Learning in French helps students understand their disciplines and the world in unique ways


By Jacky Amsden, Communication Officers, Office of the Vice-Provost & Associate Vice-President, Learning and Teaching

Students are experiencing richer and more inclusive learning at the university and beyond thanks to collaborations between SFU instructors and the Office of Francophone and Francophile Affairs/Bureau des Affaires Francophones et Francophiles (OFFA).

OFFA supports the development of programs and courses taught in French at SFU. Two of its flagship programs include French teacher education training in the Faculty of Education, and the French Cohort Program, an undergraduate degree that offers students the opportunity to study political science and history in French and English.

For the last 20 years, OFFA has been a leader in BC in the promotion of access to post-secondary education in French.

Political science through two lenses

According to Rémi Léger, French Cohort Program director and political science professor, learning in French allows students to engage in his discipline in a deeper and more complex way.

“You would assume that political science is political science, whether you do it in Chinese, Spanish or French. But that's not the case. Knowledge in the social sciences doesn't come from nowhere, it comes from a context, and students in our program are really exposed to two ways of doing political science: the French/Francophone way and the Anglo-American way. To be exposed to a discipline in another language is almost like being exposed to an entirely different discipline.”

Léger adds that studying political science in two languages helps his students develop critical thinking skills.

“Learning a discipline in two languages helps students question the universalism or the universality of social scientific knowledge. I think when you're an Anglophone … you don't realize that there's a world outside of the dominant language. When my students realize how different political systems look when explored through the lens of two different languages and their traditions, you can see the change in their eyes.” 

Enriching the classroom and BC

Education professor Cécile Bullock explains that for her, offering teacher education training in French is about fostering inclusion.  

“I think a lot of people think of Quebec and France when they think of French, but our student body is much more diverse. Most of our students have grown up in Vancouver in non-francophone families and perhaps French is their second, third or fourth language. Or maybe they have recently immigrated from a French-speaking country in Africa—which in the next twenty to thirty years will be home to the majority of the world’s francophones. Learning French is about meeting people and exchanging cultures and provides the residents of our multilingual and multicultural province with a way to connect to each other in a profound way.”

In addition to immersion language programs, OFFA also offers resources to SFU instructors interested in integrating French components to their courses.

Nicolas Kenny, professor of history, adds the support provided by OFFA means he can offer learning experiences to his students that he wouldn’t be able to access otherwise.

“OFFA's support allows me to incorporate a range of exciting activities in my classes, such as inviting guest speakers from different parts of the country or presenting films that are connected to what we're studying. It has enriched my students’ experience of history in so many ways,” says Kenny.

If you are interested in exploring how you can access support for developing courses in French at SFU or integrating French learning resources into your courses, contact OFFA director Gino LeBlanc at