It’s easy to forget, but like Canada, York University was originally founded as a bilingual institution.
Today, that spirit is preserved at its founding campus, Glendon, which remains a prime destination for students interested in learning French.
“We’re Toronto’s best-kept secret,” says Susanne Holunga, director of Glendon’s extended learning department. “Not a lot of people know about us.”
Students enrol in Glendon’s extended learning French courses for various reasons. “A lot of our clientele come in because they’re travelling,” Holunga says. “Or they want a job with the federal government, or their children may be in French immersion and they want to communicate with them and help with their homework.”
The department offers three levels of French instruction: Beginner, intermediate, and advanced.
There’s also “French conversation,” for advanced speakers, and “perfect your French,” which focuses on writing.
Regardless of the course, lessons are activity-based, and bear little resemblance to the rote learning many Canadians remember from high school. “The focus of our program is communicative,” says Holunga. “Out of the activity comes the grammar, so the teacher will focus on practising the language, and grammar, by the way.”
Like all courses at Glendon, class sizes are small — most are between eight to 10 students, Holunga says — and students meet once a week, on Saturdays.
The school offers other language courses, including Arabic and Cantonese. “Right now we’re teaching Italian,” Holunga says. “If enough students phone in and want a specific language, we’ll set up the class for that.
“Learning a language is a lot of work,” says Holunga. “At first it’s fun, but you have to decide whether you have the stamina to stay with it.”
For more information, visit glendon.yorku.ca.