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French Language Studies

Offered in Washington DC and SAIS Europe

The French Program offers classes from Novice through Advanced levels. The program provides students with a unique opportunity to engage in learning experiences that reflect authentic and purposeful uses of the French language. Depending on the level of linguistic competence, semi-authentic and authentic resources are used for instruction, to ensure an appropriate development of language skill and communicative competence. Authentic materials from the Francophone world will be used at all levels to ensure continuous, up-to-date exposure to the language and foster skill development. In all of the communicative activities, a careful balance is maintained in developing linguistic, socio-linguistic, and pragmatic competences.


Novice French (Level I)
Novice French is the first in a four-course sequence. In this course, students learn the basic French structures through everyday content and situations, as they develop the four macro-skills in French: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Daily vocabulary and basic structures will be introduced and practiced upon through relevant role plays.
Intermediate Low French (Level II)
This is the second in a four-course sequence in the French Program. Students expand their grammar and structural knowledge of the language, by practicing their newly acquired language skills in real-life communicative situations and by gaining confidence in using French. Students will also be gradually introduced to some professionally-relevant vocabulary and more complex grammar structures.
Intermediate Mid I French (Level III)

This is the third in a four-course sequence. In this course, students are gradually exposed to more abstract French language contexts as they deal with topics that relate to their concentrations. In addition, students review the grammar and structures introduced in the previous levels. Thanks to an expanded vocabulary and a focus on grammatical accuracy, students will gain confidence in their ability to speak and write in French. In this course, students are also exposed to authentic material (through a variety of reading excerpts and video clips) and begin to develop strategies on how to understand progressively more complex reading and listening documents.
Intermediate Mid II French (Level IV) 
This course is the fourth and last of the pre-proficiency sequence. At the end of this course, students are eligible to take the proficiency exam. In French Intermediate Mid II, students are asked to perform more complex language tasks (i.e. narrate or sustain opinion at paragraph-length level). The content is primarily related to topics (e.g., economy, environment, politics, etc.). While the course gives the students the opportunity to practice more complex functions of the language (i.e., debating, narrating, summarizing, etc.), it also focuses on more concrete aspects (i.e. how to write a cover letter; how to take part in a formal/informal conversation).


In addition to the pre-proficiency courses, the French Program also provides courses that go beyond the language requirement scope. At this level, the specialized language skills are further expanded to meet the students’ professional needs. Listening materials consist of extended newscasts and recordings from political speeches. Reading materials include feature-length articles on politics, international relations, and current events. Typical classroom activities include simulations, debates, and political discussions.

French can be used to meet the MA language graduation requirements of the programs within the International Policy Areas, as well as the regional programs of African Studies, European Studies, Western Hemisphere Studies (Canadian Studies). To pass the exams, students need to obtain the following proficiency levels per language skill:

Listening: Intermediate High
Speaking:Intermediate High
Reading:Intermediate High
Writing:Intermediate Mid

PhD students only need to pass the reading proficiency exam to meet their second foreign language graduation requirement.