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.
When I was younger, the only language I spoke until the age of 6 was Danish. My mother was Danish and my grandparents who lived with us were Danish. All of my au pair girls were Danish. However, my father spoke only English. I don’t remember much from then but it must have been very interesting communicating with him. Anyway, by the time I started going to school I realized that I couldn’t communicate with anyone, which is incredibly frustrating for a six-year-old. When I would come home I’d tell my mother that we had to speak English and that I didn’t want to speak Danish anymore. This meant I only started learning English around the age of six/seven. This also meant that I only started learning French at the age of 12, and living in Quebec and learning French that late made life very difficult later on. I think due to the fact I learned both English and French later in life this caused the negativity.
I never felt uncomfortable using English. French, however, was always a sore spot for me. I have always lived in Quebec but it’s always been on the outskirts of Quebec, about 15 minutes from Ontario. Therefore, there was always a large English population in the area where I lived. I remember in school other kids around me had a negative attitude towards French, even the teachers had a negative attitude towards French. This taught me to have a negative attitude towards French. Going to a predominantly English school in Quebec and learning about Bill 101 reinforced my negative views of French and learning French.
It was later in life once I started traveling and seeing other countries and learning about other countries educational systems when I started to question everything. In Quebec, it comes down to your on the English side or you are on the French side, at least it felt this way to me growing up. Whereas, what I’ve learned is that all language should be cherished and that knowing multiple languages is a huge asset in life. This is part of the reason I find it so sad that languages are scrutinized in Quebec. Learning both languages should be seen as a gift, not a negative. I wish I could go back and change my experience but I can’t. So I hope that in the future I can try and show others how much of a gift it is.
I think the school systems still have a long way to go in properly educating students in the second language in both systems and the only way to start to correct this is by realizing how beneficial both languages truly are.