Becoming bilingual in French and tax on my co-op term

SAF student Murtaza reflects back on his past co-op work term as a tax analyst. In four short months he became capable of speaking French in a professional accounting setting and worked on 70 bilingual tax returns!

Bonjour!

Si vous parlez français, pouvez-vous faire ma déclaration de revenus?

To be honest, I wouldn’t have been able to understand half that sentence either if it weren’t for my co-op experience at Deloitte as a tax analyst…yes, a tax analyst. If someone told me I’d be enhancing my bilingual skills at an accounting co-op job, I’d think they either:

  1.  Don’t know that accounting is mostly numerical
  2.  Have no idea what they’re talking about (LOL)

Yet, four months and a global pandemic later I'm capable of speaking French in a professional accounting setting.

About a month ago, I got an email from my manager saying that I’ll be doing tax returns with the Ottawa office since she knew I was bilingual. My first thoughts were, “Quoi? What?” I hadn’t spoken French in months and now I’d be trying to learn the Income Tax Act in French?! It wasn’t an actual move to Ottawa since we’re all working from home but still, I’ve never spoken tax-French. But anyway, I was like let’s just get at it and grind through the month.

Murtaza Zaidi

The first email I got from Ottawa was bilingual so I was like “bless”. Then BOOM, I see clients named “Saint-Jacques, St. Fleur, François”. So, I thought of ways to get the hang of tax specific terminology. I knew that in April, managers and analysts would be busy grinding so I didn’t bother them. Instead, I looked at about 10 completed returns and their working papers to cross-reference documents to whichever tax form they belonged to and deduce their meanings. Through that, I familiarized myself with the common documents they received.

I quickly learned and had a good grasp on everything, but once in awhile, I’d pull up Google Translate because “je ne comprends pas”. From there on, it only got better as I did more returns. Without realizing it, I had worked on about 70 bilingual tax returns by the end of my term!

At the end of the day, I figured that it’s stereotypical to think that accounting is only about crunching numbers on an Excel sheet. This merging of two worlds, literacy and numeracy, was one I thought I’d never face. I’d definitely recommend everyone to explore new opportunities because you never know how absurd and enlightening they can be.

À la prochaine!

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