I remain charmed by my French Department colleague Elzbieta Grodek’s assertion that a second language constitutes a completely different way of seeing the world. More than any kind of proficiency, I would submit that idea is the most compelling argument for insisting on language exams in graduate History programs independent of whether or not the students need the language for research. But that’s not what this short snippet is really about. This is more autobiographical. I think it probably speaks volumes that I have never thought of myself as the son of immigrants. But I am. My parents moved to Canada not long before I was born. Neither was British, but both grew up in England and subsequently moved to the United States. White, educated, Anglo. But Canadian immigrants nevertheless. My father was hired at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. At the time, the university was little more than a bunch of portables on top of Burnaby Mountain. Given the other potential job options that year—Ohio and Buffalo—that turned out pretty alright for my family. (With apologies to both those places, of course, but c’mon.) As immigrants in a new country—a Canada in the heyday of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism & Biculturalism and the Official Languages Act of the 1960s—my parents felt that their “Canadian” children should learn French. Should be bilingual. We were put in French Immersion from kindergarten. Someone can correct me, but I think that Lord Byng Elementary (later Jules Quesnel) was only the second elementary French Immersion school in Vancouver. I want to avoid pedagogical debates of the second language retarding English skills, etc. I turned out pretty good. But I was reading in English before I started French schooling. But, also: educated household valued/encouraged reading, writing, etc. I learned French. By the time I was 10-12, I was fairly proficient. I kept with it through Grade 12. The French Immersion model encouraged what it says: “immersion.” From almost day 1, the entire classroom experience happened in French. Students were encouraged to talk (in French) as a means of developing their vocabulary & proficiency. I think that probably instilled a great deal of confidence in the students. Not just in French language skills, but as people who should have voices and should expect to be heard. On the whole, we were pretty good, middle class kids. Maybe a bit obstreperous, but after many years of encouraging us to talk, teachers maybe found us a bit loud & chatty & unruly—didn’t quite know how to get us to shut up. During my MA at SFU, I asked Rod Day, the grad chair, if I needed to take a French language exam, explaining that I had been through the French Immersion program. “Ah! Tu parles français?” he said. We had a ten minute chat in French, after which he said: “you passed.” (Incidentally, I loved Rod Day’s undergraduate seminar on the French Revolution!) I repeated the same gambit at WSU during my PhD. “Ah! Tu parles Français,” said Richard Gough. We had a ten minute chat in French, after which he said: “Right. See you Tuesday for the test.” It’s been 25+ years since I studied in French. It’s rusty. I have trouble wrapping my tongue around words. I have trouble finding the vocabulary I want. But it’s in there. My wife is bilingual (and teaches French in a local Montessori). My older daughter is bilingual after graduating from French Immersion in Hamilton. She is now studying in a bilingual program at U. Ottawa. My littlest is enjoying French Immersion, too. Which is to say, I have had opportunity to not lose connection with French. But I also haven’t been pressed to use it. My mini-fiefdom at McMaster is that I hold a monopoly over chairing French Department PhD defences. My colleagues appreciate that I will try to manage the proceedings in French. I can still read. I can still understand. And I’m forcing myself to do more of both. I’m starting a new project that will force me to re-engage with my French. But my second language DOES offer another lens through which to see the world. One completely different from my first language. I think that encourages an openness to others’ experiences, to empathy. Not much of a conclusion. But there it is.