It’s the winter solstice today; from here on, the days will get longer. As I write, I am warmed by the smell of freshly baked bread.
Before I became an Anglophone doctoral student living in a French neighbourhood in Montreal (Rosemont), I lived and worked as a teacher in Hong Kong. From 2008-2010, I taught at a public secondary school with English as the medium of instruction. Of course, the neighbourhood in which I lived (Wong Tai Sin) and worked (Kwun Tong) were largely Cantonese-speaking neighbourhoods. What does it mean to work and socialize primarily in English, and engage in only the most limited of conversations with your neighbours? Good morning. My name is Casey. I am a teacher. I want the barbeque duck, please. I live at 78 Yuk Wah Street. The weather is very beautiful today. Do you think so? Thank you. Goodbye. Etc.
Educator and well-known author Stephen R. Covey once said, “strength lies in differences, not in similarities.” As a newcomer, my life in Montréal has been full of experiences of learning about differences. These experiences ranged from learning about Montréal’s ethnic and cultural communities (peoples), to the issues related to their identities (selves) and their languages (-phones). I was intrigued by all these experiences as an Allophone – a term often used in Québec to describe someone whose mother tongue is neither English nor French (a linguistic category not even mentioned in the Anglophone/Francophone dominant conversations in the previous posts!). My experiences have made it clear to me that “Anglophone” and “Francophone” are not what Montréal is all about, as the terms may seem to erase all other languages by not naming them and lumping them all in with “Allophone.” Montréal is an exemplar of peaceful symbiosis of richly varied communities, having multiple layers of languages, ethnicities, and religions (with more than 120 cultural communities and 150 different languages spoken). Therefore, diversity and multiculturalism may no longer be the best terms to describe the ever-changing nature of the city. This is, notably, of vital importance to policy makers, who still consider these communities through their own traditional lens. Continue reading
I’ve been an “Anglophone” for about two and a half years now, which is as long as I’ve been living in the province of Québec. English has always been my first and dominant language, but the idea of it being a prominent part of my public identity is new. Like many Montrealers, I find myself spending time, daily, thinking and talking about language and the confounding intricacies of my linguistic public and private lives.