As a child I dreamed of travelling, exploring new horizons and learning other languages. Whenever my parents took a trip I always hoped that they would take me along on their journey, at the very last minute. Their travels were a time of long absences and tearful goodbyes.
Wanting to escape myself, I came up with a dialect that I shared with my little sister. I did not understand why we only spoke one language at home. I would have loved my mother, by virtue of her origins, to speak to me in Greek, but my grandfather, who arrived in France at the age of 18 to study medicine, did not want to pass it on to his children. To be fully integrated into society, it was important, he said, to speak only French. It was another era!
Growing up, I wanted to move with the times. I wanted to go on an adventure. With its two official languages, Canada seemed to be the ideal country. I would be able to improve my English in the English-speaking provinces and speak French while on vacation in Québec. During my first Canadian experience in Toronto in 2012, I was impressed by the city’s cultural diversity and energy. I had the impression of changing countries by changing neighbourhoods: absolute happiness. In addition, I truly felt that I was in an English-speaking territory. I did not have an opportunity to speak French.
Heading to Vancouver this year, a region far removed from Québec geographically, it seemed obvious to me that I would not be speaking my mother tongue here either. However, I quickly realized that the francophone world is very present in British Columbia and is developing
First of all, I had the chance to meet Quebecers with whom I felt close immediately, as if we were part of the same family. And to my surprise, I also discovered that the local anglophones liked French and that a number of them spoke it. In France we try to include the maximum number of English words in our vocabulary. Here the language of Molière fascinates.
Although they often apologize –
being good Canadians – for not speaking French well enough or for not having the right accent, everyone has an anecdote or experience about the French language to share. They often rediscover their childhood smiles by telling me how they learned French at school or by recalling memories of holidays in Paris. Young and old – everyone works with a will to progress.
My little four and five year old neighbours love learning new words and proudly practice pronouncing the French “r” correctly. I was surprised that their mother who, with a divine English accent, makes them repeat a few sentences. I also received an official invitation to play soccer because, according to them, “all the French are good in that sport.” Thank you “les Bleus!”
We enjoy a reputation that makes for friendly encounters and a good rapport, provided of course we do the legwork. When I arrived in Vancouver, I was apprehensive. In the end I had no difficulty integrating into my neighbourhood or making friends with English and French-speaking Canadians whose hearts are as big as their country. Today I can say that I speak two languages every day.