Parlez-vous Français?

If not, a little college near Québec City is a good place to start

Susan Flanagan
Published on January 29, 2013
A snowy Québec City. — Thinkstock photo

I spent the summers I was 16 and 17 just outside Québec City in Ste-Foy. I stayed in a college (CEGEP) residence, attended fun French lessons every morning and went on field trips most afternoons.

My friends (old ones from St. John’s and new ones from all over) and I gallivanted on the Plains of Abraham, shopped on la rue St. Jean and went on bus trips to Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré and Montmorency Falls. We got to see concerts like David Bowie and Elton John at the Québec Coliseum. And one night we cruised the St. Lawrence aboard the Louis Jolliet and viewed the Chateau Frontenac from the water.

Sitting atop Cap Diamant, the iconic building looked like a fairy tale palace rather than a CP Hotel. When we got off the boat in the lower city, we ascended the cliff by the Funiculaire, an outdoor elevator built into the steep rock. We walked along the Terrasse Dufferin next to the Chateau on our way to take the bus back to residence.

Eager to converse with any teenage boy willing to lend an ear, we spoke more French out and about than we ever did back at residence.

We — all of us Catholic townie girls, anyway — agreed that the Summer Language Bursary Program was the best summer experience ever. We were so smitten with the cute Québécois boys that we vowed to improve our French so we could say more than “Bonjour” by the following summer.

So, that fall, upon our return to Holy Heart, we studied hard under the tutelage of Mme, Rice (we had no choice actually: can anyone spell les Champs-Élysées?) and returned to College Saint-Charles-Garnier the next July ready to practise our new and more extensive vocabulary.

A few years ago, my eldest spent five weeks on the same program. Although the program has a new name — Explore — it was like déjà vu.

Like my friends and I decades before, No. 1 got to walk on top of the walls surrounding le Vieux Québec; he visited the Martello Towers where I once worked as a tour guide; and he screamed along roller-coasters at les Galeries de la Capitale amusement park.

One weekend, he took a bus trip to Montreal and for a pittance he could buy a pass that allowed him to attend outdoor concerts by groups like Santana. Not only that, except for the weekend excursions and a bus pass, all he had to pay for the whole shebang was a small registration fee and his plane fare. Everything else was free.

He boarded at Laval University campus in Ste-Foy just on the outskirts of Quebec City. His bed linens were provided, but he was responsible for his own towels. He could do laundry within the residence for $2 per wash. Once the program started, he was provided with a loaded meal card that he simply had to swipe in the cafeteria.

He had an 11 p.m. curfew. His program ran from the first week in July until the end of the first week of August. And when he came back home, he had a beautiful understanding of la belle langue and cruised through his final years of Gonzaga French.

I know some of you might worry about getting put in a class with students more advanced than you. But don’t get your knickers in a knot; you do a placement test upon arrival so you’ll be in a classroom with people at your same level.

So, if you want to hone your French skills this summer and take advantage of the best bursary program the government has to offer, get on the ball and apply.

Why am I telling you all this now as the snow is falling like marshmallows outside my window? Because the deadline for French summer bursary programs is fast approaching.

The deadline for the aforementioned Explore program (five-week immersion program for Grades 11 and 12 and post-secondary students) is Feb. 28. Call 729-2741 (Brigitte Allain), website

Similar three-week programs are available for Grade 9 and Level I students. But once again, you have to be quick off the mark and apply while there’s still snow on the ground.

The summer program for Grade 9 students is at Campus Notre-Dame-de-Foy, St-Augustin-de- DesMaures, (15 minutes outside Quebec City). Students who have completed Grade 9 are eligible to apply for this three-week French second language program.

The summer program for Level I students is at College St. Charles Garnier, Québec City. Students who have completed Level I are eligible to apply for this four-week French second language program. The deadline for receipt of applications is generally late March.

Application forms for the summer program are not yet posted, but are expected to be at: by mid-February.

