The French Major and Minor


The French Program at Bowdoin prepares its students:

  • to communicate effectively in French, both orally and in writing
  • to be familiar with the literary and cultural traditions of the French-speaking world as well as the critical concepts and research methods necessary for their analysis  
  • to be knowledgeable in the intellectual movements, histories and social structures of the French-speaking world, including France’s colonial past
  • to be informed, insightful analysts of the world around them
  • to be confident readers of texts and images of all kinds—from popular songs to literary works to political discourse
  • to live and work in a global society

The French Major

Students take 9 courses* above 2204 with the following requirements:

  • 1 intro to culture course (2407 or 2408) [or the equivalent in study abroad]
  • 1 intro to literature course (2409, 2410 or 2411) [or the equivalent in study abroad]
  • 3 courses at the 3000 level [1 upper-level French literature course may be approved from study abroad]
  • Majors are strongly encouraged to diversify the periods and geographical areas they explore in choosing their courses.
  • Majors are strongly encouraged to study away in a French-speaking country for a year or a semester. Up to 4 credits may be earned toward the major through a year of study away in a French-speaking country and up to 3 credits for a semester.

*Students who begin French below the 2305 level must complete 8 courses above 2204 toward the major. Some majors begin in French 1101!

The French Minor

Students who are interested in pursuing French studies but choose not to study away may wish to pursue a French minor.

Students take 4 courses above 2204 with the following requirements:

  • 1 introduction to culture course (2407 or 2408)
  • 1 introduction to literature course (2409, 2410 or 2411)
  • 1 300-level course
  • Please note that courses taken abroad do not count towards the French minor. If you plan to study abroad, plan to pursue a French or Romance major.

The Romance Languages Major

Students who are interested in studying two Romance languages at Bowdoin (French, Italian and Spanish) may elect to pursue the Romance Languages major.

Students who elect French as one of their languages complete 9 courses in two languages above 2404 with the following requirements:

  • French 2407 or 2408 [or the equivalent in study abroad]
  • French 2409, 2410 or 2411 [or the equivalent in study abroad]
  • Italian 2305 and 2408 [or the equivalent in study abroad] if combining French with Italian
  • Spanish 2409 and 2410 [or the equivalent in study abroad] if combining French with Spanish
  • 3 courses at the 3000 level in either language [1 upper-level literature course may be approved from study abroad] At least two 3000-level courses must be taken at Bowdoin. 3 courses at the 3000 level in either or both languages. If one of the languages is Italian, at least one of the 3000-level courses must be in Italian.
  • Up to 4 credits toward the major for a year of study away and up to 3 credits may be earned through a semester of study away.

Career opportunities for French majors and minors

The linguistic and analytical abilities, cultural awareness, and excellent communication skills developed by French majors and minors 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. Strong command of a language and knowledge of a culture other than one’s own are a tremendous advantage in countless professions. The experience and expertise students gain in our courses and through study away give our graduates an edge in diverse areas: business, law, medicine, international relations, education, journalism, politics, communications, non-profit and NGO work. The program also prepares students for graduate studies in French and comparative literature, among other areas.

Visit the Featured Alumni section to read about some of the ways in which French majors and minors have used their skills to pursue a variety of life paths.