How useful is French in English-speaking Canada?
May 8, 2009 12:12 AM   Subscribe

What kinds of jobs are available in Canada--but outside of Quebec--for someone who can speak English, Korean, and French reasonably fluently? Preferably, though not necessarily, on the West coast.

Basically, I'd like to know if learning French would open a lot of doors for someone who can already speak English and Korean.
posted by smorange to Work & Money (10 answers total)
Being able to speak both of the national languages will give you a leg up on someone with the same qualifications but who only speaks English. This is less necessary on the west coast, as far as I know, but in Ottawa it's almost mandiatory to speak at least a little french, even to apply to work flipping burgers.
posted by Planet F at 3:10 AM on May 8, 2009

Federal government. Hellobonjour.
posted by oaf at 5:32 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

The further east you get, excluding some of the Maritimes, the more important French becomes. Ottawa is the canonical town for needing French, as Planet F states. Toronto is often stated as the definite place where French stops being at all important, unless you hit one of the remaining pockets of la francophonie in the prairies.

The further west you get, the more likely you can use your skill in Korean in some position, simply because there's more likely to be a high concentration of Koreans on the West Coast. It might be useful in Ottawa, if you manage to find a place that deals with Korean foreign policy issues.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 6:23 AM on May 8, 2009

On the west coast, French is really only going to help you get federal government jobs. There's little other need for it in BC, unless your fluency extends all the way to official translation work.

Korean, on the other hand, could well prove more useful, at least in Vancouver, where there is a significant Korean population.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:21 AM on May 8, 2009

Outside of Quebec there's not much call for French in general. New Brunswick is actually the only officially bilingual province, but no offense New Brunswickers, it's New Brunswick. You'd be looking at fairly rare government jobs.
posted by GuyZero at 10:03 AM on May 8, 2009

Best answer: If you have teacher accreditation you can teach French in the BC public school system. The Federal government subsidizes French immersion programs, so French-speaking teachers have more resources.

If you are a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant (or if you have a SIN number) and are eligible to work in Canada, why not try out DFAIT and sit for the foreign service examination and join the Trade Commissioner Service? People who are accepted into the foreign service must speak French, and Korean may be helpful.

If you are located in Seoul right now, you might want to try networking with the Canadian embassy there - Canada has really ramped up operations in Korea in the last 5 years or so, and BC even has a trade office there now - MeMail me for more info and networking contacts.

BC also has a formal trading relationship with Gyeonggi Province (as you you, the urban area surrounding Seoul), so you might want to contact someone at the embassy to see if there is anyone you should meet.

Try contacting KOTRA in Vancouver. The folks there are always very pleased and surprised when a non-Korean person demonstrates the ability to speak Korean. They may have some ideas about what you can do. For example, perhaps you would like to work for one of the big trading houses that ship grain and other bulk goods out of Vancouver to Korea.

I must say the government intl trade community is very competitive and not always collegial in terms of helping someone get a foot in the door. Typically you need a B-School background, smarts, a good network and charisma (ie, good looks) to get a job. Language proficiency is really just the starting point.

Korean Airlines has recently ramped up service between Vancouver and Seoul - maybe they need help from someone like you in Vancouver. James Koh is the guy to talk to.

Most French-English translation is based in Ontario, but you could try contacting agencies in Van to see what they need.

The Korean community in general values education, so you may be able to gather private clients start your own school in Vancouver, while working part time for an "academy" first. Check out the Education Canada listings for Vancouver.

Finally, it's unclear if you already speak French, what your background is, if you are demonstrably "fluent" in Korean (can you write business correspondance?) and the most important thing: what do you want to do? What do you see yourself doing in five years?

When planning my return to Canada from Japan, I spent a couple of years getting ready by developing a side career as a business writer, and that paid off far more than my business experience.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:26 AM on May 8, 2009

Sorry, my business writing paid off far more than my Japanese ability when returning to Canada.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:27 AM on May 8, 2009

What are your marketable skills, aside from these languages? I hate to break it to you but Canada is teeming with people who are tri- or quadra-lingual. The languages alone wouldn't be considered impressive -- you need to combine that with some other concrete qualifications to get a leg up on the competition.
posted by randomstriker at 10:49 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I didn't ask this question for myself, actually, so I left things in general terms. I'm planning to go to law school upon my return to Canada, where I probably won't use my Korean, which is not fluent but functional and conversational.

Thanks, though, you've all been rather helpful.
posted by smorange at 3:51 PM on May 8, 2009

per the comment on teaching in BC, every province has French immersion and it's very, very hard to find good French/English bilingual teachers. As a parent who had a kid in the Toronto French immersion system, holy cow, the bar was a lot lower there than in English. At least in Toronto, there's a shortage of elementary French immersion teachers.
posted by GuyZero at 4:01 PM on May 8, 2009

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