Against all odds, French is alive and well in a province where Chinese is the mother tongue of more than half a million people. If you step through the doors of Alliance Française of Vancouver (AF) --an international organisation that promotes French language and culture -- you could be in Hong Kong, Beijing or Taipei. Indeed 80% of its children and youth students are Chinese Canadian!
Alliance Française spans 135 countries and teaches 430,000 students worldwide. There are 10 AFs across Canada. The new president of AF Vancouver, Ms. Erica Tao, of Chinese ancestry herself, grew up in the AF neighbourhood and over the years, notes how it shifted from a community of French immigrants to Chinese immigrants. Ms. Tao, who learned French as an adult, says : "I feel very welcomed here and valued for my efforts to learn the French language."
French also sparks the interest of newcomers as a means to integrate fully into Canadian society. CEO of SUCCESS, Tung Chan, says : “SUCCESS is dedicated to the building of a World of Multicultural Harmony by fostering integration. Harmony can only be achieved if people can communicate effortlessly with each other and without barriers. Since Canada is a bilingual country, in order to achieve full integration, we encourage newcomers, particularly the younger generation, to become fully bilingual in both English and French so they can enjoy their Canadian experience to the fullest.”
For the first time, AF and SUCCESS are working in partnership with the Consulate General of France to host a gala in the spring of 2010 to showcase the delightful possibilities that emerge when language, art and culture are encouraged to come together in creative and exciting ways. We will surprise you with the intersection of Canadian, French and Chinese influences that can happen only in a unique setting such as Vancouver.
As Vancouver prepares for the biggest international spectacle Canada has hosted, it is clear that there is energy and excitement in the diversity that Vancouver has to offer. During the Winter Games, linguistic diversity will be reflected in the use of French, as one of the official Olympic languages.
Senator and former Prime Minister of France, Jean-Pierre Raffarin (2002-2005), who attended the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 as a "Grand témoin de la Francophonie" was witness to the vitality of the French language in China:" The Beijing Olympic Games provided the Francophonie with a privileged opportunity of making a new and decisive step towards the promotion of the French language", Mr Raffarin says.
During his diplomatic career, Mr Raffarin developped a close affinity with China and Chinese culture, which has prompted him to return to China on numerous occasions over the past few years. To this day, Mr Raffarin maintains an ongoing relationship with Chinese officials and friends. At the invitation of Ms. Erica Tao, Mr Raffarin will be visiting the Alliance Française of Vancouver on October 22, 2009, at 3:30pm.