French government teaching assistantships in French primary and secondary schools (TAPIF):

We strongly encourage students majoring in French & Francophone Studies to speak with their advisors about applying for one of these positions. This is a unique opportunity to spend 6-9 months in France with a stipend, to obtain privileged insights into contemporary France, to master the French language through linguistic immersion, and to gain valuable teaching experience.

For application forms and more information visit For a more personal account of an alumna's experience teaching English in France through this program, see this blog by Angela Hales ('13).

Other Careers and Professions of interest to students majoring in French & Francophone Studies:
Careers and Professions

To receive a liberal arts education--that is, an undergraduate degree at William and Mary--means to be prepared not for one but for any job, career, or profession, and, very importantly, for an eventual change of career during one's lifetime. Students receiving such an education may therefore choose their concentration according to personal taste and talent. Pre-medical students, for example, do not need to concentrate in biology or chemistry: they only need to take a certain number of those courses to get into medical school. They can, therefore, concentrate in Anthropology or Religion or French & Francophone Studies. The advantage of concentrating in French & Francophone Studies is that they will then be adequately prepared to spend part of their careers, if they so choose, working for international health organizations, responding to medical emergencies around the world, or establishing clinics in developing countries. Or they will have taken advantage of the time they have at William and Mary in order to pursue cultural interests that they will continue to pursue all their lives. The development of the global economy has prompted American educators and civic leaders to stress the importance of improving foreign language education in this country. One element of this awareness has been the importance of starting language work early. More language teachers are needed at the middle school and primary school levels, including well-trained specialists to work in pioneering programs in foreign language immersion and bilingual education. Those interested in translation and interpreting can find work with a wide array of organizations: commercial language schools, translation agencies, the federal government, the import/export business, and other Francophone- or American-based international firms. Proficiency in French is also valuable as an auxiliary skill in jobs in which use of the language is not the primary activity. Many jobs may require occasional use of the language. Even when the job description may not mention it specifically, knowledge of the language is the kind of skill that sticks out in the candidate's portfolio and may further future advancement with the employer. Knowledge of a foreign language is the mark of a well-rounded liberal arts education and offers proof of communications and critical thinking skills -- characteristics many employers prize. Someone who has studied a foreign language also contributes a better understanding of cultural diversity, an important skill in the pluralist society and interconnected world of today. Parlez-vous francais? Foreign service officers, journalists, bankers, bilingual secretaries, Peace Corps volunteers, hotel management staff, research chemists, software engineers, musicians, flight attendants, Montessori teachers, and corporate lawyers all do! French can take you anywhere! Below are some jobs, careers, and professions that French concentrators may choose after graduation based on information gleaned from job announcements, internship possibilities, and actual alumni and alumnae experience. Students are encouraged to visit the Office of Career Services for an introduction to its on-line data bases and reference library, to make an appointment with a counselor to answer specific questions, and for personal guidance.

Business and Law

Most students know that a degree in Business Administration is not the only preparation possible for work in the world of business. Here is just one example of a job announcement for our graduates: "Available: Trainee position in insurance for all areas [of concentration], including international, at State Personnel, Inc." Two '92 graduates are working, respectively, as a Marketing Analyst for ENSCO, Inc. and as a Sales Assistant for USA Today/Gannett publishers. After several years of experience an '81 alumna is a Product Marketing Manager working for Government Technical Services, Inc. Graduates may eventually decide to go on for an MBA, as the following two did: a '58 alumna, after completing an MA at Georgetown University, now operates her own international business; another alumna from '75, after completing an MBA at Virginia Commonwealth University, has become Manager of Worldwide Sales Administration for the Marine Development Corporation.


Teaching is not the only available option for those graduates interested in the field of education: an '85 graduate holds the position of Coordinator of Continuing Education for the Organization for Ob/Gyn and Neonatal Nurses, and a '93 alumna is currently an Admissions Counselor at Carleton College. And consider the following job announcement: "Wanted: Program Coordinator for International Student Exchange and Travel Program, at EF Education." Finally, Setu van Lare, who became one of the career counselors at the William and Mary Career Services Office in 1995, was a double concentrator in French and International Relations at the institution where she obtained her BA.

