Les Quatre Profs

Les Quatre Profs

Sunday, June 27, 2010

La Mère des Quebecois

“Je me souviens” (I remember), the official motto of Québec, can be found everywhere- on license plates, on buildings, on postcards, on street signs. The Quebecois will not be forgetting any time soon. So what exactly are they remembering, you ask? The answer to this question is fairly nuanced, but what it really boils down to is their history, their heritage and their culture, all of which are very closely intertwined with the French language.

* A couple facts:
  • 80% of the people in the Quebecois province consider French to be their first language.
  • 95% of people in the city of Quebec speak French as their first language
We find that everywhere we go, people are surprised to find a group of Americans who speak French fluently. We enjoy giving our country a new face that perhaps the franco-Canadians haven’t seen. But it is also disheartening that such a phenomenon is so rare- four French-speaking Americans! But, après tout, we are hopeful that our students will one day become ambassadors who also reach across linguistic and cultural lines to connect with people on a meaningful level.

Interestingly enough, it is not just the Americans who are viewed here as monolingual. It is also the anglo-Canadians. Even the English-speaking population of the Quebecois province has been so resistant to learning French that several people have told us, “Francophones (French speakers) here are bilingual, and Anglophones (English speakers) are monolingual.”

(Partly in response to this resistance to the French language, the Canadian government passed Law 101 in 1977. The purpose of this law was to make French the official working language of Quebec. French is the official language of the schools as well, and it is the mandatory language of instruction. However, if a child’s mother or father went to an English-speaking school in Canada, that child has the right to attend an English-speaking school.)

The French Language has become our fifth companion, going ahead of us and paving the way into the lives of the folks we have met here. Let me explain… Say that you and I have a mutual friend; let’s call her Françoise. In fact, Françoise isn’t just a friend to you; she’s actually your mother. She’s done some really great things, and you are really proud of her. And just like any good son or daughter, you would defend her to the end.
One day, you meet me, and right away you figure out that I know your mom, Françoise. And not only do I know her, but I have been profoundly touched by her and have a great appreciation for her. And I am in town just to learn more about her and where she is from. I want to explore the streets where she grew up, meet her family, and then go back to my city and teach people about her. And just like that, we have an instant friendship. Our common ground is your grand source of pride.

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