By Valérie Charbonneau
Most students are in the midst of searching for a summer job, and some graduating students have even started looking for permanent positions. Preparing to enter the job market is often daunting, but is it even more so when you hail from a minority language community?
“Learning to speak English as soon as possible is key to career success.” Francophones from minority language communities have often heard this statement. But is it true, for example, that Francophones in Ontario have a harder time landing that crucial first job?
André Samson, vice-dean and professor at the Faculty of Education, has been delving into this question with colleagues Julia DiMillo (from uOttawa) and Laurent Sovet (from Paris Descartes).
More specifically, Professor Samson’s research looks at two types of Franco-Ontarians: those who see themselves primarily as Francophones versus those who see themselves primarily as Anglophones.
“According to a recent study of 984 Franco-Ontarian Grade 12 students enrolled in French-language schools, we noted that the stronger the students’ self-identification as Franco-Ontarians, the more they celebrated their differences, the more they felt prepared to enter the job market,” Samson said.
“Franco-Ontarian students who saw themselves more as Francophones than as Anglophones felt much more independent in their decision-making and felt better about themselves, psychologically, which is attractive to potential employers,” he said. “In short, the more young Franco-Ontarians celebrate their differences and develop a strong Francophone identity, the greater their chances of success, both academically and professionally.”
Professor Samson reasons that the best way for young Franco-Ontarians to perceive their Francophone identity as an asset is for them to study in French, because if they study in English, their Francophone identity is likely to be lost or diluted.
“Little by little, a phenomenon known as subtractive bilingualism takes place. In such cases, as young Franco-Ontarians acquire and use English, they begin to lose fluency in their mother tongue, a process known as assimilation,” he said.
There is no magic formula to counter this phenomenon. However, Professor Samson explains that “we could do more to identify, early on, Francophone students who are having trouble building an identity and to encourage them to celebrate their differences.”
This approach is already prevalent in Franco-Ontarian schools; according to Samson, these institutions understand that they need to foster additive bilingualism, in which learning a new language does not decrease fluency in the student’s mother tongue.
Celebrating differences is beneficial. André Samson believes that Francophone communities in minority language environments are assets that should be recognized and championed.
March is Mois de la francophonie at the University of Ottawa. To find out what’s happening on campus, check the calendar of activities.