After its success in Côte-des-Neiges last winter, the student-merchant language partnering program has been expanded to Parc-Extension and Saint-Laurent.
The Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal has launched the second edition of the free student-merchant language partnering program which allows immigrant entrepreneurs to learn French in their place of business and integrate it into their daily activities.
A successful first edition
Last January, 30 merchants in Côte-des-Neiges and about 20 students from Université de Montréal signed up for a unique language partnering program with the aim of fostering francization in the workplace and helping these immigrant merchants integrate into Quebec society.
The program was a success and participating merchants were able to improve their French. In light of these results, the government of Quebec has supported the Chamber in launching the project in Côte-des-Neiges and it has helped expand it to Parc-Extension and Saint-Laurent, two neighbourhoods dealing with language issues. Students from Université de Sherbrooke and McGill University will also join students from Université de Montréal to provide conversational French workshops.
What is the language partnering program?
The student-merchant language partnering program is a free mentorship program for small business owners who are unable to speak or write in French, or speak it only a little. It is financed by Quebec’s ministère de la Culture et des Communications as part of their Stratégie partenariale de promotion et de valorisation de la langue française 2016-2021.
For two hours a week for three months, the student will go to the merchant’s place of business and offer practical conversational workshops that introduce notions relevant to their everyday business needs.
Learning French depends on a relationship of interpersonal exchange and support that is built through these personalized workshops tailored to the merchant’s industry and needs. Students help merchants quickly grasp notions with the help of situations that are related to their personal environment.
Merchants can then put these notions into practice thanks to the involvement of neighbourhood residents who are called upon to help participating merchants learn by encouraging them to speak French.
With the language partnering program, merchants do not need to pay or leave their place of business for courses.
Who is the language partnering program for?
The language partnering program is available for small business owners and employees in Côte-des-Neiges, Parc-Extension, and Saint-Laurent, three boroughs that are very ethnically diverse.
Contrary to popular belief, merchants who do not speak French want to learn it to offer their clients service in French and better understand the needs of their francophone customers. Their dedication to their livelihoods often prevent them from signing up for French classes in schools or pursuing language integration.
No matter their industry, the merchants who voluntarily took part in the first edition would like to pursue the program and say they are happy to have improved their French because that’s good for business.
Participating students, who are paid for their work, are recruited by the Chamber in collaboration with various French departments at Université de Montréal, Université de Sherbrooke, and McGill University.
These students have received training in teaching French as a second language, teaching, linguistics, French literature, or communication.
A teaching committee has been created to allow the Chamber and its university partners to continually improve the program, thereby ensuring the quality of the teaching provided to merchants and the availability of a support system for students.
Residents of Côte-des-Neiges, Parc-Extension, Saint-Laurent, as well as clients from everywhere else are invited to actively support merchants taking part in the language partnering program.
An awareness campaign with the slogan “J’apprends le français, encouragez-moi!” has been launched to urge citizens to encourage merchants in their learning. When clients see the sticker that states the merchant is participating in the program, they’ll know they can slowly talk to the merchant in French, teach them a new word, or congratulate them for their efforts and progress.
Find out more about the student-merchant language partnering program and watch testimonials from participants.