Three anglophone students are immersing themselves in the Université de Moncton, hoping to surface fluent in French, with a leg up in Canada's only bilingual province.
John Thomas, Sarah Chang and Lexi Forsythe all grew up in English-only homes and learned what they know of French through immersion or regular language classes.
'You should be able to go to school in the language of your choice.' - John Thomas, U de M student
Thomas, a native of Newfoundland, said he has been speaking French — but not fluently — for about 10 years and is completing his master's in French at the all-French campus in Moncton.
"In order to call myself a Canadian, I need to speak French," Thomas said in an interview with Information Morning Moncton.
Chang, who moved to P.E.I. from Japan when she was three, first heard French when she moved to Moncton. She speaks Japanese and English and hopes to conquer French as she studies chemistry at U de M.
Meanwhile, Forsythe grew up in Riverview, a primarily anglophone suburb of Moncton, and took French immersion throughout her early education. Her family's history is linked to Acadia, she said.
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"My French teachers have been so supportive and amazing," Forsythe said. "Really it was my teachers who prepared me [in] French immersion. It was a little difficult but possible."
Although all three students are hoping for greater fluency, they wouldn't have been accepted at U de M if they weren't fairly competent in the language.
Students must be able to hold a conversation in French, said Jean-Luc Theriault, a spokesperson for the university.
"Students have to do an interview with a Université de Moncton French-as-a-econd-language representative before being officially admitted."
The school has 38 new students this year whose first language is English, and 121 students in total who come from anglophone high schools.
Thomas said learning and studying at a francophone university takes determination and hard work.
Chang and Forsythe echoed those comments. They said they've been working on their French for years, because they consider fluency vital to communication in New Brunswick.
"I think it is a combination of support and determination," Forsythe said of her success so far.
For Thomas, speaking French in Newfoundland is almost a foreign concept, but the culture's lack of awareness about the French shouldn't stop people from pursuing the language, he said.
"You should be able to go to school in the language of your choice," he said.