Aaron Berk has been living in Quebec for about eight months.
Originally from Ontario, he moved to the province on a two-year work contract and began taking French lessons.
He calls learning French fun, but learning the language within a strict deadline – not so much.
“The idea of getting mastery in six months seems absurd,” Berk said.
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Berk refers to a clause in the province’s new language law.
Bill 96 stipulates that most government services will be offered only in French to newcomers, refugees and immigrants once they have been in the province for six months.
“There are rules that make it difficult for newcomers and marginalized groups,” he said. “And for me, that’s not really what I think the government’s role is.”
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Berk is one of nearly 200 students taking classes at the private language school, CLC Canada, in downtown Montreal.
About 80% of students are enrolled in French courses.
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Another student, a Florida native who has lived in Montreal for about a year, says hearing about Bill 96 was disheartening.
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“I think everyone is really trying to do their best to learn the language, but the realities of life also come into play, like your job or your family, so it’s hard to focus 100%,” said said Jesse.
Those who teach French here say from their experience that the average person with no prior knowledge of the language can take between eight months and a year to become fluent.
This schedule also depends on the number of lessons per week they take – which also varies depending on their availability.
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“If you’ve just arrived here, you might need time to deal with the weather, with the new society — you can’t really learn the language every day,” said Harold Babon, college liaison officer at CLC. .
Global News reached out to French Language Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette for his response to these concerns, but did not receive a timely response.
All students and teachers who spoke to Global News agree that French in Quebec must be preserved and promoted, they say. They just want the government to translate that message to them in a more welcoming way.
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