French Majors & French Certificate

The French Program at Williams offers 2 different majors (French Language & Literature Major and French Studies Major) and 1 minor (French Certificate).

For a useful guide to our 2 different French Majors and our French Certificate, read on below! For a comprehensive description of our French Majors and French Certificate, see the official rules and guidelines in the Course Catalog.

If you are a rising Junior or a Senior who would like to Declare the French Major or French Certificate, go to our French Advising page for helpful information and instructions, or scroll down to the end of this page for instructions on filling out 2 forms: the Declaration of Major/Certificate Forms for both the French Program and the Registrar.

For information on the French Program’s Modified Policies to the French Major & Certificate in 2020-21, amid the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, read on below.

FRENCH OPEN HOUSE: Monday, November 16, 6PM !

Join the French Faculty for Info on the French Major, French Certificate, & French Courses for Spring 2021! To receive the Zoom invitation, you must first enroll in the French Special Interest Group on Glowby Monday, November 16, at 4PM. Even though Pre-Registration for Spring 2021 courses will not take place until January 11-18, we want to offer this French Open House to help you start thinking about French courses, as well as the French Majors and French Certificate (Minor) as soon as possible. While we continue to face the challenges of the pandemic and await the possibility of future travel, this is a good time to devote another semester to perfecting your French skills and look ahead to study abroad or travel in the Francophone world in 2021-2022!

Why Consider a French Major or French Certificate?

In our globalized world, the study of foreign languages is essential to cultural understanding and professional success. Employers and graduate schools seek candidates who can bring excellent communication and language skills to their studies and work. Students who have completed foreign language majors and minors report that interviewers are impressed with their language skills and cultural proficiency. This is as true for those attending Medical, Law, and Business Schools as it is for those pursuing careers in Academia, Public Service, and International Relations.

Our French Majors and Certificate Students thrive at Williams! They often combine their French Major or Certificate with double majors in Biology, Chemistry, Math, Computer Science, History, Political Science, Art History, English, Comparative Literature, and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. They frequently live, intern, and study abroad in France, Switzerland, Morocco, and Sénégal during their junior years, and many spend a postgraduate year working abroad with the Teaching Assistant Program in France. Following graduate school at prestigious universities (such as NYU, University of Michigan, Vanderbilt,  and Harvard), our French Majors and Certificate Students gone on to dynamic careers in education, medicine, law, public service, politics, business, journalism, and the arts.

French Language & Literature Major

The French Language & Literature Major seeks to provide training in linguistic expression and cultural analysis through the study of language, literature, and cinema, from across the French-speaking world, from Medieval and Renaissance France to contemporary Francophone cultures.

The French Language & Literature Major consists of 9 courses. All French courses at Williams (RLFR courses at the 100, 200, 300, and 400 levels) can count towards the major. One of these courses must be the 400-level senior seminar during the student’s final year at the College (even if an advanced student has already taken a senior seminar earlier in their Williams career). Up to 4 courses from study abroad (during either a semester or year of study in a Francophone country) can also count towards the major. For more on which kinds of courses can and cannot count, see the official rules and guidelines in the Course Catalog, and speak with a member of the French Faculty.

Advanced students entering the major program at the 200-level may, with the permission of the Department, choose as part of their major program, 1 course in Art History, History, Philosophy, Comparative Literature, or other subjects that relate to and broaden their study of French. Students entering the major program at a very advanced level may, in some cases and with the permission of the Department, include 2 such courses in their major program.

Working with a French Major Advisor (Professors Brian Martin and Cécile Tresfels in 2020-21), the student will formulate a curricular plan that will ensure balance and coherence in courses taken. Prospective majors should discuss their program with the major advisor by the end of their sophomore year, before submitting their Declaration of Major Form to the Registrar. This is imperative for students who are planning to spend a part or all of their junior year Studying Abroad.

French Studies Major

The French Studies Major is an interdisciplinary program that provides students with the opportunity to acquire skills and knowledge embracing the cultural, historical, social, and political heritage of France and the Francophone world. The program allows for an individualized course of study involving work in several departments and the opportunity to study abroad.

Students electing the French Studies Major should speak with a French Major Advisor (Professors Brian Martin and Cécile Tresfels in 2020-21) by the end of their sophomore year, before submitting their Declaration of Major Form to the Registrar. This is imperative for students who are planning to spend a part or all of their junior year Studying Abroad.

