Souris business owners learn the advantages of bilingualism

SOURIS, PEI – March 7, 2013 – Organizers of the Bilingualism in Business – The Bilingual Advantage Symposium in Souris Tuesday believe most of the 70 business people and community leaders who attended their event were already sold on the value of offering services in both official languages. They just needed more information – and reassurance – on how to proceed.

“We were very pleased with the feedback participants provided through the break-out sessions,” said symposium co-ordinator Tara McNally MacPhee. “The conversation through group dialogue was very positive. Business owners are looking for tools and resources to enhance their bilingual service offer, as they recognize the opportunity to reach a new market and a new revenue stream.”

The “Bienvenue chez-nous” project, which hosted the symposium, aims to somewhat “re-bilingualize” Souris, a once-bustling Acadian and francophone community that lost much of its French over the years.

Participants learned about a variety of services available to help make the transition.

Canada’s Official Languages Commissioner, Graham Fraser, the guest speaker at the symposium, strongly encouraged local businesses to do whatever they can to provide services in both official languages.

“Nothing is more engaging than being welcomed in your own language,” said Fraser. “It’s just good hospitality and good business.”

He noted the “bilingualization” of Souris is “an investment that contributes to the local economy.” He believes the Souris project is “a step in the right direction” that will help the community have a competitive advantage and open its doors to new Atlantic, national and international markets.

A primary driving force behind this initiative is that approximately 45,000 people from Quebec – primarily Francophones – travel through Souris on their way to the Magdalen Islands ferry. Very few visitors stop by the local businesses on route to the ferry. It is believed that the lack of French signage, promotion and front-line services is the main reason why. However, the few businesses that do have some French signage and services, do get French-speaking tourists.

The project’s main objective is therefore to help local businesses – primarily those involved in the tourism sector – by offering basic conversational French courses to front-line workers and encouraging businesses to translate their signs, pamphlets, websites and menus.

Two successful PEI tourism companies – Rick’s Fish ’n’ Chips in St. Peter’s Bay and Cavendish Figurines in Borden-Carleton – provided testimonials on the tremendous value of providing services in both English and French.

“It will benefit you, your business and your customers,” suggested restaurateur, Rick Renaud.

Cavendish Figurines owner Jeannette Arsenault said Quebec tourists are always very pleased when they can be served in their own language. So any additional time spent in giving them individual attention can be considered an investment.

A number of francophone high school students from the local École-La-Belle-Cloche, who attended the symposium, brought along their resumes and said they were ready to help local tourism operators provided French services to their clients this summer.

The symposium was organized by a number of partners from the Eastern Kings area who are invested in economic development: the Town of Souris, Active Communities Inc., the Rural Action Centre in Souris, Island East Tourism Group and the CAFE (the Eastern Acadian and Francophone Committee). Joining them were Canadian Parents for French – PEI, RDÉE Prince Edward Island and the Government of PEI, including funding partners Innovation PEI and the Acadian and Francophone Affairs Secretariat.


CUTLINE 1: Gail Lecky, executive director of Canadian Parents for French PEI, presents a gift to Canada’s Official Languages Commissioner, Graham Fraser, to thank him for speaking at the “Bilingualism in Business – The Bilingual Advantage” Symposium in Souris Tuesday.

CUTLINE 2: Tara McNally MacPhee, right, co-ordinator of the “Bienvenue chez-nous” project chats with Island tourism operators Jeannette Arsenault from Cavendish Figurines in Borden-Carleton and Rick Renaud from Rick’s Fish ’n’ Chips in St. Peter’s Bay after they gave testimonials about the value of bilingualism to their businesses. They were among the speakers at the “Bilingualism in Business – The Bilingual Advantage” Symposium in Souris Tuesday.

CUTLINE 3: Among the dignitaries who attended the Souris bilingualism symposium were, from left, Aubrey Cormier, assistant to the deputy minister of the Acadian and Francophone Affairs Secretariat; Jean Léger, executive director of RDÉE Canada; Graham Fraser, the Commissioner of Official Languages; and Bonnie Gallant, executive director of RDÉE PEI.

For more information:
Tara McNally MacPhee
Bienvenue chez-nous project