It is no secret that the ability to speak French in Québec is an essential part of an individual’s ability to enter and thrive in the province’s labour market. This is as true as it has ever been in Québec’s current political context. The looming adoption of Bill 96 has certainly brought the importance of learning French to the forefront of the minds of Québec’s English-speaking communities.
In order to better understand Quebec’s current FSL ecosystem and landscape as well as the barriers that exist in the current service offering, PERT has undertaken a province-wide inventory assessment of programs and services available and accessible to English-speakers for French-second-language (FSL) training in the workplace. Our goal was to evaluate the current offer across all 17 administrative regions of Québec. To date, this foundational work has provided PERT with valuable insight into the difficulties English speakers face when seeking employment-related French language training.
While we will outline several shortcomings related to French-Second-Language learning in Québec in this article, our full report will include a number of program recommendations to build on to strengthen the existing offer of FSL programs and services in Québec.
An Overview of our Preliminary Findings
Our preliminary findings indicate that the current offer of employment-related FSL services and programs for Québecers looking to improve their French to enter, re-enter or advance in the labour market is limited.
Many English-speaking Québecers find it difficult to learn French or improve their French language proficiency with the province’s existing FSL programs and service offerings. Through our research, we have identified several barriers and issues related to the accessibility, availability and findability of these programs and services for English-speaking Québecers.
In terms of accessibility, the largest range of services and programs that offer services aimed at the perfection of the French language in the workplace are only available in Montreal. This leaves residents outside of the metropolitan region with little proximity resources at their disposal. For the available programs, there is an observed lack of wrap-around supports provided in the form of child care responsibilities, transportation, and subsidies/allowances. This constitutes another obstacle, which further exacerbates the issues related to accessibility.
Of the available programs, there are major issues pertaining to the availability of and accuracy of the information related to the programs. The inconsistent inclusion of programs’ status means that in situations where an individual does find an available program in their region, there is often no pertinent information about when or where the program will take place. In many cases, the programs they were able to find have already expired due to a lack of registrants. Program descriptions also lack transparency and flexibility regarding time requirements, thus further limiting availability for those who are interested in accessing these services.
In addition to unclear or inaccurate programming information, there are also linguistic obstacles to finding existing FSL programs and services for the workplace. Despite being intended for non-French speakers, our inventory work revealed that the majority of the program information available online is only available in French. Often the descriptions available in English are inconsistent or not pertinent to help with decision-making. Other methods for obtaining the information can provide more useful information to guide learners to the right people, programs and services within their administrative regions. However, as previously mentioned the actual service offering remains scattered.
The problem of eligibility
Our research also points to issues of eligibility for English-speaking Québecers. Even for those who have the time and know-how to find a program, eligibility criteria often leave out English-speakers who are non-immigrants (for example, English-speaking interprovincial migrants and individuals who received English language instruction in Québec schools).
Finally, the absence of measures to accommodate individuals with learning disabilities or visual/hearing impairments can discourage certain groups of learners from participating in FSL programs.
Our FSL Report will be published soon
The need to improve and expand FSL programs and services in Quebec is more important than ever. A holistic approach to program delivery needs to be implemented in order to ensure that those who want to improve their French language skills can do so easily.