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.
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
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 www.mun.ca/german/,
French or www.mun.ca/univrel/gazette/2001-2002/july25/welcome6.html.
A list of federally sponsored programs can be found at www.canadianheritage.gc.ca/progs/lo-ol/be/index_e.cfm.