When I was little, our family would go skiing in the Laurentians every winter. It was a lot of fun. But the one thing that I found frustrating was that I couldn’t speak French, so I missed out on a lot that was going on. Everyone else in my family, except my mother, could get by in French. not me. And not only did I not know French — — I refused to learn it.
So I was sent, against my will, on a French exchange to Baie Comeau one summer. I arrived there just in time to experience bébites, or blackflies! Horrible! However I had a great time, got along well with my host family, and picked up French faster than I could catch a cold.
Next summer I followed up with an exchange to Chicoutimi, then the jewel of North America, Québec. That’s when I really fell in love with the province and the people. I decided to apply to the Summer Bursary program, which was funded by the government of Canada. These days it is called Explore Canada. During this five week program, students are taught the other official language of Canada during intensive classes that last all day. The evenings and weekends are free time. I would often hop on the bus and go downtown and roam the streets of le Vieux Québec. It was, and still is, a great opportunity, since all costs of education, room and board are covered. I’m not sure why more Canadians don’t apply.
In 1981 I applied to a program sponsored by all provinces and the Federal Government. In this program, students would be placed in a provincial government job in another province where their second language was the working language. I ended up working for le ministère du Loisir, de la Chasse et de la Pêche at le Manoir Montmorency in Beaupot, just east of Québec. “Le Manoir Montmorency” and “Le Sourire Du Manoir” watercolours were painted while I was there. Such great times! We were billeted in homes nearby. One of the hosts invited all of us over for a party. Her billet, Wilma, wanted to compliment her by telling everyone that she was fun and cheerful. She said,”Vous êtes une femme je joie!” Well, the host burst out laughing because she knew what Wilma meant. What she said, though, literally, was that she was a woman who brings joy ( a prostitute ). Ha! Ha! It’s always fun to learn another language because things like this happen. It brings colour to life.
It was a great experience. Sharing time with the people who speak a language is the best way to learn it. I didn’t want to learn French when I was young. Thankfully my parents were smart and determined enough to send me off on exchanges to learn French. I wish I could tell them that I am glad that they were more stubborn than me.
May you guide your children to be open to the experiences that this great wide wonderful world has to offer.