“My dream is that language barriers will be a thing of the past.”
During an interview for a position as a French immersion teacher, Albert Grant was asked if he would be willing to teach in Blackville. His nervousness and poor grasp of English led him to offer this reply: “Certainly, I’m not a racist.” Well, you can guess the reactions of the selection committee members. But that was just one question among many. The young man was hired and, since then, has acquired a good command of English, learning his second language while teaching French.
Albert Grant earned his Bachelor of Education degree from the Université de Moncton in 1986. He didn’t have to search for a job for very long. “In the 1980s, immersion was all the rage,” he recalls. “The demand for teachers was very high.” He was offered a position at Miramichi High.
“My English was very limited, so it was a challenge,” says this resident of Val-Comeau. He remembers the morning announcements, which he didn’t always understand. “My students were fantastic. They realized my weaknesses, and that helped them get over their fear of speaking French to some degree. So we were there to learn. I learned from them, and they learned from me.”
Albert took advantage of lunch hour to improve his English. He joined a group of teachers from the industrial department, who were delighted to help the newcomer. “I felt accepted from day one.”
For 21 years, Albert taught French to immersion students. For the past two years, he has been teaching in the intensive French program at the school in Brantville. Despite his 23 years of experience, he thinks there is always something to learn. “Yesterday’s students aren’t the same as today’s,” he says. “Their needs aren’t the same. You have to adapt. The important thing is to be human and to be fair.” How can you get students interested in a second language? Albert explains that you have to find some way of grabbing their attention. “You have to find the pulse of your group. Once you find it, you can exploit it. It comes with experience,” he stated. Passion is definitely the key. “If the teacher isn’t motivated, the students will never be.”
While Albert admits that parents play a major role when it comes to their child enrolling in immersion, he believes that many students come to grasp the importance of speaking both languages after a while. “Personally, it wasn’t until I reached my early 20s that I started to realize the importance of speaking English,” he says.
Albert believes that immersion and second-language programs have furthered not only the French language but also harmony between the two linguistic communities. “Immersion programs have really helped French in New Brunswick,” he says. “People are much more open-minded than before. I believe our society is more accepting of language differences. My dream is that, someday, language barriers will be a thing of the past; that everyone will be bilingual.”