What is a French Language Degree?

French language degree programs teach students how to speak, read, and write French. Some programs focus on French literature and others on the study of the linguistic structure of the French language. Programs that include both a literary and a linguistic component are quite common. Some schools offer specific degrees in French translation and interpretation.

Because of these concentration options, French language degree program courses vary. The following are some sample classes:

  • The Structure of French
  • English/French Comparative Grammar
  • English/French Translation
  • French Conversation
  • French for Business
  • French Culture
  • French Renaissance
  • Francophone Novels

Program Options


  • French language degree programs often include an option to complete part of the curriculum abroad.
  • Many students who major in French complete a double major. This provides them with another skill and prepares them for jobs in a wider range of fields. Some examples are combining French studies with a second major (or minor) in business, economics, political science, international relations, or education.

Associate Degree in French Language – Two Year Duration
An Associate Degree in French language prepares students for a limited number of entry-level positions. Possible roles include French tutor or French-speaking salesperson, customer service representative, or tour guide.

At this level, coursework focuses on the fundamental structure and patterns of the French language. The typical curriculum combines classroom instruction with language lab time, during which students have the opportunity to interact with native French-speaking tutors.

Here are sample courses from the associate curriculum:

  • Beginning French – reading, writing, and speaking French
  • Intermediate French – second-level course that introduces students to more complex oral and written material
  • Business French
  • English to French Translation – Introduction
  • French / Francophone Cultures

Bachelor’s Degree in French Language – Four Year Duration
With a Bachelor’s Degree in French Language, graduates qualify for a variety of roles, especially if they have completed a double major or a major/minor curriculum. Depending on their specific degree, they may find employment in fields like business, media/communications, human resources, or teaching.

The typical Bachelor’s Degree in French Language includes courses like these:

  • Introductory French
  • Intermediate French
  • Introduction to French Linguistics
  • Introduction to French Literature
  • French Conversation
  • French Composition
  • French Phonetics – the sound system of French
  • Grammatical Analysis of the French Language
  • English to French Translation
  • History of the French Language
  • Teaching French as a Second Language
  • The Modern Francophone Novel
  • French Poetry and Theatre

Bachelor’s Degree in French Translation and Interpretation – Four Year Duration
At many schools, the French translation/interpretation program is a separate and distinct program from the linguistics/literature option. It, of course, prepares students to work as English/French and French/English translators and interpreters.

Translators must be able to write well in the target language. Interpreters must be able to translate in both directions without using dictionaries or other reference material. Consecutive interpreters wait for the speaker to pause and translate what has been said. Simultaneous interpreters translate in real-time. They hear the message in the source language, process it, and simultaneously (in about five to ten seconds) output in the target language the translation of the speaker’s words.

Graduates of these programs often work for professional translation/interpretation services or as freelancers. Their services are needed at intercultural/international conferences and meetings. Working as an interpreter for the United Nations (UN) is particularly highly-regarded.

In addition to providing basic training, French translation and interpretation programs often offer specializations:

  • Specialization in Technical Translation
  • Specialization in Editorial Translation
  • Specialization in Social and Institutional Translation
  • Specialization in Interpreting

Courses include:

  • French Language for Translators and Interpreters
  • Technologies of Translating and Interpreting
  • Language and Translation
  • History of Translating and Interpreting
  • Information Science Applied to Translation and Interpretation
  • Cultural Mediation in Translating and Interpreting
  • Theory of Translating and Interpreting
  • Inverse Translation
  • Initiation to Interpreting
  • Initiation to Specialized Translation
  • Terminology Applied to Translating and Interpreting
  • Consecutive Interpreting Techniques

Master’s Degree in French Language – Two Year Duration
Graduates with a Master’s Degree in French Language may work as educators, business professionals, or public servants.

At the master’s level, students focus on a specific track of study such as French linguistics, French literature, or Francophone literature. Classes may include:

  • French Phonetics
  • French Phonology
  • French Morphology
  • French Syntax
  • French Semantics
  • French Sociolinguistics – the study of the French language in relation to social factors: region, class, dialect, gender, bilingualism
  • Medieval French Literature
  • Contemporary French Literature

Master’s Degree in French Translation and Interpretation – Four Year Duration
Holders of this degree often translate / interpret within specific fields such as science, medical, legal, business, or literary. Some schools offer a Master’s Degree in Specialized Translation. The program is aimed at training translators and interpreters in the fields that most often need translation services.

Translation and interpretation master’s students continue with the concentration they chose at the bachelor’s level:

  • Specialization in Technical Translation
  • Specialization in Editorial Translation
  • Specialization in Social and Institutional Translation
  • Specialization in Interpreting

Here are some sample classes offered in these master’s programs:

  • Translation, Interpreting, and Intercultural Studies
  • Public Service Interpreting
  • Legal, Technical, and Audiovisual Translation
  • Consecutive Interpreting
  • Simultaneous Interpreting
  • Areas of Research in Translation and Interpreting

Doctoral Degree in French Language – Three to Five Year Duration
A Ph.D. in French Language can open many career doors. Students with this graduate degree often teach at the university level. With the appropriate background, they may qualify for roles in business and international relations.

