The Buzz about French

For information about careers, graduate studies, and alumni case studies, check out our Careers pages. But just as important, here's what current (or recent) students have to say about their experience in the department. (Click the students' quotes or photos to read their full remarks):


  • Camille Allen“I came to Carleton as a fluent French speaker and honestly was worried about being bored by the French classes, that was definitely not the case!”

    • The classes were both engaging and exposed me to a whole new range of francophone culture, from Mali to Algeria to Geneva and, of course, France. In fact I liked my first French class so much that I decided to major in it despite being pre-med. I never once regretted that decision. Both the faculty and my peers were kind, encouraging and passionate about French. The entire French department feels like a family to me and what better environment to learn and grow in than a family?

  • Camille Allen ’15, French and Francophone Studies major

  • Charles Bloom“When I began French at Carleton, I only intended to satisfy the language requirement.”

    • I took French in high school, but never felt very enthusiastic about learning the language. My first French course at Carleton illuminated me to the nuances and usefulness of the French language, and as I continued through the language sequence, I became increasingly inspired to take my studies beyond the required courses. My trimester abroad in Paris was an incredible experience. Having almost never spoken French outside of the classroom before, I was suddenly in a position where I was using the language nearly everywhere I went. The breadth of the course offerings in the French department is impressive, allowing me to learn about everything from Francophone Switzerland to specific French rhetorical tools. The faculty show an unwavering commitment to students and to teaching, and have provided me and many of my fellow students with skills and knowledge that will benefit us for many years to come.

  • Charlie Bloom ’15, French and Francophone Studies certificator, Paris Program ’13

  • Nityasya Belapurkar“The French Department offers a unique approach to a variety of disciplines through the medium of the wonderful French language.”

    • Taking a French class would not only improve your grasp of the language, but give you insight into French and Francophone literature and society.

  • Nityasya Belapurkar ’15, French and Francophone Studies concentraror, Paris Program ’13

  • Nora Liu“Learning French is the highlight of my four years at Carleton.”

    • The French program at Carleton is intense but rewarding - getting up early and going to 1a French class every day during my freshman year, I was amazed by how much progress I made in the first year. Having absolutely no knowledge of French language, I was able to live in France, make conversation with French people, and read French literature after two years’ learning. I still remember the homemade croissants the professor brought into class, the lively discussions, and the encouraging classroom atmosphere. The Paris program was also one of my most memorable experiences. Every week, the art history professor took us to a different museum in Paris to look at the work we discussed in the previous class; the director also organized tons of fun activities for us to make the most of the program.

  • Nora Liu ’15, French and Francophone Studies concentraror, Paris Program ’13

  • Emily Massell“Being a part of the French department has made my time at Carleton special.”

    • Professors are engaging and caring, students are curious and collaborative, and classes are challenging and interesting. Thanks to Scott Carpenter's Madame Bovary class, I feel confident reading French novels on my own. And in Christine Lac's The Fine Art of Writing in French seminar, I learned how to write with style and fluency in the French language. This year, as a French TA, I have been so grateful for the opportunity to gain valuable teaching experience, to hone my grammar and speaking skills, and to motivate beginning students to love learning foreign languages.

  • Emily Massell ’15, French and Francophone Studies concentraror, French TA

  • Taylor Mayhall“I used to be shy about talking in class, but the French professors are so encouraging and non-judgmental that I quickly grew more confident.”

    • People say that it's hard to learn a language once you're an adult, but Carleton's French department made it easy for me! I used to be shy about talking in class, but the French professors are so encouraging and non-judgmental that I quickly grew more confident. Once I participated on the French program to Paris and Morocco, I was never again scared to speak in French. The study abroad program was my best experience at Carleton. It helped me grow in my language skills but also in my ability to be independent, communicate with complete strangers, and embrace new cultures. If I could do it all over again, I would double major in ENTS and French.

  • Taylor Mayhall ’15, French and Francophone Studies certificator, Paris Program '14

  • Ella Fox“French poetry has taught me the beauty of an original language, and that learning a new language is the door to thinking of the world in challenging and exciting ways.”

    • Even though I’ve taken French for most of the time I’ve been in school, studying French in college has been refreshing. For me, taking classes in college has meant sinking my teeth into the material and engaging in discussions that I never had when I was reviewing grammar or memorizing verb tenses. Once you get past those first (and necessary!) phases of learning a language, you have access to a world of culture and ideas. After going to Paris and becoming more familiar with the flow of French, I realized what a tricky business translation is. Verbatim usually doesn’t cut it - and there is no way to translate the “feel” of the French language! Especially when translating poetry, the rhyme, word choice, rhythm, and meaning of a poem cannot all be translated accurately into any other language. French poetry has taught me the beauty of an original language, and that learning a new language is the door to thinking of the world in challenging and exciting ways.

  • Ella McGrane Fox ’15, French and Francophone Studies concentrator, Paris Program '13

  • Gabe Keller“Learning a language is like learning another world. It stretches your mind and makes you construe reality in different ways.”

    • Learning a language is like learning another world. It stretches your mind and makes you construe reality in different ways. It also opens up opportunities to experience different parts of the world. Before coming to Carleton and studying French, I never would have imagined myself in Paris discussing Picasso and Matisse with my art history professor or having lively discussions with my French host family around the dinner table. Learning French at Carleton has introduced me to excellent professors with expertise, humor and a passion for what they teach, to new friends, and to the amazing city of Paris, through the off-campus program.

