Michael Arnot was educated in French Immersion at l’École Notre Dame in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, a small town of 20,000 people. Although the decision to enroll him in French is a result of his parents’ vision, he is very thankful that they made the choice.
“Quite simply, it has opened many doors for me,” says Michael. French immersion allowed Michael to hone his speaking skills, as he won first place in the northern Saskatchewan Concours d’art oratoire in fifth grade. His knowledge of French served him well in representing Saskatchewan in French debating at the 1994 National Student Debating Seminar in Winnipeg, Manitoba. As well, his self confessed Saskatchewan French earned him a job teaching swimming lessons to Francophone children for the City of Ottawa when he moved there in 1994.
A graduate of Ottawa’s St. Patrick’s High School, Michael moved on to the Royal Military College (RMC) of Canada, a bilingual institution that produces officers for the Canadian Armed Forces. “There is no doubt in my mind that having learnt French when I was young made it much easier to survive at the College,” he says.
Although he is exempt from French training at the College, with a Public Service lifetime exemption in spoken French, Michael continues to practice his French. He credits his French for helping his acceptance at RMC, a fully subsidized university. After all, he thinks that the decision to enroll him in French was one of the best decisions that his parents could have ever made!
Learning French has allowed him to study other romantic languages. He is now trilingual – English, French, and Spanish – and is working on Portuguese. He has graduated from McGill University’s bilingual National Law Program, with degrees in Civil and Common Law. As a policy adviser to Minister Pierre S. Pettigrew when he was Minister for International Trade and Minister of Health, Michael’s languages have been of incredible benefit. He and his wife now reside and work at a law firm in New York City – where all three languages come in handy!