McGill français

with 17 comments

McGill français

The first thing our professor told us on the first day of our first semester in the political science program at Laval University in Québec City is that we had to be able to read English at a very high level. “If your English is not good enough, leave right now. Go take English classes or go spend the year in BC and come back next year.”

Laval is a French language university in Québec City, which is 95% French-speaking. It’s the university of Lucien Bouchard. But English is the language of scholarly research, explained the professor. You had to be able to read and write in English, whether you were a separatist or a federalist, a communist or a neo-conservative.

English was a basic tool you needed to be able to work with in order to become a political scientist, the same way that an engineer needs math. The school functioned in French, our lectures were in French and we wrote our assignments in French, but being able to read many relatively arcane monographs and articles in English was a necessary skill required to do our job as a student and in the world beyond campus.

So my question is: if it is reasonable to expect political science students to understand English, why is it not required that nurses and doctors trained by McGill and the MUHC speak French?

What could be a more basic skill required of a doctor or nurse that she be able to understand easily and with great accuracy the language of her patients?

In Montreal and Québec the vast majority of people still speak French, as far as I know. Montreal’s so-called English-language hospitals like the Montreal General, the Royal Victoria and the Jewish are required by law to be able to provide French-language services to anybody who asks for it.

So how can an advanced knowledge of the French language not be an admission or graduation requirement?

McGill does not require language testing of it’s students either before admission or graduation. As a result about 50% of McGill trained doctors leave Québec every year!

The medical sector is not, by any means, the only one affected by this total failure of Quebec’s English higher education institutions to properly train students for the Québec job market. According to a recent study, 61% of English-speaking bachelors, 66% of English-speaking masters and 73% of English-speaking PhDs leave Québec.

The vast majority of Anglo-Québécois are self-declared bilinguals, that is absolutely true. But how comfortable is someone who has only ever studied in English, from kindergarten through university, in actually working, reading, and writing in French on a daily basis?

We don’t know the answer to that question because studies and census data on bilingualism in Québec and Canada usually rely on self-assessments. Actual second-language ability of students has not been tested at any point during their student career.

Because the vast mass of technical and scholarly literature is published in English, graduates from French language universities are actually much better prepared to work in a multilingual environment than graduates from McGill and Concordia!

McGill’s law school makes it mandatory for students to be fluent in French because to practice a legal profession in Québec’s legal system you not only need to be able to understand French, but actually work in the language.

And they would have us believe that health care professionals don’t?

Written by angryfrenchguy

March 14, 2008 at 6:19 am

17 Responses

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  1. Tu dis ce que je pense vraiment. Les statistiques disent que 37% des francophones sont bilingues alors que 69% des anglophones le sont. Au Quebec.

    C’est drole, si je me base sur mes experiences personelles, j’ai l’impression que c’est l’inverse.

    Comme si les anglos se disent bilingues parce qu’ils sont capables de repondent a une commande de Mcdo en francais, alors que les franco eux se declarent bilingues seulement s’ils le sont parfaitement.

    quebecois separatiste

    March 14, 2008 at 9:22 am

  2. AngryFrenchGuy:

    I agree with you!

    You write:

    “So my question is: if it is reasonable to expect political science students to understand English, why is it not required that nurses and doctors trained by McGill and the MUHC speak French?”


    “McGill’s law school makes it mandatory for students to be fluent in French because to practice a legal profession in Québec’s legal system you not only need to be able to understand French, but actually work in the language.”

    Both medicine and the law are, of course, examples of para-public sector services; the former requiring efficiency in French because it is often a matter of life and death if French is not known well by its practitioners and the latter because…well, very often also a matter of life and death!

    Public safety, health, matters of law…these are all matters in which a proficiency in the language of the majority is and should be a requirement by law.

    But this point of agreement between AngryFrenchGuy and myself actually serves to underscore that this requirement is NOT needed in non-life-threatening situations such as most business situations and the private dealings between two or more people that occur in business and everyday life.

    By all means require a proper knowledge of French in the aforementioned para-public sectors; but, equally, respect free speech and free association everywhere else.

    We need unilingual anglophones to come and live, work, invest, be educated, and interact with the Quebec Government in unilingual English. They must feel welcome. We need their money, know-how, skills, culture, etc.

    Tony Kondaks

    March 14, 2008 at 2:45 pm

  3. agf,

    “According to a recent study, 61% of English-speaking bachelors, 66% of English-speaking masters and 73% of English-speaking PhDs leave Québec.”

    mcgill fall 2007 registrations
    enrolment for (full&part time) – total 33,522 (degrees, certificates, diplomas and special)

    mcgill enrolments from quebec – 19,278 (57.5%)
    mcgill enrolments from roc – 7,985 (23.8%)
    mcgill enrolments from usa – 2,316 (6.9%)
    mcgill enrolments other – 3,943 (11.8%)
    total students visiting – 14,244 (42.2%)

    26,742 full time rgistrations—mother tongue english—17,563— 52.8%
    6,780 part time registrations—mother tongue english 2,437

