New course connects students with Niagara’s francophone community

Brock students are gaining valuable work experience through a new internship opportunity that is helping to strengthen bonds with the local francophone community.

The internship course provides the University’s French majors with the chance to “work in an authentic francophone environment, putting into practice what they learn in the classroom,” said Jean Ntakirutimana, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures. “It is also an excellent way of strengthening relationships between Brock and the francophone communities of our region, in line with Brock’s mandate of being an academic institution within the community.”

Fourth-year French and Concurrent Education student Ashley DeSimone was the first student to complete the course this past semester.

Having previously participated in the Canadian government’s Explore program, which had her living and studying in Quebec for five weeks, DeSimone was aware of the immense benefits of practising language skills in an immersion setting.

“I know if I’m not using my French, I’m not improving it. So for me, I know if at least once a week I’m going somewhere where I have to think and speak and work in French, it’s going to help,” DeSimone said. “The point of getting a French degree is to be able to speak French.”

DeSimone worked with SOFIFRAN (Solidarité des femmes et familles interconnectées francophones du Niagara) for 50 hours over the course of the Winter Term. Based in Welland, the community organization is led by francophone women and supports immigrant women and their families with cultural, economic, educational and social services.

In addition to office work and welcoming clients, De Simone helped behind the scenes with Masques, Mythes et Mascarades/ Masks, Myths and Masquerades. The multi-site exhibition of African masks for African Heritage Month was a collaboration between SOFIFRAN, the Department of Modern Languages and Rodman Hall Art Centre.

Working with Niagara’s immigrant community increased DeSimone’s own intercultural awareness, a trend she hopes to see continue across the region.

“We need more cultural awareness in Niagara,” she said. “Our region is becoming more diverse.”

DeSimone found the team at SOFIFRAN very encouraging and supportive.

“I’m naturally a quieter kind of person, but through working with them, they encouraged me and didn’t care if I made mistakes. By the end of the term, I was fine writing a draft of a report to be submitted to government,” she said.

“As you stay in a francophone environment, you get more used to it. By the end of it, my comfort was completely different. I could get a sentence out without hesitating or trying to think every word through.”

The French internship course will be offered on an ongoing basis, said Ntakirutimana.

“We are planning to offer the course more extensively before, during and just after the upcoming Canada Games 2021, which will allow our students to polish their language and cultural skills while being Brock ambassadors in the eyes of the whole country.”

DeSimone looks forward to maintaining her connection with SOFIFRAN as she embarks on her teacher education, both as a resource to further develop her own language skills and as a resource for her future students.

She encouraged students considering the French internship to “find out what opportunities are available in your field of interest.”

“Get yourself out there, practise and build your confidence.”

Students interested in learning more about the internship can contact Ntakirutimana at jntakirutimana@brocku.ca


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