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Montreal Families

Promoting French through public speaking contests

It started out as a small group of concerned parents nearly four decades ago in Ottawa. Today, Canadian Parents for French (CPF) is a national network of volunteers and parents with one common goal: the promotion of better French Immersion programs for children across the country.

The organization has branches in every province, and according to Marla Williams, coordinator for Quebec, “issues [regarding French Immersion] vary across the country.” Williams says that there is still a need for more immersion programs and improving ones that are in place.

As part of their mission to ensure students have the opportunity to become bilingual, CPF organizes an annual public speaking competition. The Concours d’art Oratoire allows nearly 80,000 students from anglophone schools to practice their French oral skills and raise overall interest in learning the language.

In order to participate, students must write an original speech specifically for the contest, three to five minutes in length, on the topic of their choice. While cue cards and memory aids are allowed, the speech must be primarily recited from memory.

The contest is divided into four different levels in which students can compete: classroom, school-based, provincial and national levels. Individual teachers organize the former two levels, while the latter two are organized by CPF. A student does not necessarily need to participate through their school in order to compete, but they must be linked to a teacher who will help them with their speech if they wish to move on to the provincial level.

Students are placed into their appropriate French competency level based on a series of questions and on their teacher’s knowledge of their skills, and then compete accordingly. The levels include: Core French, Enriched, Enriched Plus, Immersion and Francophone.

The contest is open to all secondary school students, and 35 in secondary 5 are eligible to move on to the national competition, held annually in Ottawa. The first place winners from each proficiency level will have their trips to Ottawa paid in full and can win cash prizes, trophies, and scholarships to the University of Ottawa and four universities in the Maritimes.

The deadline for registration is April 15. The provincial contest will be held at Holiday Inn Pointe Claire on May 2. The national contest will be held May 30.

For more information, call Marla Williams at 514-434-2400, or visit http://qc.cpf.ca/activities/ youth-activities/concours -dart-oratoire

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