Only French spoken here

Jun 27, 2002, vol. 24, no. 5
By Carol Thorbes

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“I hope a slip of the tongue doesn't get me expelled,” jokes Jennifer Cameron (left).

The White Rock resident is one of 80 Simon Fraser University students who won a draw in the university's teacher training or professional development program (PDP).

The prize, a $1,700 federal grant, enables PDP students to take a five- week French immersion course at Laval University in Quebec City.

Their accommodation, meals, course and tickets to a number of cultural events will be covered by their grant. All they have to pay for is their plane ticket.They also must abide by a rule that forbids them to speak a word of English while they're in the program.

“I'm fluent in Spanish,” says Cameron. “Given that it's so close to French, I hope I don't get expelled for accidentally speaking Spanish instead of French.” Not to worry says Amin Saad, a faculty associate at SFU in charge of French special projects in the faculty of education's PDP program.

“No one has ever been expelled for breaking the strictly French rule,” reveals Saad with amusement.

“The rule serves to motivate students to do their best. It really puts the onus on Laval University teachers to help students become fluent in French.”

The number of PDP students interested in taking the 30-year-old French language bursary program is up by more than 50 per cent this year compared to last year. One hundred twenty three SFU students applied this year.

Saad cites a number of reasons for the increased enrolment.

“The creation of a francophone school board in B.C. in the last few years and increasing enrolment in public school French immersion programs has generated a demand for teachers fluent in French. Teachers are striving to make themselves more marketable because of layoffs.” French is compulsory from Grade 4 to 10.

Teachers who have a greater facility with French or are fluent in Canada's second language are more likely to get full-time jobs.

Cameron is keenly aware of this. “I have Grade 12 French, but fluency would make it easier for me to find a full-time job teaching intermediate grades, which is my goal.”

Bitten by the travel bug long ago, Cameron has visited 25 countries in her 26 years and longs to have her first experience of French culture in Quebec City. She couldn't have picked a better time.

The five week program at Laval University (July 8-Aug. 9) runs when Quebec City is awash with cultural festivals.

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