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McGill French proficiency?


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Hello all,

Wishing everyone is well and safe. 

 

Does anyone know if you have to be fluent in French for McGill (not for the interview, but to be successful in the program).

My French is VERY basic (only took French in middle school and in grade 9). I don't plan on doing residency or practice in Quebec as I wish to practice in Ontario or East Coast.

Even though classes are delivered in English at McGill, I am concerned with rotations/electives as it is inevitable that I will interact with Francophone patients and other health care professionals. Given my poor French, can you get by without speaking a word of French at McGill? 

Thanks!

 

 

 

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1 minute ago, BBALLCBMJ said:

Hello all,

Wishing everyone is well and safe. 

 

Does anyone know if you have to be fluent in French for McGill (not for the interview, but to be successful in the program).

My French is VERY basic (only took French in middle school and in grade 9). I don't plan on doing residency or practice in Quebec as I wish to practice in Ontario or East Coast.

Even though classes are delivered in English at McGill, I am concerned with rotations/electives as it is inevitable that I will interact with Francophone patients and other health care professionals. Given my poor French, can you get by without speaking a word of French at McGill? 

Thanks!

 

 

 

From what I understood, they will suggest that you take classes from the begining. You could also practice with me or other french speakers :P I'm sure 2 years is enough to get a sufficient level to interact with patients!! You can do it! It doesn't have to be perfect.

My english was just as much basic two years ago (like, I couldn't properly maintain a conversation) and now I'm somehow getting into McGill... but it's still very far from perfect and it's stressing me up a bit hahaha! But that's ok! You are not alone in that situation. :)

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If you can muddle by with patients, even if you have to do a lot of pointing and google translate, you'll get by. They'll accept people with 0 french and then when clerkship comes around the university will "expect" fluency, which is obviously idiotic. How anyone could actually become fluent in a year and half while simultaneously learning medicine is beyond me.

Very few staff/teams will care in a hospital setting. There are a ton of IMGs at McGill who speak no French, so if you can give it your best shot they'll be happy, and that covers the bulk of your rotations. In clinics however, it can be different. You can be placed in a french area for family medicine, with entirely french patients and staff will openly give you shit for not being completely fluent. And if you dare to complain, the university will merely state that it was "expected" that you become fluent by clerkship. They give some BS line about how comments about language don't end up on your record, but if a staff is extremely unimpressed with you because you're struggling to communicate with patients, that will seep into everything they write about you, not just explicit comments about language and communication.

So basically if you're not comfortable in French you might have a bad time for a couple rotations, and be stressed out when dealing with unilingual french patients, but overall it's very doable especially in hospital-based rotations.

I wouldn't say that not speaking french is a reason not to go to McGill, but it will be an added stress when you're likely already not feeling particularly comfortable speaking to patients as a med student. If you're the kind of person that can take that in stride and is happy to add learning a new language to your list of things to get comfortable with as a med student, you won't miss a beat.

There are also people in the class who'll ask for only English patients (can fly in the hospital, definitely not in clinic). You can do this, but be warned that some staff will very much not appreciate this, but you're not likely to fail because of it either.

 

edit:

One last point, if you already know you're interested in a communication heavy specialty like psychiatry, you will definitely have a worse experience. It's hard to form rapport when you can barely speak the same language, or determine if someone is psychotic or just used a francophone expression you weren't familiar with. Still not a complete barrier as you have your electives you can do anywhere, but you won't get as much out of your 2 months of core psych if you don't speak french.

 

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Regardless of the province you wish to practice in after, I think being able to communicate in French is just a basic mark of respect for the population you will serve during your undergrad. In Montreal, about half of the patients will be francophones. Even if most of them will understand and speak English, you will meet these people when they are in very stressful situations.... so it is very possible they prefer that you to speak French with them for that reason. In rural areas however, the vast majority will speak only French. So yes, it is important to learn French.

However, I disagree that it is impossible to learn some decent skills of communication during pre-clerckship. Many people do, and many people get better than just basic skills. And about half of the cohort are francophones anyways, so get a buddy to speak French with! It really works! Also practice by ordering in French at the restaurant, or watch French news.

By the way, you don't need perfect French to communicate well with your patients. Nobody cares about your accent or if you say "une vaccin" instead of "un vaccin". People care that you make an effort, and that is very important for the relationship you have with the patient.

 

 

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French is not a requirement for admission, but if you get in, they will access your proficiency in both languages. Stuff like doing an undergrad in one language but interviewing in the other can clear this requirement. Obviously, this is not your case. They'll meet with you to talk & to access your level, and if needed they will help you improve your French (ie courses).

