Adding French to your English Event: A new resource from the Health Promotion FLS Capacity Building Committee

By Andrea Bodkin

 

The Health Promotion French Language Services Capacity Building Committee (HP FLS CBC) was comprised of a number of provincial health promotion resource centres who provided services in French to clients across Ontario. For more than fifteen years, committee members worked to build relationships with Francophone stakeholders and increase services delivered in French.

 

The HP FLS CBC was funded by the Government of Ontario from 2002 to March 2018 and was administered by Health Nexus. Over the years, we have held workshops and events, published resources, and built the capacity of member resource centres to provide service in French. Committee members routinely included French in our conferences, workshops and events. As our final product, we have create a resource, in English and French, based on what we have learned about adding French to English events. We hope to give you tools and tips on how to plan events that successfully and easily include a second language – even if you only speak English!

 

Why should I include French in my event?

Many organizations must provide services in French. Currently 4.8% of Ontario’s population is Francophone, while this does vary from region to region. Francophones in 25 designated areas across Ontario have the right to demand and receive services in French from provincial and federal government offices and certain organizations that are funded by the Ontario government.

Even if you aren’t required to offer French services, there are other benefits to including French in your events. If your goal is to include people from all over Canada (or beyond), consider that over 220 million people in the world speak French. French is the most widely learned language after English. Online, French is the 3rd most used language after English and German. Adding French to your event may help meet the needs and wants of your audience and your organization. You could attract a new audience, fulfill an initiative, or broaden scope by breaking the language barrier. And you can do this without speaking French yourself.

The resource provides a list of guiding questions to help you plan and deliver an event in more than one language. Two case studies are also included. Key learnings from committee members are:

  • Clearly identify needs. Consult with your French speaking audiences and stakeholders to clearly identify what their wants and needs are regarding French at the event. It is very easy to make incorrect assumptions about what stakeholders might want. We have found that building relationships with our Francophone clients and stakeholders was key.
  • French integration is a continuum. Think of a continuum ranging from no French at all through to a fully bilingual event. You can begin by incorporating some French elements into your event, and increase the level of French over time. Start where you are and aim to move further along the continuum as your ability allows and as the needs of your Francophone audience require.
  • Be realistic about what you can offer. Start with what you can realistically accomplish well, and aim to move further along the continuum as your ability allows and as the needs of your Francophone audience require. Ensure success by making sure you have the proper resources, materials and staffing on hand to be able to deliver the services you’ve planned to incorporate.

The HP FLS CBC hopes that you will find this resource useful- and that it will inspire you to add French to your English events. Good luck!