International Non-Profit

CARE and Habitat for Humanity, both based in Georgia, are just two organizations that hire and promote graduates in all fields. Those graduates also trained in the sciences might want to consider positions such as the following: "Available: Positions as research assistants with international travel, World Wildlife Fund." Some of our graduates have pursued paths such as these. For example, an '87 graduate is currently working for an international voluntary service (non-profit) organization: Youth for Understanding International Exchange. A '94 graduate, who had a second concentration in International Relations, is currently working in Togo (West Africa) as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and in October 1995 wrote her advisor the following description of her life there:

"I absolutely love my job. I work in a tiny health facility in an extremely isolated and rural part of Togo. My job involves educating the villagers about health issues such as preventing malaria, diarrhea, Guinea worm and other diseases as well as improving the situation of women and children. I speak French with my two colleagues, but my neighbors only speak a local language, which I'm attempting to learn. Everyone gets a huge thrill out of hearing me try to speak their language."
Student Internships and Short-Term Work Abroad

The Office of Career Services has an on-line database of internships available nationally and internationally, which students are encouraged to consult. In addition, James Madison University has established many internships that William and Mary students can apply for--for example, one of our '94 graduates worked at the American Embassy in Paris for three months in the spring of her senior year. Students may also obtain a three-month work permit valid throughout the European Community through C.I.E.E. in New York. (See also Museums.)


French & Francophone Studies graduates will have learned how to research, write, and discuss their ideas, not just in one but in two languages. These are all skills necessary to be successful in international journalism. Imagine working for National Public Radio in Africa as Daniel Zwordling did. Or, as does one of our '81 graduates, as an International Radio Broadcaster for the Voice of America.


While still at William and Mary, French & Francophone Studies concentrators with near-native fluency may wish to explore the field of museum curatorship at the Yorktown Victory Center, where they may work as a translator. Here is a description of the internship: "Transcribe various 18th-century documents, books, and treatises in the Yorktown Victory Center's collection. Translate exhibit label copy, movie script, and other museum publications from English to French to accommodate French-speaking visitors. Translate modern French correspondence to English and assist Curatorial staff in further correspondence with French institutions and museums."

Political Organizations

Many political organizations have international ties and need people competent in languages to work for them: "Wanted: Program Assistant for implementation of international development programs, National Democratic Institute for International Affairs." Working for political advocacy groups may also interest our graduates, and they are encouraged to go to the Office of Career Services to explore what is available.


Entry-level positions in publishing usually involve copy-editing and proofing, such as in the following announcements: "Wanted: Freelance copy-editing and/or proofreading for college-level textbooks, at Commanday Publishing Services, Inc." and "Wanted: Editor (entry-level) to edit/proof translated research articles, patents, etc., at Corporate Translations, Inc." A '93 alumna is in fact currently an Editorial Assistant in publishing at the American Society of Association Executives. Interested graduates may want to consider enrolling in a summer Publishing Institute which offers specialized training in the field and a placement service.


Teachers are dedicated to the education of the next generation in the skills and disciplines of their choice. They can inspire young people to go beyond the minimum necessary for personal survival. As a recent bumper-sticker states, "If you can read this, thank a teacher." Students interested in receiving their teacher certification with their BA upon completion of a "professional semester" (the spring semester of their senior year), should speak with Professor Kulick and the appropriate advisor in the School of Education. Graduates may, however, choose to teach abroad rather than in Virginia. This is a job description which may interest some: "Wanted: Teaching intern to work under the direction of a master teacher for graduate interested in teaching as a career with an international orientation, The American School of the Hague (Netherlands)." And a '77 graduate is currently Assistant to the Headmaster of Southbank International School in London. Should you wish to teach at the college level, you will need to work toward your Ph.D. (See below for information on Graduate Study.) Graduates may be interested in pursuing a teaching career in an area other than French & Francophone Studies. For example, a '72 graduate currently works as a Diagnostic/Prescriptive Teacher in the Frederick County Public School system.

Travel Industry

Graduates may be interested in working in the travel industry, and seek a position such as that of an '83 graduate who is currently a Customer Service Agent with Delta Airlines. Or maybe the possibility had never occurred to them until seeing the following advertisement: "Wanted: Group leader to co-lead groups of students on community service, language-learning, or travel program, at Putney Student Travel." Further possibilities exist in the hotel, restaurant, and tourism industries.

Translating & Interpreting

Whether they work free-lance at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta or full-time for the United Nations, interpreters and translators can lead an exciting and hectic life! They can, however, stay at home if they prefer the following positions: "Wanted: Freelance translators and interpreters, at CACI Language Center," "Wanted: Project manager for translation projects in European and Asian languages, at Cambridge Translation Resources (CTR)," and "Available: Admissions position, Swiss Hospitality Unit." (See also Museums.)