The final French language program I will mention is called The Odyssey Program, very similar to what we used to call the Monitor program. It is for post-secondary students who are interested in travelling and discovering other regions of Canada. Odyssey is a full-time paid work experience where anglophones and francophones travel and work in a province where the other official language is spoken. Online applications are now open via the website: For info: 729-6041 (Susan Forward). Application deadline: Feb. 28, 2013.

Loblaw feedback

Jay writes: “Past city councils, including the present mayor, gave the chain supermarkets carte blanche to engage in a land speculation war. Those on council who opposed these developments were bullied into submission. In the process they practically gave away prime real estate to these outside investors who put little or nothing back into the community. We are now reaping what those councils sowed.


Sean writes: “Now, when are we going to get a reply to the questions you sent to City Hall? If their new communications strategy is not to reply, I think we need a major overhaul down there!”


Tax Payer writes: “There are many great topics here. My opinion: only if there is a dwelling that is in dire need of repairs, it should be taken care (of), If condemned, it should be torn down, if it was my home, the city inspectors would be on my doorstep every day just because the building is vacant. No, they should not get a break in taxes …

“As for Churchill Square, yes there should be a shopping centre there — most students from MUN do not have cars or transportation to get groceries”


M writes: “The suggestion that council or anyone else should be able to force a private property owner to use their land in any way to disadvantage themselves is ridiculous and wrong. Stick to the ‘My family went hiking today’ stories, Sue. You are obviously not a business or rental property owner which has left you clueless with regards to these matters.”

Sean replies: “M — your comments are outrageously off base. Susan tried (unsuccessfully) to find out whether taxpayers are subsidizing vacant commercial premises through tax breaks to commercial property owners while their properties are vacant. I certainly want to know the answer to that — don’t you? Or do you support government subsidies for large corporate property owners who wish to leave their properties vacant for whatever reason?”


Mail carrier feedback

Doug Barton of Coquitlam, B.C., writes: “I just read your article, ‘Devoted workers deserve a nod,’ and I loved every bit of it. …

“I have worked for Canada Post for 26-plus years, just over seven of those years as a letter carrier. Back in 1995, when I transferred back to being a driver, a letter carrier’s job was still a tough one, but in an enjoyable way. You got to work at about 6 a.m., you sorted all of your mail, tied it out and sent it with a driver to drop off at those grey boxes you mentioned. Our routes were built around a measurement system that gives everything you do during your work day a time value; add up 480 minutes and you had a route that included sorting time, coffee and lunch breaks and delivery time. These time values are all based on averages — average pace, average height, average reach, and the list goes on. If you were tall, you made better time because your pace was longer than average; if you were short, you either worked longer, or ran your route.

“Over the years, these time values have slowly changed and have increased the workload on the carriers, making this once healthy job into a back-breaking one. With this new delivery system rolling out slowly across Canada, machines sort the majority of your mail (in theory), and this creates a longer delivery time for each carrier, and of course fewer carriers doing the work. The forced way of carrying your mail is unhealthy and has led to increased injuries on the job (as you mentioned), later working hours and, due to the increased absences, it has also increased the incidence of forced overtime.

“I don’t know if you can imagine that second wave carrier getting back to the office and being told they have to go out and complete a portion of someone else’s route because it wasn’t covered that day. As the number of injuries climbs, the pressure on the remaining carriers is increased, as they are forced back more often and the chances for injury increases with fatigue.

“This is not a nice situation to be in at all. The thankful part to me, is that I’m no longer carrying the mail, I just get to deliver it to the postal stations where the carriers work.”


