Bilingual professors for a bilingual university

Posted on Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Huguette Bourgeois in front of bookcase.

Huguette Bourgeois sits in front of a shelf of books written by uOttawa professors who have benefited from OLBI language training.

By Huguette Bourgeois

When economics professor Anthony Heyes came from England to teach at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Social Sciences, he couldn’t speak a word of French. Today, thanks to the dedicated staff at the Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute (OLBI), he enjoys Quebecois comedies such as Grande séduction by Jean-François Pouliot or Starbuck by Ken Scott, and has learned about Canada’s history as a bilingual country.

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what he had to say — in French — in a special booklet of testimonials that the OLBI has put together as part of its tenth anniversary celebrations:

“À l’âge moyennement avancé de 47 ans, je doutais de façon assez importante de la capacité de l’Université d’Ottawa de me transformer en professeur bilingue en moins de trois ans, peu importe ma volonté et mon enthousiasme pour ce projet.”

He goes on to say that as a father of two teens, newly arrived in Canada, he didn’t think that his situation lent itself to learning a new language. But with a certain wonder, he confesses to having completely underestimated the University’s capacity in language matters.

Professors like Heyes are typical of the challenges that our team at OLBI’s Language Training Services for Academic Staff has taken on for the past ten years. We have had more than 1,500 registrations for our services over the past decade, including for group classes, tutoring sessions and editing of classroom documents. We have helped professors to obtain tenure or teach in their second language. And we have helped others to get promoted to administrative positions.

Our language professors and those they teach come from all over the world: Africa, Europe, Asia, Canada, the United States and Australia. Professors must adapt to different needs, different learning styles and different language requirements.

This very special training program meets our Destination 2020 goals in terms of advancing bilingualism at the University of Ottawa.

All are welcome to come celebrate with us on February 11 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the lobby of Hamelin Hall, 70 Laurier, where OLBI is located. Invitations have been sent to all professors who went through our training program and to all the language professors who have worked so hard. We hope to give a copy of our publication to everyone who shows up, along with very good snacks.

Finally, I would just like to say many thanks to everyone who has made these ten years a success. That means faculty, support staff, deans, our vice-presidents academic and provosts, and a big thank you to all the professors for being such amazing students. We give them language skills; they give us their knowledge, their great minds and their courage and determination to succeed.

Teaching staff in need of language support can contact OLBI at ext. 2218 or We will be happy to help you.

Huguette Bourgeois is a language professor with the OLBI’s Language Training Services for Academic Staff.

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