Veronica Mari, Class of '96, has done considerable research in this field, and has provided the following summary of her findings:

Many Liberal Arts graduates are often forced to be more "creative" about finding a job, sometimes putting aside the focus of their college studies. A History major might go into Advertising, an Anthropology major might end up doing market research. While the variety of jobs Liberal Arts majors have access to is part of what makes such course work exciting, it is also a cause for much anxiety. When I graduated from the College with a degree in Modern Languages, I had to ask myself a few questions: will the hard-earned language abilities disappear before this year is over? What do I do with this degree, with something as unspecific as a French major? The following (taken from the 09/28/89 issue of Far Eastern Review), helped provide an answer...  

Two signs from a Spanish shop entrance:
--English well talking.
--Here speaking American. In a Paris hotel elevator:
--Please leave your values at the front desk.

On the menu of a Swiss restaurant:

--Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.

...maybe I should be a translator.

"In general, the significance of a good translation is often dismissed or belittled, and its importance misunderstood and undermined. Translation requires much skill and thought. Case in point: although I think I may understand a text profoundly, it is not until I have to translate from its original language into a different tongue that I realize just how Herculean the task can be. At that moment, I have to resolve ambiguity, grasp subtlety and level of language, even follow the author's style, to be able to render a precise and readable translation.

After talking to an aunt, a translator at the U.N., I realized that if I wanted to make a career out of translation, I would need to sharpen my language and translation skills. Consequently, I am currently working towards a Certificate in Translation, from both French and Spanish into English, and from English into Spanish (which amounts to three language combinations).

After a year of studies (some programs are longer, mine lasts for two semesters), I will have to decide on what step to take in this vast field. So far, the main options are: working as a translator with an agency, a free-lance translator, or a staff translator.

Two advantages of working for an agency are that it helps you to further develop skills and you may be able to build up a clientele. While agencies are not known to pay the highest wages, they allow a translator to fully concentrate on work, instead of spending precious time dealing with clients and looking for supporting documentation and dictionaries.

An experienced translator may choose to free-lance. While free-lancers must deal with clients (quite an arduous task in itself), they have the possibility of translating a plethora of documents: from technical material to grandmother's WW II letters, maybe even literature. A free-lance translator may specialize in one or more areas if he or she has a fixed clientele, or may jump at any text that comes his or her way. While less secure, this kind of environment is one of the most challenging and exciting.

Various international organizations or businesses offer staff positions for translators. With advantages such as a fixed salary, benefits, travel opportunities, and possibilities for promotion, these "cushioned" jobs are often highly competitive, and regarded as more prestigious (in general, proficiency in at least three languages is required). At the same time, a staff translator does not choose the documents to be translated, and only in rare occasions will the subject matter of these materials vary. While the resources and clients are provided, and a translator can work and consult with colleagues without leaving the work-place, this is one of the careers that offers the least flexibility.

Where do I fit in all this? I have yet to decide: I may start a career as a translator, or go into interpreting (the oral and almost immediate rendition of a translation). But as the year progresses, I discover more options and more answers, as I talk with professionals in the field. Tips from these translators and my professors include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • A translator can never rest, for language evolves and changes. New words arise as new fields take shape. English, for example, is the source language for most of the Internet terminology, but words must be found in other languages as this communications network finds a niche throughout the world. Leaving the terms in English not only reduces a language's development, it often alienates many of its speakers.
  • Read as much as you can in your target language(s). This will help to familiarize you with the current terms being used, and will aid you in fighting "translatese," a middle-language characterized by the grammar of the source's language and the words of the target language (as in "to wash one's teeth," from the Spanish "lavarse los dientes").
  • Be sure to read a text before you agree to translate it. You may find that you know nothing about water treatment plants and infrastructure in Brazil, when you accept a document that you are expected to translate in two days, giving you no time for research.
  • When a client gives you a document to translate, it is due yesterday.
  • It takes a translator as much time to translate a text as it did the author to write its original. A client will rarely realize this.
  • A translator is as good as his/her last job.

The translators I met spoke of their jobs as a way of making communication possible, but above all, these professionals emphasized the importance of a good translation. So, just because you are bilingual, or fluent in another language, don't think that you can easily be a brilliant translator. Translation is a complex and involved task that requires talent, hard work, and practice, and should not be dismissed as something any bilingual Joe or Jane can do.

Think of everything translators and interpreters have made available to you: a religious text; a philosophy or doctrine; a book; a culture; a friend. But if you think further, you may appreciate the value of an exceptional translation. While most translations are not imbued with such obvious or laughable mistakes as those quoted in the introduction, imagine the repercussions of even minor language errors or mistranslation on issues of major impact, such as peace negotiations. While some mistakes of translation can, at times, offer comic relief, others can lead to very serious problems, maybe even to the loss of life."