Interdit: The dog that didn't bark (in English)

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The Independent US

It is always thought that English is one of the more difficult languages to learn. Common sense suggests that students new to the language require help, not hindrance.

Little wonder then, that native French speaker Yvan Tessier, who is blind, was more than a little perturbed when the authorities at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) in Canada told him he could not attend a five-week immersion class because his guide-dog only understood commands in French.

To allow Mr Tessier to speak to his dog in French would pollute the purity of the English-only classes, he was told. As a result, his dog was not welcome.

The ban on Mr Tessier, 39, and his black labrador, Pavot, became a mini cause célèbre with the university finding itself deluged with e-mails from around the world, complaining about its handling of the situation.

Politicians were contacted and there was talk of law suits claiming that Mr Tessier's human rights - and perhaps Pavot's canine rights - were being compromised. Mr Tessier said speaking to the dog in English would be dangerous because he might not understand the commands.

Finally this silly, shaggy-dog story had a sensible ending when the authorities at USB relented, allowing both Mr Tessier, from Trois-Rivieres in French-speaking Quebec, and his dog to attend. Before they compromised, however, Mr Tessier had to bring in Pavot for a trial run and promise that he would not break into French unnecessarily.Pavot apparently responds to 50 commands in French but he will be limited to no more than a dozen.

A University spokesman Brad Janes said: "He [Mr Tessier] is able to give commands in his native tongue but he has assured us that 99.9 per cent of what he will speak will be English. We have 250 students from across the world who come here for the course so we had to preserve the integrity of the course for them."

In a statement issued by the university, Mr Tessier said he was pleased to be finally starting the course. "I am thrilled to be joining the UNB programme and look forward to joining my classmates," he said.