Francophone Education


A double-i organization
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Glen Taylor BLOGAre you familiar with the Rendez-vous de la Francophonie (RVF)? The 14th edition of this annual national celebration, held from March 9 to 25, 2012, was a resounding success. Some 180,000 people took part in RVF activities, and more than 51,000 watched the televised version of the “Blow your Mind over La Francophonie!” comedy gala produced in collaboration with the École nationale de l’humour.

This year also saw the number of RVF Facebook friends shoot up to over 12,800, thanks in part to a comic-skit contest. Here's the winning clip:

The same organization that’s behind the RVF also ensured a strong francophone presence at the Vancouver Olympics (that is, in all aspects of the Games except the opening ceremonies), as it will for the Toronto 2015 Pan American and Parapan American Games.

These are all major undertakings, as is this “double-i” organization’s latest initiative: to launch a Canada-wide television channel!

Accent on ACCENTS

Welcome to Accents, a new French-language channel whose license application is currently before the CRTC. The goal of this project is to promote Canada’s francophone presence on TV and the web by putting the accent (so to speak) on Acadian and francophone minority communities. The following clip explains in French what Accents is all about:

It’s important for the CRTC to know that the public supports this new project aimed at bringing Canadians together. You can help by visiting the Accents site and clicking on “I support!”. It takes just a few seconds, and increases the odds that the CRTC will grant the licence.

What is this mysterious organization?

This “double-i” organization is the Canadian Foundation for Cross-Cultural Dialogue, created in 2004 by the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada (FCFA).

(As for the FCFA, or the Federation of Francophone and Acadian Communities of Canada, it’s the national and international voice of Canadian francophones outside Quebec.)

Why do I call the Foundation a “double-i” organization? Because it’s both invisible and important: few people know of it, but many benefit from its initiatives.

Words vs. actions

Lots of people talk about the Canadian Francophonie’s growing diversity, the result of immigration and mixed marriages among other things. (Should I mention that two-thirds of francophone youth outside Quebec live in mixed households? That’s a huge proportion!)

Well, here’s an organization that recognizes the positive role non-francophone partners can play in the Francophonie by inviting me, an Alberta anglophone, to sit on its Board of Directors.

So I tip my cowboy hat to the Foundation, and hope to contribute to its development by adding my voice as a francophile (or as an “associate member” of the Francophonie?) — with an Accent!

The guilty pleasures of a NEV
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My spouse and I went skiing the other day. No big deal, right? Actually, we were gone for two days — two weekdays! And we left our girls at home to fend for themselves.

It was the second time this winter that we abandoned our children, the first time being a Wednesday in March. What a fantastic (if fleeting) feeling of freedom! We even witnessed this avalanche:

Avalanche cropped

This is the first winter we’ve taken time off during the week, when our kids are at school, to escape the daily routine. But believe me, it won’t be the last!

Irresponsible? I don’t think so…

Now, you may be thinking it’s irresponsible of us to strap on the boards when we should be at home taking care of our littlies. And I’ll have to admit I did feel a slight twinge of guilt as we headed out of town. After all, it was a workday!

Why this cavalier attitude?

It must be a reaction to the fact that my role as a parent is evolving despite my best efforts. I’m having to face up to the fact that no longer am I indispensable to my kids… no longer do they jump into my arms when I come home… no longer do they hang on my every word, be it wise or otherwise (the latter becoming increasingly common, to judge from their reaction)…

Alas, I’m quickly morphing into a NEV.

That’s because my kids are 19 and 16. Which means they need food, a roof over their heads, transportation (ideally, in the form of car keys and a full tank) and, from time to time, cold hard cash. But our shining presence? Hah! They’re delighted when we leave the house and, as soon as we get back, they ask when we plan to leave again!

So what’s a NEV?

Thinking back, I realize that my spouse and I have been NEVs before, but only for short periods. This time, however, it’s different. Our role as parents is changing fundamentally.

What’s in a word? Don’t get me started!
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Some people just don’t get it. Not yet, anyway. But maybe we can change that.

I’m referring to folks in the world of francophone education who like to talk about a shady group of characters they call “exogamous families.” In French, they call them familles exogames.

Now, if you’re like me, you find the word “exogamous” (pronounced “eggs-aw-ga-mous”) not only odd but downright ugly. It’s slightly less dreadful in French because, well, don’t a lot of words sound nicer in “the language of love”?

By the way, the noun is “exogamy” in English and exogamie in French. Not much prettier, eh? Unless one finds the humour in it, à la Fusion:


I imagine that people who use the terms “exogamous family” and famille exogame simply haven’t given the subject a whole lot of thought. Or it could be a matter of habit — heck, I used to use the term myself, many years ago when I didn’t know any better. And why would anyone in their right mind (other than me… but in my right mind?) spend precious time reflecting on such an obscure issue anyway?

Here’s why: because saying “exogamous family” reveals a lack of understanding and suggests a certain bias.

This kind of thing can spark exciting exchanges between individuals. But when the term is used by someone claiming to speak with any authority on the subject (for instance, educational and community leaders, or self-styled “experts”), well, that’s another matter.

A public service

Anyone who has read the first chapter of Fusion knows why the term “exogamous family” doesn’t make sense. For those of you who haven’t yet read the book, here’s a condensed version of the chapter, which I offer as a public service:

The import ants of come you Nick A. Shun
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I've met lots of parents who, like the tweeting father in my last blog, know some French but aren't comfortable trying to speak it in public. Since French is the language of francophone education in Canada, this can make a trip to their kids' school uncomfortable or even unpleasant.

If only speaking French were as simple as this:


But it isn't. So what does that mean for parents who don't speak French? Well, it all depends on the school their kids attend. And what happens in the school depends on the school board's language policy, procedures, guidelines and practices.

The older my kids get, the more I realize there's rarely a simple answer…

Anyway, non-French-speaking parents have a few choices. They can:

  • keep their heads down and not look anyone in the eye, thereby avoiding the need to talk.
  • speak the few French words they know (like "Bonjour") to support the use of French in the school.
  • try to use even more French words (so what if it turns into Franglais?) in an effort to expand their horizons — with friendly help from francophone parents and teachers, of course.
  • use their mother tongue, whether it's English or any other language, taking for granted that everybody will understand them.
  • use hand gestures, facial expressions and other techniques that don't require fluency in any language.
  • encourage their school board to develop a language policy that assures the predominance of French while helping them get the information they need in order to participate in their children's education.

I kind of like the second-last choice, since it can be the most amusing. This being said, school boards that don't have a clear, consensual language policy aren't doing administrators, teachers, parents, students — or themselves — any favours.

But back to those nonverbal techniques. If you'd like to try some out on your next trip to the school, you may find this clip of Quebec comedian Michel Courtemanche inspirational:

Twitter… that's what birds do, right?
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Glen_Taylor_BLOGI was thinking that I should start using Twitter, and wondered how I'd get the ball rolling. What do people tweet, anyway? Here's what the Twitter website says: "Instantly connect to what's most important to you. Follow your friends, experts, favorite celebrities, and breaking news."

Okay, so I'm not sure which category I fit into, nor what I’d write about. From what I've seen, many tweets go something like this: "Woke up this morning", "Had cereal with beer because we're outta milk", "Fed the rodent"… Not very exciting and, when it comes to rodents, not something everyone wants to know.

So instead of relating my day, I figured I could start by writing about an imaginary day in the imaginary life of an imaginary non-francophone parent who's new to the very real world of French-language education. To that end, I've put together some experiences (the tweetable ones, that is) that parents, including me, have had.

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