by Isabel Mosseler
After 8 years of living in West Nipissing, Don Wright of Sturgeon Falls has decided that he wants to learn French. He wants to learn enough so that by the 2021 Canadian census, he can mark himself as bilingual. And he wants to learn so he can support the aspirations of his neighbours, who are all Francophone. To that end, Wright has initiated a Facebook page to bring together others who want to learn, and Francophones who want to help them.
Wright’s commitment was sparked when Ontario Premier Doug Ford decided that the office of Ontario’s Language Commissioner was expendable, as were plans for a French language university in Toronto, and he witnessed a vehement response of the Franco Ontarian population – including that of West Nipissing. A pleasant surprise for many Franco Ontarians was the support they received from their Anglophone neighbours - including Wright. That support later galvanized into a more pressing urge to learn French.
The Facebook group, called Café Français West Nipissing Ouest, is loosely based on the same principles as the English Corners in China, a cultural phenomenon where Chinese learners meet up with native English speakers at a coffee shop or restaurant, and just sit and listen and practice while also asking questions and learning about the culture. Early in the discussion, a friend of Wright’s suggested that the model is transferable to both social media and in real life. He seized the idea and ran with it.
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Don Wright proudly wears his “100% Francophile” t-shirt as he encourages others to embark with him on a path to learning French and promoting harmony in West Nipissing.
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