Learning in a second language

6 Oct

I’m in New Brunswick today!
This afternoon my colleague and I will deliver Diversity and Inclusion workshops.
I love to facilitate, and D&I is “my thing”.
What makes this experience a little different, however, is that this part of New Brunswick is very French.

Which makes me wonder…do I tell them I speak French (albeit it’s rusty) or keep my mouth shut? It’s an interesting conundrum.

On the one hand, my fear is that I’ll open myself up for a challenge that, in an already tight schedule, may not be wise. But on the other, it allows me to show up as more of who I am (a Montreal-born formerly bilingual now Torontonian with excellent comprehension and not so excellent spoken French). More importantly, it may also make a difference to some workshop participants. Although I can’t promise to answer their questions in French, maybe having the option of asking in French will be appreciated.

Which leads me to my point.

There are many Canadians for whom English (or French, depending on where you are) is not their first language.  No matter how fluent you are in a second language, it’s often still easier to express yourself in your first language. And often “native speakers” speak quickly and we don’t catch everything. Sometimes we ask. Sometimes we may just nod and hope we get the general idea and that no one will notice. It can be an invisible disadvantage.

It makes me wonder how much we may be missing when people don’t have the option to share their ideas or ask questions in their first language, regardless of how fluent they are in the second (or third).

So today, I’m going to be brave and offer the option of asking questions in French, if that’s easier. I may not be able to answer in French, but if they are willing to be patient, I’m willing to try.

I’m hoping it will make the time we have together a little more inclusive.

See more.

copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity and inclusion


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