The three Bs – beret, bike and baguette – do people still believe this quaint view of France?
Contrary to popular assumptions, France is a culture of plurality and diversity, much like the United States. It is not a place where one French language is spoken, or one set of cultural values and beliefs are practiced uniformly. Throughout its history, French culture has been shaped by its various populations, from the Gauls and the Franks of ancient lore, to the Bretons and Basques of unique origin, the troubadours of the south, and more recent immigrants from Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Learning the French language therefore provides us with an opening onto a rich historical landscape of cultural and linguistic multiplicity and complexity.
The undergraduate program of Northwestern’s French department reflects this diversity through a multidisciplinary approach, offering courses, both in English and French, in literature, cinema, theater, as well as philosophy, literary theory, cultural history, and political thought, ranging from the Medieval period to contemporary French and Francophone cultures. Whether beginner or advanced, students have a wide choice of language courses, including career-specific business French. In a world where cultures interact with much more frequency and intensity, learning French, a language spoken by millions in the Americas, Africa, Europe and the Middle East, is an indispensable asset for those interested in careers as varied as business, global health, media, and tourism.
Northwestern offers a major and a minor in French as well as opportunities for studying in France, Francophone Europe, and several countries in Francophone Africa on programs varying in length from a summer to one academic year. These programs together with Northwestern’s courses allow students to develop superior skills not only in the language but also in critical thinking and cultural fluency.