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!