Information on the Undergraduate Major in French


Le soleil est rare et le bonheur aussi l'amour s'égare au long de la vie.


French Major

The purpose of this guide is to answer questions for those students who are considering an undergraduate major in French, and to serve as a source of information for students who have already decided upon the French Major. It presents a general definition of the major, a summary of both Lower Division and Upper Division requirements, and a description of various educational opportunities offered in connection with the departmental program.


Definition of the Major Prerequisites to Enrollment
Declaring the Major Study Abroad
French Major Requirements Residence Requirements
Courses in Other Departments The Honors Program

Definition of the French Major

The undergraduate major in French is designed to allow students to acquire a considerable degree of competence in the written and spoken language as well as a familiarity with the literature and culture of France and the French-speaking world. It aims to develop the student’s critical appreciation of texts in French in both literary and cultural contexts. The Department thus offers a large selection of courses in different periods and criticism, as well as courses in composition, stylistics, translation, and linguistics. Further, it encourages interdisciplinary studies in French through courses emphasizing the relation between literature and the other arts and between literature, history and society. Particularly attractive for many students is the opportunity for the historical and critical study of French film. Most courses are conducted in French, and majors are expected to write papers and examinations in that language.

Given the breadth of its program, the French major may interest students desiring a general humanistic education based on the language and literature of the French-speaking world; students planning to teach French at the elementary or secondary level; students who intend to pursue graduate work in preparation for teaching and research at the college level; and students preparing for careers in such areas as international law, business, or government service, which require both training in a major foreign language and/or a general background in a humanistic discipline.

Declaring the Major

back to the top

Students may declare the major at any point in their French studies, provided they have completed a minimum of 30 units of UCB coursework. To declare a major in French, students complete the Undergraduate Application for the French major and submit it in person or via email to the Undergraduate Adviser.  The form is also available in the French Department Undergraduate Office in 4209 Dwinelle. Applications to the major are accepted Fall, Spring and Summer semesters.

Students who are considering a major in French should consult with the Undergraduate Advisor before declaring the major for help in deciding whether this major is appropriate for their academic goals, and for referrals to others who can assist in this decision. If a decision to major in French is reached, the Undergraduate Advisor will verify that all prerequisites have been met and will aid in planning the undergraduate program. The Department strongly urges all majors to establish contact early with the Undergraduate Advisor to get answers to a broad range of questions regarding the French major and other issues related to completing the Bachelor’s degree at Berkeley.

French Major Requirements

I.  Course Requirement: 

A minimum of 8 Upper Division courses totaling at least 32 Upper Division units.  These 8 courses must be chosen from 4 different categories, as listed below.

  • French 102 (Writing Skills in French): French 102 is a prerequisite to all other Upper Division French courses (courses numbered 103 and above).¬† French 4 or the equivalent must be completed for enrollment in French 102. Students who do not complete French 4 at Berkeley will need to take a 102 Placement Exam or receive instructor permission before enrollment in 102 is finalized.
  • Two courses, chosen from courses numbered French 145-185 (French cultural studies, French linguistics, French film)
  • Two courses, chosen from courses numbered French 112-126 (French literary/genre¬†studies)
  • Three additional Upper Division French courses¬†numbered French 103 – 185 (Electives).¬† This category includes all upper division courses in the French Department, including any additional courses taken in the Cultural Studies or Literary/Genre Studies categories.¬† In addition, one course in the elective category may, with approval from the Undergraduate Adviser, include one appropriate course taught in English from another department (an “outside elective”.) Examples of outside electives approved in the past are listed below, but students may propose other courses to the Undergraduate Adviser for approval. These elective courses are designed to allow students to pursue interdisciplinary interests of their own within the French major. It is strongly recommended that all French majors take a French history course offered by the History Department.

Grading Option:  Only courses taken for a letter grade may be applied toward French major requirements.**

   **Effective Spring 2016:  French majors can apply a maximum of one P/NP course per semester of study abroad in a full immersion study abroad program toward satisfaction of French major requirements.  The P/NP option may not be applied to  mandatory courses within the UCEAP program.

Outside Elective Courses (partial listing)

back to the top

Courses marked by an asterisk (*) will only be approved for credit toward the French major when the emphasis for that term is on France or the French-speaking world. All outside courses, whether listed below or not, require prior approval by the Undergraduate Advisor to count toward the major. Please note that only 1 outside elective may be used to satisfy major requirements.


