Did you notice a Silver Line embedded in your life?
Mine is certainly strongly connected with the French language.
I start learning French in the 5th grade, and continued throughout the high school. I’m Romanian, and it’s easy for us to learn French, since both languages are of Latin origin: most of the words have the same root, and the grammar is very similar.
Although I had the chance to correspond with French teenagers while in school, I start becoming aware of my French Silver Line only 18 years after I graduated the high school. I was working at Romtelecom at that time, and joined the Brasov Poste-Telecom Association who was matched with a similar association from France (Association de jumelage Poste-Telecom de Rouen). Every other year we had the chance to welcome in Brasov, for two weeks, a delegation from the French association; needless to say, I got involved more and more in this exchange and made French friends.
Meantime, I was taking courses in Business Administration. At the end of the program I won a bourse for a month internship in… France! One of my new French friends helped me to get accepted by La Poste for that internship. I had the chance to go quickly through the French grammar rules before embarking on this adventure, who will take me outside Romania for the first time for more than… a day. 🙂
A big surprise was waiting for me: not only I was very well welcomed by all the members of the Rouen Association, but I was surprised to notice how my French vocabulary from childhood found its way out of a darker corner of my memory when I less expected! My French became more fluent after a month of French immersion in Rouen (beautiful city!).
Few months after coming back, another opportunity showed up: the institute where I took those courses got funds from European Union (EU) to sponsor students’ registration in a … French MBA! The institute provided the space, and professors from a Paris University came to Brasov to deliver in French a fast-track MBA (two years in one). Well, I couldn’t say “no” to such a great opportunity, which ended up being bigger than expected: by the end of the program we found out that EU funded the whole program for the 6 students (out of 46) who graduated… me included! Yeeyyyy!!! Part of that MBA was also an internship of 4 months in… France! My French friends helped me again to find an organization who accepted my internship: Chambre de Commerce et Industrie de Haute-Normandie. Very useful experience that helped me understand my professional value outside Romania. Gaining more confidence in my skills, and noticing how quickly I can adapt to new situations, I start the immigration process to Canada (via Quebec). French helped me also in this process, and with a Canadian visa I landed in Toronto in 2003.
First job? You guess: bilingual (French-English) Customer Service at American Express. Should I say that my visits to the Centre francophone de Toronto (CFT) helped me land that 1st job?! The CFT employment counsellor sent them my resume, and two of CFT employees gave me references… all people I’ve just met in my first two Canadian weeks! Imagine how grateful I was by that time to my French! Becoming part of the Romanian and French communities in Toronto certainly smoothed my immigration process. Two months after getting the 1st job, I switched to a 2nd one which was more appropriated to my engineering background: HW Quality Assurance at Alcatel. One of the projects I worked with was RATP, for the Paris (France) metro line 13!!! Should I guess that my French helped me land that job too?! 🙂
Three years later, I was already on the path of a career change. I became interested in volunteering with Centre francophone, and to find a new job where I can use my new coaching skills. In less than a month I made the switch again, to start a mentoring program for professional newcomers at … Centre francophone de Toronto!
He he he … French again, but this time I ended up working there for 5 years, delivering the mentoring program in French. In parallel I continued to focus on my coaching business, and was featured three times by TFO (French Television Ontario), and got a CBC radio interview because of … my French. 🙂
And the journey continues. In 2011, I founded the first (and only, up to now) English-French Toastmasters Club in Toronto. I wanted to help people understand, anglophones and francophones in this case, that learning vocabulary and grammar of a foreign language is not enough; there are certain ways of conveying messages that differ from one culture to another. For example: anglophones have a more direct style, while francophones are more diplomatic when they want to say something. Not being aware of such differences could lead to misunderstanding, and lack of effective communication – I wasn’t spared of these until I’ve learned this lesson! Little I know at that time that this club will help me stay fluent in French, make great new friends, and open new doors for me.
While I was a CFT employee, I wasn’t allowed to have a photo exhibition at the Galerie Celine Allard, which belongs to … CFT! There are only two French galleries in Toronto, as far as I know, and only that one gets funding for Toronto French artists from Ontario Council of Arts. By sending an application after I stopped working at CFT, I’ve got the pleasure to be accepted by the jury and asked to have a photo exhibition sooner than I’ve expected (September 2012 instead of March 2013); plus possible funding to cover some of the expenses for the exhibition. French helped me, again!
There are other things going on right now, related to my French, but I might talk about them another time. 🙂
So, what is your Life Silver Line?
If you didn’t noticed it by now, it might be useful to become aware of it, and trust that it has some more “goodies” in store for you! 🙂