Why French?

Majoring in French and Francophone Studies

The Essence of a Liberal Arts Education

While you may have a very clear idea of how you want to earn your living upon graduating from Bates, you have chosen to attend a Liberal Arts college, not a trade school or pre-professional institution, per se. You have embraced the notion of an education that will expose you to a broad range of subject areas and disciplines in a small, residential academic setting with a low professor-student ratio. Bates will certainly be your calling card to employment upon graduation, but the college is equally dedicated to educating life-long learners. These two trajectories are clearly and happily linked: employers of Bates graduates consistently praise the Bates candidates’ ability to synthesize, imagine and problem-solve based on a broad base of knowledge and experience. The major in French and Francophone Studies embodies and promotes these liberal arts values exceedingly well.

Diversity of Experience

The major in French and Francophone Studies values learning and growth in the field in multiple ways:

  • A diverse sequence of courses in language and culture focusing on language learning in cultural context from the elementary to advanced seminar level—all courses within the French and Francophone Studies section are taught exclusively in French.
  • Study Abroad, viewed as a valuable, if not essential, component of the major’s experience. Majors typically spend at least one semester, some an entire year, in a francophone country. Students have studied in a variety of cities in France— Paris, Aix, Grenoble, Nantes, Rennes, Tours—as well as in a number of francophone countries outside Europe—Senegal, Madagascar, Cameroun, Morocco and Mali, among others.
  • Oral History Projects, as an option for completing the capstone experience based in the local francophone community.
  • Weekly French Table at Commons and activities sponsored through the Francophone club and by the French Language Teaching Assistant.
  • Regular gatherings with majors to share academic work and progress towards graduation.
  • Assistantships with professors in beginning and intermediate language classes as well as with their research.
  • Guest speakers, film makers, and on (and off) campus conferences.
  • An impressive array of cultural activities provided through the local Francophone community focusing on issues important to French and Francophone Studies, for example, The Franco-American Heritage Center, Museum L-A, the Festival Franco-fun, and the opportunity to meet and interact with a variety of authors and artists who explore the French-Canadian immigrant experience.

Language Proficiency

And you accomplish the goals of your liberal arts education—en français!

One of the most immediately evident outcomes of the major in French and Francophone Studies is proficiency in the French language. The department encourages its majors to attain the highest possible degree of fluency in oral and written expression. To this end, the department strongly encourages at least one semester’s study abroad with a program that strictly enforces the exclusive use of French; all of the departmental offerings are in French; most advising and social interaction takes place in French; and the faculty purposefully guide majors’ curricular trajectories in order to obtain an advanced level of proficiency as evidenced in the oral presentation of their senior portfolio. While French may be more the means to your liberal arts education than the goal, it is undeniable that the ability to express oneself with fluency is a profoundly beneficial—if not to say remunerative—outcome: more than a few Bates graduates now work in francophone settings where their ability to conduct both social and professional exchanges in French was essential to their hiring and promotion.

The teaching of the French language at Bates is thoughtful, relevant and dynamic. You are taught by professors with many years of experience in language pedagogy, from the most time-honored traditions to the latest technological innovations, including blogs, interactive, on-line syllabi, film production and a host of options available through the Language Resource Center adjacent to the department. Classes are limited to 22 students and are often sectioned one day a week for small group study; while we employ language teaching assistants from abroad and from our major pool, all courses are taught and administered by professors within the department.

Esprit de corps

The group of majors in French and Francophone Studies is small and intimate—typically around a dozen. Students know the four faculty well and are mentored by each of them in small classes and meetings throughout their time in the department. They also come to know each other well and socialize, study and prepare coursework and other tasks for the major together—at French Table, in faculty-sponsored dinners out in Lewiston or on their own time in self-designed study groups. For some students, French and Francophone Studies is one of two majors, but it is not uncommon for them to speak of this as their academic “home.”

Next: Outcomes