The French Studies Major consists of 10 courses: at least 5 courses at Williams (RLFR courses at the 100, 200, 300, and 400 levels) in French language, literature, film, or culture; the 400-level senior seminar during the student’s final year at the College (even if an advanced student has already taken a senior seminar earlier in their Williams career); and 4 elective courses, which must be drawn from at least 3 different departments and relate primarily to the cultures, histories, societies, and politics of France and the Francophone world. These courses will be selected in consultation with the French faculty. Appropriate electives might include: AFR 360 Political Thought of Frantz Fanon, ARTH 254 Manet to Matisse, HIST 390 Haitian and French Revolutions. Up to 4 courses from study abroad (during either a semester or year of study in a Francophone country) can also count towards the major. For more on which kinds of courses can and cannot count, see the official rules and guidelines in the Course Catalog, and speak with a member of the French Faculty.

French Certificate (Minor)

The French Certificate is a formal program of study, consisting of 7 courses, taken at Williams or during study abroad. Similar to a “French Minor” at other institutions, the French Certificate is formally cited on your Williams transcript (right after your major) and can be listed on your resumé. The French Certificate is ideal for those students who may not be able to major in French, but who want to devote a significant portion of their academic career to the study of French and Francophone Cultures.

The French Certificate consists of 7 courses, for which you must earn a cumulative average of B or higher. Among the 7 courses required for the French Certificate, at least 3 must be taken at Williams. You can qualify for up to 4 courses from study abroad (for either a semester or entire year), but these courses must be related to language, literature, or culture. For more on which kinds of courses can and cannot count, see the official rules and guidelines in the Course Catalog, and speak with a member of the French Faculty.

  • For Students with No Prior French Background: The course sequence usually consists of French 101, 102, 103, 104, and 105, and 2 additional courses in French above the 105 level, with at least 1 of these courses at the 200-level or higher taken at Williams.
  • For Students Starting at French 103: The course sequence usually consists of French 103, 104, 105, and 4 additional courses in French above the 105 level, with at least 2 of these courses at the 200-level or higher, and at least 1 of these courses at the 300-level or higher.
  • For Students Starting at French 200 and higher: The plan of study will usually consist of 7 courses, of which at least 2 courses should be at the 300-level or higher. 2 electives may be taken in other departments: these courses must focus significantly on French or Francophone culture (art, literature, drama, music, history, political science, etc.).

Students who are planning to pursue the French Certificate should speak with a French Certificate Advisor (Professors Brian Martin and Cécile Tresfels in 2020-21) by the end of their sophomore year, before submitting their Declaration of Concentration Form to the Registrar. By April 1st of their junior year, students must complete the French Certificate Final Application.

Modified Policies for French Major & Certificate        (2020-2021)

Amid the continuing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the French Program wants to offer some flexibility in our requirements for the French Major & Certificate. While the amount of required courses will remain unchanged for the French Language & Literature Major (9 courses), the French Studies Major (10 courses), and the French Certificate (7 courses), we want to offer the following possibilities:

  • As the Registrar explains, Pass/Fail courses normally cannot count towards a departmental major (unless it’s the first course in the major). However, amid the challenges of the pandemic, Pass/Fail courses from Spring 2020, Fall 2020, and Spring 2021 can count towards the French Major & Certificate. This may also include the Senior Seminar in Spring 2021; as the College continues to assess the pandemic and plans for Spring 2021, we will keep you posted.
  • Since enrollment caps have been reduced in Romance Languages courses (to maximize social distancing in on-campus classrooms and minimize online fatigue with remote learning) and since Study Abroad Programs have been suspended, we acknowledge that students may need greater flexibility in order to complete their coursework for the French Major & Certificate. Students who have declared the French Major or Certificate will have enrollment preference in RLFR courses. In addition, the department will work with individual students to assure they have enough courses (both RLFR courses in the French Program and elective courses in other departments, as long as those courses have a strong focus on French and Francophone content) to fulfill the required number of courses for the French Major & Certificate.
  • Students who have questions or concerns should speak with one of the French Faculty Advisors for 2020-21: Professors Brian Martin and Cécile Tresfels. Even as we continue to maintain high standards of academic excellence, we want to offer as much flexibility and support as we can during this challenging time. Courage, nos ami.e.s!

How to Declare the French Major or French Certificate

If you are a rising Junior or Senior and want to declare the French Major or Certificate: Bravo & Bienvenue à la spécialisation en Études françaises et francophones!

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Look at the requirements for the French Majors & French Certificate.
  2. Complete and submit the French Program’s online French Major & Certificate Declaration Form. If you cannot get to the form with the link, copy and paste this URL into your browser: https://forms.gle/r9RipsGnTmHk4X2B9
  3. Email one of the French Advisors (Professors Martin & Tresfels in 2020-21) and make an appointment to discuss the courses in your French Major & Certificate Declaration Form. In August 2020, you should meet with a French Advisor between August 3-13, so you can choose the appropriate courses during Pre-Registration, August 10-17.
  4. Once your French Advisor approves the study plan on your French Major & Certificate Declaration Form, you should then complete and submit the Registrar’s (different but similar) Major or Certificate (Concentration) Declaration Form. You have now officially declared the French Major or Certificate!