The Bilingual Immigrant

WIN_20160315_22_59_20_Pro (2)Introducing another guest blogger, Rachel. In response to Elaine’s post about learning French, Rachel talks about the importance of becoming a bilingual immigrant!

At first glance, I thought that my current professional experience in Information Technology and Client Management would fit just fine in Canada. I landed with a notion of success and don’t get me wrong, that is the right attitude. My intuition was bright and I knew that my skills would be in demand right off the bat and life would be easier. But like every immigrant will tell you, it is never easy in the beginning. It only gets easier later after a few adjustments have been made.

I landed in Canada at Pearson airport in the fall of 2013 at the famous YYZ from East Africa, Uganda, a purely English-speaking country. I was well-versed with my English and I knew that I was set.

On with the settling and time to get a job. Boy, was I in for a surprise! There were quite a few job postings that I felt comfortable with but there was one little thing I had always ignored: the bilingual positions. I noticed how many there were everywhere I looked. The multicultural aspect of Canada had not sunk in yet. I wondered how I was going to compete in the job market with one language and foreign (non-Canadian) experience in a very lucrative field. My hopes started to dwindle as I began to realize that there were other people who were applying for the same jobs, with ample Canadian experience and probably three languages on their finger-tips. And that wasn’t the only downside: my outlook (present-ability) was lacking and I literally had nothing on my network list.

Eventually, it got frustrating and I decided to look for resources to help me. Agencies, workshops, and networking events here and there, and a general understanding of the Canadian workplace, brought me closer to knowing what I had to do to stand out, to be different.

One day, a friend of mine informed me about Saturday French classes facilitated by WoodGreen’s Community Connections Program. All Free!! Unbelievable. It became my goal to learn French, to be different, to compete in a dense market and to get hired as fast as I could. So I signed up.

My first day was very informative. I recollected my basic elementary school French and added onto what I had. Free online resources like Duo-lingo and Word Reference helped me to get advanced in a controlled setting, at my own pace and at my own comfort speed. This would turn out to be the most important step I have ever taken to elevate myself in a country whose national languages are both English and French. I am currently 60% fluent in French, after a year of hard-core self-learning and discovery. I’ve also used a few French-speaking friends with whom I can practice (you will need these!), as well as professional help. I have worked in a bilingual position for a wage rate higher than the rest even with 60% fluency in French. I can hardly imagine how much I will be worth once I master the language!

In a nutshell, do not settle for what you have. Get out there and add onto what you have, increase your value and learn something new, change careers if you want to, start afresh. There is no where to go from there but UP!

Download the Duo-lingo app here.

Rachel, Guest Blogger



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