French is spoken by 200 million people worldwide, primarily in Europe and Africa. French-speaking traditions exist in the United States, notably in parts of Louisiana and Maine. Knowledge of French allows you to study and work abroad in parts of Africa, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, and in the Indian Ocean area.

Why Study at Iowa

Iowa’s Department of French and Italian offers a broad spectrum of programs and courses, including majors and minors in French and Italian, a minor in Arabic, and classes in Swahili. It also offers a variety of courses on the cultures associated with each language.

As a student in the department, you'll study with faculty and graduate teaching assistants from the United States and from abroad, including native speakers of French, Italian, Arabic, and Swahili (Swahili is commonly spoken in Eastern Africa).

Many of the department's faculty members have won awards, such as the National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, Columbia University’s Institute for Scholars fellowship, and the Service Culturel award (French government service award). The National Research Council ranked the department among the top 12 at public universities in its most recent study.

All of the department's faculty members teach undergraduate courses and participate in research, developing new knowledge about languages, literature, and cultures. About 90 students major in French. An average of 120-150 students are French minors at any given time. Students studying language benefit from direct interaction with faculty, teaching assistants, and exchange students.

Course Work

The Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in French prepares students for a variety of careers stateside or abroad, including secondary school teaching, or graduate study in language, literatures, and cultures. French courses will advance your speaking, reading, and writing skills and provide broad background in the literatures and cultures of France and the French-speaking world.

French majors are required to take four foundation courses plus seven or eight courses in one of four tracks. The foundation courses are:

  • Introduction to Reading and Writing in Literature
  • French Grammar
  • Oral Expression in French II and III

Tracks include:

  • French & Arabic—focuses on language study along with study of history, politics, and religions of Middle Eastern cultures. It combines well with a second major, for instance, political science, geography, or history.
  • Language—to acquire a practical command of French and knowledge of translation as well as literature and culture. It will prepare you for work in international business and translation and for graduate study.
  • Literature & Culture—combines study of French and francophone literature and cultures with a major in another area, such as cinema, comparative literature, history, political science, journalism, and other disciplines.
  • Teaching—for students who plan to acquire secondary school teaching licensure.

Teaching Licensure

If you want to be licensed to teach at the secondary school level in Iowa, you must complete the College of Education's world language Teacher Education Program, which includes a semester of student teaching.

Minor in French or Arabic

Arabic is spoken by nearly 300 million people, mainly in the Middle East and North Africa. Modern Standard Arabic is the official language of 22 countries. See French and Italian in the UI General Catalog to learn more about earning a minor in Arabic or French.

Admission Requirements

French majors need to meet the requirements for admission to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Admission Requirements Tabs

Student Opportunities

In addition to having nearly 600 Student Organizations, Iowa students choose from multiple Living-Learning Communities, Study Abroad Programs, and Undergraduate Research Opportunities.

Study Abroad

You may participate in one of Iowa’s many study abroad programs. Popular programs in French include those at the Universities of Pau and Montpellier in the south of France; opportunities in Paris, including an internship program in partnership with the Tippie College of Business; and a summer program at Université Laval in Quebec, Canada.

Learn about all of the university’s study abroad programs and the advance planning they require by visiting the Office for Study Abroad website.

Teaching Assistantship Program in France

After completion of a major or minor, students may teach English as assistants for seven months in French public schools, teaching English to students of all ages. Each year, over 1,100 positions are available across all regions of metropolitan France and in the overseas departments of French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Reunion. The program is administered through the French Ministry of Education. Information is available at


Consult multiple sources for scholarship information, including the Office of Admissions, the Office of Student Financial Aid, and the department's web site.

Application Process

Application Process Tabs

Apply to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.


French (BA)
Teaching Licensure
Honors Courses
Four-Year Graduation Plan