Romance Languages

French at Wesleyan

If you are coming to Wesleyan with the intention of taking French classes, you have probably already been exposed to (or are drawn to) the attraction of French and Francophone literatures, ideas, and cultures. Such a lure remains the primary reason why students have majored in French at Wesleyan.  Nonetheless, Wesleyan students who have completed the major in French studies have often asked about the usefulness of French after finishing university.
We would ask you to consider the following:

* French is the only language other than English spoken on five continents; one finds French from Africa to the Pacific, from Quebec to Louisiana, from Europe to the Caribbean.
* French and English are the only two global languages .
* French is, along with English, the official language of:

- the United Nations
- Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
- the International Labor Bureau
- the International Olympic Committee (scores are given in French first!)
- the 31-member Council of Europe
- the European Community
- the International Red Cross

* In recent years, the U.S. has been the largest direct investor in France
* Similarly, France has been one of the three largest investors in the U.S
* French companies employ approximately 650,000 Americans
* One example of the importance of French can be seen in a recent listing of international jobs (11/11/03) distributed by the US State Department: 172 required or preferred French, 74 a UN language (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish), 59 Spanish, 16 Portuguese, 15 Arabic, 13 Russian, 7 Chinese, 6 German, other 4.
* French is the foreign language spoken by our largest trading partner (Canada); the province of Québec is, by itself, the fifth largest trading partner of the United States with over $104 billion in trade in 2000.

Much of the information contained above courtesy of Richard Shryock.
© 2004 Richard Shryock
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
(Virginia Tech)