Discovering French

4adc6bd1a44781225a87a6f3ab4992e4Hello there! My sincere apologies for not posting until now; I wanted to wait until I had completed enough activities to give a satisfying update.

Firstly, I’d like to congratulate you all for your efforts getting (and staying) into McGill. University applications are hard, and the transition from secondary education to post-secondary does take some getting used to. If you’ve read my bio, you already know that my posts will be focusing on the post post-secondary part of one’s career: what do you do after, what can you expect in terms of emotions and experiences, and how do you go about using your newly acquired degree? I’m a little happy and nervous to tell you that I’ll be exploring the answers to these mysterious questions through my own experiences this year. Which means that there will probably be a lot of emotions. “Feels”, as they say these days.

For most under/graduates, school started right after Labour Day, but I was fortunate enough to get an extra two weeks. I’m currently enrolled in the School of Continuing Studies’ Special Intensive French – Language and Culture program. It’s a mouthful, but it basically means that I spent my entire 4 years of undergrad at McGill for violin performance, didn’t speak a word of French even though I technically have 8 years of French classes, and finally decided that I would man up and learn this strange language and its culture that most of Canada doesn’t know.

I’d like to point out that if you know some French or want to learn, please ask beg your francophone friends to speak with you, even if it means annoying them about it (because francophones love speaking English, you will soon realize). I managed to get away with not speaking French at all (this is a very popular thing anglophones do), which isn’t something I’m proud of. Montreal is vibrant and diverse, I find the Quebécois accent to be refreshingly beautiful, but I regret to say I wasted that opportunity during school. I’ve also heard there are places outside of the downtown Montreal area where people won’t speak English. And if you do want to embark on the journey of eating baguettes and frog legs, I would advise you not to go to Westmount. I went to a DQ there once, and to my horror, they talked to me in English.

For the purposes of obtaining a job, learning French is extremely important, nay, essential if you want to work in Québec. There are companies that function more in English, but they may still expect you to at least be functional. It also depends on what position you’re applying for, because a receptionist will definitely need to be able to communicate with clientele in both English and French. If you work in the food preparation of McDonald’s, however, it may not be as necessary. I’ve heard employees at fast food places speak English.

What if you want to work in the rest of Canada? Yes, you don’t need to know French, but does being bilingual give you a good advantage over all the other applicants?

Yes.

Are you worth more to the employer because you have an asset that allows you to communicate better with some of their clients, thus improving the reputation of the company?

Yes.

I wish I had really focused on improving my language skills during my undergraduate, because now I’m taking a program that may otherwise not have been needed. Not to say that it isn’t great. I love my class, and my teachers (I have one class and two teachers). In fact, just after school today I felt so content that although the class is conducted solely in French, I wasn’t having too much trouble understanding. Things are becoming clearer with more practice and more exposure to the language. It’s Monday-Friday 9 am-3 pm for 6 weeks (the “intensive” part), so I’ll only get to write a couple of posts about it. However, it’s definitely a program I recommend if ever you feel that you need to brush up on your skills. In my opinion, learning a language is incredibly hard, but it may just be one of the greatest personal and career investments you could ever make in your life.

Well, this post has become longer than I expected! In my next post I’ll go more in detail about my program and also volunteering, which is a big part of anyone’s job search. I hope you stay warm and stressfully happy in the upcoming weeks! As they say in French, à la prochaine!

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