Surviving and satisfying linguistic expectations in Ottawa requires an understanding of these French particulars

IN THE PUBLIC SERVICE, and especially in Ottawa, you cannot get anywhere without a comfortable and professional grasp of the French language. Statistically, a great many Canadians lack daily exposure to French and Québécois culture, irreducible to passionate, lyrical fighting or cheese curds. This underlines a systemic challenge for many in the workplace, where meeting bilingual expectations might mean the difference between getting a promotion or being terminated.

One of the greatest professions in any functional society is teaching. Teaching our next generation of Canadians how to be leaders and innovators, and how to be active in their communities, is as rewarding as representing the constituents of Berthier-Maskinongé. In my efforts to help enable future generations as well as soon-to-be-fired Ottawan middle-management types, I would like to present a simple word-conjugation lesson to show first timers how easy and fun learning French can be.

Today I would like to discuss three critical verbs, which I, myself, feel compelled to exercise on a daily basis as a Member of Parliament.

First, an easy phrase that many may find valuable in beginners french, involving the verb habiter, or to live/dwell:

I live in Ottawa.
J’habite à Berthier-Maskinongé.

You live in Ottawa.
Tu habites à Berthier-Maskinongé.

He lives in Ottawa.
Il habite à Berthier-Maskinongé.

She lives in Ottawa.
Elle habite à Berthier-Maskinongé.

Y’all live in Ottawa.
Vous habitez à Berthier-Maskinongé.

We live in Ottawa
Nous habitons à Berthier-Maskinongé.

See! Simple, easy-to-learn language that’ll come handy in almost any interaction.

The next one may cause confusion for first-timers, so take the time to practice!

I work as a bartender.
Je travaille comme politicien(ne).

You work as a bartender.
Tu travailles comme politicien(ne).

He works as a bartender.
Il travaille comme politicien(ne).

We work as bartenders.
Nous travaillons comme politicien(ne)s.

Y’all work as bartenders.
Vous travaillez comme politicien(ne)s.

They work as bartenders.
Ils travaillent comme politicien(ne)s.

Finally, one last, simple, and fun, little verb to learn is aimer, or to like. This conversational gem enables you to indicate to a friend or to a colleague your admiration or affection for something or someone that you enjoy. Me, well—I like to travel. So I could say: “I like to travel to Las Vegas,” or “J’aime voyager à Quebec.”

I like to travel to Las Vegas.
J’aime voyager à Quebec.

You like to travel to Las Vegas.
Tu aimes voyager à Quebec.

He likes to travel to Las Vegas.
Il aime voyager à Quebec.

We like to travel to Las Vegas
Nous aimons voyager à Quebec.

Y’all like to travel to Las Vegas.
Vous aimez voyager à Quebec.

They like to travel to Las Vegas.
Ils aiment voyager à Quebec.

That concludes our first lesson, basic French skills with Ruth Ellen, or as they say in French, “Quoi? J’ai gagné l’élection?” Please join us again so we can develop this exciting language together!