French weekend project immerses families in Acadian culture

·3 min read
Families from across the Maritimes with children in French immersion will gather in Bouctouche this weekend to immerse themselves in Acadian culture. (Brian Higgins/CBC - image credit)
Families from across the Maritimes with children in French immersion will gather in Bouctouche this weekend to immerse themselves in Acadian culture. (Brian Higgins/CBC - image credit)

For Cheryl Labonté and her eight-year-old daughter, the French language is an important part of their lives.

Labonté's daughter goes to a French school in Prince Edward Island and the mother-daughter pair are heading to Bouctouche, New Brunswick for the first time.

She grew up in a bilingual household but married an anglophone. They made the decision to make sure their daughter was exposed to the French language.

But, Labonté said the family hasn't really been immersed in French culture.

"I feel a little guilty that I'm born in New Brunswick and I live in P.E.I. and we're surrounded by the Acadian culture and I don't really know a lot about it," said Labonté.

She has been a member of Canadian Parents for French for two years, but never really took advantage of the membership until she saw the opportunity to go to Bouctouche for a weekend of French activities.

The families will be visiting Pays de la Sagouine, a theatre village based on one of the characters created by Antonine Maillet. La Sagouine is to Acadians what Anne of Green Gables is to Prince Edward Islanders, said Labonté.

"When we participate with things with our school as well, I want to be able to say, 'Oh, of course, I've been there."

Radio-Canada/New Brunswick Government
Radio-Canada/New Brunswick Government

Practice makes perfect

"We're looking forward to meeting other families that may or may not have, you know, high level or a lower level of French," she said.

Maxime Bourgeois, one of the organizers, said this first-time event will allow families with kids enrolled in French immersion or French school to have the opportunity to explore the culture behind the language they're learning.

He said some students live in primarily English-speaking communities, so they don't get to practice their French in the summer months.

"If you don't practice it, you lose it," he said. "September is very difficult for kids to restart from where they left off in June."

Bourgeois said it is also important to keep them motivated so they want to continue to study French.

Families will get to spend most of Saturday in Pays de la Sagouine, attend a kitchen party, learn how to make traditional pastries and listen to traditional music.

Kids will tour the Kent Museum while their parents hear from a guest speaker about being a non-French-speaking parent with a child in the immersion program.

"We do try to educate [parents] not only about the language and the culture, but also how to deal with those types of situations," said Bourgeois.

Learning language and culture

Claude Boudreau, another organizer for the weekend, said participants include francophone families, anglophone families, as well as some from other cultural backgrounds.

"This will be an excellent opportunity to learn more about Acadian culture, a little bit about our traditions, the food, the music," he said. "In Atlantic Canada, Acadians are everywhere so it's a nice event to learn more about your neighbours."

Boudreau's hope for the weekend is that the families will learn new words, make new friends and want to come back for more.

He hopes it will become a twice-yearly event in different parts of the Maritimes. They have already started planning the next event for Thanksgiving weekend in Grand-Pré, Nova Scotia and are beginning to accept applications for that retreat.

"Learning a new language is sometimes a little bit of work," said Boudreau. "But it's really worthwhile because it opens your world to a lot of new opportunities and meeting different people."

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