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Concordia shares savvy

Senate committee on official languages in Quebec gets input from delegation
October 25, 2010
By Karen Herland
Source: Concordia Journal

Representatives from Concordia University were invited to address the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages in September.

The hour-long audience occurred in Montreal when committee members were gathering information on Englishspeaking communities in Quebec. The committee spent four days in meetings across the province to find out how well directives made under the Official Languages Act are being applied, and where there are delivery gaps. The committee met representatives (both face-to-face and through video conferencing) a variety of community groups and education, health and social services organizations.

Provost David Graham’s presentation highlighted the particular challenges faced by Concordia. His presentation revealed that one in three Concordia students speaks neither English nor French at home, compared to one out of five people living on the Island of Montreal.

“That imposes a special responsibility on us to ensure that our students’ English language skills reflect their abilities within their field of study,” explains Russell Copeman, Associate Vice-President, Government Relations, who participated in the delegation. Also present was Vice-Provost Teaching and Learning, Ollivier Dyens, whose office recently completed a report on the need to consider linguistic ability among a range of core competencies.

Graham said that English as a Second Language (ESL) courses are available for credit within the Faculty of Arts and Science and as non-credit options through the School of Extended Learning.

Copeman added that, as an institution operating within Quebec, Concordia also recognizes the need to offer students the opportunity to improve their French language skills.

In a subsequent written follow-up with the Concordia Journal, Graham added, “We are exploring the possibility of offering a defined set of courses in French in one department as an option. If that pilot project is successful, we will certainly consider expanding it.” Such programs are costly to develop and deliver and, while the university administration appreciates the support available through both federal and provincial programs, additional support is always welcome.

Graham’s presentation stressed the importance of Concordia’s distance learning programs and the benefits they can provide to Anglophones across the province, especially those living far from regions with English institutions.

Increased access to federal funds available for second-language groups (including Anglophones in Quebec) could help support such programs.

The committee members also heard from representatives of McGill University, Dawson College and Bishop’s University while they toured the province.

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