Teaching French, from Cardiff to Marrakesh

Posted on Saturday, March 11, 2017

Caroline Bourque

Caroline Bourque, a student in uOttawa's teacher training program in French, takes a break from her internship in Wales to visit Stonehenge in England.

By Valérie Charbonneau

Did you know that in Cardiff, the capital of Wales, a tiny community of Francophones has founded a French-language school so that local children can learn to read and write French?

Caroline Bourque, a second-year student in the Faculty of Education, went to great lengths to arrange a practicum at this elementary school in southwestern U.K. She contacted the vice-principal of la Petite École de Cardiff to ask about working there as an unpaid intern. The result: a month of teaching French to five- and six-year-olds abroad that led her to reflect on a minority language community closer to home.

“The little ones were incredibly curious and really wanted to learn, which was very refreshing,” she said. “They were too young to understand the advantages of being bilingual, but they made me realize they had a lot in common with young Franco-Ontarians. This internship caused me to think deeply about our situation in Ontario and to appreciate the efforts we make to promote the French language and to strengthen our culture.”

Bourque’s internship is just one example of the “alternative” or community engagement practicums that are part of a new course in uOttawa’s formation à l’enseignement (teacher training in French) program. And she was not alone in undertaking an internship earlier this winter that involved venturing outside her comfort zone.

“The 11 students who enrolled in this course had to make all the arrangements for their practicums themselves,” said Professor Francine Lanteigne, who teaches PED4554. “They started preparing more than a year ago. I’m very proud of each of them and their remarkable work.”

Estelle Losa

Estelle Losa in a small village in the Atlas Mountains during her trip to Morocco.

For her part, Estelle Losa, who is pursuing her education studies at uOttawa’s Toronto campus, was won over by a class of 45 students in Morocco.

“I was fortunate to be welcomed as a volunteer at a kindergarten called Fadila in the heart of a working-class district in Marrakesh,” she said. “When I started the internship, I was quite rattled because my pedagogical methods seemed incompatible and unrealistic for teaching in Morocco. I found it hard to adapt my knowledge to suit a new culture in so little time.”

Even so, she quickly understood that movement-based activities and repetition were the preferred ways of transmitting knowledge in this part of Morocco. Ball games, role-playing, songs and dance encourage the children to learn quickly and to remember what they learn. And so rather than simply imparting the rules of the road, for example, Losa made up and taught her students a lively song about red and green lights and when it is safe to cross the street.

She now feels strongly about working to create deeper bonds between Francophone teachers in Morocco and Canada. “Back in Toronto, I would love to promote these exchanges and develop a program that will help teachers in the two countries share best practices,” she said.

Watch the videos that Caroline Bourque and Estelle Losa produced about their internships.

PED4554 Stage en engagement communautaire, a course in the formation à l’enseignement program (teacher training program in French), encourages personal and career development through a practicum in a community or educational setting in Canada or abroad.

March is Mois de la francophonie at the University of Ottawa. To find out what’s happening on campus, check the calendar of activities.

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