Doctor, do you say Hello or Bonjour?

When faced with health issues, being able to speak to one’s doctor in one’s language is essential and even vital. In order to effectively meet the needs of their patients, health professionals need to recognize the importance of providing services in both official languages. To this effect, the Consortium national de formation en santé (CNFS) plays a key role to students in the health sector by providing, in particular, increased access to French programs of study in eleven universities of the country.

The CNFS’s mission is to increase the presence and contribution of health professionals and researchers in francophone Canada, so that members of minority Francophone communities can receive health services better adapted to their needs in French.


Although they consider themselves bilingual, some patients have difficulty expressing themselves in their second language when discussing issues of life and death. To fully inform health professionals, the CNFS recently launched a series of videos featuring touching stories of patients who express in a very sensitive and accurate manner the importance of receiving services in French, in minority communities.

Even though the videos were produced for healthcare professionals of today and tomorrow, they are worth watching because they portray the linguistic situation in the health field.

Here is the testimony of Franco-Ontarian singer, Paul Demers.

You can view other video clips from the series "Quand la santé c’est aussi la langue" by following this link.

Bonjour / Hello

Since March 9th, 2012, the CNFS - University of Ottawa has put in place a campaign for future health professionals. The "Bonjour / Hello" campaign encourages health professionals to address their patients in both official languages, on first contact.

Language barriers create risks for patients, including: not fully understanding their health problem, not adhering to treatment, being missed diagnosed or dealing with medical errors. Finally, because the past tells us that Francophones in minority communities may not receive health care in their language, they believe that the services are just not available.

For more information about the "Bonjour / Hello" campaign, visit the CNFS – University of Ottawa website or their Facebook page.

Philippe Daoust