Doctoral programs in French language are research-intensive and students often work as teaching assistants while they earn their doctorate. Each curriculum will vary depending on the chosen concentration. However, most programs require that students become proficient in an alternate language.

Common classes at this level include:

  • Methods for Teaching French
  • French Literature – Theory and Criticism
  • French Culture
  • Francophone Cultures in Europe, Africa, and North America
  • Romance Languages – Comparative Grammar

Doctoral Degree in French Translation and Interpretation – Three to Five Year Duration
The Ph.D. in French Translation and Interpretation is a research degree. Students in doctoral programs:

  • Study language and translation theory
  • Examine French history and culture
  • Assess French translations from both linguistic and literary points of view
  • Translate numerous writings in preparation for their thesis
  • Perform consecutive and simultaneous interpreting

Degrees Similar to French Language

Foreign Languages and Literatures
Students who pursue a French language degree are typically interested in other languages as well.

Anthropology is the study of the evolutionary history of people, how they interact, how they adapt to various environments, and how they communicate and socialize with one another. The link to language and to linguistics – the nature and structure of language – is evident. In fact, many anthropologists are trained in linguistics.

Art History
Degree programs in art history focus on the study of the history and development of drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, filmmaking, and architecture.

Mass Communication and Media Studies
Communication is concerned with how people collect, share, and use information. It combines elements of the social sciences and the humanities to study how humans communicate. While the field explores traditional and interactive media, it also examines language and how we use it.

Comparative Literature
This field studies the literature and literary traditions of two or more different countries, cultures, or languages. Examples of courses in comparative literature are literature of the Americas, literature of China and Japan, romanticism, and tragedy.

Individuals who consider earning a French degree often think about teaching the language. The processes of French language learning and teaching are naturally linked.

European Studies
This is a broad based field of study. It includes European languages, history, art, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, politics, economics, and geography.

International Business
Students of international business study business from a global perspective. They learn how to work cross-culturally, how to manage multinational businesses, and how to turn local and national companies into international corporations. Coursework often includes some foreign language studies, as well.

International Relations
Degree programs in international relations focus on the study of international politics, institutions, foreign policy, and diplomacy. Classes cover international law, international political economy, and global human rights and environmental issues.

Linguistics explores the nature of language variations and dialects, how language evolves over time, how it is processed and stored in the human brain, and how it is acquired. It is the scientific study of language and communication, both within a single language and across language groups.

The primary sub-areas of linguistics are phonetics – the study of the production, acoustics, and hearing of speech sounds; phonology – the patterning of sounds; morphology – the structure of words; syntax – the structure of sentences; semantics – meaning; and pragmatics – language in context. These sub-areas are the foundations of foreign language learning.

Skills You’ll Learn

The process of learning French – or any other second language – is a workout for the brain. Because language learning is complex, it improves cognitive skills and overall brain function. Quite simply, it makes the brain stronger. This means that graduates of a French degree program bring more than their language competency to their work. Studies have shown that adult speakers of more than one language typically:

  • have higher general intelligence
  • are more creative
  • are more patient
  • are better listeners
  • have better concentration abilities
  • have greater mental flexibility
  • are better at planning and making decisions
  • score higher on reading, vocabulary, and math tests
  • are more aware of their surroundings
  • are more likely to understand different points of view
  • are less likely to fall for marketing ploys
  • are better at multi-tasking
  • have better memory and memorization skills

What Can You Do with a French Language Degree?

Graduates can work in several different areas. Please note that some roles – especially more senior ones – may require education in addition to an undergraduate or graduate degree in French language. For example, students who wish to teach French may need a teaching certificate as well as a French language degree. Those who are interested in working as a foreign correspondent may choose to combine French and journalism studies. And those who are attracted to the fashion industry may complete a double major in French and fashion buying/merchandising, for instance.

Translation and Interpretation
Holders of a Degree in French Translation and Interpretation may find opportunities to translate and/or interpret for various sectors, including government departments and agencies, law and courts, healthcare, publishing, and conferences.

This sector is far-reaching and many businesses seek bi- or multi- lingual employees. Some examples are sales, customer service, banking/finance/foreign exchange, manufacturing, engineering, import/export, international relations, and administration.

Communications / Media / Entertainment
Knowledge of French is valued in several roles in this sector: foreign correspondent, journalist, video crew, broadcaster, publisher, proofreader, film production.

Culture / Travel & Tourism
Businesses in these sectors consistently need French speakers. They include airlines, airports, tour companies, travel reservations services and websites, hotels, event planning companies, and museums.

Possible positions are high school French teacher and university French professor.

Governments are one of the largest employers of people with foreign language skills. In Canada, for example, French is particularly valued in positions in the armed forces, the Foreign Service, immigration and customs, law enforcement, security, and intelligence.

These are just some of the volunteer programs, non-profits, and non-governmental organizations that often seek bilingual English/French speakers: the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps VISTA, Habitat for Humanity, Save the Children, Care International, Médecins sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, UNESCO, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the American Red Cross.


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