Learn to overcome the anxiety when the English and French languages interact.
Are you not feeling confused when a print media expected to publish an article written in French does it in the “other” language? Although the content of this article could not be geared more toward a francophone native speaker having overshot bilingualism –like so many have, it is nonetheless written in English. Welcome again then to this feeling of awkwardness you have most likely experienced before!
Yes, French is really not a problem in BC anymore. Indeed many British-Columbians have chosen for their children the French immersion fast lane, away from slow learning or ESL kids. Many have had lasting relationships with francophones that are perfectly bilingual and integrated in the so-called Rest Of Canada (ROC), to the point of wondering if Kevin Tremblay still do french anymore. In retirement, western Canadians are often enjoying the humor, the spice and the lifestyle of “French Light” first made popular by Peter Mayle “One year in Provence”. Not to mention that the French character set is far less challenging than these Asian language ones and the demography that comes with it in a truly multilingual world.
A majority of Canadians in fact commonly find nowadays this bilingualism aspect of Canada a worthwhile difference from our neighbor South and deeply regret this lingering pain with Québec. It has not always been the case though. Long gone are the days of anger at French being shove down the throat when gazing at the morning cereal box or the after mat of Québec Bill 101 STOP sign backlash. The bickering within the federal public service lingers amongst many other workforce ills, but what’s new?
The movie “Bon cop, bad cop”, various CBC/SRC broadcasts and many stage productions (e.g. The Andersen Project) have been showcasing clever examples of “smart bilingualism” and hence reviving the taste for the second language. The damage done by struggling over learning these awful verb conjugations and whether to say “la pomme” or “le pomme” have somewhat faded away. Enough really to turn off many French kids in our media age of short attention span and quick fix. New second language learning schemes are making headways too.
Money being what it is, the Postnews media conglomerate recognized eons ago that it could benefit by distributing its content to new market segments in its digital form: the entire newspaper content can be read in up to twelve languages (including French) and even listened to. Google amongst many others have of course embraced long ago a multilanguage world. The convenience of shorter queues in French or the advantage of not speaking the same language of the neighbor south when traveling abroad can also open new doors. Note that our American neighbors may already be doing so along with displaying that Canadian flag. The children of recently immigrated Canadians are now picking up French too after the violin, piano and math lessons in order to better compete in our Brave New world.
But as the French language makes further inroads in the ROC, should we realistically not expect a whole slew of new integration issues. Should we not simply go back to a simpler world where everybody did one and only one language in “la réserve”? If you answer no (i.e. la pilule bleue), welcome then to the world of “la frangouiche”, a matter in which francophones living in the ROC have learnt to master. You may benefit from a few good tips on your head start.
Bravo by the way, you have just indeed *positively* experience this anxiety related to the interaction in between different native language speakers, namely French in English. For the media publishing this article, the editorial decision would have to be made on whether the story would be offensive or even of interest to its existing readers or perhaps reach sufficient new ones? For the author of the article, the decision of what language to use for the content had to be made. Also, should the title be strictly in English or in French or perhaps in both? All of these exemplify some level of “frangouiche” stress.
The examples are countless in the world of “la pilule bleue”. Think about all these French immersion kids having invested years in learning the language and coming out of schooling to find out that it is not obvious to use unless joining the public servant workforce and even then… Think about being told that “French is cool and sexy” and that you are in quest for your identity: would this not be le gros stress? Or feel that relationship in between bilingual kids and unilingual parents? Consider what language two native speaking francophones living in the ROC are likely to use when greeting each other. And then, what language should two couples used at a dinner party if one single person is not comfortable with French? Think about an “exogame” couple household; consider how each parties interact with each other as well as the relationship with the kids most comfortable with the common language on the back-alley, i.e. English.
Back to the mercantile world, how about the initial engagement in between a French speaking Customer (or a bilingual one wanting to practice its French) when getting service in a business trying to respond to its Customer preferences? Consider the cliché case when an English speaking Canadian wants to improve its French and gets answered in English by a Québécois wanting to practice the other language… Or my personal case when once traveling in France, I was very proud to show to my Montreal west island raised spouse how useful would my native language be and get answered by the locals in English! Ouch. Are we simply and totally dysfunctional on this whole matter with no hope whatsoever?
We must all first better recognize that it is perfectly normal to experience some level of stress when people of different languages interact. We have indeed made much progress from the days of slaughtering each other upon such an encounter. Not all that long ago really. So let’s be cheerful on the progress made and seek some more.
Learning from the field of modern communications, a protocol has to be established when two entities first interact. A language of preference should be quickly agreed upon but should not necessarily be the reference majority language. Easier said than done but it can be done if one applies oneself to it! No need to revert back to a reptilian stage.
In a hybrid language social setting, it seems reasonable that the language used will be hybrid as they have learnt to practice in Europe. It’s good to agree that the language of the “back-alley” is English in the ROC and French in Québec after a very long battle. These are however not the only languages anymore and people should learn to be more respectful of these simple differences and in fact appreciate them. Learning to effectively interoperate across languages can enrich your life and open new doors! Mais pourquoi pas?
*Note from the Editor: After overcoming our own language anxiety communicating with the author, we have found that “Frangouiche” is a made-up word of “Français/Anglais” and “anguish”. In the line of “franglais”, a mixture of French and English words, it is used to describe the anxiety one experiences when these languages interact. It would appear that using the word is itself therapeutic during these stressful interactions.