Studies in English a surmountable challenge for local francophones

Students entering university from full French high schools are finding the transition between languages harder than anticipated, but hope that they will adapt quickly.

The Windsor-Essex area counts three fully francophone high schools and a number of French immersion schools , all of which send a substantial number of their students to the University of Windsor. First-year students making the leap from French to English say that it is much more difficult than they had presumed, and that they are struggling to stay in the right language.

First-year nursing student Lydia Baert attended L’école secondaire E. J. Lajeunesse in Windsor. She says she has been writing in French by accident.

“It happens a lot,” she says. “I just try to go with it. Sometimes I just write all my notes in French and I translate them later.”

Renée Amyotte, another first-year nursing student and Lajeunesse alumna, says that “it just means I have to work harder.”

She believes that the difficulties arise in more science-driven subjects because “sometimes you just don’t know what the words mean. If I saw it in French I would know for sure what the word means, but not in English.”

However, says Lauren Steeves, a first-year English student from L’essor, she wouldn’t switch to a French university.

“English is still my strongest language,” she says. “I applied to Windsor because I knew this is the place I wanted to go.”

The option of using more French in the nursing program was greeted whole-heartedly by the two nursing students.

“I would definitely take it all in French,” says Amyotte.

In fact, all three said they value having learned French as well as English.

“It makes me feel more Canadian,” says Steeves. “Bilingualism, having two languages, just means I identify more as being a Canadian.”

—by Siri Gauthier