Alumni Profile: Australian Journalist Ean Higgins

2010-2011 Issue 2

FRENCH ASSIGNMENT LEADS TO IMPRESSIVE WRITING AWARD

Based in Australia for 30 years, Canadian journalist Ean Higgins grew up in Montreal, where he attended Lower
Canada College. He is a recent graduate of the Intensive French program and winner of an AJIQ* journalism award for best opinion piece, which began as a class assignment.

What was your motivation to learn French at McGill?

By the time I left Canada, my French was quite strong. It really comes in handy in my career as a journalist, including breaking news stories and when I was a foreign correspondent in Europe for my newspaper, The Australian. As well, I love Quebec and La francophonie, so speaking French is a link to them. In the past, I have done intensive courses in France but this time I decided to spend time with my Montreal family, and McGill offered a first-class summer course.

What were some of the highlights of your program?

Niveau cinq – where we called ourselves Les Presque parfaits – was a lot of fun. It was very thorough and superbly taught by Madame Kumor and Mademoiselle Oriol. We had quite a diverse and talented group of international students, and we enjoyed each other’s company in and out of class. There was a lot of variety too, such as role-playing and various excursions, including to Old Montreal.

Did your article begin as a class assignment?

Yes. In addition to the regular homework, Madame Kumor asked us to keep a weekly diary where we documented some of our observations. I had experienced a lot of annoyance at not being able to
speak French in Montreal without being responded to in English, which, of course, went completely against the grain of the language laws introduced by Quebec governments over the past 40 years. I became so infuriated that I developed a few cunning strategies to speak French in Montreal, then I wrote an amusing article about them.

Was it difficult to get published by Le devoir?

As a journalist, I know that you have to carefully look for the right newspaper and section where your story will fit. Le Devoir has long been my favourite Canadian newspaper, and I thought its intellectual nature would lend itself well to an opinion piece about some of the ironies of language politics in everyday Montreal life. A few days after I sent my story – L’anglo de Saint-Pierre – it was published.

What prize did you win?

I was awarded the Grand Prix for a texte d’opinion by AJIQ. They gave me several hundred dollars (which I blew that night celebrating!), a very elegant notebook in a leather case and a dashing testimonial, which sits very handsomely on my wall along with my McGill Certificate of Proficiency in French.

Who would you recommend the intensive French program to?

I’d recommend it to people who are very serious about improving their French and who are prepared to work hard doing the assignments, participate actively in class and strive for good marks.

*Association des journalistes indépendants du Québec.

Editor’s Note: To read Ean’s article, go to:
www.ledevoir.com/non-classe/263881/l-anglo-de-saint-pierre

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