Today was an 'immersed in my Acadian Heritage' day. I know I have spoken briefly about how I am Acadienne and currently I have been working hard with providing speech-language pathology services in French for the Francophone-Acadian population of the province. For those who have never experienced a minority language situation, services in your first language make the world of a difference. Especially in a country with two official languages (French and English) and a province with a significant Francophone-Acadian population.
In Halifax alone there are approximately 10,000 first language French speakers, which doesn't count bilingual speakers. It is estimated that there are 95 000 self identified French-Acadians in Nova Scotia. I have encountered so many families who struggle significantly in English, and as a result the Francophone-Acadian community is extremely isolated from the 'anglo' community.
Imagine trying to learn and grow in your practice while at the same time trying decipher what the h*ll the teacher is saying... It's not like a visual demonstration is ever enough (or we'd all just rent DVD's and watch them on mute). We're not always able to look up and watch- we rely heavily on verbal instruction. When you're trying your best to make it through a fast paced class, muddling through understanding what the teacher is actually saying doesn't make for an ideal learning environment. For those of us who have tried, it is mentally exhausting.
How wonderful to offer yoga classes for this significant population!
Unfortunately there are many considerations and marketing specifics in order to best let the community know about a French Yoga class.
When advertising a service that historically has never been available, a very important first step is to market and educate the target community. Making phone calls to local French community centres, contacting local French parent organizations etc. The next step would be to actually provide translated documents- posters, pamphlets or sections of the website. There are actually government funded programs that offer translation services for local organizations.
It is extremely important to recognize that just because many Francophone speakers (at least here in NS) understand English, that stating there is a class offered in French, in written English, isn't extremely welcoming or inclusive. Why would a Francophone speaker go looking through an English website for information? In Halifax, the best way to inform the Francophone community is through word of mouth. Many individuals here are on the military base, not part of newsletters or Anglophone groups, new 'immigrants' and wouldn't have a clue where to look for this information. A fantastic strategy would be to approach the coordinator of Francophone services at the Military centre herself, and by word of mouth individuals will come.
Finally, the Acadian aspect. Here in Nova Scotia, Acadians (who settled here in the late 15 and early 1600's from France) have a long history of cultural repression and abuse. In 1755 'La déportation' occurred, where Acadians were herded and deported en masse, families separated, houses burned, women abused and raped. A mass forced exodus occurred, with only some tiny villages managing to keep their land from the British (my village was one of them). (Drapeau Acadien)
Fast foward 300 years or so of being told our French was sub-standard, that our culture and Heritage was "less" and you get an entire population of French speakers who do not recognize their right to services. Often we are intimidated by Québecois or France French, rather speaking in English to avoid explaining our 'accent' or archaic grammar-vocabulary. Despite being more comfortable in French, it depends on the speaker as to whether access is initiated (if you'd like specific research results on these statements, please email me, I have them at work).
What this really would look like in a Yoga class: Say you indicate that you could help support someone in French during class if needed... but the class had other anglophone speakers. Also, say that your teacher is Francophone-Québecoise. Research would suggest that the Acadian student would be less likely to 'bother' the teacher with a special request just for her. She understands English, so even though French would be more comfortable, it would be considered rude to ask. Also, if the teacher is Qc French, it's likely the student will not feel comfortable even speaking in French to them. The result, the instructor and studio owner assumes there is no need and may potentially stop offering the service.
What does this have to do with Yoga in Halifax? Offering a French Yoga service in Halifax would be a wonderful and culturally sensitive addition to the Yoga community. It would allow a space for a huge proportion of Yogis who are English second language, to practice Yoga in an open and welcoming environment. It would be unique, it would be welcome...
If only the anglophone community recognized the cultural and linguistic needs. Just because I can understand English, does not mean that I wouldn't love a yoga class in French.
*article adjusted April 2nd 2010, please see comment below
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