Friendship Force's Presentation to the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada
On June 21 2013, representatives of My Language Exchange and Friednship Force International
presented to the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada the benefits of using language exchange practice to
promote bilingualism in Canada.
The following is a summary of the presentation of George Brown, President of Friendship Force International.
- Friendship Force International (FF) was created with the endorsement of President
Jimmy Carter in 1977 for the purpose of bringing people together across the barriers
that separate them. We do it through a global network of volunteer clubs in 57 countries.
Groups of 16-24 members from one country are hosted for a week in the homes of their
counterparts in a different country. The informality and genuine hospitality of the home
stay environment provide an excellent setting to break down barriers and establish lasting
- For years FFI treated the “language barrier” as not being important: “Don’t worry, you’ll
get along fine.” In recent years we’ve come to understand that language is important
and that in many cases our exchanges provide an excellent setting for language learning
to take place. Therefore, we have asked our non English speaking clubs , for example,
the French in France and Quebec to conduct the host week in their native language as
opposed to English as the default language. We are calling them “Global” exchanges
because they will be open to both native speakers and learners of the language and come
from all over the world, not just one city. We have had Germans in the US improving
their English, Americans traveling to Bogota for Spanish, French to the UK for English
and soon, we hope, Canadians and others traveling to Quebec for French (and vice versa).
- With the new partnership between FFI and My Language Exchange.com (MLE) we
are able to take this one step further, using the MLE website to offer their members
the opportunity to join one of the many exchanges that provide excellent programs for
language learners in French and English among others. The process has now begun and
we look forward to expanding the linkage in the months ahead. We are doing this by
opening up many of our English language hosting opportunities to new participants; as
well as developing customized language learning opportunities.
- FFI is also interested in using the language learning theme as a way to expand our
programs in Canada, particularly in Quebec and other francophone regions. Any support
that can be provided by the Official Language Commission in this effort will be greatly
appreciated. FFI is a non-profit organization, and while there is a fee for people to
participate, we are not seeking any financial assistance from the Commission. What we
value are your ideas on how to get the word out about our programs to key people in
various regions of the country.
- Finally, we are hoping that our resources, particularly when combined with those of
MLE, may be of assistance to the Commission as it carries out its mission and we are
eager to find ways to make this a reality. We are encouraged by the interest that has been
shown by the Official Language Commission and appreciate the opportunity to make this