“My Place Is Here!”
It’s hard to believe that Khalid Badrezzamane left Casablanca and its mild climate for Canada. But this French teacher who came to New Brunswick to learn English and decided to stay isn’t complaining. He raves about the warmth of New Brunswickers.
When he arrived in Montreal in March 2002, Khalid Badrezzamane quickly realized that his chances of finding a job were slim without a Canadian diploma. He therefore enrolled in the bachelor’s program at the École des Hautes Études Commerciales, where he heard that second-language monitors were being recruited – an opportunity to work while learning English, he told himself. “It was important for me to learn English in order to improve my chances of finding a good job,” he explained. “And also because English is a very important language, not only in Canada but around the world.” His application was accepted, and he was asked where he would like to work. “I requested a small place where people spoke English,” he says. And that’s how this native of Morocco arrived in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, in October 2004. There, he helped students learn French, while he learned English.
Khalid had not planned to stay in New Brunswick. He was actually supposed to spend a year learning English and then go back to Montreal. But the warmth of New Brunswickers left an impression on him. “I received five invitations to social events during my first month in St. Stephen,” he says, still surprised. “I’d never thought I could live anywhere other than Montreal. But after meeting the locals and seeing the personal and professional opportunities available to me, I decided that my place was in New Brunswick.”
After two years at the school in St. Stephen, Khalid accepted a position as a part-time language skills evaluator, which required him to travel across the province. He still has a lasting memory of his first experiences driving a car in snow. He was then hired by a private school and went to Woodstock to teach French. There, his English improved considerably. But after two years in that town, he missed French, so he requested and obtained a transfer to Moncton. Since 2008, Khalid has been teaching French at a private school in Moncton and for the Multicultural Association of the Greater Moncton Area (MAGMA). “Here in Moncton, I can speak French, I can speak English,” he says.
Khalid’s mother tongue is Arabic, but in a way, French is his second mother tongue. He explains that French is very important in Morocco, particularly in the private sector. “If you don’t speak French, you have no hope of finding a good job with a private company,” he says. He adds that he was surprised by the variations in the French spoken in New Brunswick and Quebec. However, he notes that there are similar variations in Arabic.
Today, Khalid has no trouble expressing himself in English, his third language, although he’s still very attached to French. “I consider it my language even though it’s my second language.” He’s aware of the challenges facing French, but he’s confident. He believes that pride in the French language has to be cultivated and that an effort has to be made to speak it well. He also believes that francophone communities throughout Canada have to work together more to promote French all across the country. “French is my identity and my pride,” he declared.