As an anglophone, I believe it is good to be exposed to a second language such as French. While my French is basic, reading signs and hearing it on campus assists with my comprehension of the language.
Being given the opportunity to work on campus has allowed me to further my comprehension in French — I can generally understand what is said but respond in English. At times it can be frustrating when spoken to in French to be unable to understand what the person is saying, but bilingualism most definitely has its benefits.
Getting started: Second language courses
The University offers French as a second language courses (FLS, Français langue seconde) through the Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute to help anglophones and allophones improve their French language skills. Courses range from beginners to advanced.
Taking it further: French immersion
The French Immersion Stream is designed for anglophone and allophone students who wish to pursue part of their university studies in French. I have friends who took French immersion in high school, have since came to uOttawa and are in the French Immersion Stream. They even have access to a French Studies Bursary, since they take courses in French each term.
A huge benefit of being able to understand or speak French in Ottawa is the job opportunities. Ottawa being one of Canada’s largest bilingual cities, the job market opens up for bilingual candidates.
Even when you’re applying for internships through one of uOttawa’s Co-operative Education Programs, a lot of government and private sector jobs ask for bilingual applicants. Having working proficiency in French can help your resumé move to the top of the pile.
A lifelong reward
But the benefits of being bilingual don’t stop at jobs or being able to converse with a wider spectrum of people. Bilingualism can, in fact, make you smarter. A New York Times article reports that it can have a large effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age. Previously, bilingualism was thought to impede a child’s academic and rational development. While there is interference in the brain with learning two languages, it helps the brain resolve internal conflict and helps develop cognitive muscles.
Knowing all this, why wouldn’t we want to be exposed to a second language? As anglophone students, we should think twice about being closed-minded on the topic of French on a bilingual campus. Let’s seek to take courses or learn the language through friends and people we meet. I challenge you to get out of your comfort zone and take advantage of the French opportunities we have on campus — taking a beginner's French course can go a long way!