Frequently Asked Questions about French at Bowdoin

What course level should I take?

All students interested in studying French must take the placement exam available online. If your AP French score is 5 or you have never been exposed to French, you need only complete the first 4 questions of the test. Everyone else who has taken any high school French takes the entire exam. Once you arrive on campus, you will come to the Open House of the French section that takes place on the Sunday before classes begin. It is here that you will find your placement recommendation. All French professors in the department will be at this meeting to talk to you about classes offered and will answer any questions you have. Please note that you must register for the recommended course as the registration system will not allow you to enroll in other French courses.

Can I get AP/IB credit?

Students who received scores of 4 or higher in the AP exam, or 6 or higher in the upper-level IB exam, will be awarded one AP/IB credit upon the successful completion of a course, level 205 or higher, with a grade of B- or higher. Credit will not be given if a student places into, or elects to take, a course lower than 205. Only one AP credit may be earned per person per language. (Please remember that all students, regardless of AP/IB score, should take the placement test).

How do I take the placement test?

Please visit our Placement page for instructions.

What do I do if a class I want to take is full?

Our 100-200 level classes enroll a maximum of 18 students, and 300-level seminars have an even lower cap. We do not accept more than the maximum to ensure our students participate actively in their classes. Our professors keep a waiting list for each section, so if you do not get into the course you want to take, contact them before the course begins and come to the first meeting of the class.

Why should I major in French?

The French major broadens your cultural awareness and gives you skills that are useful in a wide variety of professions. French majors learn to communicate effectively and become confident readers of texts and images. The experiences they gain by studying and living in another culture and learning its language prepare students to thrive personally and professionally in a global society. The linguistic and analytical abilities, cultural awareness, and excellent communication skills developed by students of French at Bowdoin serve our alumni in a wide range of professional pursuits. Business leaders have said again and again that they prefer to hire humanities majors because of their ability to think creatively and to write and speak well. The Bloomberg Rankings place French as the second most useful language for business after Mandarin Chinese. (See Majors/Minors Page

Where should I study abroad?

This depends on your interests and needs. Think, not only about the country, but also about the kind of program (courses, internships, etc.) you would prefer. We encourage our students to take the majority of their courses in the French university system. Your first stop will be the Off-Campus Study Web Page, where you will find a list of options recommended by Bowdoin. The next step is to meet with a member of the Department to discuss the programs that would best suit your needs as a French major. Following that meeting, you will schedule a meeting with OCS and read your peers’ comments on different programs. See also the French Off-Campus Study and Options page. The French Department holds an informational meeting in early October where students hear from their peers who have studied abroad in various countries and programs. Please be sure to attend.

How do I obtain credit from Off-Campus Study?

General Bowdoin credit for courses taken abroad is granted by the registrar. In order to obtain credit toward the French or Romance Language major for courses taken abroad, however, you must meet with a member of the French faculty within 1 month of returning to campus (before October 1 in the fall or before March 1 in the spring). It is your responsibility to schedule this meeting. Prior to the meeting, you will have: 1. assembled all materials for courses taken abroad for which you hope to receive major credit and 2. written a 3-4 page narrative in French describing your experience abroad (as described on our Off-Campus-Study page). Bring these materials to your meeting. Visit the French Off-Campus Study and Options page for more details.

How can I get a tutor or learning mentor?

Tutors may be available through the Center for Learning & Teaching located in Kanbar Hall. Contact CLT or the Baldwin Program for more details. Your professor can also assist you in this process.

How can I become a tutor, teaching assistant, learning mentor or writing assistant?

Each fall, the Department hires 2 or 3 teaching assistants who plan and lead weekly conversation sections with French 101 students. The responsible instructor will provide information on the application process at the very start of the academic year. At the beginning of each semester the Center for Learning & Teaching hires, upon student/faculty request, a few tutors. We generally recommend junior and senior French majors for these positions. We value having advanced students of French as writing assistants for our courses and regularly recommend strong writers to the program. Writing assistants are chosen by the Director of the Writing Project, Kathleen O’Connor Contact CLT, the Baldwin Program or the Writing Project for more details.

How can I improve my writing?

The Writing Project offers 45-minute Writing Workshops or semester-long peer tutorials for students writing papers in any Bowdoin course.  Some French courses have assigned writing assistants who work with students throughout the semester. Get more information at bowdoin.edu/writing-project or drop in at their offices in Kanbar Hall. Make sure you check out their writing resources as well.

How do I find French sources for my research projects?

Our library liaison, Karl Fattig, is an invaluable resource. He is available to help students obtain French-language sources and conduct research. Our library has a strong selection of French materials, but plan ahead. Many secondary materials need to be ordered through NExpress, MIN or interlibrary loan. Articles can often be accessed through on-line databases.

How can I get more involved with the French-speaking community?

Maine boasts a rich Francophone history and a large Franco-American population. Freeport is home to a bi-lingual French immersion school, L’École française du Maine. For community engagement opportunities, visit the Center for the Common Good. Make sure to visit our Research page for information about funding and resources at Bowdoin and beyond.

How can I practice my French beyond classes?

Attend the French Table that meets 5:30-7:15pm every Wednesday evening and regularly-sponsored French Club (La Famille francophone) events; participate in the fall Québec or spring Bordeaux trips make the most of the visits of Francophone speakers and performers to campus; visit the Center for the Common Good to learn about community-engagement initiatives involving French speakers or students; go to the Language Media Center in Sills Hall to find out about films, TV channels, and peers; read and listen to the news on the web; contact our Teaching Fellows or Faculty to find out about language conversation groups or other activities this semester.

For information about auditing a course, declaring a major or minor, getting transfer credit approved, etc., please visit the Registrar’s FAQ page and Forms & Policies site.

For information on off-campus application deadlines and forms, see Bowdoin’s Off-Campus Study site.

Visit Bowdoin’s Academics page for more insights on advising, resources, learning opportunities, and civic engagement.