Modern Languages and Literatures


Charles Batson, professor of French

French at Union is an exciting, dynamic program offering a variety of classes to students with a wide range of interests. In all of our classes, from Elementary French to the Senior Project, we emphasize the richness of the expressions of the Francophone world. With professors specializing in a broad spectrum of French and Francophone literature, women's and gender studies, and performance studies, our classes emphasize the importance of cultural awareness as a key element of twenty-first century life. We invite you to explore these pages to discover some of the many opportunities we offer students in French for continued growth in linguistic and cultural proficiency. We encourage you to contact any of us in the French Section to help you take advantage of all that we offer including a major, interdepartmental major and a minor.

  • Why study French?

    While any language will be useful for some jobs or for some regions, French is the only foreign language that can be useful throughout the world as well as in the United States. French as a foreign language is the second most frequently taught language in the world after English. The International Organization of Francophonie has 51 member states and governments. Of these, 28 countries have French as an official language. French is the only language other than English spoken on five continents. French and English are the only two global languages. When deciding on a foreign language for work or school, consider that French is the language that will give you the most choices later on in your studies or your career. French, along with English, is the official working language of the United Nations, UNESCO, NATO, OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), the International Labor Bureau, the International Olympic Committee, the Council of Europe, the European Union, the Universal Postal Union, the International Red Cross, UIA (Union of International Associations) French is the dominant working language at the European Court of Justice, the European Tribunal of First Instance, the European Court of Auditors in Luxembourg, the Press Room at the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium. One example of the importance of French can be seen in a recent listing of international jobs (5/13/03) distributed by the US State Department: 185 required or preferred French, 124 a UN language (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish), 39 Spanish, 19 Arabic, 10 Russian, 6 Portuguese, 5 German, 5 Chinese. Of the various types of professional positions for which international organizations recruit, five required French, two Spanish, one Portuguese, and one Arabic, according to the fact sheet released by the UN Employment Information and Assistance Unit Bureau of International Organization Affairs U.S. Department of State, December 1, 2000.

    The Economics of French and France

    • French is the foreign language spoken by our largest trading partner (Canada).
    • The province of Quebec alone is the fifth largest trading partner of the United States with over $104 billion in trade in 2000.
    • In 2000, the United States exported more to countries having French as a national language than to countries having any other foreign language. Exports to Canada alone in that year were greater than the combined exports to all countries south of the United States.
    • In 1994 the United States did business and trade with the following countries in order of importance: 1. French-speaking countries; 2. Japan; 3. Spanish-speaking countries.
    • Between 1995 and 2001 exports from the US to France increased by 57%; imports from France went up 72%.
    • The U.S. and France share many trade similarities, particularly their global standing as the world's top 2 exporters in 3 very important sectors: defense products, agricultural goods, and services. Franco-American trade is also remarkable for its symmetry, as 6 of the top 10 exports are the same each way.
    • France has the fourth largest economy in the world after the U.S., Japan and Germany.
    • France is the second largest exporter of agricultural products in the world after the U.S.
    • In recent years, the U.S. has been the largest direct investor in France and France has been one of the three largest investors in the U.S.
    • French companies employ approximately 650,000 Americans. Among foreign countries doing business in the US, France employs the third largest number of Americans.
    • French is one of the languages spoken in the US: 1.9 million Americans speak French in the home. (2000 US Census)
    • France is the fourth largest destination of foreign investments in the world.
    • Overall, the French export more per capita than the Japanese and more than twice as much as the Americans. France is overall, the fourth largest exporting nation of the world.
    • France is the world's leader in the production of luxury goods.
    • More tourists visit France than any other country in the world.
    • France has rated higher than the United States on the United Nation's Human Development Index (HDI) in recent years (1997-99). Canada has been ranked higher in each of these years. The HDI measures the overall achievements in a country in life expectancy, educational attainment and adjusted income.
    • France gives more foreign aid to developing nations than does the US.

