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:
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
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
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
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 204 student
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, “Certificator” (working on the “Certificate of Advanced Studies” in French)
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
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