    26,742 full time rgistrations—mother tongue french—4,426—17.8%
    6,780 part time registrations—mother tongue french—1,554—

    26,742 full time rgistrations—mother tongue other—7,068—29.4%
    6,780 part time registrations—mother tongue other—2,789

    we know why some people want to return to toronto, vancouver, boston or des moines…..
    also hong kong, johannesburg or sao paulo….

    the question i would be asking is why are bilingual quebecois leaving quebec especially when their mother tongue is french?

    that is one tough question and i’ll bet dollars to doughnuts there is no easy answer.

    stats courtesy


    March 15, 2008 at 5:20 pm

  4. et maintenant – votre sourire pour le dimanche:

    The graduate with a science degree asks, “Why does it work?”
    The graduate with an engineering degree asks, “How does it work?”
    The graduate with an accounting degree asks, “How much will it cost?”
    The graduate with a humanities degree asks, “Do you want fries with that?”


    March 15, 2008 at 9:09 pm

  5. “the question i would be asking is why are bilingual quebecois leaving quebec especially when their mother tongue is french?”

    That is a good question. I think it is a question of psychology and culture. The influence of the family and the milieu plays for a great deal.

    First, Quebecers are North Americans like the rest, if not more than the rest. Their first horizon is the continent they live on and the more they feed on US culture, the more they identify to it, to the point of it become their reference. If the only obstacle to the realization of a person’s dream to live in California is but a language skill away… Millions of immigrants have done it before.

    I believe I know how most Quebecers think and I am afraid to say that between 1) self-promotion to win a good economic position, to not be left behind in this race against each other which perpetrates the same stupid system of inequality generation after generation and 2) our responsibility towards the future, our solidarity with our own national community which needs us to build here and now in French, this country and this State needing to be born for future generations, many chose 1).

    I was brainwashed like the rest, so even though my heart and my head told me 2), I still moved to Alberta for a few years to be sure I was not going to end up asking: “Do you want fries with that?”

    But I came back. :-)

    Mathieu Gauthier-Pilote

    March 16, 2008 at 9:57 am

  6. Sovereignty is kaput in Quebec !
    Thanks God!


    March 16, 2008 at 5:11 pm

  7. Je suis entièrement d’accord qu’on devrait s’assurer que les médecins formés à Mcgill apprennent un minimum de français.

    Par contre vos commentaires sur le bilinguisme des anglophones ne prennent pas compte de la qualité de l’enseignement du français dans les

    Dans mon cas, les cours de français que j’ai suivi au secondaire étaient les mêmes que ceux offerts dans les système francophone. Pour ce qui est du niveau de français des anglophones qui viennent d’ailleurs, c’est sûr que très peux sont bilingues mais ce fait ne devrait pas brouiller les cartes – les angloquébecois sont parmis les plus blingues de l’Amérique de nord et leur système d’éducation offre d’excellent programmes de français. 50% des jeunes étudiants anglophones au Québec sont inscrits soit dans le système francophone ou dans des programmes d’immersion. Les Christopher Hall, Mike Ward, Lawrence Cannon, Yolande James et Joe Corcoran ne sont pas des anomalies.

    My point is that the stereotype of the unilingual anglophone is very far from the current reality and it would be nice if the media would recognize this fact. Unfortunately stories on perfectly bilingual anglos don’t sell papers.

    Happy anglo

    March 26, 2008 at 10:30 am

  8. Bon point. Thank you.


    March 26, 2008 at 10:55 am

  9. Actually I went to school in Marianopolis Collge and I found that there was still a significant number of people who could not understand french let alone speak it. The stereotype is true.


    June 4, 2008 at 9:26 pm

  10. Bonjour à vous tous!
    Je suis tombé sur cet article très intéressant (ou plutôt ce commentaire, devais-je dire), alors que je m’apprêtais à prendre mes valises et à me dirigers vers l’aéroport pour Paris… mais j’ai décidé que je prendrais un petit deux minutes pour pouvoir mettre mon grain de sel dans cette discussion.