  • Gabriel Keller ’13, Paris Program ’11

  • Isabel Rodríguez“Carleton’s French program was and is the best thing that has ever happened to me.”

    • Carleton’s French program was and is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Because of the flexibility of the program, I have been able to study abroad a few times to learn the language in a more appropriate setting. I participated in the Internships in Francophone Europe Program (IFE) my junior year. Thanks to the amazing French professors at Carleton, my level of both spoken and written French was at a point where I could easily communicate in any situation. As an intern at the Pavillon de l’Arsenal, I called students, kept track of the press, and communicated with my supervisors and my colleagues. My French professors have encouraged me to take risks and step out of my comfort zone, and they have given me the resources to do so.

  • Isabel Rodríguez ’12, Romance Languages major, Paris Program '10

  • David Williams“What other area of study besides language allows you to explore the world and communicate with new people? And what other foreign language besides French allows you to go to so many geographically and culturally different locations?”

    • After you spend a year in class being taught French, you start to think you’re getting it; the French news, books and music all start to make sense. But when you set out by yourself, leave the country and ask someone for directions and you find your way, or when you deliver meals on a bike route and the client jokes with you about how motorists treat bikers, or when you tell the bartender that you only want to taste it, and you do all of this in French, you realize that someone outside of a classroom can actually understand you and that you can actually understand them. Do you still have to ask why you should study French? What other area of study besides language allows you to explore the world and communicate with new people? And what other foreign language besides French allows you to go to so many geographically and culturally different locations? This is why you should study French!

  • David Williams ’14, French and Francophone Studies concentrator, Paris Program '12

  • Yuvika Diwan“I love the professors, who are eager to get to know you outside the classroom, and the class atmosphere, which is encouraging for all students at different stages of learning....”

    • When I came to Carleton, I knew that I wanted to learn a new language. As an international student, I was faced with so many wonderful new things to learn at Carleton and I decided to challenge myself by choosing to learn a language most foreign to me. Learning French at first seemed to be like starting out in a new world all over again, with baby steps. Every class has been an achievement in itself, and the French department has been very encouraging in developing my creativity and my sense of confidence. I love the professors, who are eager to get to know you outside the classroom, and the class atmosphere, which is encouraging for all students at different stages of learning and from varying backgrounds in their knowledge about Francophone history and literature. By learning French, I have gotten to know the French community at Carleton and all the activities that the department organizes, and I wonder how different life would have been had I not signed up for French 101 freshman fall term.

  • Yuvika Diwan ’13, French and Francophone Studies certificator

  • Emily Ban“I became a French major by accident, but I would happily choose this major again because I cannot imagine a department that would better allow me to meaningfully study language, literature, and culture on such small and large scales all at once.”

    • I became a French major by a wonderful accident. When I came to Carleton I planned on majoring in English and registered for French 103 in my first term simply to finish my language requirement, but I just could not stop there. By the time I chose to major in French & Francophone Studies, it was so natural it didn’t even feel like a decision. Under the guidance of the dedicated, engaging, and inspiring professors of the French department, I have honed my skills as a creative and critical thinker and writer, I have become a close reader of diverse texts ranging from 16th century sonnets to contemporary novels from Quebec, and I have wrestled with and thought through complex issues involving colonization, bilingualism, religious and cultural conflict, and the role of language in defining identity and worldview. Both at Carleton and during my eye-opening experience studying abroad in Mali, I have studied the ways in which we communicate—the ways in which we are shaped and defined by language and the ways in which we can use language to shape and define our world. So yes, I became a French major by accident, but I would happily choose this major again because I cannot imagine a department that would better allow me to meaningfully study language, literature, and culture on such small and large scales all at once.

  • Emily Ban ’12, French and Francophone Studies major, Mali program '10

  • Rachel Rothender“The French courses and professors at Carleton have not only opened my mind to the nuances and construction of the French language ... but they have instilled me with the desire and capability to live and move outside of my own culture and comfort zone.”

    • What I have loved most about the Department of French and Francophone Studies is how incredibly diverse all of the classes and professors are. The French courses and professors at Carleton have not only opened my mind to the nuances and construction of the French language, the history of different peoples, and to a wide range of French literature, but they have instilled me with the desire and capability to live and move outside of my own culture and comfort zone. I currently live and teach English in Guadeloupe, a French archipelago in the Caribbean, through The Teaching Assistant Program in France. Despite researching the country, my arrival in Guadeloupe was a complete culture shock.  Here, I have the opportunity to truly see for the first time, the clash and mélange of cultures (French and Caribbean), the tension and coexistence of races, and the juxtaposition of extreme poverty and extreme wealth. On the other hand, I also have the opportunity to experience the joys and communal feeling of island life, the beauty of the Antilles, and the very particular culture and traditions of the Caribbean.  Moreover, I have had to enter the “real world” of post-college life and to become very independent all in a language other than my first. I can say with certainty that I would not have been prepared to immerse myself in this world and in the French language without the skills and experiences I gained at Carleton through the French and Francophone Studies department. Thanks to the professors and courses, my love of and obsession with everything French and francophone continues to grow daily.

  • Rachel Rothender ’11, French and Francophone Studies major