Settled in Quebec since 1993, Antoun Karanta comes home after a business trip. He is a proud descendent of a talented Syrian family of tailors, whose skills have been passed down from one generation to the next. This shopkeeper uses his knowledge of the challenges associated with immigration in order to support his employees in learning French.

Antoun Karanta was the only member of his family with the opportunity to complete a secondary education. He quickly became indispensable to his family, who had set up a tailoring workshop in the basement of his home in Laval upon his arrival in Canada.

While his father, brothers and sisters followed classes at a COFI learning centre and maintained business relations with Tunisia and Syria, the 13 year old adolescent read them letters and other documents in French. “I had the opportunity to have a great experience in my reception class. I learned French quickly. In six months, I knew how to read and write. Everyone depended on me,” explains the co-owner of two Ateliers Karanta stores, which specialize in ready-to-wear clothing and custom tailoring – one in Laval and the other in Montreal.

Learning Through Daily Contact
While Karanta completed his studies, all the way through to university, his family learned French through daily contact with their clientele and by visiting local businesses. “They understood oral, Québécois expressions better than texts. Then, slowly, they began to learn English. It was necessary to be able to stay in business. The family adapted to the reality of the market,” he continued.

Well aware of the importance of understanding and expressing himself quickly in French to better integrate to Québécois culture, Karanta made it his responsibility to communicate in French with employees. “By speaking French with them, it familiarizes them with everyday words. It is only when they truly do not understand that I switch to Arabic or English. My everyday life is in French and I want our employees to speak French to each other, even if each profession has its own jargon,” the shop owner says.

The Secret: Hire an Immigrant
For Karanta, the best way to ease the integration of an immigrant to the Québécois community is to offer them work according to their qualifications. He recommends this approach to all entrepreneurs in Laval.

“Since arriving here 25 years ago, I believe that it is a tremendous advantage to be able to master three languages. I can understand French on the spot, I can help immigrants in their progress. This is a very qualified workforce. There should be no concern over hiring an immigrant. In Quebec, the main language is French. I have never felt divided by my maternal language and that of the country that has welcomed me. I have never had any issues defending the use of the French language to my employees. The more we communicate in French, the fewer racist experiences we are likely to have. I have only had one in my 25 years. For me, it’s a motivation,” Karanta explains.