    Je suis un étudiant en médecine à McGill et je pensais qu’il serait nécessaire de mettre au clair certains myths qui se propagent dans les rues de notre province. Tout d’abord, je dois vous dire que dans les hopitaux du système CUSM, j’ai rarement vu des patients qui n’ont pu se faire servir en Français. J’ai même pu rencontrer des médecins qui avaient un anglais chancelant… (mais bon, il est vrai que ce n’est pas la règle, mais plutôt l’exception). Une bonne partie des étudiants dans ma classe, tout comme moi, sont francophones. Beaucoup d’initiative étudiante sont portée vers l’apprentissage du français, et ce, depuis la première année d’étude. Les étudiants ont la possibilité le suivre des aprés-midi de “Lunch Francais” ou les étudiants francophones aident ceux qui ont des difficultés avec la langue de molière, dans le but de s’améliorer en prévision de l’entrée en milieu clinique. Beaucoup d’étudiants font des immersions durant leur été entre la première et la deuxième année: certains vont à l’UQTR pour tout un été, d’autres vont à Québec pour être immergé dans un environnement totalement francophone et s’y habituer. Certains vont même jusqu’à prendre des cours pendant l’année. Donc pour la majorité des étudiants totalement anglophone (qui sont souvent des étudiants provenant d’autres provinces… et, rarement des États… contrairement à la croyance populaire… il y a peut-être 5 étudiants des états dans la classe), l’effort est là.
    On a une très grande tendance à dire: CUSM est anglo, CHUM est franco… mais j’ai plutôt l’impression que CUSM est bilingue (pour de vrai lol) et, parfois même trilingue. Je ne vais pas vous mentir, j’ai déjà rencontré des médecins en clinique qui ne parlaient qu’anglais… mais il y a des “accomodements” (les fameux accomodements… hehe), les médecins s’échangent des patients quand ceux-ci ne sont qu’unilingue… et donc un patient francophone va être avec un Dr francophone (et oui, les francophones sont partout dans le CUSM… mais les gens ne voient pas cette réalité). Nos enseignants sont souvent francophones, et je dois vous avouer que je sers la plupart des patients en français…

    L’anglo qui ne parle pas un mot de francais et qui n’est pas conciliant et qui ne s’assure pas que son patient comprenne ce qu’il dit est quelque chose que je n’ai jamais vu (je ne dis pas que ca n’existe pas… mais c’est plus rare que ce que l’on pense). Cela m’attriste des fois de voir que CUSM n’est pas considéré comme une institution québecoise à part entière, alors que son réseau hospitalier dessert une très grande partie de la population et que les employés s’y dévouent de nombreuses heures pour assurer un travail de qualité…

    Mon petit grain de sel,
    Je m’envole pour Paris maintenant :D!!



    June 28, 2008 at 3:59 pm

  11. Sorry Gab, but what you say just isn’t true.

    I, needless to say against my will, have been a very frequent customer of the CUSM/MUHC and I have been forced to communicate in English with employees there every single time.

    I’m especially appalled at your suggestion that the MUHC works hard to give service in French to people who don’t speak English. Not fucking good enough! McGill is required by law to provide complete service in French to all it’s users. ALL those who want it. Not just those who can’t speak English.

    It can’t. It fails.

    And don’t get me started on the fact that in 2008 in Québec my entire medical file is written in English…


    June 28, 2008 at 11:33 pm

  12. :)……………..c’est la life…….


    January 26, 2009 at 3:04 pm

  13. Well, I can say ENglish is not my first language and neither is French.

    I leave in Montreal and I do not speak any French, Je ne parle par francais.

    I would like to learn French – yet when I go to a French as a secong language website it is in French, no English option.

    What I would say is that the French government in Quebec are shooting themselves in the foot if they hide free french courses. The reason why english is so popular i is because free English courses are readily available.


    August 3, 2009 at 8:50 pm

  14. I’m one of those english mcgill doctors.
    When I came to mcgill I didn’t speak, french.
    Now I’m doing residency at the CLSC CDN, and fully service both french and english patients.

    I need to correct several things you wrote.
    The graduates of mcgill medical school who leave quebec, leave because the working conditions are much much greater in other provinces. NOT because of the language issue. Almost all of the medical school class speaks french, some barley speak english.

    2nd – Thanks to your OQLF doctors do have to perform a french language test before starting practice.
    Eventhough, the test has little bearing on ones ability to treat patients in french.
    If doctors can’t pass then they are forced to leave.

    But if you like the fact that 33% of montreal and 25% of quebec don’t have family doctors, then these practices should continue.

    I guess beggars can be choosers.


    June 14, 2011 at 10:51 pm

  15. Alberta ano podniecił ów pejzaż, iż wsunął jęzor detalicznie w gardło Majki a całował
    ją coraz namiętniej, dłońmi podwijając jej koszulkę w górę.
    Spotkanie z pewną taką nieśmiałością zaczęło przeradzać się w orgię.
    Żadnej spośród par nie przeszkadzała istnienie
    drugiej. Romek jedną ręką pieszcząc cycki Zośki, drugą wsunął
    poniżej jej rajtuzy i teraz lecz słaby pasek stringów oddzielał jego łapa od momentu gorącej cipki.

    Tutaj znajdziesz: anonse dziewczyn.

    June 20, 2013 at 6:04 am

  16. Przepisami nie możemy uzyskać pożyczkę gotówkową prawdopodobnie
    drodzy, czego teraz bodaj teorii nadto duże. bowiem obsługa mnóstwa takich chwilówek korzystajmy spośród
    dowolny humanitarnych pobudek ale wręcz
    zaś wyższym. Więcej: szybka gotówka (Tera)


    April 24, 2014 at 6:17 pm

  17. Tudzież taka przypadek owo spośród racji zalegania ze złą historią.
    Ma zawsze pożyczkę z ubezpieczycieli działających na dokładny odsetki skali.
    Oraz tego typu ofert instytucji naszych dokumentów dochodowych azaliż banki udzielają
    nie doprowadzi. Więcej:

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