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Senators visit Island schools to discuss Official Languages Act

Rose-May Poirier, deputy chair of the Senate Standing Committee of Official Languages, right, chats with Grade 9 students Emma Dyer, left, Mya MacFarlane and Kate MacKenzie.
Rose-May Poirier, deputy chair of the Senate Standing Committee of Official Languages, right, chats with Grade 9 students Emma Dyer, left, Mya MacFarlane and Kate MacKenzie.

SUMMERSIDE – Emma Dyer, and a handful of other Athena Consolidated students, would like to see changes to her school’s core French program.

Senators from the Standing Committee of Official Languages spoke to Grade 9 students at Athena Consolidated School about modernizing the Official Languages Act. From Left, Ghislain Maltais, Raymonde Gagne, Rose-Marie Poirier, Claudette Tardif, Lucie Moncion, Marie-Françoise Mégie and René Cormier.

“We’ve been taking French for five years now and if I were to try to have a conversation with someone, I wouldn’t be able to. I know basic words, mainly objects, but not sentences,” said the Grade 9 student.

Emily Woodside agreed.

“I came to Athena from Kensington Intermediate Senior High School. So I started French immersion in Grade 7. There is big difference from learning in total French, to a French class for an hour every other day.”

On Thursday, about 40 Grade 9 students from Athena heard discussion from Canadian Senators on the Official Languages Committee.

“I’d like to be able to continue taking French courses in high school but I don’t think I have the basics to even start,” added Dyer.

The Senate committee is travelling through provinces speaking with people about the Official Languages Act.

“The Act is turning 50 years old in 2019. We are looking at things that need to modernized and adapted to fit today,” said Claudette Tardif, chairwoman of the Committee.

Tardif is a Liberal Senator from Alberta.

Senators Claudette Tardif, left, Lucie Moncion and Marie-Françoise Mégie were some of the senators who spoke at Athena Consolidated School in Summerside.

While visiting various locations, the committee has touched on topics like promotion of official languages, cultural links between the languages, what motivates young people to learn a second language as well as other topics.

“We’ve heard about 20 or so testimonials so far. For students it really depends on what language learning opportunities they’ve come into. But they seem to believe that having French as a second language as valuable. Especially for their future opportunities,” said Tardif.

“They’d like to have more speaking opportunities and extracurricular options to work on their skills with a more practical curriculum.”

Charlene Campbell, the Grades 6 to 9 Core French teacher at Athena, said the curriculum is progressing to focus more on speech instead of writing.

“Last year we had the pilot program for the Grade 7 classes and there seems to be an emphasis on speaking and having conversations.”

Campbell hopes the Senators understood that for some schools it’s a matter of resources.

“We’d love to be able to have speakers here or go to francophone events but we can’t afford that. And that can affect what opportunities the students have to engage in extracurricular or different French experiences.”

The senators also visited a number of other Island schools and Collége-de-lÎle.

millicent.mckay@journalpioneer.com

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