Phillip writes in to ask me how to integrate into French in Montréal.
Maybe you’re stuck in an anglophone bubble because you’re a student at McGill or because you just haven’t figured out how to meet francophones yet.
I want to share with you what I feel is the best approach based on what I’ve observed among foreign friends who’ve integrated.
There are many different approaches you can try, but there is just one that I feel stands out among all the others as the most effective way.
And no, you don’t have to go running around approaching all the strangers you can find to strike up a conversation! (Not too many lasting bonds form that way to allow you to integrate anyway.)
So, what is the approach I recommend?
Find employment where you’ll speak in French with co-workers.
You don’t need perfect French to start working.
If you think about the closest friends in your life, there’s a strong likelihood that you met them at work or a place of education.
You can develop many strong and lasting bonds with people by studying at a francophone university. I’m assuming that integration isn’t so much of an issue for you if you’re at a francophone institution. But if you’re at an anglophone institution, there’s still hope!
Even if you’re a student, consider finding part-time work.
Integration comes primarily through work.
When I look to my foreign friends who’ve integrated, it’s largely through work that they acheived their integration.
They used a few other methods too, but these methods weren’t as effective. You could however combine them with work to strengthen your chances: do volunteer work, find a language exchange partner, start dating a francophone, take a course in something other than French.
If you can make those approaches work, then do them. I say they’re less effective though because they tend not to last enough to work (even dating, which ends in a lot of break-ups!).
But if you’re unwilling to find paid work or unable to work legally, then consider volunteer work. Just be sure that it’s something that will require a long-term commitment and that you’ll be in regular contact with francophones.
I sometimes hear people say that it’s important to live in a francophone area of Montréal if you want to be immersed. In fact, I’m not so sure that it matters where in Montréal you live.
What matters far more is with whom you spend your time.
You’re far more likely to make lasting bonds at work than with neighbours.
Even if you lived in an anglophone part of Montréal but studied at the Université de Montréal and held a part-time job with francophone co-workers, then your chances of integrating are very strong.
But you could live in the most francophone part of Montréal and not integrate into French if you’re stuyding at McGill and working part-time with anglophones!
If you’re a student, you might be thinking that I just don’t understand because you’ve got way too much on your plate already. I hear you. Only you know what your priorities are. But even part-time work is far more effective at helping you to integrate than a French course.
In the end, integrating is no different in Montréal than anywhere else. Put yourself where the people you want to integrate with are. Work requires you to be around them regularly.