French Studies

Develop your French language skills as the foundation to explore Francophone culture and build a multidimensional understanding of contemporary society.

The Department of French Studies offers a multidimensional learning experience that embraces not only France itself but also the European Union, in which France plays a leading role, and Francophone societies around the world from Quebec to West Africa. From year one students begin studying contemporary French society and its historical roots along with political and cultural trends in the French-speaking world, even while building their French language skills from the ground up. Once students gain a firm grasp of the basics, they proceed to advanced studies of France and the French-speaking world as they continue to work on their language proficiency. By learning the methodologies required for specialized area studies and for understanding different cultures, students will acquire the kind of well-rounded, advanced education they need to play a leadership role in a wide range of sectors, whether in Japan or on the international stage.

1. Curriculum Overview

The French Studies curriculum is divided into three phases. In phase 1, the emphasis is on gaining practical French proficiency through rigorous language training. In phase 2, students learn about the Francophone (French-speaking) world from every angle—politics, economics, society, and culture. In phase 3 they select one of the nine concentrations offered by the Faculty of Foreign Studies and plunge into study and research in the specialty of their choice.

2. Academic Program (1): French Language

First-year students typically begin with Basic French I (six 90-minute classes per week). In this course they receive rigorous training in the four basic language skills (reading, writing, listening, and speaking) while mastering the basics of French grammar. (A separate track exists for those who have already achieved some level of proficiency in French.)

In year two, students continue to hone their reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills in Basic French II (six 90-minute classes per week). This course is divided into two parts. One focuses on communication skills with intermediate grammar as a foundation, while the other trains students in “French for academic research,” capitalizing on our instructors’ expertise in the fields of philosophy, literature, history, sociology, political science, religious studies, economics, and linguistics.

In their third and fourth years, students master intermediate and advanced French skills in a series of Integrated French courses. Third-year students take three seminars—Verbal Expression, Listening Comprehension, and Reading—to boost all four language skills to the next level. In the Integrated Seminar, fourth-year students apply and practice the whole range of French language skills they have built in the first three years to achieve an even higher level of proficiency.

3. Academic Program (2): Francophone Area Studies

“Francophone” is a term used to describe the French-speaking countries and regions of the world. In addition to France, the Francophone world includes the European nations of Switzerland, Belgium, and Luxembourg, the Canadian province of Quebec, and numerous African nations (Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, and the Central African Republic, among others). Francophone culture encompasses a vast area of the globe, from Haiti in the Caribbean Sea to Vanuatu in the South Pacific.

Through our basic area studies courses, students in the Department of French Studies study these far-flung cultures and societies from a variety of angles. Ranging far beyond the hexagonal perimeters of France itself, these courses encourage students to view the world with fresh eyes, from a Francophone perspective, and explore such topics as the evolution of government, the significance of religious phenomena, and the impact of economic conditions on people’s lives in the context of various Francophone countries and regions.

4. Academic Program (3): Concentration

All students in the Department of French Studies major in French, but in the autumn (second) semester of their second year, students also declare a second major or minor in a specialized field of study, or concentration. The Faculty of Foreign Studies offers nine concentrations to choose from: European Studies, North American Studies, Latin American Studies, Russian and Eurasian Studies, Middle Eastern and African Studies, Asian Studies, Linguistics, International Politics, and Civil Society and International Cooperation. (Under this system, it would not be impossible for a student in the Department of French Studies to declare a Latin American Studies concentration and focus on the Brazilian economy, for example)

While some students enter the department with clear academic and career goals in mind, others need time to explore. During their first year, students can take advantage of our concentration introductory courses to explore the subjects that interest them and learn the fundamentals of various disciplines. In year two, they can explore more specialized content through our concentration core courses. Finally they are ready to choose the concentration in which they wish to pursue advanced study and research. In their third year, students have the opportunity enroll in seminars while continuing to earn credits in the core courses. In these seminars, students receive individualized guidance carefully tailored to their own research goals from faculty members with expertise in the field. The culmination of these efforts is a graduation thesis or graduation project that crystallizes four years of undergraduate education. We look forward to seeing yours!

5. Study Abroad

Each year a substantial number of students in the Department of French Studies travel abroad to study at a French-speaking university. In fact, during their four or five years of undergraduate study in our department, almost all of our students experience study abroad in one form or another, be it a yearlong program or one of the intensive overseas language courses offered during spring and summer break. Under the university’s Exchange Program, successful applicants can spend a year at one of the university’s many partner institutions while paying tuition to Sophia University only. Course credits earned at these overseas institutions can be transferred and counted toward graduation from Sophia University. Another option is to study at a non-partner institution under the General Study Abroad program. Under this system, students must pay tuition to the host institution as well as to Sophia University, but French universities in general are relatively inexpensive, and France’s national universities cost practically nothing. Credits completed during General Study Abroad can be transferred as well. Students can also take advantage of opportunities for intensive language training at the University of Franche-Comté in Besançon (summer session) and the University of Angers (spring session). Students must pay a fee to enroll in these programs, but they benefit from four weeks of intensive study in a reputable language program combined with a homestay arrangement that ensures daily contact with French language and culture.

6. Choosing Between French Studies and French Literature

In addition to the Department of French Studies in the Faculty of Foreign Studies, Sophia University has a Department of French Literature, which belongs to the Faculty of Humanities. Both programs emphasize French language training as a foundation for academic study. However, the Department of French Studies emphasizes wide-ranging knowledge of the Francophone world with such subjects as politics, economics, history, society, culture, linguistics, and art, in addition to French literature.

See the Japanese website for more information