For the first time in decades, the French Department has changed the major requirements and plans to offer new courses in an effort to add flexibility and attract more non-majors.
The new program of study, announced to a meeting of approximately 25 students and faculty members Wednesday, includes a revamped prerequisite language sequence, the division of seminars into introductory and advanced levels, and the elimination of the requirement of two pre-1700 courses. French Director of Undergraduate Studies Catherine Labio said that the new program should give students more freedom in their selection of courses.
“What we’ve tried to do is something you’ve been telling us for a number of years,” Labio said. “The changes are aimed to make it easier for students to create individual plans of study — our requirements have been tinkered with to make a second major easier.”
The changes were announced a week after the Committee on Yale College education released its academic review recommending changes in Yale’s foreign language requirements. French Professor Ruth Koizim said the department’s changes reflect the same philosophy as the academic review by trying to make advanced language courses more accessible to undergraduates.
One of the main changes involves the prerequisite courses for the French major. Previously, students majoring in French had to take two semester-long courses in either French 138a or 139b, advanced language courses, or French 160a and 161b, introductory literature classes, in addition to the 12 semester courses required for the undergraduate major. The implementation of the new program means that any courses in the 160 range will count towards the 12 required credits for the major.
Additionally, students can now take up to four courses in their specific area of interest outside of the French department, and have all of them count towards their major.
Eva Kaye ’03, a French and International Studies major who studied abroad in Senegal for a semester, said the changes would have made it significantly easier for her to take the necessary courses in order to double-major while still studying abroad.
“In the sense that the major has been very flexible and worked with me, I was able to do what I wanted, it just took a lot of conversation and justifying,” Kaye said. “As it stands now, the [new French] major has the flexibility to allow me to do what I wanted to do [more easily].”
Another adjustment in the French program will allow students to take advanced seminar classes in the 200’s through 400’s after passing one course in the 160 to 165 range. To make this easier, four new “gateway” courses will replace the current French 160a and 161b classes. These will include an Introduction to French and Francophone Cultural History, Introduction to French and Francophone Literatures, and Introduction to French and Francophone Societies and Cultures. Labio explained that each of these courses will be based on a semester-long theme.
“French 162 [Introduction to French and Francophone Cultural History] next year will be organized around food,” Labio said.
Members of the French Department said they hope these updated course offerings will attract more students to the French program. French Chairman Edwin Duval said the benefits of the remodelled French courses should appeal even to students with no intention of majoring in French.
“For majors and non-majors alike, courses in French culture and literature are exactly the kinds of courses that make for a liberal arts education and should be central to a Yale student’s education,” Duval said.