Why French?

 What can you do with a French major? The short answer is: just about anything! From actresses Kate Beckinsale and Brooke Shields to Harry Potter author, J. K. Rowling, some very successful people started out with a diploma in French. See the impressive list of French majors found here.

Some reasons why the University of Alabama in a great place to study French:

  • Many of our courses have fewer than 20 students. Small class size offers many benefits: students have frequent opportunities to practice French and express their ideas, professors get to know their students on an individual basis, and instruction can be highly customized to student needs.
  • Our professors include native speakers and graduates from top doctoral programs in the United States, France and elsewhere. Established scholars in their respective fields, they bring their expertise and enthusiasm for their subjects to the classroom.
  • Experiencing the discoveries and challenges of living abroad, our five-week Alabama-in-France summer program offers students the opportunity to earn University of Alabama credit while spending a week in Paris followed by four weeks of intensive French classes while living with French families in Tours, France . In addition, the University of Alabama has established an exchange program with the Université de Tours for undergraduate students seeking to spend either a semester or a full academic year studying in France.
  • We offer a double major with the International Business Program. In today’s increasingly globalized world, it is especially important for business people to speak other languages and learn other cultures. Our programs are designed to offers students this possibility.

Some reasons why French is a great language to study:

  • 51 member states and governments belong to the International Organization of Francophonie. French is an official language in 28 of these countries.
  • French is spoken on 5 continents (Europe, Africa, North America, South America, Asia) — the only language besides English and Spanish to claim such a wide diffusion.
  • French and English are the only official working languages of the United Nations, UNESCO, the European Community, the International Red Cross, the International Olympic Committee, NATO, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
  • According to a 2002 listing of international jobs distributed by the US State Department, 111 jobs required or preferred French, 45 Spanish, 44 a UN language (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish), 10 Arabic, 9 Russian, 3 German, and 2 Chinese.

A student of foreign languages also develops skills that are increasingly valuable to today’s employers: critical thinking and analysis, the ability to conduct and make sense of research on unfamiliar topics, a solid sense of cultural literacy, strong writing skills, and the capacity to encounter others on their own terrain and with an open mind.

The usefulness of learning French is obvious, but it is not the only reason to study the language, nor is it perhaps the most important. France, one of the oldest nation-states of Europe, is the cradle of a civilization that gave rise to many of the Western world’s great accomplishments, including the Gothic architecture of Chartres and Notre Dame of Paris, the beautiful châteaux of the Loire Valley, the great thinkers of the Enlightenment, the Impressionists, feminism, and existentialism. France’s musicians, poets, artists and philosophers have had enormous influence on Western civilization over the centuries. It is important to remember that when one learns a language, one is gaining access to a new and different history, life experience, and worldview. In the case of French, this access is not limited to France, but includes Lebanon, the Maghreb, the Congo, Ivory Coast, Vietnam, Haiti, Belgium, Switzerland, Quebec, and many more countries around the world.

America and Americans have at times been accused of knowing little about the rest of the world. There is perhaps no more powerful way to become more aware of the outside world than to learn a language, and to learn it well. Not only does one thereby gain knowledge of another culture or cultures, one also develops greater insight into one’s own culture and belonging. As many French professors at the University of Alabama will tell you, learning French changed their lives. We encourage you to explore what it might do for you.

If you are thinking of majoring or minoring in French, please take our survey. This will help us to better serve your needs as a French student. Merci beaucoup!