I recently returned from a business trip to the heart of francophone Quebec, a place where the French language is all too resoundingly in favour of putting the ’oise at the ending of every other word.
I, unfortunately, have limited communication skills with la belle langue but I was nevertheless still determined to get my point across: Quebec is a big place and there’s plenty of room for everyone.
Since the theme of the business trip was business (naturally), I had to effectively learn about our neighbours to the south in a quick and necessary assimilation process that covered nearly every technical jargon known to the entrepreneur and statesman alike.
What bothered me was my ability to somehow be understood, whether or not my long, drawn-out sentences with deliberation on whether or not it was passé or composé limiting my timeline to be forever in the past while still trying to express syntax in the future further complexed my bilingual deficiencies. So I determined that the best tactic was the watch, listen and learn approach.
During breaks, which were the length of a cigarette for many of the participants, I quickly established that due to the fact that the area we come from is equal to the size of the rest of Quebec but representative of one per cent of the population, made for some unequal arguments in favor of the southerners.
While bringing up the encroaching immigration of others from non-European countries, as either being an unstoppable economic force or liability, depending on who was speaking, I felt that they (southern Quebecers)felt the same way we did about 400 years ago. Since I could sympathetically understand their dilemma, I realized that the second coming of immigration would wash up on the shores of the language and culture issues. The evolution of who is Canadian or Québécoise or immigrant or tourist is about to rush the province into a new revolution of sorts.
The revolution is to quietly accept that the residents of other countries like our country because of all those laws that protect our own identities and cultures. In a way, they help create a country home away from your home country.
This is true whether your new home is conveniently nestled in the Laurentians or other small townships of Quebec, complete with mandatory language laws ensuring that you must speak as the others do. For I, it was a matter of when in Rome….
Amazingly, many hardened people with a single language were taken aback that the average Cree youth can parlay three languages with ease. So what’s with the inability of the old world people to keep with the Joneses to the north in terms of “spiken the tongues”? I say, keep up with the times, go global, stay simple and get along with your neighbours.
Respect the culture of adaptation. Acceptance is the key to harmony and getting along. Maybe, one century, our descendents will look back at us and wonder why we couldn’t get along in paradise, and deliberate on whether we fought all the time over silly things like language and cultural differences and not fight for the planet and all living things on it before the great deluge of the 21st century.