French at Work seminar series expands students’ linguistic horizons

For students with French as a second, third, or fourth language, navigating Montreal can be challenging. Although McGill is an anglophone university, the ability to speak some French is useful when exploring other parts of the city, since it has been the official language of Quebec since 1969. Gaining sufficient conversational French skills to make the most of living in the city can be difficult, but navigating the Quebec job market is another challenge entirely.

Luckily, the French Language Center (FLC) seeks to help students develop their French language skills so they can navigate Quebec’s job market with ease. The FLC’s Series French at Work – Français au travail seminar series helps students with intermediate to advanced French backgrounds develop their verbal and written French while also connecting them with employers throughout the province. 

The series is organized in collaboration with McGill’s Careers Planning Service (CaPS) and participation in the series appears on students’ official McGill co-curricular records (CCR). Recognition on this document provides both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation for students to attend the seminars.

French Studies lecturer Joannie Proulx is confident that the FLC’s services are meeting a student demand.

“The French professional communication workshops were strongly motivated by concrete needs expressed by our students,” Proulx wrote in an email to The McGill Tribune. “Many of our students want to remain and work in Quebec after their studies, but have expressed not feeling prepared enough to transition into the French workplace.”

Marion Vergues, Faculty of Arts lecturer and the director and academic coordinator of the series, believes that the ability to speak French is invaluable to students seeking a job in Quebec after graduation.

“Being able to work efficiently in a multilingual environment [provides] more confidence in one’s ability to adapt to an ever-changing job market, as well as more opportunities [for] growth,” Vergues wrote. “French plays a major role in this part, of course in Quebec and in all Canadian provinces because of bilingualism requirements, but also in our globalized world.”

The series provides students with the tools necessary to develop a profile, write a CV, and participate in interviews in French. Vergues has enjoyed leading several of the seminars. 

“I find them nurturing,” Vergues wrote. “I have been teaching French for Professional Communication for a while. It allows me to interact with students by teaching French for specific objectives, which is still underrated in language curricula at university level [compared] to literature for example.” 

Like most events, the seminars have had to take a different form since COVID-19 hit in March 2020.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, the French Language Centre has had to adapt to remote teaching and learning to ensure access to high-quality courses and activities,” Vergues wrote. “It has been both a challenging and rewarding process due to a unique pairing of self-driven and skilled instructors and engaged students.”

Although the “Series French at Work – Français au travail” seminars are geared towards students who already have an intermediate or advanced background in French, the FLC’s offerings are diverse. Proulx helps ensure that there are opportunities for beginners to enjoy being in a bilingual city and become familiar with the French language.

“I coordinate a team of amazing French language assistants (monitrices de langues), who create and facilitate fun pedagogical activities for students learning French, such as field trips in Montreal or Quebec [City] (before Covid), French meetups, a language partnering program, game nights, and a tutoring service,” Proulx wrote.

Both Vergues and Proulx emphasized the importance of engaging in the FLC’s events.

“I would encourage students to try and participate in a French activity, whether it is a game night or the language partnering program,” Proulx wrote. “Since we all shifted to remote […] interactions, I think it’s now more important than ever to connect with people. Why not pick up some French in the process?” 

Vergues described the benefits of student engagement with the FLC.

“Take advantage of all opportunities to engage in activities offered in French on the campus,” Vergues wrote. “Get to know [the] Francophones of McGill. They are proud ambassadors of the French [language], and passionate about it!”

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