Finding a Summer Job in Montreal – The Language Barrier

Andrew Stevenson

For any of us anglophones living in Montréal, it is pretty well known that finding a summer job, or part-time job without the ability to speak french fluently is a challenge.  Most jobs require bilingualism as a qualification, so where can you look, and what can you do to find a job?

First of all, there is McGill.  It is probably a bit late to be applying to jobs at McGill for this summer, but this is a job oasis for unilingual anglophones.  The bookstore, cafeterias, residences and more are a great place to look.  Furthermore, professors need research assistants, and usually this work is done in english.  There may still be some positions working with professors for this summer so contact them as soon as possible!

Next, for those of us with enough knowledge of French to say “bonjour/hi”, and “ca va?” the next place to look may be the stores downtown around rue Ste-Catherine.  Most of these places are not too picky about having perfectly bilingual candidates, so as long as you can greet, and wrap your tongue around basic phrases in French you may have some luck.  I know a couple of people who do not speak any or much French at all who work around rue Ste-Catherine and don’t seem to have a problem with their lack of French knowledge.

Also, apply to restaurants.  There are many positions that don’t require interaction with customers, such as a dishwasher or prep cook, so French language skills may not be necessary if the owner or manager speaks english.  Again, if you do have some basic or intermediate French skills you could maybe get a job as a bus boy or waiter in the downtown or anglophone neighbourhoods.

Last, and maybe the worst of the options I’ve listed are call centres.  There are some call centres that hire people with English as their only language, and hey, when you’re taking a summer course but need some money to get by, this may be a serious option to consider.

Personally, I just got a job at an ice cream place in the Old Port, and my French is far from perfect.  Although I did have to say a few sentences in French during my job interview, fluency was not imperative.  The manager told me “as long as you can have a basic conversation, and are able to serve the ice cream to the customer, you are fine.  If the customer starts trying to have a philosophical conversation with you in French, it is not your responsibility.”

Being an anglophone who is trying to learn French, this job or any job in Montréal is exciting.  Having done J’EXPLORE last year to improve my French, and now being able to put my French skills to the test on the job I believe, is the next step.  Hopefully some of these tips are helpful, and my own success as an anlgo getting a job in Montréal can be a sense of encouragement.  But I would stress that as an anglophone looking for a job, you should be trying and willing to learn French.

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