You've taken several classes now and it's clear: you're having a love affair with French, and it's going way beyond an everyday pain au chocolat romance. You're thinking seriously about making this a long-term commitment by declaring a major, but certainly practicalities are getting in your way. Such is the plight of Humanities degree: how will you turn your passion into a career after graduation?
Believe it or not, majoring in French is a great career move. If you're willing to keep your mind open and your body ready to travel, the opportunities are boundless.
Education is the first and perhaps most obvious route for a French major. You probably are hooked on French because you've had a teacher who loves the language and wants to share his or her passion; you can do the same. A teaching career can be both stimulating and varied. Stateside, you can work with anyone from a four year old to a ninety year old, though working with children will require the usual teaching certifications. There are also language immersion camps always looking for instructors and directors.
If you find yourself creating funny study guides for your friends, you might also want to consider French curriculum design at one of many language instruction companies. Local school districts also require an experienced teacher to source the best materials and shape the direction of the school's program.
On the flip side, there is always a demand for English instructors in French speaking countries (and there are many of them, so this means you could travel extensively). Knowing French will help you communicate with your students and integrate into the culture so that you can develop the most effective teaching techniques.
There are also many opportunities outside of education to express and connect other people to your passion for the language. As a translator focusing on written work, you could do anything from working freelance on small French books to lending a hand to the CIA. Similarly, a career as an interpreter could make you into an essential member of a diplomatic team, whether working at the UN, NATO or at embassies through the Foreign Service. These jobs are highly competitive and you will have to know at least two languages before applying.
French editors are always in high demand in a variety of industries. There are the obvious ones - French book publishers and newspapers - but have you ever thought about how the English labels on an American medicine become French labels on Parisian shelves? How about manuals, signs, websites and instructions? In our connected, international age, there will always be a need for a babel fish like you.
If you love interacting with people and exploring new places, then the travel industry or hospitality abroad might be a fit. As a flight attendant or pilot for a French airline, you'll be drawing on your language skills to connect with native speakers. As a tour guide, you can show off your adopted country to visitors from home, or let French tourists know just how amazing your native country can be.
International agencies rely heavily on employees who speak French, which is still a heavily utilized language both around the world and in this particular profession. If you like making social change, this means you could live abroad and work for governments, NGOs and charities. This could mean combining your passion for French with a love for social justice or policy work. Starting with the Peace Corps after college is a great way to immerse yourself in this world.
Best of all, if you're interested in other majors as well, a degree in French allows you to take almost any career abroad. You could work directly for French companies or apply for an international branch of an American corporation. You could attend a French university, work at a consulting firm, be a journalist, run a bank, or do whatever you'd like to do, just in French!
No matter what career path you're headed down, having a French degree under your belt will no doubt make you more attractive to employers. It shows that you are a member of the greater world, that you are open to new experiences, and that they can draw on your skills in time of need. You can easily turn your passion into a stimulating career.
Sarah writes for Pimsleur Approach, a provider of audio based courses that will help you learn a language through programs like Pimsleur French which are based on the research of Dr. Pimsleur.
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