I love that Canada is a “cultural mosaic,” I really do. And even though a lot of the French despise Canada and want nothing to do with us, I really like the French language. It’s pretty.
But dammit, sometimes growing up in a bilingual country is difficult.
This is no shocker: if you’re fluent in both English and French in Canada, you’re set for life. You could get a bloody degree in Knitting Socks, but if you’re bilingual, you’ll get a job right away. Good jobs, like working with the federal government, the kind where overtime guarantees a cash flow so epic you can wipe your butt with it and still have enough left over to carpet the floors.
My beef is if you’re going to run a bilingual country, offer the same damned opportunity to become bilingual for everyone.
I started learning French in grade 2. My lessons involved pictures used to identify words like “stylo” and “chien.” The same lessons were repeated over and over again while gradually incorporating more intense lessons like verb tenses and sentence structure. My god, the mere thought of it makes me shudder.
It’s not that I didn’t enjoy learning it, but the classes were always introductory. While I now I have a great basis for learning the language, I can’t seem to progress beyond the basics. Whether I pick up some language learning software or participate in a university class, I have to go through all the basics once again. The cycle is infuriating.
When I went to France last year, I was totally arrogant. I thought for sure I could find my way around, no problem. I could navigate the country easily, but when it came to conversing with strangers…it was terrible. I was a self conscious, blubbering mess.
I’m pissed about it. In St. John’s and pretty much every other city, kids are offered French immersion classes as a regular part of their learning. They take classes in both French and English, and so French is incorporated into their lifestyles like anything else. Plus it’s free (to my knowledge, correct me if I’m wrong), they have a right to that education. And people like me, who grew up in a small town, simply didn’t have that right. We didn’t even have the option (again, unsure if the provincial schoolboard makes such decisions, or the Canadian government).
Someone in my position, with a shitload of debt, could easily be making upwards of $60k a year with an English degree, simply by being bilingual. Just a quick Monster.ca search for “bilingual technical writers” draws up dozens of job offerings, some with starting salaries at $75k. I’m not kidding, it’s enough to make me weep.
I know I’m being a whiner, and the government does offer language learning courses as does Memorial University, but the sheer amount of work required to put into learning French is exhausting. Not to mention EXPENSIVE. I’m willing to pick up the evening classes, but how long does it take to become bilingual? Not even a university degree guarantees a bilingual certificate. How the hell would I fit that into my schedule, anyway?
Canada, sometimes you’re a bitch.