The major in French is a liberal arts major, designed for those who wish to study one of the world’s greatest and richest cultures in depth. The department offers courses devoted to authors, works, and literary and cultural movements that span ten centuries and four continents. The curriculum also includes interdisciplinary studies on the relations between literature and areas such as history, law, religion, politics, and the arts. Majors are encouraged to explore all periods and genres of literature in French, as well as a wide variety of critical approaches. Students may also select French as one of two majors.

Excellent knowledge of a foreign language and a mature, informed appreciation of a foreign literature open doors to many professions. For this reason, the French major provides ideal preparation for careers in academics, law, diplomacy, journalism, the arts, business, education, and many other fields.

French courses numbered 110–160 are primarily language courses; the majority of entering first-year students enroll in one of these. Most higher-numbered courses are devoted to the study of French and francophone literature from the Middle Ages to the twenty-first century, and to aspects of French and francophone culture in many different times and places.


The departmental placement exam is accessible online over the summer. Dates and information for the exam will be available on the French Department Website, in the Calendar for the Opening Days, and on the Yale Center for Language Study Website.

Students who have not yet studied French at Yale, except for those with no previous formal or informal exposure to French whatsoever, are expected to take the departmental placement exam. Students who studied abroad over the summer through non-Yale programs must take the placement exam in order to be eligible to receive credit for their work and to ensure placement in the appropriate course should they wish to continue their study of French.

The department strongly recommends that students who earned a score of 5 on the AP French exam, a score of 6 or 7 on the advanced-level International Baccalaureate (IB) exam, a rating of C1 on the CEFR European test, or an A or B on the GCE A-level exam take the placement exam in order to be directed to the most appropriate course and thus save precious time during shopping period. Nevertheless, they may enroll in an appropriate course designated L5 in Yale College Programs of Study. Normally a course at the 150 and above level is the most appropriate option.

Students who wish to begin taking French in the spring are advised to take the placement exam over the summer. Placement exam results will remain valid for one year.