They won't kick you out for not knowing French, but I will second what was said here: you should aim to have a working French. Communication is one of the CanMeds! On top of that, Ontario and the East Coast do have french speaking communities (ex: Ottawa, New Brunswick). Having a French that is functional in the context of your career will never be a bad thing. 

I don't think you can get by not knowing any French for 4 years. But I also think you'll be hard-pressed to not learn any French during your 4 years in Montreal. Immersion is a powerful tool in learning languages. 

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On 3/28/2020 at 4:41 PM, Hellothere77 said:

If you can muddle by with patients, even if you have to do a lot of pointing and google translate, you'll get by. They'll accept people with 0 french and then when clerkship comes around the university will "expect" fluency, which is obviously idiotic. How anyone could actually become fluent in a year and half while simultaneously learning medicine is beyond me.

Very few staff/teams will care in a hospital setting. There are a ton of IMGs at McGill who speak no French, so if you can give it your best shot they'll be happy, and that covers the bulk of your rotations. In clinics however, it can be different. You can be placed in a french area for family medicine, with entirely french patients and staff will openly give you shit for not being completely fluent. And if you dare to complain, the university will merely state that it was "expected" that you become fluent by clerkship. They give some BS line about how comments about language don't end up on your record, but if a staff is extremely unimpressed with you because you're struggling to communicate with patients, that will seep into everything they write about you, not just explicit comments about language and communication.

So basically if you're not comfortable in French you might have a bad time for a couple rotations, and be stressed out when dealing with unilingual french patients, but overall it's very doable especially in hospital-based rotations.

I wouldn't say that not speaking french is a reason not to go to McGill, but it will be an added stress when you're likely already not feeling particularly comfortable speaking to patients as a med student. If you're the kind of person that can take that in stride and is happy to add learning a new language to your list of things to get comfortable with as a med student, you won't miss a beat.

There are also people in the class who'll ask for only English patients (can fly in the hospital, definitely not in clinic). You can do this, but be warned that some staff will very much not appreciate this, but you're not likely to fail because of it either.

 

edit:

One last point, if you already know you're interested in a communication heavy specialty like psychiatry, you will definitely have a worse experience. It's hard to form rapport when you can barely speak the same language, or determine if someone is psychotic or just used a francophone expression you weren't familiar with. Still not a complete barrier as you have your electives you can do anywhere, but you won't get as much out of your 2 months of core psych if you don't speak french.

 

Thanks for the detailed response. Could you explain more about students only asking for English patients? How  would this work? Although I am willing to learn French (I always thought French is a beautiful language haha), I am just worried that I may not be able to get detailed history of patients due to poor proficiency in French, so I would rather converse in English.

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1 hour ago, BBALLCBMJ said:

Thanks for the detailed response. Could you explain more about students only asking for English patients? How  would this work? Although I am willing to learn French (I always thought French is a beautiful language haha), I am just worried that I may not be able to get detailed history of patients due to poor proficiency in French, so I would rather converse in English.

Some staff ask you if you're comfortable in french before assigning patients, some students mention to their staff that their french is weak. It's not a formal request, it's just part of working in a team with hopefully understanding people. While it's a bad idea to plan on never taking french patients because there are rotations when this is not possible, and there will be people who get pissed off at you, they're also extremely understanding if you just put some effort in. There's nothing wrong with presenting a patient and just letting the staff know you weren't completely sure about the quality of their pain because they kept using a word you didn't catch. As I said in the hospital that's 100% fine, but in clinics in french areas, you might have staff that are unimpressed with you because of it.

You'll get more comfortable in french if you just try. As long as you're in the hospital, most everyone should be fine with you giving a best effort, and it will naturally improve. I started off being extremely stressed about this (started med school being somewhat familiar with how to structure a sentence in french but could not actually converse), and now am very comfortable with french patients. Even at the beginning when staff would ask if I was able to take french patients I would always say yes, because I wanted to work on it and I knew there would be times when my staff would not give me that option. My vocabulary is still extremely limited, but patients were fine with it and all staff in the hospital were fine with it. Every patient encounter with a francophone began with, "Desole mon francais n'est pas le meilleur, mais je vais esseyer", and no one ever objected or got frustrated with me. I don't even know if that sentence grammatically correct, but it's probably better if it's not, really drives the point home.

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I agree that people outside Montreal (or at least, people living where I come from) tend to get mad when you can't speak french to them. It is often seen as disrespectful. They don't expect you to be perfectly fluent, but they most certainly expect you to try.

6 hours ago, Hellothere77 said:

Every patient encounter with a francophone began with, "Desole mon francais n'est pas le meilleur, mais je vais esseyer", and no one ever objected or got frustrated with me. I don't even know if that sentence grammatically correct, but it's probably better if it's not, really drives the point home.

It is grammatically correct btw haha! :)

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