Summer in the city… en français

Intensive course immerses students in Quebec culture and language

By Jim Hynes

McGill’s Quebec Studies Summer Institute is preparing to launch the third edition of its eight-week intensive course in French language and Quebec history.

The six-credit course offers students the opportunity to enhance their French communication skills and discover Quebec’s vibrant culture in a unique way. Four days a week, from 9 a.m. until noon, students will take in lectures by leading scholars in anthropology, history, political science and literary studies as well as cultural figures, opinion-makers and public intellectuals, and take part in group discussions and activities. This summer’s curriculum includes such topics as early encounters with native peoples, confederation, the Catholic Church in Quebec, feminism in Quebec, cinema, and literature. In order to create an ideal learning environment, the class size is limited to 25 students.

“For the historical and cultural content, students take advantage of current University research development to enrich their visions of Quebec society,” said Stephan Gervais, Quebec Studies Coordinator at McGill’s Quebec Studies Program. “They go beyond first impressions or opinions to go to the facts.  As for the language component, we notice a real improvement in their proficiency at both the oral and written levels.”

Students in the course come from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds. They have all studied French before, with most coming to the program with an intermediate level grasp of the language. At the end of the course, each student must be able to submit a written essay and deliver an oral presentation on topics concerning

Quebec culture and history in French.

“It was enormously rewarding to notice improvements in my proficiency while learning about Montreal’s cultural diversity, political movements, arts and the city’s role in the past and the present of the province and country,” said Education student Sarah Christie Low, who took the course in 2007. “The learning situation was ideal.”

When students look at the syllabus on the first day and see the objectives, many ask themselves how they will be able to pull it off, Gervais said.  “But with effort and engagement and taking advantage of the resources, students do succeed,” he said.

“As one of the students told us after taking the course: ‘At first I wanted to ask you: ‘Do you really think I can fulfil these requirements. But now that it’s over I want to ask…can I come back every summer’.”

For more on the Quebec Studies Summer Institute, including registration and prerequisite information, visit