Photo: The Musée d’Orsay at sunset. By Joe deSousa.
This Fall, the Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures (MCLL) launched a new Minor in French and Francophone Studies. The minor includes lower-division French language courses, which also double as the general education language requirements. What sets the program apart is that the upper-division courses, taught in English, look at different aspects of French and Francophone cultures.
The existing French major and minor offer classes for those who want to learn how to speak the language, teach the language, or become fluent in French language and literature. All of those classes are in French.
Natalie Muñoz, assistant professor of French, spearheaded the effort to create the new minor after seeing frustrated students who found a love for French but didn’t have the time to pursue a major or minor, which could often add several additional semesters of study.
“The problem is unless you have a really solid background in French coming into the university, it’s very hard to progress through all the language requirements, then go on to do the major, or even the minor successfully starting with French 1A,” Muñoz explained.
Rather than focus on language, the four upper-division courses focus on various aspects of French culture around the work. These courses are “French Literature, Culture, and Society from the Middle Ages to Today,” “The French Esthetic,” “French and Francophone Film,” and “Voices of Africa.”
“We don’t want to exclude a large population of people and say that you can never learn about France and French-speaking cultures without the language. The minor in French and Francophone Studies is an opportunity for them to approach these cultures using English,” Muñoz said.
Each course looks beyond France as a country to the influence its language and culture have had worldwide. For example, the French esthetic looks at how France has been a leader in fashion, food and politics, and how that esthetic is exported worldwide. The French and Francophone Film course also goes beyond France and looks at the cinema in other French-speaking places such as Quebec, Rwanda and Congo.
Muñoz says students in various majors could benefit from a minor in French and Francophone Studies to aid their studies and future careers. French is spoken on every continent and ties to several areas of industry and professions.
“It’s one thing to know about international business, but it’s another thing to know how French perceive the United States and how our perceptions of them can color how you’re going to market things,” Muñoz said.
Muñoz is looking to link the program to different industries and professions, both on and off-campus, to augment classroom learning.
While travel abroad is suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Muñoz said those programs would likely restart in 2022 at the earliest. In addition to France, they plan to include other French-speaking locations, including Montreal, French-Caribbean Islands and French-speaking countries in Africa.