Thoughts on multilingualism

Having spent my childhood growing up in three different countries, all of which had different native languages, I think that multilingual ability is one of the most important abilities that one can have today. Us native English speakers have it easy by being able to fall back on the assumption that English is the lingua-franca of today and therefore, we don’t have to learn any other languages but everyone has to learn English. I find such a mindset offensive as so many languages are directly linked to other aspects of life such as culture and community and by whitewashing languages we are whitewashing years of tradition, culture and linguistic innovation.

To wholly show respect for someone when travelling isn’t to ask in louder and louder English ‘where is the bathroom?!’ but to be able to assimilate to the local culture and langue. Whenever I travel in a country where I don’t speak the native language I try to learn at least simple greetings, numbers and questions to at least try to be mindful of the local culture and traditions. Thanks to this I can count to ten, ask where the bathrooms are and say ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ in a vast array of languages which is excellent for trivia nights but also gives me the satisfaction of being able to say ‘shukraan’ (شكرا) to a local and seeing their face light up just because I bothered to learn and remember a simple word of thanks.  Continue reading “Thoughts on multilingualism”

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C’est la vie, français!

I never imagined that I’d be sitting in a French writing workshop preparing to write my first French short story. I hated creative writing in English, my first language, during school and dropped it as soon as possible. I’ve gone through the motions of dropping my French major many times as well but there’s always been something (or at least a crazy voice in my head) telling me to keep going with it. I’m now at the end of the French program – literally in the most advanced subject possible and we’ve progressed from reading several short stories to writing ones of our own using various literary techniques or conventions. I was surprised how much I genuinely enjoyed the exercise or at least the fact that I can now express myself fluently and spontaneously in what is my third language. I harbour no pretence that my ‘story’ is actually or or engaging. However, it’s something that I’ve written with none or very few grammatical errors in the space of about fifteen minutes and that’s why I’m so proud. The story that I’ve attached was written around the convention of the ‘chute’, which is basically the twist or the punchline of the story delivered in the last sentence.

Je leur avais bien dit que je ne pourrais pas aller maintenant quand mon boulot est occupé et mes enfants avaient eu des vacances, sans moi il n’y avait pas un baby-sitter, il n’est aucune des options pour moi partir maintenant. Il me dit que je n’ai pas un choix, mais j’ai toujours un choix. Depuis j’étais petite j’avais choisi quand je mangeais, faisais mon travail (c’est bon travailler de sa maison), et c’est ridicule pour ça que je n’ai pas du choix. Mais, je suis ici maintenant, ce n’était pas mon choix, c’est le mauvais moment. Le médecin remplit l’acte de décès, puis il me ferme les yeux. Rideau.