goethe-Institut: Learning by Association" (Scala) of Nov.-Dec. 1992), Goethe writes in Faust I, "In the beginning was the deed" as opposed to the Gospel's "In the beginning was the word." The Goethe-Institute combines both "word" and "deed" as it promotes a wider knowledge abroad of the German language and fosters cultural cooperation with other countries.

Eastern Montana College is a testing center for the examinations mentioned above. Anyone wishing further information should write Dr. Berger-Prößdorf at Eastern Montana College.

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