At E-QIP, we’re lucky enough to welcome students from all around the world; students who come to Montreal for to work, to study or to build a new life.
All three were of those goals were on the agenda for French student Lauryn, although the only border she crossed to get here was a provincial one. Lauryn hails from Toronto, where (like many native Ontarians), she left school unable to hold a conversation in French.
“My husband is fluent, so we would practice sometimes and I took a course at Alliance Francaise [in Toronto] once for like two or three months, but I didn't get very far,” she said. “So, I arrived a beginner and sort of improved as I've been living here.”
Lauryn and her husband, Daniel, made the move to Montreal two summers ago after he received a once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity at UQAM. She said was excited, rather than nervous, about the prospect of finally learning French, a goal that she didn’t feel was attainable for her in Toronto.
Although Canada has two official languages, most Canadians never achieve French-English bilingualism, thanks to grammar-focused instruction that neglects verbal communication and the lack of opportunities to practice. Those barriers limit Canadians who might see regions and jobs that don’t cater to their dominant language as out of their reach. But according to Lauryn, those limitations might not be as fixed as some may believe.
“I feel like it's going faster than I anticipated originally, which is really fun,” she said. “Whereas a year ago I could have a conversation with Daniel where I would just point to things in the room, just explain what I could see or explain really basic stuff, now I can talk about ideas, which is really exciting.”
She credits her development in part to the style of teaching at E-QIP, where the classes are small and tailored to students’ particular needs and struggles. If a grammar error has been identified frequently in the first class of the morning, for example, it might become the focus of the second; according to Lauryn, that’s exactly what students need to grow.
Now that she’s at an intermediate level, she’s got her sights set on eventually using French in the workplace. She already uses it in her day-to-day life around her home in the east end of the city, where she’s a fixture in the local cafes (whose baristas have witnessed her improvement firsthand).
“I notice if I speak quietly, if I sound nervous, people automatically switch, but if I'm loud they just stay in it. And they'll let me make mistakes. It's great.”
She and her husband plan to stick it out in Montreal permanently, which makes her especially determined to master the language.
“I think to actually integrate into Quebec society, it's pretty important, otherwise you'll probably just have a much smaller community and less events you can go to and people you can talk to. It's also important for my work. I work in communications and marketing and I have a job that's in English, but if I want another one it's really, really important that I speak French.”
Lauryn wrapped up four weeks of E-QIP’s Core 15 morning program this week, but she plans on eventually working around her busy schedule with private evening classes. Until then, she’s doing everything she can to keep learning on her own.
“I’m trying to integrate lots of little things into my day to keep things up without having the class every morning, so I’ve got all my podcasts, I’ve got a stack of comic books at home, I’ve got a list of movies in French. Even when I watch things in English now I put on French subtitles,” she said. “Occasionally I’ll be like ‘oh, that word matches. I totally get that now.’
“So that would be my advice to other students. Just put the subtitles on for everything!”