Did you know that more of the world’s population is bilingual or multilingual than monolingual?
There are many good reasons to learn a second (third? fourth?…) language. It can positively affect our cognitive abilities, improve our attention and task-switching capacities, and even slow mental decline as we age. There are employment benefits. And, to quote Emperor Charlemagne, “To have another language is to possess a second soul.”
I interviewed six bilingual Canadians for 2023 Rendez-vous de la Francophonie, including Alex Freedman, Executive Director of the Community Radio Fund of Canada/Le Fonds canadien de la radio communautaire, an independent not-for-profit funding organisation whose mandate is to provide support to campus and community radio stations in Canada.
Alex was raised in English but attended a French public school in London, Ontario. His mother speaks five languages (German, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, French, and English), and his father speaks French with an American accent. Even so, he says he doesn’t usually think in French and can still find it daunting to do French presentations at work. He and his wife want to ensure their children are better equipped, so his wife speaks French to the children, and Alex speaks English. The children also go to a francophone school.
Alex believes it is essential for English-speaking Canadians to “see across the hedge” into the Canadian Francophonie, and learning to speak French and passing that ability on is a great way to do that.
Image: Alex Freedman presenting at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, 2022
Catherine Fisher, blogger