Musings of an Anglophone

I know a lot of English-speaking people who live or have lived in this rather insular, very French region of Québec say they have faced negativity or rudeness due to being Anglophones. I’m not doubting that they have. I’m just wondering why they have and I absolutely have not. Not even once here.

Yesterday we drove to Falardeau to visit the small zoo there. When I’m out and about with the husband, it’s quite obvious that I’m an Anglophone. I speak to him freely in English (though I certainly mix in some French now), I have an Anglophone accent when I speak in French, and sometimes I have to ask the husband to translate when I miss part of someone’s message. So people weren’t nice to me “by accident” until they found out I speak English. Instead, they knew from the beginning that I’m an Anglophone, and still they treated me just like they did each other. A woman called me over to see the baby tigers. People made little comments to me about the animals (some of which I understood, some of which I didn’t). The guide was friendly and interacted with me just like the others (all of whom were Francophone, of course, except for my bilingual husband).

Certainly speaking and understanding a LOT more French now is very helpful when it comes to interacting with people here. However, people being friendly and kind is *not* something new that I’ve noticed only since completing my French courses. I am not a shy girl (quit your giggling, those who know me well!), and ever since I started learning French, I’ve been willing to try my best to interact in French with the locals at every opportunity. I look back now and think, “Man, how big were your balls, Meg?” when I think about how much I tried to speak in French even a year or more ago, when I had almost NO French. Certainly, there were times when I wasn’t well-understood by the person with whom I was attempting to communicate. But I never had anyone be rude about it, even when they were puzzled by my strange not-quite-French utterances.  

I think that I deserve a bit of credit for the positive interactions I have here. I don’t mean to say that that, if you encounter a rude person, that you’ve brought that on yourself. Certainly there are people who are just assholes, regardless of what language they speak or what kind of attitude you have. However, I think that my efforts here to learn the language and to go into situations with a positive attitude go a long way.

To any fellow Anglos reading this who happen to live in Québec, I just want to say that, while your experiences may differ, you *do* have some control over how people treat you here. I consciously make an effort to smile when I make eye contact, to use friendly and open body language, to be mildly apologetic when I have trouble communicating (after all, I came here, I’m on Francophone turf, they didn’t bring the communication problems to me), to giggle over communication problems instead of taking them personally, to be polite and gracious when asking for help, and to just generally take a good attitude out with me, or make an effort to fake it. And as a result, I find my positivity returned to me by those I meet. 

One thought on “Musings of an Anglophone

  1. Bastou says:

    I believe there are two (related) reasons for the rudeness English speakers have faced in Quebec… First the way some Canadian English media describes Quebeckers in a very negative manner (don’t worry, French media isn’t much better about English speakers). So they start to speak with French speakers with a bad prejudice and a defensive mood. Secondly, many lack the confidence to try what little French they know (and I wouldn’t blame them, you’ve seen first hand how it feels not being able to express a tenth of what we’re capable of in our native language). But it helps to remember that people have the same worries, even if they speak another language : those people you’re about to talk to, maybe they too are afraid to speak English (their second language) for the same reasons, and most people who are rude or seem rude are the ones who can’t speak English well, or at all.

    There is another possible reason and it’s that the Saguanay has a high proportion of separatists, so a small percentage of them may well just be rude assholes, like any kind of blindly extremist folk. Most separatists are actually nice people who can debate their point of view respectfully, many of them in good English as well.

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