The French section of the Department of Romance Languages offers students multiple ways of using the language outside of the traditional classroom setting.
Every Wednesday evening during the academic year, students, faculty and francophone friends from the college community 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. Students of all levels of French, from French 101 to seniors returning from study abroad, enjoy socializing and getting to know each other, the French 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 French Table, travel to Quebec with students in October 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 two trips to francophone countries at very little cost to the students:
In late September, ten to fifteen students, accompanied by the Teaching Fellows and two faculty members, spend a weekend in Quebec 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 Quebec’s history by talking with Quebecois 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.
Bordeaux and Paris
Every two or three years, the Department sponsors a two-week trip to France. Students are asked to pay a small portion of the cost, and the rest is provided by the Dunlap family, generous donors to the College.
Organized by a former Bowdoin professor now living in Bordeaux, the trip offers ten students and a faculty member the chance to spend ten days there and another three in Paris. In Bordeaux, students live with the families of French students or in students’ apartments. They attend classes with their hosts, visit a school for a debate on American and French culture, and enjoy excursions to the seaside and to St. Emilion, where the world’s finest wine is made.
The final three days of the trip are spent in Paris where students are free to see the city as they wish and plan their activities according to their interests.
All of these activities outside the classroom serve as springboards for students to major in French at Bowdoin. By using the French language in authentic settings, students are often bitten by the French bug and pursue a course of study they had not previously considered. The Department is fortunate to be able to offer these opportunities, and we look forward to them continuing in the future.
Speakers, Performers and Film Festivals
Each year the Department invites scholars of French and Francophone literature and culture to share their expertise with us. They 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 French 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.
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. Seminar students interview area Franco Americans, francophone war veterans, and activists 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.
The internet offers a seemingly unlimited supply of useful sites offering news, films, literature and secondary research materials. Please see the Language Media Center 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, Karl Fattig, is particularly helpful to students and faculty in obtaining resources and conducting research in our areas.