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Free Quebec French courses a pathetic afterthought for anglos

June 14th,2023 | Opinion

For a province that wants to promote the use of French across its borders, Quebec sure isn’t making it easy for anglophones to learn the tongue of La Belle Province.

When the CAQ party announced that it would be offering free French training for all Quebecers, it became the silver lining in the Bill 96 file — the one positive that could actually help protect French culture, aid anglophones in learning the provincial language and bring the temperature down of the rising divide between the French and English in Quebec.

But when this editor tried to sign up for the free French courses offered through Quebec’s shiny new Francization Quebec portal, I hit wall after wall after wall. It quickly became clear that signing up for these free courses was going to be just as difficult as learning a new language.

When you arrive on the site, you’re first asked to build a profile, which asks for schooling information, your level of French, languages spoken at home and a copy of your birth certificate. All good.

But as you move through the application process, you soon learn that those who live in the Hills will have to do some serious commuting to learn French. The closest in-person class is at the West Quebec Career Centre in Aylmer for those La Pêche and Chelsea residents , and in Gracefield or Maniwaki for those who live to the north.

The Aylmer centre is 93 kilometres to and from my home in Masham.

With in-person classes not feasible, I decided to then register for online French instead, thinking that this would be a simple click-and-register exercise. But when I logged onto the Francization Quebec site, I hit another barrier. According to the website, online students must apply through adult education centres “anywhere in Quebec.” But when you consult the list of schools that offer online training, none are in the Outaouais. Centre d’éducation des adultes Champlain in Montreal is the closest site. In fact, there are only nine adult education centres in the province that offer online training.

I really want to learn French. I think it’s important to protect the French language. I think it’s important for all Quebecers to learn the mother tongue of the province they live in. But the CAQ’s pathetic attempt to help anglos learn French falls so flat that it actually hurts its pro-Bill 96 arguments. Premier François Legault has been screaming over the fact that French is on the decline, under threat and that to protect it, we must increase our use of French to an “exemplary” degree.

How can we get better at French if we don’t have access to the training?

With the site just launching June 1, perhaps the province needs a week or two to iron out the kinks and add more resources, so that more Quebecers can learn French.

It better hurry, though, because the silver lining is already starting to tarnish.

P.S. I did end up applying for in-person classes and received an email with instructions on the next steps – completely in French.

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