Baktash Waseil, a French immersion studies’ student in Political Sciences and Common Law

This is Canada! The national anthem is in both languages. Why not learn them?  

A student of Afghan origin has his sights clearly set on bilingualism

For Baktash Waseil, a student in third-year student in political science and first-year common law in French immersion studies, French is actually his third language, not his second.

"My first month in Canada, I was speaking Franglish," says Baktash, whose family emigrated from Afghanistan in 2005. "It's a bit confusing learning two languages at once."
Baktash went to high school in Markham, Ontario, where all students are required to take Core French in grades nine and ten. He decided to continue his bilingual studies in his senior years, and even took Advanced Placement French in Grade 12. "It was my teacher's attitude toward learning a new language that motivated me. She was passing on her passion," says Baktash. "And we weren't just learning grammar. If it was just grammar, I would have never done it!"

The University of Ottawa's French immersion studies stream allows Baktash and students like him to work toward a degree in both languages - and not just study grammar.

"The University of Ottawa is giving students a chance to study in both official languages," says Baktash. "This is Canada! The national anthem is in both languages. Why not learn them?"

Although he was initially worried about taking political science courses in French, he was reassured when he saw how many Anglophones were in his French courses and how much support his professors were willing to offer. Now, he pushes himself: although students at uOttawa can write their assignments in either official language, he always tries to do so in French. "My first paper was completely marked in red," he laughs. "But it's gotten better."
Baktash intends to make full use of his trilingual abilities. "I see myself, first of all, becoming a lawyer, representing both Anglophone and Francophone communities, maybe in constitutional law." And, with a smile, he adds, "Where I see myself eventually is sitting as a bilingual judge."

Text: Ben Godby
Photo: Mélanie Provencher
Published: December 2011
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Last updated: 2012.11.27