Developing an edge over the competition 

By Karen Herland

JMSB French Coach members (back row from left) Uma Doma, Abhijeet Nandy, Fernando Fachin and front row, Shuang Song and Sofia Del Rio. All are MBA students. Magnifying glass

JMSB French Coach members (back row from left) Uma Doma, Abhijeet Nandy, Fernando Fachin and front row, Shuang Song and Sofia Del Rio. All are MBA students.

Although most French courses will make it easier for you to you discuss your aunt’s pen, not that many will equip you to manage the boss’s phone calls or an irate client.

A group of students at the John Molson School of Business recognized this gap in traditional French courses and decided that business French was a necessity.
“It’s essential if you want to work here and succeed. You can’t survive in this competitive environment,” said Abhijeet Nandy, of the JMSB’s French Coach club.
For the last two years students have been organizing business French courses for other students. The 10-week courses benefit from small classes (a dozen or fewer students) and are relatively inexpensive ($100 for JMSB students and $10 more for other students or alumni). The tuition helps to pay instructors as well as to promote the program and hold lectures on topics of interest.

The beginner class assumes a basic knowledge of French but allows students to improve their comfort level and vocabulary. Although the courses are 80 per cent devoted to conversation, some letter-writing and other written instruction is offered, said JMSB French Coach president Sofia Del Rio.

Mathieu Trudeau, a student in our Études françaises department, has taught three sessions of the course in a row. Although he won’t be returning to the role because of his commitments as a co-op student, he enjoyed the experience.
“It allowed me to improve my own knowledge of business French, and I got to appeal to the expertise of the students to help direct the course.” Their business knowledge and experience defines the content, and he determines the appropriate exercises.

Trudeau, who had taught at the primary level when he was approached by a professor for this position, said that there were similarities to managing time and planning lessons for undergrads instead of grade school students. “But the most important thing is to be prepared, and be prepared to change everything if the class wants to go in a different direction.”

Trudeau had students do mock job interviews. “It allowed them to talk about themselves in a real context.” Intermediate courses help students who may have to do presentations in French, or handle one-on-one conversations.

The possibility for an advanced course also exists, if there is enough interest. Students would learn more complicated negotiation skills and business etiquette.
Many people learning a second language know that the biggest hurdle is feeling comfortable speaking it aloud, especially to native speakers. “This course helps you get away from feeling shy,” said Nandy.

Almost all of the members of JMSB French Coach understand the challenges of learning a second language very well, since they are almost exclusively international students. Del Rio is from Mexico and Abhi from India; other group members hail from China and Brazil.

“The courses are not just for international students,” insisted Del Rio, who said Quebec students tend to assume their French skills are strong enough by virtue of having grown up here.

“It’s not easy doing a job interview in French,” said Nandy.


Concordia University