In the Chamber -- Grant Mitchell's Blog

Learning French

Posted 5/29/2008 by Grant Mitchell

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I really want to be bilingual. Very much. I love the language and I am inspired by the many people I work with who speak both English and French beautifully. I also feel that as a Western Senator I have a special responsibility to learn it. Quebec and its culture and the francophone culture outside of Quebec add a great richness to Canada and Canadians and I want to support it and be part of it.

I have been taking French lessons two or three times a week and sometimes more for upwards of three years. I have had two weeks of immersion at the St Jean sur Richelieu language center in Quebec. I have had a base in the language from school, a course in university and, most significantly, working in two Francophone MP Offices as a Parliamentary Intern some 34 years ago. This has afforded me some advantage in my efforts now but it is a challenge. I think most of us feel that our memory fails us a bit as we age. I find that whereas 30 years ago it was much easier to “enter” words and structure into my brain – now it feels as though it just does not stick as well.

I persevere and try to listen to French as much as I can – radio and TV - and read French language papers often. I am also trying not to focus on each word but rather to listen and read as I do in English, allowing my mind to sort and order words and meanings in the almost unconscious way it does in English. I need to stop thinking through each choice of word when I speak.

I am enjoying it and find it to be a stimulating challenge. Got to keep at it.

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