Issue 21

Newsletter - Fall 2020

Changes to the OFFA team

It's time to update your address book! 

  • Anne Marie Gagné has returned from maternity leave and resumed her role as Coordinator of Communications, Marketing and Recruitment. You can reach her at

  • Sandie Lafleur, who filled in for Anne Marie last year, has resumed her role as Coordinator of Recruitment and Student Life and can be reached at

  • Laurence Gagnon, who has been in charge of recruitment and student life since November 2019, will stay on with the OFFA team as our new Coordinator of Administration and Events. As part of her role, Laurence will be responsible for organizing the next edition of the Printemps de la francophonie! You can reach her at


Get to know the entire OFFA team by visiting the CONTACT US section on our website.

SFU French grad completes degree while on international exchange at outset of COVID-19 pandemic

By Christine Lyons

SFU French student Victoria Chua was completing her final BA degree requirements in Strasbourg, France, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, spreading rapidly around the globe in March.

As the pandemic escalated and Strasbourg stores sold out of hand sanitizer and face masks, Chua was inundated with pandemic-related information and developments from family and friends, the media, and the governments of both France and Canada. Chua’s mother in Malaysia was in touch with her daily to see how the situation was unfolding, and her siblings in Vancouver checked in periodically, wondering if and when Chua would be able to board a plane back to Canada.

“It was a blur but I somehow just focused on getting through the day,” she says.

Resolving not to panic, Chua stayed calm and made informed decisions based on information from the World Health Organization and Centres for Disease Control in France and Canada. She continued attending classes and completing assignments, but when her classes moved online toward the end of March, Chua decided to fly home.

“It was tough call,” she says. “At that point, no one really knew how long this was all going to last. It might slow down in a few weeks, or a few months, or—as some were starting to speculate—a year or more. I wanted to make the most of my time in France, but borders were starting to close. I was starting to think about how I would care for myself or help my loved ones if I was stuck in France. I knew I had good medical coverage here in B.C., as well as family and that we could support each other if one of us got sick.”

Chua found it strange being back; there was an eerie lull when she first came home. She had already decided against returning to work at her retail position and unfortunately, many of the usual volunteer positions she had hoped to take up (after-school programs and summer camps, for example) were cancelled. After her 14-day period of self-isolation at home, Chua committed to finding opportunities to apply her French language skills. She landed a position working with pre-school aged children at a francophone community centre and also took on a position working with the non-profit Frontier College to improve literacy in B.C. communities.

She’s happy to be applying the skills she gained while completing her French degree and has her sights set on becoming a French Immersion elementary school teacher. However, Chua wasn’t always so confident in her ability to communicate in French. English is her first language, and she also studied Malay and French at an international school in Malaysia before coming to SFU in 2015. Initially, she says she was a bit intimidated by university-level French courses, even though they were electives, but she fell back in love with the language and persisted. One highlight during her first semesters at SFU was a 200-level drama course with French professor, professor Catherine Black.

“Black’s class really got me to push myself and build confidence,” Chua says. “I was so shy to speak in front of my peers but her style was firmly encouraging. You had no choice but to keep going. She got me out of my comfort zone which helped me improve so much.”   

This, she says, is one of the most valuable things she learned during her time at SFU, to “be bold and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.”

 “It’s also important not to compare yourself too much to others,” she says. “You won’t gain the confidence you deserve and improve.” 

Having been so shy early on in her studies, Chua says that the encouragement from her instructors and peers went a long way in convincing her to come out of her shell: “You just have to trust yourself and make those mistakes because that’s how you’ll get better!” 

What other words of wisdom does she offer incoming students? “Always prioritize your personal well-being! Trust that everything will happen as it's supposed to, and don't stress the little things!” 


MONICA TANG – From learner to teacher: L2 Teacher Identity in the context of French Immersion

Monica Tang has recently completed her Doctoral Studies with the Faculty of Education at SFU. In her thesis, she examined the process of identity construction of French teachers in British Columbia for whom French is an additional language. More specifically, she explored the interactional dynamics French teachers experience as students of the French language and in their current role as FSL professionals.

The Association canadienne des professionnels de l’immersion – ACPI (who just elected Monica as their BC representative) offers its members a five-question summary of this thesis, the subject of which is particularly relevant for teachers. One of the questions:


What does identity construction have to do with access to a community?

Norton (2000/2013) explains that for a language learner to invest in their continued language development, they must feel that they have access to a certain desired community. In the case of French teachers in BC, they may perceive that this desired community is mostly composed of “native” speakers or francophones, and that people like them, who have learned French at school are not in fact legitimate members of this professional community. In many ways, they may feel excluded and unqualified as members of this group, when in reality, teachers for whom French is an additional language in BC form the majority of the French teacher population (Lapkin, MacFarlane et Vandergrift, 2006).

This also highlights how teachers for whom French is a dominant language may unwittingly hold a disproportionate amount of power within the professional community.

As a first step towards changing this perspective that only francophones or near-“native speakers” can be legitimate members of the professional French teaching community, it requires that teachers (both francophone and non-francophone ones) engage in self-reflection and question these commonly accepted assumptions, preferably in the context of safe and inclusive professional communities.

While professional communities exist in many forms, such as groups on social media, professional development events, graduate programs, etc., what makes them safe and inclusive is the explicit mention that they allow for its members to choose when they might use English or French.

In some professional communities, there can be a very exclusionary, yet unspoken rule, that French is the only legitimate language of communication. And when English is used, those speakers can be marked as outcasts. Yet, they can still be passionate, committed and hardworking French teachers who, because of this dynamic, have less access to the support they need.

For now, these are uncomfortable topics that can divide our professional community. But they must be brought out for open dialogue if we value bilingualism.

Want to read the full article? Sign up on the ACPI Member Portal:

The original doctoral thesis can be viewed here:

Weekly webinars on studying in French at SFU

Are you interested in learning more about undergraduate courses and programs offered in French at SFU? Attend one of OFFA’s free information sessions, held every Wednesday from 4-5 p.m.

These sessions are open to the public and cover French-language learning options at SFU, scholarships, admission criteria, important dates, the benefits of bilingualism and more. Whether you are a potential student, parent, teacher, guidance counsellor or someone who simply wants to learn about post-secondary programs and courses offered in French, we invite you to join us online!

OFFA is now a supporting member of the FFCB

At their Annual General Meeting on November 7, the members of the FFCB (the Fédération des francophones de la Colombie-Britannique) officially accepted SFU's Office of Francophone and Francophile Affairs (OFFA) as a supporting member.

This alliance will reinforce OFFA’s leadership role in the Francophone community and strengthen its partnerships with organizations such as the Conseil jeunesse francophoneRéso-SantéLe Relais francophone and many others. Becoming a supporting member of the FFCB is also in line with SFU's vision of being a university that is active at the heart of the communities it serves.

It is worth remembering that OFFA was created thanks to the help and support of many community, university and government stakeholders working toward a common goal: developing access to post-secondary education in French in British Columbia. OFFA’s establishment resulted from a long and fruitful process that followed the creation of the first Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique (CSF) in 1995. It has since become the cornerstone of French-language post-secondary education in B.C.

Find out more about the FFCB here:

To discover or rediscover the history of OFFA, click here: