Government of Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Bringing generations together to share the Francophone culture

Philippe Daoust, blogger
Canadian Association of Immersion Teachers

2014-06-02

In an exciting initiative, the Canadian Association of Immersion Teachers (CAIT) (www) English Hyperlink Notice (Available only in French) and the Fédération des aînées et aînés francophones du Canada (www) English Hyperlink Notice (Available only in French) (Canadian federation of Francophone seniors) have teamed up for a project that twins Francophone seniors with teachers who speak French as a second language (FSL). In minority language communities, sharing Francophone culture and experiences is an excellent way to keep the French language alive and thriving. This project has the potential to inspire Francophone communities across the country!

Pleased with the success of last year’s pilot project in Winnipeg, the two associations are joining forces again to pair people up for this promising twinning experience. This year, about 60 individuals from Manitoba, Prince Edward Island and Ontario will participate in this intergenerational and intercultural twinning and mentoring project. So many things to share; so many stories to tell!

The idea behind the project is simple: to twin young French immersion teachers whose mother tongue is English with Francophone seniors from the community. The “twins” meet five times throughout the year to share a meal, see a play, volunteer at a festival or simply talk. There are many opportunities to meet up, and the goal is to enjoy life experiences and cultural activities in a Francophone environment.

“For immersion teachers who are twinned with seniors, the important thing is being able to speak French outside their classroom,” explains Chantal Bourbonnais, CAIT’s executive director. “These Anglophone teachers, most of whom were educated in French immersion programs, have chosen to teach in French. However, they often still need to fine-tune their cultural knowledge. This project gives them the opportunity to connect with the vibrant Francophone community around them.” Teachers can thus improve their French language skills, forge ties with the Francophone community, apply their experience in the classroom and take part in enriching cultural activities in the community.

As for seniors, they contribute to expanding the Francophone community; they build intergenerational ties that strengthen Canada’s social fabric with a group of individuals who can greatly benefit from those ties; and they help to develop the full potential of Francophiles for the Francophone community.

New reality

In the early days of French immersion, the majority of teachers were Francophones. Today, many young French immersion teachers are Anglophones who were educated in immersion programs. One of the main challenges in FSL education is the shortage of teachers with sufficient language skills to work in immersion.

“Learning a language means developing an understanding and respect for the identity, values and uniqueness of others. It’s about being open to new perspectives and learning about other cultures in order to more fully appreciate one’s own,” says Ms. Bourbonnais. “In our context, it’s mostly about preserving and passing on the linguistic and cultural richness of our national heritage. Learning a language involves reading, writing and understanding the language, but above all, speaking that language.”

We wish this twinning project continued success!