Becoming multilingual is key in breaking down barriers for young generations to become true citizens in the global village of today and the future.
That was the message from Nicolas Chapuis, France’s ambassador to Canada who paid a quick visit to Anderson Elementary, a French immersion school, on Monday.
“The world is a global village, and if we want to prepare our children to become world citizens then we have to provide the language tools in order to do so,” said Chapuis who brought a smile of wonderment to many students in the City Centre school — which has an enrolment of about 60 per cent ESL students — by addressing them not only in French, but in Mandarin, as well.
“The challenge is, of course, to be able to make sure there’s an opportunity for young kids to become bilingual everywhere in the country,” Chapuis said. “To be bilingual is to be Canadian.” Too often, bilingual capacities are understood as separation of communities, he added.
“A community that speaks French, a community that speaks English. What this school does, like many other schools, is not that; it’s to make sure that English or any other language, kids have the chance to become truly bilingual.”
Diane Tijman, director with Canadian Parents for French, and district curriculum coordinator with the Richmond School District, said the ambassador — who also speaks Mongol — selected the Richmond school for its unique community of students, many of whom are essentially trilingual, to better understand how their language needs are supported.
“Why are new immigrants wanting their children to learn French?,” Tijman said. “We could theorize about that, but I think it’s wonderful. It’s a challenge for us, because it’s introducing a second and third language at the same time.”
Asked what he’d like to accomplish during his term as France’s ambassador, Chapuis said, “Very often the schools lack the financial means to do it (become bilingual). So, we are trying to devise ways and means to deliver the services. If I can accomplish that, I will be a very happy ambassador.”