Pardon my French

It’s never too late: Peter Wolkove started learning French at 84.

by Ryan Schwartz

If you walk through the corridors of the Cummings Centre on a Tuesday morning, you might overhear the persistent rumbling of French chatter echoing off its walls. With classes in progress, and students engaging in French conversation as a means to refining their skills, you may even be able to pick out the voice of Peter Wolkove, a former President of Federation CJA, and one of the program’s dedicated participants over the last two years.

At 85 years old, Peter is one of many seniors who benefit from the programs offered at the Cummings Centre – an institution that specializes in providing enriching lifelong learning experiences to Jewish seniors over the age of 50.

Like many in the Montreal Jewish Community, Peter grew up in an Anglophone environment and attended schools where French instruction was less than stellar. “One of my first French teachers was actually a Scotsman,” says Peter, recalling his first encounters with the French language and the difficulty in learning it from teachers who barely spoke a word themselves. Throughout his life, Peter picked up whatever conversational French was needed for him to succeed in his accountancy and consulting career, gaining proficiency in industry lingo, but never quite being able to communicate confidently with people outside his business circle. After retirement, his opportunities to use the language became far less frequent.

For Peter, and many others, the Cummings Centre was there to fill that educational gap. Moreover, it exists to help satisfy an essential human need – lifelong learning and the broadening of one’s mind. Its diverse programming caters to all those who display a thirst for knowledge and the intrinsic drive to quench it. Both of which, Peter offers in abundance.

When asked what drives a man to take on the arduous task of learning a new language at such a point in his life, Peter’s response is markedly simple: “I learn because I’m alive”. Félicitations!

You can find more information on the Cummings Centre courses by visiting its website or by calling 514.342.1234.

Last year, Federation CJA allocated $1.6 million to the Cummings Centre, providing enriching, life-long learning opportunities for our seniors, as well as many valuable social services – all contributing to the quality of life.

  • [...] for those in our community. Some come straight to my class from an exercise class, or bridge, lunch or French lessons—all in the building. It is a wonderful social environment, a place to connect with new and old [...]

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