It has been more than a few months since I moved to Quebec and so far I am loving everything about it. Although, I definitely need to hone my French skills. By hone, I mean develop them. Working in a French school I find myself learning more and more French, even if I work in the English/Languages Department and have a comfortable English bubble around me. The students and other teachers who don’t quite know me will speak to me in French. Even ones who do know me and do know my proficiency level in French often speak to me in French because they are trying to get me practicing. Learning a new language is nerve wracking and incredibly difficult at times. One of the largest barriers I find is that as a native English speaker I can be lazy when it comes to learning a new language. As English speakers we tend to just assume everyone is going to speak English because that is one of the dominant world and business languages. So, like with most things, we let others do the work for us. Honestly, I feel that allowing this to happen really hinders us, intellectually and culturally, while also not giving us a true access to the world.
There is a nervousness that comes with learning something new. We are afraid to make mistakes and sound stupid. We won’t learn if we let this hinder us. I have just recently been accepting people laughing at how I pronounce French words. I will say words and laugh when I make a mistake and try my best to fix it. The best way is to laugh at your mistakes. No one is perfect and especially learning a new language. Many of my students are so nervous to make a mistake but those who are able to laugh it off have been the ones who continue talking, they don’t hide within themselves.
While there is a huge divide between English Canada and French Canada, I have found many people to be accepting of my English. I do live in a larger city though. All I can really say, is that education of official languages has to be redone. It has to be looked at critically because in Ontario at the very least, French is not taught very well. It’s time to update and expand. We are cut in half and to be whole again we must be more accepting and learned.