Study in French? Pourquoi pas?

Posted on Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Maeghan McGaraughty (Communication) and Priyanka Rawat (Biology) are fourth-year students enrolled in French Immersion Studies at uOttawa. The program celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.

By Marc Gobeil

For most young English-speaking students in immersion, extended or core French in high school, their contact with the French language ends when they graduate. However, others will choose to go to university in a bilingual environment.

French immersion at the University of Ottawa, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, was created to help students get the most from the bilingual setting at the University and to allow francophiles to polish their French language skills while studying in their field of interest.

“I thought it would be very intimidating to take science courses in French, my second language,” says Priyanka Rawat, a biology student originally from Markham, Ontario. “But I soon realized that the professors were there to help, and the francophone students were perfectly at ease having English-speaking students in the courses.”

French second language professors attend a number of the students’ first and second year courses. The professors have developed language support classes for immersion students so they can work on their comprehension and speaking skills using the course material from their lectures. This allows students to gain greater knowledge of the language used in their field of study, something they wouldn’t have had much exposure to before.

Laurence Thibault, one of the professors providing language support for students, sees first-hand the challenges they face.

“It can be difficult for some students to understand the vocabulary used in the discipline or to understand complex readings, in sociology or political science courses, for example," she says. "Because it can take immersion students twice as long, or more, to get through a text than it would if they were reading in English, we — the language support professors — are right there with them from the beginning to help make sure they get off to a good start.”

The success of French immersion at the University of Ottawa stems in large part from the drive and tenacity of our students and the dedication of our professors and academic staff.

An event celebrating the 10th anniversary of French immersion will get under way at 3:30 p.m. on February 14, 2017, in room 112 of Tabaret Hall. Students, professors and support staff are all welcome!

Fast facts:

  • Over the past 10 years, registration in French immersion went from 200 to 600 students a year.
  • In January 2017, there were 1,900 students in immersion.
  • Since 2006, more than 5,200 students have completed at least part of their program in French immersion.
  • Since the immersion program was created, French immersion students account for a total of 38,000 registrations in classes taught in French.

Marc Gobeil is the director of French immersion at uOttawa.

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