French Outside the Classroom

The Francophone Studies section of the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures offers students multiple ways of using the language outside of the traditional classroom setting.

Francophone Table

Every Wednesday evening during the academic year, students, faculty and francophone and francophiles from the college community and beyond, come together for a meal in Thorne Dining Hall. The evening is hosted by our two Teaching Fellows, graduate students from France, who keep the discussion lively, exclusively in French. Students of all levels of French, from Francophone studies 1101 to seniors returning from study abroad, enjoy socializing and getting to know one another, the Francophone Studies faculty, and their families. Attendance is robust, the food is almost as delicious as in France, and a good time is had by all.

French Teaching Fellows

In 1963, the department inaugurated an exchange of Teaching Fellows, graduate students in English who come to Bowdoin from Clermont-Ferrand and Brest to lead discussion sections affiliated with our language courses. They also attend the weekly Francophone Table, travel to the Museum of African Art and Culture in Portland, as well as to Quebec with students each fall and work closely with the French club, La Famille francophone. In 2011-12, they became actors in the French Dramatic Production class. They are a wonderful resource for our students who are always eager to speak French.

La Famille Francophone

Bowdoin’s French Club hosts a series of informal activities ranging from outings, to dinners, to parties, to movie showings throughout the year. Students plan and lead activities in collaboration with the two Teaching Fellows from France.


The Department is happy to be able to sponsor trips to francophone countries at very little cost to the students:

Québec City

Each fall, ten to fifteen students, accompanied by the Teaching Fellows and two faculty members, spend a weekend in Québec City, about a five-hour drive from Brunswick. They pledge to speak French the whole time. The group stays in a comfortable hostel and dine Friday evening in a local restaurant specializing in crêpes or perhaps the local poutine.

After a Saturday morning breakfast of coffee and croissants, the group tours the old city, stopping at the historical museum. In the afternoon, students pair up for a treasure hunt in which they find the answers to questions about Québec’s history by talking with Québecois in the street and pursuing information about various landmarks. By dinnertime, everyone is exhausted but full of new information. A movie and some dancing round out a busy day.

After croissants in a local bakery, the group returns to Bowdoin in time for dinner.

Speakers, Performers and Film Festivals

Each year the Department invites scholars of Francophone literature and culture to share their expertise with us. They give lectures, present readings, show films, and meet with our students. We also bring performers—actors, musicians, dancers—who share their talents with the campus. Our visitors bring energy to the Francophone Studies program while exposing our students and the larger community to the rich cultural production of the Francophone world. We also host, on a regular basis, French and Francophone film festivals generously supported by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy. See our calendar for recent and future events.

Community Engagement

Through community engagement, students use their French, share their knowledge and talents, and learn from the rich experiences of members of our larger communities. Students often work with local youth from elementary through high school on activities ranging from after school French programs to theatrical performances. We are fortunate to be in a part of the country whose population includes a large number of native French speakers, or, as they call themselves, Francos. It is not unlikely that students in seminars interview area Franco Americans in a wide variety of fields. They curate museum exhibits related to work and invite high school students to explore these exhibits in creative ways.

Web Resources

The internet offers a seemingly unlimited supply of useful sites offering news, films, literature and secondary research materials. Please see the Media Commons' list of online newspapers in French  and for a list of sources. We encourage our students to make a French newspaper their home page. TV5 is available across campus on channel 69 and, of course, all French and Francophone television and radio stations have their own websites where students can watch and listen live. Our library liaison, Carmen Greenlee, is particularly helpful to students and faculty in obtaining resources and conducting research in our areas.