Sunday, August 30, 2009

Let's keep an open mind... or at least try to.

I’ve been debating if I should write about this issue or not, because, honestly, prior to a few weeks ago I never really thought of it as an issue; at least not for me. A fellow blogger posted something that kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t get offended often, not much really phases me, but when I read his post, I was taken aback by his dislike of us, French-Canadian. I’m not really the uptight type. Granted I can be a real bitch (and I assume all of it), but I’ll also say I’m not as pig headed as I once was. Some call it wisdom, other aging, whatever it’s called, I do know this, parts of me have tone down (and I’m not even talking about gravity here). One thing that really gets under my skin though is ignorance, as in stupid people. If you’ve been reading me you do know this. I do have opinions, and (especially) if you ask you will get an answer. It may not be what you'd hoped for, but it will be truthful. I’m blunt, and I assume that as well. All this, on top of being French-Canadian, go figure.

You may or may not know this, but the French being spoken in Québec isn’t the same as the French spoken in France. French people from Europe often say they can’t understand our French, which is (supposedly) like the old French, but they love our accent. That being said, even among ourselves we have different accents: people from Northern Québec don’t sound like people from Montréal do. There’s also a difference between urban and rural people. We all speak French, and yet it’s all different flavours, if you will. That being said, I also want to point out that some of these differences are also due to economical locations, or situations. I mean by that, that even in Montréal different neighbourhoods have somewhat different ways of speaking French. A French speaking person from the East-end of Montréal doesn’t speak at all like a French speaking person from Outremont. When you hear it you can tell which part of town they’re from. The East-end area tends to be lower class and Outremont tends to be an upper class area. This was especially true twenty years and more ago, and yet, I still can hear differences. Some parts of Montréal are known for their level of poverties etc.

I grew up in a poor area of Montréal. My parents worked hard to send me to a private school. They wanted me to have a good education, I’m thankful they did. When I started at that school, teachers kept correcting my French (Québécois) to “proper” French (European). I had to relearn how to speak in a way. But then, when I would get home, my father would get upset with me because I wasn’t talking “normally”. He would accuse me of turning snobbish on him, all this because of the way I spoke with them at home. I’ve learned to adapt. I could (and still do, often) switch from “proper” to “normal” depending who I was talking to. In a way it is like writing in English. You have the proper way of addressing people, and the casual. In French, especially, there is a lot of respect given to words you use. You don’t address an elder the same way you would a child, at least not back then (that has change somewhat), and I still don’t. Some say it’s about manners. Whatever it may be it makes French an interesting language for lack of a better word.

Now, let’s get back to the issue. Now every Canadian speaks both recognised, official, language of Canada. Most only speak one. English prevails in Canada, that’s a fact. But, there’s always a but, in the Eastern provinces French is a lot more present. As soon as you get out of the Montreal area you’re in French territory sort of speak. Even in town, many people only speak French. My parents don’t speak English at all. Actually, most of my relatives only have one language; and a few do manage somewhat in English. I, personally, don’t really understand how they can survive in town with only one language, but they do. It is such a wasted opportunity not to take advantage of the chance we have to learn more.

Even if we may not speak English, we like to visit our neighbours down South, especially when our Loony is doing so well. I remember a few vacations, as a kid with my parents, where we didn’t speak English but still managed to visit attractions, do our groceries and actually enjoyed our time in the States. I guess we were lucky. The fact that we didn’t really spoke nor read English generated a few interesting moments, a for sure some stories to tell when we got back home. We got lost so many times, and yet, never felt like we were disturbing the people we’d stopped to ask directions. We might have answered a few questions (if asked really slowly) wrong, or even in French, but it wasn’t because we were being cocky, we were just French speaking tourists trying to figure our way out.

Nowadays there’s the GPS, which will bring you anywhere you want, but not everyone has such a little gizmo. Some people still enjoy their old paper maps, and even if their accent is really bad, please remember “at least they’re trying”, as bad as it may be, they are trying and if they answer “oui” instead of yes, who cares, you did understand their answer, so what’s the big deal?

Oh, one last thing: don’t judge all French-Canadian on some dumbass who speaks like he has a hot potato in his mouth, or someone who travels with an outdated map. Please, let’s keep an open mind ok?

