Training seminars in Québec for Latin American teachers

Québec City, Thursday, July 8, 2004 - They've been coming to Québec for over 20 years to brush up on their French. Never the same ones. This year, 62 French teachers from 15 Latin American countries have signed up for three-week seminars on Québec language, culture and society, to be held at Université Laval and the Université de Montréal. The program is an initiative of the Ministère des Relations internationales (MRI).
The teachers come here from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and other countries south of the United States to improve their French and learn about Québec culture. Chosen by French teacher associations in their respective countries, they are split up equally between Université Laval (École des langues) and the Université de Montréal (École de français). The biggest delegations come from Mexico and Brazil.
The program combines classroom teaching with a wide variety of cultural activities such as outings to the Québec City summer festival and the Montréal Botanical Garden, talks on Québec history and trips to museums.
Profitable stays
Following their return home, many of the French teachers stay in contact with Québec by joining associations of former program participants (such as the one in Rio de Janeiro), cooperating with the Québec government office in their respective country, holding activities with a Québec focus (e.g., "Québec week," organized each year by former participants in the Argentine province of Santa Fe), integrating their knowledge of Québec into curriculum (e.g., a former Venezuelan participant has set up a Québec language school in Caracas) and returning to Québec to upgrade their university education.
The experience of a Brazilian program participant called Zila Bernd is worthy of mention. Since her participation in 1980 she has returned to Québec on a number of occasions. She has succeeded in adding Québec literature to the bachelor's-level literature program at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) in Porto Alegre and is responsible for the change in name of the university's French Literature program, which is now known as "Francophone Literatures."
The Ministère des Relations internationales has offered the Québec language, culture and society program for Latin-American French teachers for the past 26 years, other than during a five-year hiatus.
In 1978, the Ministère des Affaires intergouvernementales, predecessor of the MRI, organized a three-week professional upgrade seminar for Brazilian French teachers. Grants were made available for 30 participants.
Given the success of the seminar, combined with demand from teachers in a number of countries and the program's potential impact in terms of international visibility for Québec, the 30 grants were subsequently allocated to participants in eight different countries. In 1998 the number of grants was increased to 60.
The program participants are full-time French teachers and professors at elementary and secondary schools, technical colleges, universities and private language schools. The grant they receive from the MRI covers their registration fees, tuition and accommodation expenses. They pay their own international and local transportation and are responsible for their own personal expenses and part of the cost of their meals.

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