“Canada Post keeps telling us and the public that mail volumes are down. They don’t mention that they’re talking about only one type of mail in the system — premium letter mail — which would be the letter to mom, greeting cards and that sort of mail. Yes, they are correct; this type of mail has declined. What they don’t tell everyone is that parcel volumes are up, second class, or magazines and catalogues, are up, third class, which is all the addressed advertising mail (or, as you would call it, junk mail) is up. Then to top it all off, the volume of unaddressed ad mail is up in huge numbers. …

“The fact that you took the time to look into this aspect of our jobs, and gave a nod to your carrier for doing this job to the best of his or her ability, (deserves) kudos in my mind. … I have never seen an article of yours before; if they are all half as good as this one, I would wish you were in my local paper.”


Greg writes: “I read your article concerning ‘Mail must get through.’ I believe I am the letter carrier you are referring to for considering working in the dark to be unsafe. … I just read … today’s Telegram with the comments from the original article. It’s good to see support for us carriers! So, I just thought I’d give you a recent update. I showed up to work yesterday morning … to be approached by my supervisor advising me that I was suspended for 5 days without pay! Because of my second incident of bringing back mail one night that I thought walking the snow covered sidewalks in the dark was unsafe! The original incident occurred Dec. 5, and the second Dec. 17. I received a copy of a letter yesterday, informing me of my suspension, which was dated Dec. 19!  Like your article mentioned, I am a single father with 2 children! Without getting into too many details (fearing I may lose my job), I just wanted to thank you for your article. …”


Mike (shop steward) and letter carrier writes: “I have been with Canada Post for 15 years now and this is the worst that I have seen this. The employee (about whom) you were talking about in your story who brought back the mail due to health and safety concerns received a five-day unpaid suspension today for bringing back the mail. I am a single parent and have asked for assistance on my route on the weeks I have my kids and have been told no, that I am expected to finish my route and to arrange alternate day care for my kids. The bullying and harassment that goes on in our workplace is unbelievable and something has got to give. …”


Luciano Ramirez: “Nello Molinaro is a postman in Canada. He does his job with love and I am proud of him. He is my friend-brother. From Dominican Republic.”


Rawlin’s Cross feedback

Dee writes: “I grew up on Prescott Street. I guess I grew up with knowing the signs up there on the Cross. … And you are right — it is very confusing, even as a child walking to the park it was hard to get across the street without getting run over. But you will still be amazed how many people still fly though the Queens Road yield sign thinking they have the right of way. …”


Paul writes: “You’re right about the Rawlins Cross confusion; my approach is to always enter slowly, have a good look around and hope to come out the other side without a dent or a ticket. …”


Derrick writes: “I’ve often wondered what it must be like to be a driving tourist here. Imagine renting a car and trying to figure out how to get downtown and back from the Sheraton parking lot. Not exactly intuitive. Good luck with the kids (driving).”


Ban writes: “I enjoyed your article today and I agree that Rawlins Cross is complicated. In fact, I think that you still may not have it exactly correct: the way I see it, Flavin Street intersects with Prescott, not Queen’s Road. So, if you are driving up Flavin, you stop and give way for traffic on Prescott and then enter Prescott when it is clear, then proceed as for Prescott. … Obviously, this is just my opinion, but it seems clear to me when I look at the intersection. For the record, where did you get the information which you published?”

Susan’s Note: I got the information from City Hall’s information officer and confirmed it with the RNC.


Dragonfly feedback

Father Frank Puddister writes: “Thank you for your article in The Telegram on Dec. 4, 2012. I was away at the time, but my secretary kept it for me until I returned. The dragonfly story is the best I’ve heard — and I’ve heard many — that refer to eternal life. …

“I knew your father Dee for many years, and your mother, too, and have long admired and respected them both.

“I’ll continue to enjoy your column in future. Perhaps I’ll pick up a story from you to use in church!”

Susan writes: The name of the book By Doris Stickney that deals with dragonflies and the afterlife is called: “Waterbugs and Dragonflies: Explaining Death to Young Children.”


Susan Flanagan’s summers in Quebec led her to attend CEGEP and work five summers as a bilingual interpreter with federal parks. She can be reached at