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  5. Is a French minor worth it?


Is a French minor worth it?

I've been thinking about college next year, and my university lets you do a French or Spanish major/minor.

So, is it worth it to do a minor? Will I actually learn anything? I've been in high school Spanish and while my conversational skills have increased, my overall knowledge likely has not. So, if I take a French minor, will the courses in college actually teach me the language?

I think it would be good to make sure I don't end up forgetting the language with my lack of free time, but I also want to actually be learning something, because from experience, self-learning is far faster and more effective.

Is it worth it?

April 10, 2020



You might be able to apply Spanish courses to some of your electives, I would investigate that instead.

Your primary goal in college is to graduate as soon as possible while taking as few courses as possible.

You will need to maintain a reasonably high GPA and keep your debt load to a minimum!

You can always go back latter and take language courses.

Unless of course you were to actually major in a language.

[deactivated user]

    What do you expect to get out of college? What is your ambition and how does your college course contribute to it? What do you want to do next with your life? If you can't yet answer some of those questions, then do the things that you find most interesting - because you will certainly want your career to interest and excite you. If French hits that button, do it - if not, pick something else.


    I think it's well worth learning either of those languages. As for French, it is great to study if you plan to come to France one day (there are plenty of French speaking countries but I only have experience with France). It makes the world of difference to have some French before you arrive so you can start communicating from day one. Even if you are not fluent, just making the effort to start trying to use French will put you in people's good books. There are even opportunities to study in France which will look great on your CV as they take education very seriously here. Many classes for international students are in English but it's better to be able to get by a little in the country you're living in. All the best with your decision and studies!

    [deactivated user]

      They also offer free AP classes.


      It's highly personal. In financial terms, it is worth noting that modern languages are amongst the least well-paid degrees in terms of lifetime earnings in a recent league table of UK graduates. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-51676530 However, you have to weigh that against your aptitude and goals. Do you want to be able to travel and work in different countries, and are you likely to get a better grade in it than if you studied something else?


      I agree that for the most part you should take college courses in subjects not easy learnt on your own, are required for a major or graduate, professional school. That said, an important part of a liberal arts education is the ability to explore, try new things and improve your mind. Sadly, the cost of education has impacted those goals negatively. If you can graduate on time, fulfilling your major and expected grad school, job requirements, then it is a wonderful thing to have the luxury of learning something for its own sake!! When I studied at a strong liberal arts college while preparing for professional school, we had a greater number of required courses, including a foreign language requirement, history, philosophy, English, religion (an Episcopal college), sociology, arts/music etc. In retrospect (though not at the time), they were the best and most valuable part of my undergraduate education. Yes, although a biology major, I had three years of French and three.years of German!


      Learn something at college that you can't learn on your own, unless you need to learn there for the credentialing aspect for employment or for graduate school (certain courses might be required to have been completed in undergraduate study).

      For instance, you can read novels at home, but you won't have all the science laboratory equipment there that the school could offer you.

      Modernly, people can truly learn a lot online, but some employers (like government jobs) still favor a college degree, while a few have an opinion that attending classes and doing only what you are told does not show that much initiative.

      Some professions require particular (sometimes advanced) degrees and additional professional testing or hands-on experience. Your GPA will stick with you, and is a question on certain government job applications.

      You didn't mention what major you want to take, nor what your dream job is.

      It turns out that completing your degree will tend to increase your lifetime earnings, while attending college without finishing one is much less helpful, and with the cost of tuition and room and board being so high, unless you get grants or a full scholarship, you should really try to know what you want to achieve from college, as much as possible, before you start spending your time and money on courses that might not help you enough.

      I think it is very easy (and valuable) to squeeze in a minor (or a double major, that might add on 1 or 2 extra quarters) if you look at the course offerings before the first semester / quarter registration period, and plan exactly the path to achieve the most on paper and otherwise by taking the most direct route, without superfluous courses that don't add to your planned outcome.

      If you know the field of work you would like to be in, prepare for that, though every opportunity (including internships at companies that are only available to college students, study abroad, and working with professors and graduate students on projects at the university).


      I'll try to answer your question from a slightly different perspective than the other posters so far.

      However, as a starting point, I agree with all of the other posters' advice about trying to pull your goals for college into sharper focus. No one can figure this out for you, but there are resources that can help you. Your high school guidance counselor and college admissions counselors are probably your best bet to start. Once you get to college, you'll have a faculty advisor to help you evaluate your options. (You'll probably also have the benefit of a temporary summer advisor to help you choose your classes for the first semester.) Take advantage of those resources as much as you can. Start by asking all of them the questions you're asking here in the forum.

      Second, I can tell you from personal experience that studying a foreign language in college is a whole different experience than studying it in high school. And it's multiple levels more advanced than Duolingo or other self-learning. If you are dedicated to your studies, you will definitely learn the language.

      My own perspective on this is that I was, myself, a French minor in college. I went to study political science. It didn't occur to me to study French at first because I'd taken two years in high school and lived abroad in a Francophone country as a foreign exchange student. So I felt like I already spoke French -- why keep studying that with so many other options to explore at college? (By the way, I'm American, and my native language is English.)

      However, a member of the French faculty encouraged me to pursue the minor, and I've never regretted it. First, it improved my French language skills immensely. Second, I had elective degree requirements I could have fulfilled in a number of different ways, but I eventually concluded that French was more interesting to me than most of the other options. (In college courses, you'll typically go well beyond basic grammar and conversational skills to explore the literature and culture.) And, third, it has always been a nice "extra" to be able to include on my résumé that I had a French minor and am fluent in French.

      So I hope that perspective is helpful. No matter what you decide, I encourage you to keep learning another language -- even if you never use the skill as a practical tool, studying it sharpens your intellect. Good luck ... et bonne chance!


      I just don't know how much time I'll have for it, as a mechanical engineering major. Do you actually consider yourself fluent now?


      Mechanical engineering is an incredibly technical subject. So I guess you could look at this one of two ways: (1) By avoiding the distraction of a foreign language minor, you could focus as much as possible on your major; or (2) a French minor might be just the thing to keep you sane with the intense focus you'll need to devote to mechanical engineering. Again, only you can make that call, ideally with the help of your advisors.

      Good question you ask about fluency -- especially in light of option (2) I just mentioned above. A foreign language is something no one can ever take away from you, and you can only lose it if you allow it to slip away. So the advantage to a foreign language minor is that you'll learn a new skill that you'll always have ... as opposed to a collection of unrelated electives that are edifying but leave you only with knowledge instead of a tangible skill. Again, you have to make that decision.

      It's been 34 years since college and in truth my French has gotten rusty. It's probably more accurate to say I'm conversational now than fluent. But that's one of the reasons I'm using Duolingo -- to refresh my French. And it's working.

      For what it's worth, I learned Spanish from Duolingo well enough to speak conversationally with my spouse's parents, who speak no English, and to deal with people totally in Spanish when out in public by myself in Mexico. Like I said, having a foreign language is one heckuva useful skill. Good luck with your decision!

      Learn French in just 5 minutes a day. For free.