Non-standard French in the Uashat mak Mani-Utenam reserve: a case study

Simon Desmarais – Blog post 2

Reading and learning about language, society and ethnicity in the past week made me think of a particular situation from my own personal experience. We could almost call it a ‘case study’, quite related to the ‘Language and Critical Race theory’ framework I think, that pertains to language and society, class, culture and ethnicity.  The situation is that of First Nations people who live in my hometown, Sept-Îles. Sept-Îles is home to about 25 000 white people and about 5000 Innus, most of which live in one of the two reserves, Uashat or Mani-Utenam. Uashat is in the city center; Mani-Utenam is about 15 km outside the city.

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Language “Hotpot” in Montreal

Monica:

I am a Chinese student, here in Montreal. I have my stories concerning learning English and French. I bet you have your languages and stories as well. And I would like to share my interesting language stories after living in this language “hotpot” for a year. It’s “spicy” and makes me happy with tears.

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Why are we not good at English?

Liting Liu

When Alison brought up the language loyalty concept in class, I finally found the appropriate word to explain the reason why I cannot help blurting out Chinese to foreigners. I joined a workshop this Tuesday, sitting next to a foreign girl. While I was replying a message on the phone, she accidentally knocked my bottle down and then said sorry. Without a second thought, I responded “Mei Shi” (No problem in Chinese.) The confusion on her face reminded me that I was speaking Chinese to a foreigner. The same situation also happened in my workplace once. There was a somewhat urgent thing I need to report to my manager who is Irish. I went downstairs hurriedly and started describing the thing in Chinese. Not until he called me Veronica that I realized whom I was talking to. Luckily, such phenomenon doesn’t happen a lot. However, the subconscious inclination to speak Chinese rather than English used to be something I asked my students to resist within our immersion classroom. Interestingly, outside of the classroom it happens to me as well especially when my mind is occupied with something else so that no extra attention could be allocated to language processing. Maybe we are all too “loyal” to our mother tongue deep down. We feel like using L1 could express our emotion more accurately with ease. Therefore, L1 is always a prioritized option in our language production.

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Globalization and diversity: Wrestling with the issues!

Matthew

The presentation in our last class touched upon the topic of diversity and globalization, and led to some interesting discussion points. Not only did I reflect on my own experiences with diversity, but also I weighed up these experiences in terms of globalization. I can’t help but feel that when we discuss ever-increasing diversity as a by-product of globalization, we end up hitting a wall. We often decry globalization as a sort of cultural imperialism; yet we champion diversity as a marker of open-mindedness and tolerance. If globalization is forcing us to deal with how diverse the world is, as well as how much more diverse our communities of practice are becoming, then I’m all for it. Personally, I grew up in a very ethnically homogenous place and wasn’t confronted with much diversity until I moved to a big city. My exposure to all kinds of diversity since then has been a great learning experience. As a teacher, I now take it for granted that considering my students’ cultural differences is a key part of my job (and rightfully so!)

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Positives​ and negatives of language learning

Sophia G

Language is a tricky thing. On one hand, it is given to us freely; on the other, we really have no choice in the language that we are given. Some of us are even gifted with multilingual families and learn many languages, others are gifted a small snapshot of one language.

Language and the composition of a person’s languages can largely impact their whole life. When asked to look at the positives and negatives of my language learning and my language composition, it came out strangely negative. I found this quite sad. First, let’s start out by explaining my language composition.

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What French do we learn in Quebec ?

Samuel Marticotte:

When I was growing-up, I remember that I had a very hard time in school when writing texts. I remember still today why this was the case. Perhaps this is true to a certain extent for all of you and all students. Writing is a difficult task because written language always departs to a certain extent from the variety that you speak where you grow up.

This makes me think of Maxime, who is a bilingual, but often complains that written French is so much more convoluted than the spoken French he knows. Having grown-up writing English, he gets the impression that writing English is easier because it is closer to the spoken language.

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Shopping for a dialect? You can have any one you wish!

Cynota

Many of my students ask me to work on pronunciation but it not feasible to address all students’ pronunciation problems of a whole class as each language speaker has specific problems. I usually suggest that students take one on one tutoring to work on their accents. Many language students are very self conscious of their accents.

If you want to pick out your own dialect of English, you can in fact make this wish come true! You can select any accent that you want: Australian, Cockney, Deep South, Dialects of British Isles and Ireland, Aafrikaans, South Boston, are amongst the offerings online. Paul Meirer has trained many people to speak with different accents and has a website that offers a wide range of English language services (http://www.paulmeier.com).

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Time for a change in the educational practice

Emmanouela Tisizi

Trying to differentiate between language and dialect is definitely not an easy task. While brainstorming in groups on the matter, criteria such as the proportion of a population that uses a language variety over another, the region where a language variety is most frequently used and the context of language use came to mind. The more our group tried to come up with examples of language use to determine whether these fell into the category of a language or a dialect, the more we started discussing issues related to power and the institutionalization of certain language varieties.

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Natalie’s Language Biography (or How I Learned Four Languages)

Natalie Lark

To begin with, I would like to mention that I was born and raised in Ukraine, where I learned Ukrainian and Russian at an early age, in addition to English, which was a part of the school curriculum. To better describe myself as a language learner, I would like to tell that I grew up in a bilingual family and community in the east of Ukraine, where everyone could easily switch the language of communication, if there was a need or to better understand each other; that is basically, similar to the way anglophones and francophones communicate in Quebec province, these days.

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What is Standard English?

Ethan Xu

The charm of class discussion is that through brainstorming and collision of thoughts, we are able to quickly make connections with the knowledge and its reference; moreover, when you have time for reflection, it will lead your mind to wander even further from the topic.

The discussion about mutual intelligibility was an interesting one. Linguists use this criterion to determine whether people are speaking the same language. In real life, however, things seem to be much more complicated. When you speak to a Scot, as mentioned by my classmates, it is often not very easy to reach the sort of mutual intelligibility. I’ve made several acquaintances with some Scottish friends and couldn’t agree more. However, there is a fine line between the two terms ‘Scottish accent’ and ‘Scots language’.

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