Canada Summer Games Athlete Spotlight (part two of two)

In part one of the Canada Summer Games Athlete Spotlight, we started to explore the importance of athletes knowing both of Canada’s official languages and how their knowledge of both languages helps them throughout their sporting careers.

In part two of the Canada Summer Games Athlete Spotlight, we spoke with two athletes from Quebec, each of whom told us the story behind their bilingualism.

Bilingualism, a fundamental value

Thomas Markhauser, a 19-year-old sprint canoe athlete from Chelsea, Quebec, first started paddling around eight years of age and became competitive at age 12. He describes his best achievement to date as winning the C2-200 at the Canadian Sprint CanoeKayak Championships and breaking the record. “It was great representing my club [the Cascades Club], because I started paddling when the program was just beginning and I have seen how far it has come. If you had told me five or six years ago when I started paddling at Cascades that I would be a national champion, I would not have believed you because it was just such a small club. The win was really a community win, which is what made it special to be part of.”

Thomas attributes his knowledge of French and English to his parents, the community and his education. “I started elementary school in a French school. My parents wanted me to start out in a French school. They are really big on being bilingual. Even though my high school was English, I still completed the French immersion program. My mom instilled in me at a young age the value of speaking and responding in French and English. When she questions me in French I have to respond to her in French. That’s kind of the rule and it’s also how I tend to respond to my environments. For example, if I am in Quebec or in a French area, I’ll try to speak or answer people in French. Language for me really just depends on where I am. Bilingualism is a pretty big value in my family, because my mom’s side of the family is bilingual. Mom grew up French, so she always believes that it is good to be bilingual. Especially living in Chelsea, which is a very bilingual community.”

Thomas believes that his linguistic knowledge has helped open many doors in sports and has fostered better communication with the team. “I have had French coaches and English coaches; it is just that being bilingual has given me more access to more coaches, so it has been good that way.” Switching between French and English is also a normal part of Thomas’ day. “My parents always told me that being bilingual opened more doors, and the next thing I knew, a new door opened for me in Florida three years ago with the Quebec team. There, I was coached by a really good coach in French and the majority of the team was French. So it was all pretty much done in French. This was the first time I had to live and speak French close to 100% of the time. I really enjoyed it and it was also good because I got to work on my French, which, in all honesty, really helped me in school. I got really good grades in French after that. Every year, I look forward to the next training camp with the team.”

For Thomas, knowing both official languages has helped open more doors to different people, including athletes, coaches and others. “In sports, especially team sports, it’s all about communication. So you just manage to find ways to bridge two languages together. It’s not easy to learn a new language nor is it easy to do a new sport. It takes the same effort and you have to practise it and stick with it or else you kind of lose it. I try to speak French as much as I can to people who speak French.”

For information on Thomas Markhauser’s final results at the Canada Summer Games and future competitions, visit:

Endless opportunities

Andréanne Langlois, a 20-year-old from Lac-Beauport, Quebec, represented the province as a sprint kayak athlete. She has and continues to compete nationally and internationally. This was Andréanne’s second time competing at the Canada Summer Games. Her first was in 2009 at the age of 16. The 2013 Canada Games are particularly special to her. It was her last opportunity to represent Quebec at this event and she was driven to bring home the gold.

Andréanne is proud to be bilingual and attributes a large part of her linguistic success to sports. “It has helped me to find and understand the words when speaking and training, and the more you are exposed the easier it is to learn and adapt. In the beginning you make signs and try to communicate. Through this you become more comfortable and you learn words and begin to really understand. There is such a big difference between my English now and at the beginning. My teammates and I still sometimes laugh about my first experience at a major competition when I had difficulty finding my words. I had a really hard time trying to communicate, but I never gave up. Today, I am very fluent in English and extremely happy to see such a big difference since the beginning. I am very happy with how I learned my English. After five years, I am able to speak English well and am almost bilingual. Of course, I have more work to do but I am very happy.”

Being bilingual to Andréanne is a great tool that helps her to breach communication boundaries and gives her confidence to speak with more people around the world. “Now, I can easily speak with people from other countries because English is the international language. I can talk with Spaniards, Germans, people with whom I would have had trouble communicating before. I can ask questions to better understand. It’s a lot of fun and can sometimes be an amusing experience.” She shares a very passionate response regarding the importance of Canada’s official languages. “Yes, oh yes, they are very important. I think it is very important to defend the French language. However, English is the international language of business so it is very important. I think if we are able to speak English and French it can open many doors in sports and in future jobs.”

For information on Andréanne Langlois’s final results at the Canada Summer Games and future competitions, visit:

Published on Friday, September 20, 2013

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