Q&A #4

Posted: November 15, 2007 in Uncategorized

I really have to thank everybody for their questions. It’s helping me out big time, ’cause right now there’s nothing to blog about, except perhaps whining about how much November sucks.

From GeewitsYou speak English so well, so I want to ask: Do you ever think or dream in English?

Actually despite my “frenchness” I learned both languages pretty much at the same time. Dad was in the air forde and I spent my early childhood in Nova Scotia. Mom has told me that when I started going outside to play I’d periodically come in and ask whether such and such a word was English or French.

Both my siblings and I are pretty much completely bilingual today because when we were at home unlike lots of parents, ours refused to answer us if we spoke English. We were ignored. Of course, because of this, Mom never did learn to speak very good English. She was able to get by, but was never really comfortable with it. Which is too bad for her but ensured that we would speak both languages.

Together my brother, sister and I spoke a sort of Frenglish. Sentences would be started in French finished in English, questions asked in one language and answered in the other. To this day, if a word doesn’t come to mind immediately in one language I’ll substitute the other. It made for interesting encounters when my siblings’ boy/girlfriends would come over for dinner the first time and we’d start talking like that without realizing it. The blank looks were priceless.

I think of the three of us, I’m probably the one most comfortable in French, as I came to Quebec the youngest. They came here in high school, and finished that level in English. This of course was way before Bill 101 (for you Americans, a French language law in Quebec). I was in elementary school when we got here, which I fininshed in English. Then my evil parents stuck me in French shool for high school (in retrospect: Thank you Mom!), I did my Cegep (a sort of weird junior collge you have here which is basically the last year of high school and first of Uni elsewhere) in English and went to university in French.

So I’m as bilingual as a person can be I think… and I have totally not answered Geewits’ question.

Actually I think interchangeably in both languages, depending on who I’m with and the context. Often I decide not to think at all because then I’d have to actually use my brain, which is sometimes more than I can handle…

As for dreaming, I honestly don’t know. I’m not big on rembering my dreams, and when I do, I’ll pretty much only remember what went on, without actually talking.

  1. Again, you get the intelligent questions; I get questions and lengthy, lengthy discussions about pie. My first language was German and I had sort of the same experiences growing up as you. If I spend a couple of days with only German-speaking people, I do dream in German at night. I also found when I was in university and we were doing a section on – say Shakespeare all day, I’d dream in 17th century language that night. Good question geewits (Send me some)

  2. Rachel says:

    …”and then I’d actually have to use my brain, which is more than I can handle.”You have no idea how loudly I laughed at this.

  3. Tai says:

    I liked that question and the answer.When I was young (like 8), I used to believe that everyone thought in English and when they spoke it came out translated into their own language.Talk about ethnocentric! Being raised on the VERY west coast, there was very little opportunity to learning any another language, let alone being exposed to them.I’m envious of your ability.

  4. geewits says:

    You have a cool brain. I watch “Frasier” a lot and one of his quirks is supposed to be how he adds a lot of French phrases to his speech. So if you heard Frasier do this it would just seem like a normal sentence?

  5. Ian Lidster says:

    I’m glad Geewits asked that question because it is one I’ve wondered about, too. Now I have my answer. Thank you both.

  6. Voyager says:

    I am so envious of truly bilingual people like you. My French is barely passable, and here in Vancouver I don’t get much practice. Hey, I know, I’ll go and live with you for a year or so!V.

  7. Josie says:

    Our Freddie is in French immersion in school, and he speaks in both English and French as well. Frenglish. And at school they have to speak entirely in French, but at home he speaks entirely in English. So a weird combination of both languages turns up in his conversation. It’s funny.

  8. Jazz says:

    UP – Ooooohhhhhhhhh pie! Poor dear. Rachel – Glad I made you giggleTai – That is so funny!Geewits – Naw, with Frasier it just seems pretentious. But then who cares. I love Frasier.Ian – Geewits and I? We aim to pleaseVoyager – Yes, yes! Come live with me!Josie – Yay for immersion!!!

  9. I.A.M.L. says:

    I too, learned to be bilingual because my parents spoke both languages with me. (we were romanian, living in a german province) After we moved to canada, I learned english as well. I have to agree with you, the best way to learn a language properly is to live in that environment fully.Sadly, I hardly use any of my other languages and even though i have children, i have not taught them anything but english.*hangs head in shame*

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