Empowering Multilingual Communication

Fostering Language Learning for a Welcoming Shopping Experience

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Somayeh Safa at Provigo Le Marché Boucherville on March 28, 2024. (CREDIT: Anastasia Dextrene, CityNews Image)

One Provigo store on Montreal’s South Shore has found a way to make sure more of their staff is able to speak to customers in French.

That’s because many of its new hires have recently immigrated to Quebec. New employees of a Provigo in Boucherville are wearing a button saying they are learning French and asking people to speak slowly.

The button, whose face reads, “J’apprends le Français. I’m learning French. Merci de parler lentement,” goes a long way, says Martine Coulombe, frenchification coordinator and social media manager at Provigo.

The company also provides two free hours of French lessons in a week to employees during their regular shifts in order to enable them to learn.
“That’s a very good happiness from the customer about that, because they know that we’ve hired many newcomers, but they didn’t know that the other ones cannot speak French,” says Coulombe.

She says it all started with new hires who came to Quebec seeking refuge from the Ukraine War. A language barrier urged the store to offer support by enrolling them in French classes. Newcomer employees like Safa, from Iran, have taken the opportunity to learn the language. Safa told CityNews that she herself has been in Quebec for a short 10 months. In fact, she has learned the English language first as a schoolgirl in Iran. Though she has a background in microbiology, but she is good many years out of practice and much prefers to use her French at every opportunity.

Should occasion arise with a customer not fully understood, Safa simply points to her button and, in turn, the recent hire said, clients more than willing to proceed with patience.

Source: CityNews

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