The word "language" itself is of French origin, a fact that suggests the dramatic reach and importance of French throughout history and in the modern world. French is the language of much of the world's greatest literature and philosophy. It is widely spoken in such regions as Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, a legacy of the colonial era. It preceded English as the international language and so remains deeply woven into the discourse of history and diplomacy. English itself bears the centuries-old imprint of Norman French, and Canada's history and culture, from the colonial era to contemporary politics, is in part a story of the clash and interplay between French and English.
In the tradition of the liberal arts, the French program at Hamilton encourages students to escape the confines of a single language and grow toward a larger understanding of the world. Majors are expected to reach a level of near-fluency in their language skills, as well as to gain a real understanding of French literature and civilization. Faculty members and former students in French regard study abroad, particularly through the College's Junior Year in France program, as critical to the personal and intellectual growth of majors in the field.