BY: ELIJAH BASSETT
Canada is officially bilingual, but how many of its citizens can say the same? A government program, Explore, is trying to increase that number by giving university students a $2,200 bursary (and, often, extra spending money) to spend five weeks studying either English or French at another campus. For Anglophones like us, Quebec campuses are the popular choice, allowing for the kind of linguistic and cultural immersion that makes travel so appealing in the first place. Of course, it’s more than just subsidized tourism.
Although students often get opportunities to travel and see more of Quebec on weekends, much of the time spent there is still devoted to intensive immersion-style learning in daily classes and workshops, as well as weekly events or trips. Over the five weeks, students spend about a semester’s worth of time learning French as it is spoken and written in Quebec, and the rest of the time can go towards using it in its natural environment.
The benefits of this can last well beyond the time spent studying, though. Not only do some participating schools offer opportunities for short-term employment in the community, but bilingualism has many longer-lasting effects, and it’s doubly useful for citizens of a bilingual country.
On one hand, there are the many documented psychological benefits that bilingualism provides. But there’s also the advantage of becoming a more informed and capable citizen of Canada, not to mention one in an increasingly globalized world. Learning another language enables people to participate more fully in the global economy and international society, as well as their own country.
There’s no doubt that the government knows how empowering this can be for students, whose options for geographical and professional mobility can be increased by proficiency in another language. In fact, experts in America are starting to realize it too. But reasons like that may obscure the immediate appeal of a trip like this.
At the end of the day, the program is a great way for students to get a taste of travel, and enrich themselves with the kinds of experiences that some people leave the country for.