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CBC’s English language Radio’s “C’est la vie” is one of the networks longest running and more successful radio programs. It runs once a week on CBC Radio One, for 30 minutes each time (Sundays 6:30 p.m.,Tuesdays 11:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m. NT).
If you wish to learn more about life in French-speaking Canada (strong concentration on Québec, but with focus on other areas of Canada as well), then this program is for you. C’est la vie’s target audience is Anglophone Canadians, and can provide you with much in the way of context, and sub-context, to help understand important nuances and values in French speaking Canada.
I have to admit that the program does an excellent job of remaining politically neutral, and you will never feel there is any political message or bias (a very difficult task to pull off considering the variety of subjects discussed).
The completely bilingual host (you wouldn’t know if he is Francophone or Anglophone), Bernard St-Laurent, is the political editor for CBC radio Montréal. He’s often sought for political perspectives, analysis, and commentaries on numerous other programs and networks (he is one of a rare handful of reporters anywhere in Canada who lives across, and understands issues across both Francophone or Anglophone linguistic lines. Chantal Hébert may be one of the only other such people who I readily can think of). Because of St-Laurent’s unique perspective, he asks the show’s guests questions that Anglophones would not have thought to have asked, and he delves into issues which gives Anglophones a completely new perspective of their own country and cultural heritage.
I cannot think of any other program like this one, anywhere in Canada (Grégory Charles’ former CBC/Radio-Canada television show Culture shoc is the only other one that comes to mind). In my teen years, during the constitutional rounds, and referendum years, I remember thinking that a wide-ranging program such as this was desperately needed in Anglophone Canada to help bridge the Two Solitudes. I can actually remember where I was in 1998 when I heard an advertisement on CBC radio that they would be launching the new program C’est la vie. I made a point of catching the launch of their first episode, and I’ve been a fan of the program ever since (even when I moved abroad, I made a point of downloading their podcasts).
It helps to fill in numerous missing gaps, and it gives a good number of small “uh huh” moments – which over time, weaves a bigger picture of issues and lifestyle.
The last 5 minutes of the program provides a language capsule. Each week, the show’s “word lady”, Johanne, teaches the audience a new word in French, and explains its many uses, both formally and colloquially.
We’re fortunate that this is one of the best archived radio programs on CBC’s website. You can listen to programs going back years, and past programs are available as podcasts (perfect lengths for daily commutes).
I really hope this program continues to evolve into something bigger. Time will tell what they do with it. But with the program having reached millions and millions of Anglophones over the last 15 years, I don’t think it will be going off air any time soon.
The link for the show’s official website, including archived programs, is HERE
iTunes also has a word-of-the-week and program podcast library.
Hats off to all the crew at C’est la vie !!
The show’s long-running host, Bernard St-Laurent, retired last week. The show will be back this fall with a new host (and the same producer, Alison Cook, and same word lady, Joanne, who both contribute so much to making the show a success).