Meet Michelle Bartleman: A Proud Bilingual Athlete

The following is an excerpt from an article published at vancouver2010.com:

Michelle Bartleman is an accomplished skeleton athlete who has been competing for Canada for three seasons. As a 2014 Olympic Winter Games hopeful, she’s a passionate and busy person, splitting her time between training, web and graphic design, blogging, competition, volunteering, travel, fun, friends and flying — yes flying.

Currently living in Squamish BC, she is a proud Canadian who has come to understand the importance of French/English bilingualism. “I am a big supporter and enthusiastic proponent of Canadian bilingualism, a subject that is often treated with a lot of contempt and mockery out here in Western Canada,” she writes in her blog.

Originally from Montreal, Bartleman grew up in an English-speaking home and is the oldest of four children. In her early years, her family moved to Alberta where she attended a French immersion elementary school. Growing up, she didn’t understand the full scope of her parents’ insistence on bilingualism and like most children, didn’t care for French in school.

“No English kid likes going to school in French in Alberta because, you know, it seems irrelevant. I didn’t understand why it mattered or why it was relevant,” Bartelman recounts. “My dad made me do the Concours d’art oratoire (public speaking contest) from the time I was six. So to me everything was an effort and I saw no real world relation, especially because I come from an Anglophone family.”

Despite her dad’s best efforts to enforce “French night” at home, Bartleman still didn’t get why it was so important to speak both English and French.

Around age 11, she and her family moved back to Montreal where she attended an English high school. “It’s different when you’re in Montreal once you get to high school. You go to French class in high school in Montreal and sure you might hate it, but then you go out with your friends who are French or who speak French and it translates right . . . no pun intended.”

While Bartleman went on to pursue her life’s passions, she began to understand her father’s insistence on her learning Canada’s other official language. As she travelled across the country, she noticed that a whole lot of people speak French in Canada. “I go other places in Canada and meet all these francophones and I think it’s really cool.”

As she started participating in international competition, Michelle understood the importance of her second official language even more, meeting other athletes from around the world, making friends and picking up other languages in the process!

Click here to read the entire article.

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