Montreal, Identity, Language, and Isolation

Maxime Lavallee – Post 3

I had an interesting discussion with someone the other night on the subject of English-speakers in Montreal. We were speaking about Quebecois theater and movies, and fell into a discussion about English-speakers in Montreal. We had found that a significant portion (not all of them!) of individuals we know, who had grown up in English-speaking families in Montreal, are completely disconnected from Quebecois culture. They don’t have French-speaking friends with whom they speak French, they don’t listen to French music, they don’t read French literature, they don’t watch French movies, or partake in any other Quebecois French cultural activity. We found it interesting that these individuals, most of whom are able to speak French, seemingly make no attempt to connect with French-language culture. Why is it that in a city, surrounded by so many French speakers, they haven’t made those connections?

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You Must Be Good at English Because You Are Studying in Canada


“How’s your study in Canada?”

“It’s good. And the people here are very nice to me.”

“So you must be very good at English because you are studying in Canada.”

“Emm … Not exactly. Academic writing is a great challenge for me. And I feel that I cannot involve in Montreal because it’s kind of like a French monolingual city.”

“Oh! I see, so you must be very good at French!”

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Why only now?

Géraldine Gras (post #3):

For my third and last blog post, I wanted to focus on an issue that was made evident from our second class of Educational Sociolinguistics: the lack of teacher preparation for second language teaching (beyond the second language itself). My group and I presented on the second week, on the topic of language identity amongst others.  “How embarrassing! I knew nothing about language identity as a language teacher”, I thought to myself. This was followed by a ton of readings, hundreds of questions and self-doubt. It wasn’t until I spoke with teachers around me (from my schools and other graduate students) that I realized, my lack of knowledge was shared. Why is it that many of us, teachers, have never heard of certain concepts in our second language education despite completing an undergraduate?

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Belonging or not belonging, that’s a question.

Liting Liu

Having been in Montreal for exact four months, now I feel no much difference from the day I landed at the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport. Since I don’t speak French at all and my English is limited as well, the awkwardness I felt at the beginning still haunts me. I live in the community but I doubt if I belong to it.

In the evening of August 12th, I arrived at Montreal. I got a number, waiting to be called by the customs officer. Beyond my expectation, they don’t use any bilingual broadcasting machine to announce numbers. Instead, they shouted out numbers themselves in French, and in the hundred-digit-omitted form (e.g. 230 is read as “trente”). It is only after learning some basic French that I got to understand their omission by that time. As you would have guessed it right, I didn’t know the officer was announcing my number until she called several times and asked my number in English. I heard people in the room snickering. At last, the officer kindly offered me a tip – “If you plan to find a job and stay here, you must learn French.” After passing numerous “ARRET” road signs, I got to the apartment, posted “Welcome to the world of being blind and deaf” on Facebook.

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Labels, Categories, and Identity

Bonnie Reimer

Last week, I was watching the Country Music Awards (CMA) on which Beyonce performed with the Dixie Chicks, who are traditionally know as country western singers.  There was a lot of backlash after her performance, mostly related to her right to be on the CMA considering she is known as a mainstream pop rather than country artist.  It seemed to me that Beyonce could have been trying to construct a new identity, but others would not accept it.  This reminded me of Eva, the Polish woman whom I discussed in my presentation on October 20. Likewise, Eva was trying to construct an identity in which she would be accepted into the social network at work (Norton, 2013). Eva also felt her accent and limited English hindered her struggle and identified her as an uneducated immigrant. Because of Norton’s longitudinal study on Eva, there was a lot of insight into how she felt though no research has been done on Beyonce’s feelings, at least none that I know of.  The point is that people have different identities and may be constructing new ones, but that does not necessarily mean that other people will recognize nor support these identities.

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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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4 Yerim(s) and Language Development

Yerim Lee

‘How many identities do you have?’

‘Do those identities you have help you to improve your language proficiency?’

These are the questions that came to my mind from discussions in previous classes. I have 4 Yerim(s) in me: Korean Yerim for my family and friends who speak Korean, Korean language tester Yerim at work, international student Yerim at McGill, and Yerim who is a French speaking citizen in Montreal. I think each Yerim contributes to my language proficiency, so I’d like to talk about the relationship between my different identities and language improvement. Especially, among 4 different identities mentioned above, I think 2 identities, Korean language tester Yerim at work and French speaking citizen Yerim, affect Korean and French development these days.

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