Can you believe that one day you wake up and the first word popping in your head is English?

by Haoqiu Zhang

In the first week after I arrived in Montreal, I found a place to stay through Airbnb. I lived in a locally owned accommodation. The neat, lovely apartment was managed by a young couple. The wife was from Alberta and the husband was from France. The wife was smart and pretty and the husband was handsome but a little bit shy. They were quite hospitable and we had great fun talking, in English, of course.

As far as I could remember, in the chatting I mentioned that my English was not very good, especially my oral English. Then the host said, “you know what, I could speak little English when I came to this city. I fell in love with this city first and then I found my wife. After many years of living with my wife here, one day I woke up, opening my eyes, and the first word in my head was English, not French any more.”

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A Special Case of Language Anxiety?

By Wai In Chan

In one of our last classes, Lauren Godfrey-Smith gave an amazing lecture on language anxiety and the experiences of people who went through language anxiety. It was a really emotional experience for me because I felt that the study was acknowledging and validating my feelings about speaking and learning French in Montreal. Over 25 years of my life I have been learning French as a second language in English as a first language schools, and I STILL feel so much anxiety using the language that I avoid it at all costs even until today.

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No French in English class!

Miss Education says:

As an undergrad studying to become an ESL teacher, I was constantly told that there was no room for French in English class (except if there was a severe problem that needed to be addressed). Five years after finishing my bachelor’s degree, I have had the opportunity to work with other ESL teachers and discuss about this issue. Some teachers did not use French at all, while others found it difficult not to speak it during their teaching. Clearly, ESL specialist go about this in different ways. What we largely have in common, though, is that we believe there should be very minimal to no use of the students’ L1 in the L2 classroom. This suggests that ESL teachers believe that the best way to learn an L2 is to be fully soaking in a tub of the second language in question.

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Language and Identity


I started using English when I was four. My parents decided to move to Boston, and consequently, I began to attend an American kindergarten. Because I couldn’t speak any English at that point, I never really understood what was going on around me. I distinctively remember the first day of school, when I found myself staring into the eyes of a boy who had jet-black hair and dark brown eyes. He looks just like me! That must mean he’s Japanese! However, when I enthusiastically invited him to play with me in Japanese (「一緒に遊ぼう!」), he stared at me before shaking his head and walking away. That was a blow to my self-confidence; at the tender age of four, I couldn’t understand why he didn’t want to play with me. It quickly became evident that in my new surroundings, learning English was a complete necessity.

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“Are You a Native Speaker of English?”: Exploring What It Means to be a “Non-Native, Native Speaker”

By Wai In Chan

Awhile ago, when I read Van Herk’s (2012) chapter on language and place, I noticed the chapter (3) started with an example (p. 25) that really resonated with me. In addition, our discussion in class on “native speakerism” (the idea that native speakers are more qualified to teach a language than non-native speakers) and ethnicity, really got me thinking about my own language situation in Canada. It made me think of the following two reverse scenarios that happened recently in my life.

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In Multicultural and Multilingual Classrooms, What Should I/We Do?


ESL: English as a second language

EFL: English as a foreign language

Having been studying at McGill for more than one year, I really enjoy my learning and daily life in Montreal. However, considering my classmates and friends are from different cultural backgrounds, I find that communicating with them is not easy. In particular, I notice that interactions related to cultural issues and sensitive topics can be even more difficult.

  1. Is That My Own Culture? I Fail to Introduce it to My Friends!

I believe that my English proficiency supports my academic learning and some simple daily communications in Montreal. However, introducing Chinese culture to my non-Chinese speakers in English can be very challenging. For example, last semester, we decided to visit Chinatown, preparing our posting assignment. When I tried to illustrate Xian (鲜), one of the Chinese special flavors to my Canadian classmates, I failed to explain it because there is no equivalent word in English. I felt even more stupid when I attempted to elaborate on it by telling them how this flavor could be tasted in some soups. Considering my poor explanation, even I would never try these soups. Furthermore, when I turned to my Chinese students for help, they also found this term really difficult to be clarified. That is why it is really embarrassing when my foreign friends want to learn some Chinese culture but I am not capable of explaining it clearly in a language (i.e., English) that they are able to understand.

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My Language Biography of Two Identities

By Wai In Chan

Hello everyone! This is a bit late in the semester, but I still wanted to share my language biography with all of you and hear your thoughts about how I identify myself. I am of Asian descent, born in Hong Kong, China. I speak Cantonese, English, and French (very basic!).

My family immigrated to Canada in order to start a better life when I was two years old, and we have lived here ever since. My mother had gone abroad to Canada as an international student prior to her marriage and my birth. Therefore, she had some knowledge of the English language and completed some education here. Due to these circumstances, I was able to complete my studies here in Canada in English.

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