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Mark is a meteorologist for the Meteorological Service of Canada, and his goal is to receive a CBC rating on the federal Second Language Evaluation. Discover his impressions of language learning with LRDG!

Mark in a few words…

I am a meteorologist with the Meteorological Service of Canada. In my 16-year career, I worked 8 years as an operational meteorologist issuing weather forecasts, advisories, watches and warnings for Canadians. The subsequent 8 years I have spent working to improve the forecasting tools, integrating data, and improving the performance of those tools. I love to travel and got to do quite a bit of it with work before the pandemic. The application that I work on is developed by Germany, Switzerland, Denmark and Canada. It is a very interesting partnership and I have been able to get an international perspective of the meteorological community. I grew up in Toronto and now am lucky enough to live there as well.

I work for a federal organization and so it is important for my job that I speak French. French was not a priority when I was growing up in Toronto, so I only ever received an introductory level (Grade 9). Looking back, this is very unfortunate! When I joined the federal public service, I knew that French was going to be required if I ever decided to work with people outside of my region. Having very little background training made this feel like a huge step to have to take.

Did you have any experience with the French language before studying with LRDG?

Before I started with LRDG, I had some introductory training with some government contracts for 3 hours per week of group tutoring at work, and some similar type of training off site. I found these sessions hard to prioritize with ongoing priorities at work. As they were group sessions, they were easy to miss.

How did you hear about LRDG?

Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, all government language contracts were cancelled. New contracts would have to be set up with details that made sense for remote learning. My colleague in Human Resources had been using LRDG to learn English and said that it was excellent. She also helped me to understand that it was easy to set up contracts with LRDG because they were on standing offer already!

For what purpose did you learn a second language? Did you achieve your goal?

My goal is to receive a CBC rating on the federal Second Language Evaluation (SLE). Due to the pandemic, they have not started testing employees, so I have no idea if I’ve reached my goal! I suspect not, though. I started with LRDG in a full-time program for three and half months. I think this was absolutely necessary when starting to learn any language. It was the push I needed to get me motivated and confident. I am now doing 2 hours of tutoring and 6 hours of self-study each week in addition to my normal work.

What did you like most about your language learning program?

I have been with LRDG for about 16 months and have had 6 different tutors. I have really enjoyed each tutor for different reasons. Each tutor has provided me with unique perspectives that have not only helped with the module I am currently working but also the previous one, where there were gaps. I thought changing tutors frequently would disrupt my learning, but I feel like it has reinforced it.

How has learning a second language impacted your everyday life?

After one of my tutors suggested it, I have been listening to Radio Canada and watching shows on I maybe understand 60% of what is being said, but a month ago it was 30%! This has been a major step for me. Letting myself not understand what is being said but still listening has unlocked my subconscious learning. I find it easier to ‘think’ in French after listening and watching. I have learned that letting yourself be bad at something helps you to get good at it.

Was it hard for you to begin this language learning journey?

Yes, this was probably the hardest part for me. Having had very little French background, I put off learning when opportunities arrived. I dabbled in apps like Duolingo, but it never really felt like I was learning until I had to start talking to tutors or colleagues.

How do you feel about your experience with LRDG?

I have really enjoyed LRDG. The full-time program was very intense, but I think necessary for learners like myself. It certainly pushed me through the initial awkward phase of learning a language and not having the confidence to be able to communicate effectively. The tutors have all been patient and supportive through each module, even the ones I was not mastering! One big advantage I think I am getting from using LRDG is that all the of the communication is done through a computer. In the new normal (post-pandemic), it is very likely that most opportunities I will have to speak with French colleagues and stakeholders will be through virtual meetings and email. Using LRDG, I have had to learn some soft language skills, like how to use a multilingual keyboard efficiently. During my full-time training, I switched my operating system language to French to further immerse myself.

What’s your favourite word or expression in French?

Mon mot préféré est « grenouille » et mon expression préférée est «j’ai d’autres chats à fouetter».