  • *155A-B Medieval Europe
  • *164A-B -C¬† Modern European Intellectual History
  • 166A-B-C Modern France

History of Art

  • 155A ¬†Relics, Reliquaries and Cult Images
  • 156A-B Gothic Art in Northern Europe
  • 175¬† Visual Culture in Early Modern France
  • *180A 19th Century Europe: Age of Revolution
  • *180B 19th Century Europe: Realism and Modernity
  • *180C 19th Century Europe: The Invention of the Avant Gardes
  • N181 French Art in the 19th Century
  • 185¬† From Manet to Mondrian

Medieval Studies

  • 150 Studies in Medieval Culture


  • 170 Descartes
  • *187 Special Topics in the History of Philosophy
  • *188 Phenomenology
  • *189 Special Topics in Recent European Philosophy

Political Science

  • *147A-B Western European Politics

II.  Phonetics Requirement:  This requirement may  be satisfied in one of two ways

  • Completion of a minimum of one semester (Fall, Spring or Summer) of study abroad in a French full- immersion program.
  • Completion of French 35 (letter grade required)

Students possessing strong phonetic skills may request a waiver of this requirement in a scheduled appointment with Professor Richard Kern, the Intructor in Charge of Phonetics.  His email is

III.  Historical Period Requirement

2 of the 8 required upper division French courses (excluding French 102) must focus on material from the 18th century or earlier. If the course is a survey course, 2/3 of the course must focus on material prior to 1800.

 General descriptions of all courses given in the French Department may be found in the UC Berkeley Academic Guide. In addition, at the beginning of each enrollment period, the Department posts a complete description of courses to be offered in the coming term. This Course Description is available on the departmental website and in the French Undergraduate Office, 4209 Dwinelle Hall.

Prerequisites to Enrollment in Upper Division Courses In French

French 1-4 (the first two years of college-level language study) or their equivalents are prerequisites to all Upper Division work in French. Students intending to major in French are strongly urged to take French 1-4 for a letter grade. Completion of French 4 is prerequisite to enrolling in French 102.   All of these prerequisites may, of course, be met prior to entering UC Berkeley.

Study Abroad

back to the top

Applying Study Abroad Coursework toward French Major Requirements

When determining equivalent coursework for courses taken in study abroad programs,  the Department looks for equivalent content at an equivalent level. Courses must correspond in content and level to UCB upper division French courses required for the Major.  Please see our list of study abroad courses pre-approved for the major or minor in French.

Here are the criteria for determining if coursework is ‚Äúequivalent‚ÄĚ

  • ¬†Course must be taught in French.
  • ¬†Course must be taken for a Letter Grade, with one exception.¬† French majors can apply a maximum of one P/NP course per semester of study abroad in a full- immersion study abroad program toward satisfaction of French major requirements.¬† The P/NP option¬†may not be applied to mandatory courses within the UCEAP program.
  • ¬†Content of the course must be equivalent to upper division French courses offered at UCB. This means most courses in French Literature, French Linguistics, French Film and Advanced French Language Study will be good candidates. A complete listing of French Dept. Courses can be found in the General Catalogue or at
  • ¬†Course hours must be (approximately) equivalent to upper division French courses offered at UCB (about 4 semester units)
  • ¬†Final approval of equivalent coursework is granted after the student returns from study abroad, and the course grades and units have been posted to the student‚Äôs UC Berkeley transcript.
  • Equivalent courses from study abroad can¬†satisfy a maximum of 4 French Major course requirements.

Residence Requirements

back to the top

Students must complete a minimum of 16 Upper Division units in the french major in residence at Berkeley. In addition, the University requires students to complete 24 out of their final 30 units (the senior year) in residence at Berkeley. Those who study abroad through EAP may meet the modified senior residence requirement, in which they complete 24 of their final 60 units in residence. At least 12 of those 24 units must be completed after the student reaches 90 units.

Honors Program in French

back to the top

Senior French majors with both an overall grade point average of 3.5 and a grade point average in French of 3.5 may apply to the Honors Program in French. Students meeting these criteria may obtain the application from the Undergraduate Advisor in 4209 Dwinelle. After verification of GPA and senior standing has been submitted to the Undergraduate Advisor, students prepare and submit a written proposal to both the major adviser and the supervisor of the thesis detailing the subject of the thesis. Upon admission to the Honors program, students undertake research on an approved topic of their choice. The results of this research constitute an Honors essay.

H195A-B is a two-semester sequence (2 units each semester); credit and grade are awarded upon completion of the sequence. Students should therefore begin the sequence no later than the semester before their final semester at Berkeley

The Honors Program is taken in addition to the 8 Upper Division course, 32 Upper Division unit requirement for the major and does not count toward these minimums. The thesis may not be used as a paper or thesis for any other class or department.