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February 19, 2004
 Student View


Communication for a nation

Katie Norman
Katie Norman

Employers want effective communicators: any want ad in the Saturday paper will tell you so. This means not only being able to make phone calls, delegate tasks and compose letters, but it often also means being bilingual.

The ability to speak a second language is often a necessary accent to your degree in order to secure employment once your university career is over.

Naturally in a bilingual country such as Canada speaking French is the most common second language requirement or, conversely, speaking English if you are a francophone.

However there are employment opportunities for people who can speak a range of languages. Are you considering applying for a federal government recruitment program? Your options are limited if you don’t fulfill the necessary language requirements. Yet the public service isn’t the only field that makes language demands of its applicants; it is a very real and growing trend.

The public service isn’t the only field that makes language demands of its applicants; it is a very real and growing trend.

Recognizing this trend is only the beginning. Becoming fluent in a second language in a city that is dominantly unilingual, such as St. John’s, is difficult. “Late immersion” does not make a person bilingual. They may be able to speak French and write short speeches but being bilingual is more than a casual knowledge of grammar and vocabulary. It has been said that in order to become fully bilingual you must rid yourself of your first language so you can think in the second language. Constantly translating ideas in your head or looking for equivalencies is cumbersome and impractical. Overcoming this is a huge challenge.

The second requirement that language teachers recommend is to physically immerse oneself in the language. That means travelling to an area where one’s second language is the first language of most citizens. Memorial’s language departments offer many opportunities to travel to practice your skills. These programs usually involve either class work or working experience or sometimes a combination of the two.

For example the Department of French and Spanish offers a term in Saint-Pierre with the Frecker Program at the Francoforum. Further study in French can be undertaken through an exchange in Saint-Pierre. While in this program Memorial students will attend a French high school for one year at the Lycée d'État. There is also an exchange program offered through the Université Michel de Montaigne-Bordeaux III in Bordeaux, France. If Spanish is your focus area than the three-week La Coruna summer program, held usually in August may be of interest.

The Department of German and Russian also offer opportunities for its students to get first hand experiences with its languages. For German students, a field school is held every summer, combining Web study and four weeks in Heidelberg, Germany. They also offer three or four week DAAD summer courses for Canadian students of German. Working abroad in German is also possible through Werkstudentenprogramm in Germany and Fremdsprachenassistentenprogramm. These programs allow students to apply their German skills outside the classroom. Russian students are likely to consider the annual Russian tour, which combines cultural experience and practical coursework, as a complementary edition to their studies. The department also offers a flexible exchange program with the A.I. Herzen State Pedagogical University in St. Petersburg.

There are also opportunities outside the university to attend bursary programs in Quebec or even Mexico. The Government of Canada also offers many monitor, exchange and bursary programs for Canadian citizens. This is a viable opportunity for students who have perhaps not becoming bilingual throughout their studies but want to add a second language to their list of skills.

I can only speak one language fluently. I would consider it a considerable achievement to be able to use another language with the ease that I use English. I am, like anyone else, becoming frustrated when English ideas do not translate into another language. Yet despite the frustration that may accompany learning a second language it does have overwhelming benefits.

The only recommendation I would make is that one should learn the grammar of their first language before they learn grammar of any other language. After taking a grammar course, I am confident that my second language requirement marks would have been much higher. The reason I suggest this is that often a second language is taught in comparison to a first language. While this is probably not the best method to acquire a second language, a solid grasp of English grammar cannot harm anyone. If anything it will make grammar in a second language seem much less complicated in comparison.

For more information on any of the programs offered by Memorial departments visit,
French or

A list of federally sponsored programs can be found at


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