I know I have an accent when I speak English, and you know what, I don’t care! My mother tongue is French, and damn it, I’m proud of that!


Green-Eyed Momster said...

I can honestly say that after hearing your sweet voice that your English is PERFECT! I love your accent!

Don't let him get to you, Stinkypaw!

His statement or statements were probably stupid. Like me saying that everyone in the States speaks perfectly good English! Seriously? I think the language here is Spanish and my Spanish sucks!


Barb said...

It certainly seems like the language here is Spanish. The nearby Target has all of their signage in English and Spanish. When I first walked in I thought for a moment that I was in Canada. ;-)

It's really neat to hear what a Quebecoise has to say about the language situation. Believe it or not, I learned all about the differences in accent and Quebecois vs. "French" French, from reading Kathy Reichs's books -- the ones the TV show "Bones" is based on. Much of the series takes place in Montreal because that's where the character (and the author) works part-time.

Anyway, it's the same in the U.S., even here in Chicago -- there are different accents and a lot of it involves social class. That can be tricky, though, because there can be very wealthy people who speak with what is stereotypically a lower-class accent. So, never assume.

I'm sorry you had a run-in with ignorance. OK. I'll stop rambling. :-)

St Jude said...

There are a lot of ignorant people in the world. It is their problem, not yours, you are perfectly fine as you are. These people often say the things they do due to their own inadequacies. Remember I deal with them on a daily basis. There are so many different accents and dialects here in Britain, being a Yorkshire lass I have experienced the ignorance of some narrow minded people when I lived in the South. I also made some of my best friends there. Entre vous et moi, There are some people that matter in life and some that don't.

You can giggle at my french accent I don't mind.

Marius said...

I'm told that when I speak Spanish, I do so with a Puerto Rican accent. Go figure. This world has more dicks than an American Bandstand Halloween party, and most of them are limper than boiled pasta. Don't let the bastards get you down. Omelette du fromage!!;-)

Barb said...

Yes! Marius's comment reminded me that when I speak Tagalog, other Filipinos either think my American accent is amusing, though it doesn't seem to me that I speak with an accent, or they flip out they I "still" speak the language at all!

Charlie said...

Wouldn't the world be a boring place if everyone on the planet spoke the same language—like American English, which every American speaks badly? (A random example: our ex-president, Shrub.)

SabrinaT said...

I have always thought French is the language of romance and love...

kara said...

i'm proud of your tongue too. never stop using it.

Stinkypaw said...

GEM: Well thank you! He did get to me, but I'm ok now. :-)

Barb: I love Kathy Reich's books, and recognize many locations from her descriptions of Mtl. Ignorance is everywhere and in all languages, that much I know! ;-)

StJude: I'm sure I would love your accent (in English AND French)! Thanks.

Marius: Thank you sire, you're too kind and love your analogy, good point! ;-)

Barb: I'm assuming that Tagalog is a Philipino language? (never heard of it before, must Google it!)

Charlie: Actually if everyone spoke like the ex president it would be very confusing... but then again if we all spoke that way, it might be "normal"... But it would be boring if we were all the same, that much is true.

SabrinaT: It hought Italian was the lanhuage of love... and that may be because I do speak French! ;-)

kara: Thank you, I'm not planning to stop!

Meg said...

And you should be proud!

Kim said...

you are perfect the way you are and hes an idiot for generalizing and well just for being an ass!

cinnamon girl said...

Haha, Marius reminded me that I apparently have a German accent when I speak Hungarian. There was much confusion all round until I worked that one out (cue endless rounds of me saying 'nem basailek Magyarul, I don't understand anything you're saying' and them saying 'I know, that's why I'm answering you in German, what are you a Dummkopf or something?') Hours of fun.

Much fun.

Hey I've been wanting to ask you something, but I don't know if there actually is *an* answer. What do Canadians think about living in a bilingual country, and is there any difference between the French-speaking and the English speaking views? I mean is it:
a)bilingual's great, love it, why wouldn't you (I don't mean you personally, I mean the general mood of everyone)
or is it
b) bilingual sux, it's so hard and our/the other language has/should have dominance here, dammit!
or is it more like
c)bilingual? Oh yeah, I'd forgotten about that, it's been the norm so long it doesn't even register.

Are there overt public moods and thoughts on it, or is it just.... there?