Bilingual doesn’t mean French at Carleton

In a move sure to piss off francophones from coast to coast, Carleton University’s journalism department has decided that students no longer have to demonstrate a proficiency in French to graduate. (via J-Source)

Considering that half the summer interns The Gazette picks every year come from Carleton (the other half tend to come from Concordia), this seems like a bad idea.

As Graham Fraser, Canada’s official languages commissioner, points out, this isn’t just about journalists working in Quebec. Even those in Victoria will occasionally have to find themselves translating French text into English to understand a story better.

Carleton’s reasoning, and I suppose it’s understandable to a point, is that many students choose to work elsewhere (like outside the country) when they graduate. And many of those students come from elsewhere in the first place. They have no use for French.

But if that’s the reasoning, why bother having language proficiency at all? They require students to have a basic understanding of English and now another language of their choice. What’s the point if not to have the proper skills to practice journalism in Canada? Should learning about Canadian libel law also be optional for people who expect to work overseas?

3 thoughts on “Bilingual doesn’t mean French at Carleton

  1. Martin

    Gazette? Quebec? Try covering Ottawa City Council or neighbourhood beats in Ottawa without understanding French. Oh, wait, many professional journalists are doing that now, and are surprised or even insulted when they miss a lot of what’s going on. Next time a bunch of Carleton journalism students come to me saying their professor told them to do an interview with me, I think I’ll tell them they need to do it in French.

  2. princess iveylocks

    I have no problem with more Cantonese-speaking, Urdu-thinking, Hindu-understanding, Persian-informed coverage of world and Canadian issues. None at all, frankly.

    Functioning as a global journalist shouldn’t require mastery of a language that isn’t used much outside of Quebec, New Brunswick, France, and a handful of African countries. Carleton is to be applauded for realizing this, and providing the opportunity for students to specialize in other, equally relevant (and less harped-upon) languages that communities across Canada actually use outside of the classroom.

    The French/English binary is such a false, outdated representation of Canadian discourse, a mountainous molehill. I wish Graham Fraser understood that, or someone more attenuated to current national demographics was in his place.

  3. french panic

    To add to princess iveylocks’ comment – It seems that Carleton realized that the required French “credit” for graduating from the journalism program was silly anyway – a friend of mine graduated from that program 6 or so years ago, and the “required” French credit was kind of a joke. Besides, she had no intentions of staying in Canada – Carleton was a means to an end, and she faked it through her French classes quite successfully. AND she’s working internationally for a well respected broadcaster.


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