If bilingualism opens doors, OLBI holds the key

Posted on Monday, October 22, 2018

International students on a cultural field trip in Gatineau Park.

By Laura Darche

You’ll never hear a prof preventing you from using your mother tongue in a second language class at the Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute (OLBI). Why? Because at OLBI, theory and practice co-exist under one roof and the best practices developed at the institute suggest that your second language builds itself with your first. Here’s a look at our bilingualism experts and what they can offer you.

Access to the latest advances

Bilingualism has always been an asset in the labour market, and the demand for qualified second language instructors is constantly on the rise. OLBI’s unique structure, bringing together learners, teachers and researchers, makes the institute an incubator for innovation and a choice destination for reaching a higher level of second language mastery. Learners benefit from the application of research and new teaching tools developed on site, students in second language teaching can apply what they learn in language tutor and monitor jobs, and researchers rub shoulders will other well-known experts attracted by this stimulating ecosystem.

“OLBI professors are really passionate and always ready to help with our projects. They create a very warm environment, and that makes me want to push my limits and help other students.” — Laura Castano Laverde, master’s student in bilingualism studies

Up for the challenge of internationalization

Intensive program international students discovering Canadian culture at Parliament.

Intensive program international students on a visit to Parliament Hill.

For international students, mastering English or French is essential for meeting their academic goals, building a social network and integrating in their new environment. The intensive courses offered for them at OLBI allow them to make rapid progress language-wise while also discovering Canadian culture, setting them up to better contribute to our richly diverse campus.

“Bilingualism is important for me because it allows me to communicate with more people. I find that the diversity it brings to the campus lets us discover new perspectives and be open to the world.” — Stephanie Marshall, master’s student in bilingualism studies

Bilingual to the core – OLBI’s 50 years of existence

ILOB teacher at a blackboard teaching vocabulary related to new technologies.

When we say that at the University of Ottawa, bilingualism is part of our DNA, we’re serious. From its founding in 1848, the College of Bytown was already characterized by its bilingual and bicultural status. The Centre for Second Language Learning, which became the Second Language Institute in 1989 and OLBI in 2007, was initially established in 1968 to support the University’s objective, as stated in the University of Ottawa Act, “to further bilingualism and biculturalism and to preserve and develop French culture in Ontario.”

“Canada, through its experience with bilingualism, is at the forefront of research on solutions for living together. The University of Ottawa, which developed while at the centre of these debates, is living proof that it is both possible and positive to live in the two languages. This influences our students, who carry this idea beyond our walls.”  — Jérémie Séror, OLBI director and associate dean, Faculty of Arts

OLBI has gone from a simple language school to a well-known research centre, developing some of the first computerized self-learning tools, the only standardized French-language professional and university proficiency test designed in Canada (TESTCan) and, in 2006, one of the first and largest university-level French immersion programs in Canada. OLBI in its current form was born of the desire to highlight the university’s expertise in bilingualism and to have the means to take this research further.

Today, OLBI continues to innovate, creating new tools and learning methods that push students to get out of the classroom and develop their abilities in genuine communications settings. Since 2007, OLBI’s research component has centred around the Canadian Centre for Studies and Research on Bilingualism and Language Planning (CCERBAL), which brings together high-calibre researchers in the areas of language policy, use of new technologies in second language learning and language acquisition.

Related story: Multilingualism gets royal attention

What can you do at OLBI?

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