Why Study French?

Leaving college soon and thinking about the workplace? Tired of answering the question “What can you do with a French major besides teach?” Read on…

* Forbes reports that French is the language of the future, according to a study by Natixis investment bank projecting French will be the “most-spoken language in the world” by 2050. I urge you to read the article and to think about the study’s methodology, to see if you agree with the bank’s analysis. Read article

*ABC News reports that according to Bloomberg Rankings, French is the second most useful foreign language for English speakers to learn for business. Read article

* Inside Higher Ed reported in 2011 that French majors made far larger gains during college than students in other majors, in their writing, analytical, and critical thinking skills, as measured by the CLA (Collegiate Learning Assessment). [article no longer online]/ Read analysis for possible explanations

* Newsweek reports a French major as one of the top ten most useful majors “according to science.” “Useful, for our purposes, is defined by majors most likely to lead to less unemployment and higher earnings, and which are in industries projected to grow in the next decade according to research from Georgetown University and data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.Read article.

* Jonathan Moore, Peace Corps campus recruiter at the University of Virginia, writes: “Now more than ever, French speakers are in hot demand across all Peace Corps assignment sectors (Environment, Agriculture, Health, Business, Education, and Community/Youth Development), and largely in Africa and the Caribbean. And while French skills alone won’t qualify an applicant for Peace Corps service, if you have French skills plus work or volunteering experience in any of the above sectors, you quickly become a highly competitive candidate. We generally have little trouble filling our Spanish-speaking assignment spots these days, but French language enrollment isn’t as prevalent as it once was, and so it’s considered a “scarce” skill.” Email peacecorps@virginia.edu with questions, and check out www.peacecorps.gov.

* According to the US Census Bureau, French is the third most spoken language in the US other than English. See statistics

* Applicants for assistant professorships in French departments at colleges and universities regularly test the applicants’ French language skills. If they are not good enough at speaking the language, they are not considered for the position. Read article

* NPR’s Steve Henn highlights “Utah’s secret weapon” for job creation: “Utah happens to have the highest percentage of foreign-language speakers in the country. It’s the state’s secret economic weapon.Every year, thousands of Mormon missionaries come back to Utah after spending two years abroad, learning a foreign language, foreign customs and intricacies of a foreign culture.” Listen to story

* Robert Lane Greene, a business correspondent for The Economist, explains why he thinks French (not Mandarin) is the most useful language to learn for business. Read article

* Bilingualism makes you smarter, says new research reported in the New York Times. Read article.

* Learn French and protect your brain! Bilingualism protects the brain from age-related decline, reports the BBC, referencing a study published in the Annals of Neurology. Read article.

* There is an association between living abroad and creativity, say William Maddux, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at INSEAD and Adam Galinsky, the Morris and Alice Kaplan Professor of Ethics and Decision in Management at the Kellogg School The longer the time spent abroad, the higher the scores on creativity tests, their study found. Read article.

* Why do foreign language majors make such gains in critical thinking skills, compared to other majors? In attempting to explain this, scholars at Kalamazoo College suggest that “second language learning might enhance competency in the native language as well as critical thinking and problem-solving skills […because of] four attributes—metalinguistic awareness, critical reading, critical thinking and problem solving, and cross-cultural literacy—that receive explicit and regular attention in language courses and that may contribute to better performance on tasks like the CLA (Collegiate Learning Assessment).” Read article.

What are UVA grads doing with their French majors?

  • Teaching in colleges and universities
  • Practicing medicine
  • Practicing international law
  • Directing museums
  • Teaching in French, English, or ESL in Charlottesville, France, Morocco, and South Korea
  • Serving in humanitarian agencies here and abroad, such as the Peace Corps or the International Justice Mission
  • Working in legal firms as paralegals, legal analysts,or legal assistants
  • Studying medicine in France
  • Pursuing graduate studies in Europe and the USA in Translation & Interpretation, International Relations, Sociology, Law, Psychology, Chemistry, French, Film Studies and Medicine
  • Working in marketing and advertising
  • Working in financial sales or international finance
  • …and the list continues to grow

Interested in living and teaching in France?

UVA students are very successful in applications for the French Government Teaching Exchange Program (TAPIF). You apply between October and January of your 4th year, and the fall after you graduate, you go to France for 9 months to teach English in a middle or high school. And get paid! Here is the application link. Many of your French professors, including me, have done this program, so we have lots of advice if you have questions.

Want to work in France?

The French American Chamber of Commerce has a has a program called the American Trainees in France program that sponsors training visas for Americans (aged 18-35) who are interested in working in France. More details are available at FACC.

Interested in Africa? Want to continue your study of French in Senegal?

Consider applying for a Boren Award. French is an African Flagship Language. More info.

Want help finding a job in Europe?

These organizations may be helpful. I don’t have any personal experience with them, so I make no claim to their effectiveness.

UVA Offices that help find internships & jobs