    Science and Technology

    • Seven of France's top ten exports to the U.S. are industrial or high technology products.
    • France is the fourth largest producer of automobiles in the world (Renault, Peugeot, Citroën) and the third largest exporter. (All Mack trucks are manufactured by Renault.)
    • France is fourth in research among countries of the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (after Japan, Germany, and the US).
    • France is a major world research center in the field of high energy physics.
    • The French are a world leader in medical research: the AIDS virus was first isolated by French doctors.
    • The French are a leader in medical genetics (the Human Genome Project is located in Paris).
    • The French are the world's third manufacturers of electronics equipment.
    • European leader in aerospace (Aérospatiale, Arianespace, Airbus...).
    • Most commercial satellites are put into space on French Ariane rockets.
    • The fastest train (TGV) is French.
    • The fastest commercial airplane (Concorde) is French (built in collaboration with British Aerospace).
    • France is the world's third military power (after the US and Russia), and has the world's second largest defense industry (i.e. exocet missiles, radar technology.)
    • France is the world's second largest builder and exporter of civilian and military aircraft and helicopters (Airbus is the world's second largest fleet of commercial airliners, and many of the US Coast Guard helicopters are made by Aérospatiale in Toulouse.)
    • France has one of the most advanced systems of telecommunications in the world. Fiber optics were invented in France.
    • France is the world's largest manufacturer of television sets (HDTV was invented in France)

    Importance of French in School and Work

    Historically France and the French language have had an enormous influence over American society. France was the United States' first ally. French thought played a dominant role among the founders of the United States in the 18th century, and it continues to shape America today through the influence of such intellectual currents as post-structuralism and post-modernism. In the humanities and the social sciences, many of the most important writings have come from France. Students and researchers who know French have access to these works for several years before they are translated into English. Many significant works are never translated and remain accessible only to those who know the language. In addition, most graduate schools require knowledge of at least one foreign language, and French remains the most commonly used language after English. When employers and universities look at applicants, they do not start looking at the bottom of the list to see who has done only the minimal amount of requirements necessary or taken the easiest route available, they start at the top of the list and look for those students who have risen above the rest. High school students should consider studying at least four years of a foreign language. College students should seek to earn a minor in French or have French as a primary or secondary major. With French they have access to the most widely spoken foreign language in the world after English and they become familiar with a culture that significantly influences our own. The French economy is one of the strongest in the world and is increasingly a leader in technological innovation. In sum, French is the language of the future. © 2002 Richard Shryock

  • Courses & Requirements
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  • Study abroad

    The France Term Abroad at the University of Rennes-II engages Union students in intensive language courses and contemporary cultural studies. On top of a university experience, students live with, learn from, and enjoy the cuisine and camaraderie of host families in Rennes, one of France's five top-rated cities to live in according to the most recent national survey. A university town that welcomes over 60,000 students each year, Rennes hosts internationally recognized arts, music, theater, film, and technology festivals every fall, all of which enhance students' intellectual and personal growth.

  • French Club

    Union's Club Français is primarily student-run for students of French, and for any francophile or francophone members of the campus community who enjoy participating in the following activities during the academic year:

    Table Française - a way for French students, teachers, natives and others to spend a pleasant lunch-hour or coffee-hour informally speaking French.

    French Film Series - several French films (recent and classic) shown during each term, chosen by French Club members

    Social Activities - Various parties, gatherings, dinners, sometimes in conjunction with other language clubs, sometimes with skits, music or other student entertainment. Occasionally, a group trip to a local play or movie is organized.

  • Internet resources

    Directories for French & Francophone Studies

    Sénéweb - All the web links for Senegal that count.


    Radio France Internationale


    Le Devoir Le Nouvel Observateur L'Express Le Monde Libération

    Tourisme/Monde Francophone

    Portail officiel de Montréal Le Sénégal en ligne

  • Career opportunities