I remember in my time as an undergraduate (philosophy and french) that there were at various times language workshops such as "German for philosophers".

I have been teaching French and Philosophy in different contexts, but I would like to try to offer a "French for philosophers" course for philosophy undergraduates.

The problem is, I have no idea how to go about designing it and making it more efficient, i.e. more efficient than a standard language course. I am interested mainly in having the students acquire some level of reading proficiency for philosophical works in French, but I am not sure how to integrate most effectively grammar teaching, or to what extent oral or written proficiency are required.

So, do you have any advice or guidance or reading recommendations on this issue?

  • 2
    Are these students already fluent, or at least well-versed, in the French language?
    – AML
    Jun 11, 2018 at 12:14
  • Short answer: no, I would expect them to be neither fluent nor particularly well-versed in French. Jun 17, 2018 at 6:55

1 Answer 1


I think the answer is different based on the French level of the students.

  • If the students are beginners in French, then that means they can't read or understand much, or any, French, no matter the topic (philosophy or otherwise). This means that you simply have to teach them French from the beginning, but you can do it with a heavy/exclusive focus on philosophy-oriented vocabulary and composition, as opposed to the more typical class in conversational French.
  • If the students are intermediate, then you don't really need to teach them French (except for perhaps some philosophy-oriented vocabulary and manners of writing) but rather you'll need to dive deep into extensive and intensive reading French philosophy (in French of course). Ideally you will lecture a bit in French as well, perhaps even dividing each class into English and French, i.e., teach the material first in English and then immediately re-teach it in French during the same class. This will help both their French and their understanding of the philosophy being discussed.
  • If the students are advanced in French, then you can lecture purely in French and talk/read exclusively about philosophy. Then it's just a philosophy class in French.


One option for integrating the teaching of grammar (beginner level) is by demonstrating grammatical principles using simple sentences that teach philosophical facts or ideas that you want the students to learn. For example, using a simple sentence such as René Descartes founded modern philosophy you could demonstrate the past tense (founded) and how adjectives modify nouns (modern). Extrapolate this idea many times over and you have a philosophy-based French beginner course.

As to oral and written proficiency, that depends on the goal of the course and your departmental constraints. Most university beginner languages courses are focused on reading/writing/grammar, whereas advanced courses are more flexible due to the students being capable of understanding so much more. In my opinion, writing tests should be incorporated to help ensure the students learn both the French and the philosophy that you are trying to teach them. You could also conduct these same tests orally, but you should probably have slightly lower expectations.

  • 1
    @TommiBrander as desired, I added a bit more.
    – AML
    Jun 11, 2018 at 17:41

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