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Wait. This Isn’t a Offensive Question Contest?

April 22, 2013

stupid questions image

Laura Roberts, author of Naked Montreal, another book I cannot wait to read, is participating in that A to Z challenge thing. I participated last year but in my usual manner. My usual manner is wrong, in case you’re wondering. Just wrong. And I don’t even feel bad about it. You can read that post here. Anyway, Laura’s last post addressed the letter Q along with the political strife between Quebec and the rest of Canada. This reminded me of an experience I had a few years back while in Istanbul of all places. I was verbally attacked by a francophone and he wasn’t even a French Canadian! He was a Parisian who had spent a year or two living in Quebec.

He: You’re Canadian?

Me: Yes, I’m from Toronto. Have you been?

He: *ignoring my question and assuming a somewhat combative stance* Let me guess, you don’t speak French.

Me: Je suis très désolé mais je ne parle pas francais.

(Translation – I’m very sorry but I don’t speak French. At least, I hope that’s what I’ve been saying to people all these years.)

He: So let me ask you something. Why do you think it’s okay that you can’t bothered to learn French and yet you think French Canadians have to speak English?

Me: Why do I think…Wait. What?

He: *sighs and repeats his question, enunciating every word loudly and slowly like he is speaking with someone who is obviously incredibly slow.*

Me: Okay, so let me ask you something. Why do you think its not okay for white people to say the N-word when we sing along to our favourite songs?

He: What?

Me: I mean, if a person has taken the time and energy to memorize all the lyrics to, say, Hot Shit by Country Grammar, why can’t he just sing along? And if he does censor himself, what should he insert in place of the N-word? Should he make a loud beeping sound, or say “radio edit”  or “shhh” or something? I suppose he could stay silent for the length of time it would take to say the N-word but that might make a guy lose his place then have to start the song all over again.

He: What does that have to do with anything? Why are you even asking that? Is it because I’m black?

Me: Oh, I’m sorry. I thought we were just throwing shit out there to see what we could start. My mistake. Okay, then, forget I asked. I’ll just answer your question. Bilingual people in Canada have a huge advantage over unilingual speakers but I don’t think French speaking Canadians should be required to learn English, or vice versa. In fact, I don’t think anyone in Canada should have to learn French or English. What they speak is up to them, even if it’s not one of our official languages.

He: Oh.

*awkward pause*

Me: So, this is a fun party, huh?


2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 22, 2013 1:58 pm

    Wow, the Quebecois are even converting Parisians to their linguistic cause! I still think it’s weird that Canada is “officially bilingual” and yet if you go to Quebec, it’s officially French-only. Their governmental paperwork is rarely translated into English, including their websites, and they’ve got their own immigration standards that override the rest of Canada – so even if you got denied by Canada at large, if you want to move to Quebec you can still get in. That’s CRAZY! It makes me wonder why other provinces don’t take up some random language to get in on this action. BC could go Chinese and really stir things up, or Nunavut could adopt “Inuktitut-only” laws. Just think of the possibilities… and all the linguistic arguments!

    Thanks for the shout-out, D.C. I hope you enjoy Naked Montreal!

    • April 22, 2013 3:44 pm

      Quebec certainly does have its own way of doing things. I don’t know enough about it to form an opinion, to be honest. I could try but I’d just be talking out of my ass. 🙂

      What I don’t get is the generalizations. Because of my line of work, I meet so many Quebecois and European French people. I don’t assume they speak English and I don’t assume they all hold the same political belief system. Some are very combative and some appreciate my efforts to speak French even though I so clearly can’t. Some couldn’t care less.

      Another fun experience; I once had an older guy go off on me for not pronouncing his last name – Desjardins – correctly. And yet he had mispronounced my first name wrong all day! He made such a big (and loud) deal out of the pronunciation of his last name, I did not want to embarrass him so I repeated his name a few times and, once he was satisfied, let it go. My (French speaking) colleague, on the other hand, took offense on my behalf and made him repeat my name until he got it right. He turned so red as she kept saying, “No. Try again.”

      Yet another fun experience; I met a group of French Africans. I did my best to speak to them in French, feeling stupid because I’m so terrible at it. One of them told me (in English) that my accent is impeccable. I had to laugh because my French speaking Canadian friends make fun of my accent all of the time. It appears that all this time, I’ve just been speaking French African!

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