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Adding French to your English Event: A new resource from the Health Promotion FLS Capacity Building Committee

The Health Promotion French Language Services Capacity Building Committee (HP FLS CBC) was comprised of a number of provincial health promotion resource centres who provided services in French to clients across Ontario. For more than fifteen years, committee members worked to build relationships with Francophone stakeholders and increase services delivered in French.

The HP FLS CBC was funded by the Government of Ontario from 2002 to March 2018 and was administered by Health Nexus. Over the years, we have held workshops and events, published resources, and built the capacity of member resource centres to provide service in French. Committee members routinely included French in our conferences, workshops and events. As our final product, we have create a resource in English and French based on what we have learned about adding French to English events. We hope to give you tools and tips on how to plan events that successfully and easily include a second language – even if you only speak English!

Why should I include French in my event?

Many organizations must provide services in French.1  Currently 4.8% of Ontario’s population is Francophone, while this does vary from region to region.2 Francophones in 25 designated areas across Ontario have the right to demand and receive services in French from provincial and federal government offices3 and certain organizations that are funded by the Ontario government.1

Even if you aren’t required to offer French services, there are other benefits to including French in your events. If your goal is to include people from all over Canada (or beyond), consider that over 220 million people in the world speak French. French is the most widely learned language after English. Online, French is the 3rd most used language after English and German.4 Adding French to your event may help meet the needs and wants of your audience and your organization. You could attract a new audience, fulfill an initiative, or broaden scope by breaking the language barrier. And you can do this without speaking French yourself.

Planning a bilingual event

The resource include a number of questions and provides information for each, to help you plan and execute your event.

  • Why you are hosting this event? Define your event goals and objectives, which will help you decide where French integration is needed. By outlining what your organization expects to gain from hosting a bilingual event or incorporating French into your event, you will be better able to decide points such as what needs to be translated or adapted, how many bilingual staff you will need, and how you will communicate with your Francophone audience.
  • Who is your audience? Effective events are planned with the audience in mind. Events that fail often did not have clearly defined audiences. While catering to all audiences may sound more inclusive, your organization and your participants may find it more rewarding if your event is tailored to a specific audience.5
  • What Francophone stakeholders can you consult with? Involving Francophone stakeholders when developing your event will ensure that your event will be of value to them. Consider who your Francophone stakeholders are and how your event relates to their work and interests.
  • How can we deliver a bilingual event? Does your organization can the resources needed to deliver a bilingual event? What other resources will you need? Consider staff, communications, content, support, translation and interpretation needs.
  • What are the opportunities and challenges? Consider conducting a SWOT analysis to help you identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
  • How can I communicate with Francophones? Am I missing anyone? You will need to connect with Francophones where they are most active, and event promotions sent to Francophones will need to include audience-specific content.
  • How much French can I include? You don’t need to check off all these boxes to pull off a successful bilingual event. Determine what’s most important to your audience, and where you can start successfully.

Case Studies

Ophea Conference

Over the years, through the Ophea Conference, we learned the value of starting small, developing relationships first and then building upon initial successes. When we wanted to enhance the professional learning opportunities we were providing to our Francophone delegates, we added several French workshops to the Conference program all at once. However, we quickly realized that more right away isn’t always better. We didn’t have enough Francophone participants to fill the new sessions, which left both the knowledge sharing and networking expectations of delegates and presenters not fully met. Taking a more balanced, sustained approach, we engaged Francophones in planning workshop topics, formats, and numbers as well as their timing within the Conference program. Given the professional learning goals of this audience, quality definitely had the advantage over quantity.

HC Link Conference

We have found that building relationships with our Francophone clients and stakeholders was key. It is very easy to make incorrect assumptions about what stakeholders might want. For example, we provided simultaneous interpretation at our 2015 conference, both as an example of Active Offer of French services and because we believed our Francophone clients wanted or needed interpretation. However, the interpretation service was barely used. When planning our 2017 conference, we consulted with our Francophone stakeholders very early in the planning process. On their advice we offered a Franco Pavilion, Francophone networking opportunities, and French workshops – but no simultaneous interpretation. Our stakeholders stayed involved in the conference – some co-facilitated sessions or presented workshops. By actively engaging with Francophones to shape the content and format of the conference, we were able to better meet their needs.


Think of French integration as a continuum from none at all through to a fully bilingual event. You can begin by incorporate some French elements in your events, and increase the level of French over time. Start where you are and aim to move further along the continuum as your ability allows and as the needs of your Francophone audience require. Then ensure success by making sure you have the proper resources, materials and staffing on hand to be able to deliver the services you’ve planned to incorporate. Good luck!



1 Government of Ontario. Regulation 284/11: Provision of French Language Services on behalf of government agencies. Available from

2 Bodkin, A. and Delorme, P. First Steps to FLS Planning. HC Link, 2016.

3 Government of Ontario. French Language Services Act , R.S.O. 1990, c. F.32 Available from

4 France Diplomatie: Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs. 17 good reasons for parents and school principals to choose French. Available from

5Economic and Social Research Council. Defining your audience. Available from