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.
When I was a teenager, I really liked writing, and felt a burning desire to write texts. But the French I was taught in school never felt appropriate for writing what I wanted to say. I also found writing English easier because, indeed, it felt closer to the spoken language, (whether this is true or not needs more sociolinguistic inquiry). Many of the feelings I had could be described in sociolinguistic terms. The prescribed French I was taught did not correspond to the language I was using. The North-Shore variety I speak is a dialect if compared against standard French. There also seemed to be a great social distance when I use verbs such as the « passé simple » to describe past events, because this verbal form isn’t found in spoken French which uses the « passé simple », although this must be a reality for all speakers of French because it is confined to writing in all varieties. Unfortunately, this state of affairs will not change soon, there have been many debates about the status of Québécois French, always coming to the same conclusion: teach and retain « Standard French » because Québécois Frenches are dialects of French, just like France’s or other colonies’ Frenches. I believe it is linguistically accurate, but how politics is involved in the thinking process remains obscure to me.
It would have been great to have had in class, someone who could explain that to us : that there is a standard, but that the varieties we spoke departed from it in such and such ways. The teacher’s prescriptivist attitude gave me the impression that the language I wanted to use to express my feelings was just « wrong ». Now I know better, it’s different and not recognized as standard, but I know some of the rules of spoken Québécois are systematic for example the use of « r »’s in conditionals. It is interesting to not that learners, such as me, grow out of this frustration as they become accustomed to the standard variety. As soon as I got the means to express what I wanted in standard French or other languages, writing became easier. Although I remember that still in Cégep, I was shocked by our professor’s spoken language that felt so different (because he came from another region and had a very « educated » speech). So I wonder whether, acknowledging students’ dialects, and explaining sociolinguistic differences in plains terms would not help students feel better about writing? However, teachers are not sociolinguists, teaching varieties may be too much to ask, especially if there is no written form for it or grammar books for it. I’m looking forward to hear about your experiences? Has anyone had similar experiences?