Passing down French from generation to generation

Posted on Wednesday, March 15, 2023

The Moreau-Johnson family

From left to right: Antoine, Emilie, Rupert, Françoise and Marcus. Photo credit – Layers of Life Photography 

Françoise, Rupert, Emilie, Marcus and Antoine are proud to belong not only to the extended Gee-Gees family (alumni, retired staff, students), but also to the Francophonie. At the University, as well as in Ottawa and Gatineau, members of the Moreau-Johnson family have found a welcoming, diverse community in which to live in French. Meet this family with a unique story.  

The mother, Françoise, a francophone Quebecer, met her husband Rupert in England. Emilie, Marcus and Antoine were born in Great Britain. In England, “I always spoke to the children in French,” says Françoise. It was important for her to pass on her language, her culture and the family traditions.  

In 2002, after having lived overseas for many years, the family decided to return to Canada, to Gatineau for a few months before settling in Ottawa.  

A warm francophone community 

The Moreau-Johnson family moved to the francophone Ottawa neighbourhood of Vanier, where each member could live fully in French.  

“On returning to Canada, the three children took different academic paths,” says Françoise. Nevertheless, French brought them together for postsecondary studies: all three went to the University of Ottawa.  

“We were so well supported by the Ottawa francophone community that we never felt we weren’t at home. I like the community of French speakers in Ontario, the cultural mix... You meet people from all backgrounds whom you wouldn’t have met otherwise,” says Marcus. His mother feels the same. “The world we’ve lived in has almost always been exclusively French: school was in French, Scouts were in French, family activities like skiing were in French.”  

One by one, family members joined the uOttawa ranks: Françoise Moreau-Johnson (MA ’13) and Rupert Johnson (MBA ’12), followed by Emilie (Honours BA ’18, MIS ’20), Marcus (BCom ’21) and, finally, Antoine (BSc in biology).  

A uOttawa employee for 15 years and a proud francophone, Françoise was very pleased that she, her children and her husband could study at the University. 

Studying and living in French at uOttawa  

During their time at the University, members of the family all loved the warm, strong presence of the francophone community. Marcus mentions the diversity of the francophone community at uOttawa, made possible because of a differential tuition fee exemption scholarship for international francophone students.  Whether you’re francophone from here or elsewhere, “the language unites us and connects us,” he says. French has allowed him to meet people from all over the world that he’ll be friends with for life.  

Now retired, Françoise says she was able to have a positive francophone community experience on campus. “On a day to day basis, campus life is simple and it’s so pleasant to walk around on campus and feel comfortable approaching people in French rather than English.”  

Today, the family continues to help raise the profile of French, for example, by never forgetting to mark Franco-Ontarian Day or by asking to be served in French. Emilie is still active in the Scout movement in Gatineau (with the Plateau Wolf Cubs). Françoise helps the library in Kazabazua, where she and her husband now live, to find good French reads. As for Marcus, he’ll soon do a six-month internship in Marseille as part of his master’s.  

Back to top