As my winter vacation wraps up and I get ready to return to the grind of coaching and the world of education, a couple of interesting events and several weeks of reflection have led me to this post. To all of my readers, I’d like to wish you a Happy New year and, with its arrival, would like to pose some hopefully thought-provoking questions for your benefit.
Fast fact for those who don’t know me that well: I am functionally bilingual, with French as my second language. As an older second language learner, I of course speak with my own distinct accent. Based on exposure to Québec-based media, as well as an array of Francophone friends and colleagues, my own personal sound is a reflection of my social surroundings. In many ways, how I speak is a gift from those who helped me to learn French.
While spending time in “English Canada” over the last couple of weeks, I encountered a handful of social situations that left me very intrigued…
A slightly older woman from Paris, upon engaging in conversation with me, stated after a couple of minutes that I spoke French with a “Canadian” accent. It was a comment (I’ll take it as a compliment!) that I’d never heard before.
A week later one of my old high school friends whom I hadn’t seen in years, and to whom I spoke in French for the first time, commented, “You have a really Québecois accent!”
Another friend I saw that same night went one step further and even called my “Québecois” accent, “heavy!”
Most of my friends from Québec tell me that while I speak French pretty well, after a few spoken sentences it’s clear as day to them – I am an Anglophone, not a true, pure Québecois!
Among all of these cases, who is right? Which description is most accurate? Well the truth is that, based on the individual perspectives that each one approached me with, none of them are wrong.
To a French speaker from Europe, it is easy to generalize someone from Canada as having a “Canadian” accent. It’s true that North American French does generally sound quite different from the French spoken in most European and African countries. Someone not familiar with all of the different regional accents of Canada (and there are many!) could easily lump us all in together, although I’m not sure how many of my Québec friends would like to have their accents called “Canadian!” 🙂
To my Canadian-based friends who grew up outside of Québec and speak with a more neutral, “international” sound, then yes, the punchy bark of a Québec-based speaker is very obvious to their ears.
And finally, as for my Québecois friends, they are often the most discerning judges of French sound. While I’ve come a long way on my journey in French, the indelible base of English with which I was born still shoots through my voice from time-to-time. My choice of words and expressions also plays a part. Indeed, I’ve fooled some, but can’t fool most!
But let’s get back to the real theme of this post, how is it that three or four different people could have completely different viewpoints on the same thing? We see examples of this all of the time in our everyday lives. In the news, on social media, in conversation with other people: differences of opinion seem to be as common as opinions themselves. What is the driving force behind all of this?
My French is my French is my French. It is neither just Canadian, nor Québecois, nor Anglo-tinged – it is all three combined and then some! It is the sound that comes out of my mouth when I speak en français. How it is listened to determines the adjectives that are applied to it.
The great thing about an individual’s perspective (like the person themselves) is that it can be changed, molded, developed, transformed and grown over time. It can mature. It can evolve.
My own individual perspective on the French language was once very negative; it was no wonder I wasn’t able to improve it! Everything about the language and Francophone culture seemed tainted and weird to me, as though it was a thorn in society’s side. Oh, how the tables can turn…
Roughly four years after I committed to changing my life, (back when I had my “enough is enough” moment), my linguistic journey began. Slow at first, then gradually a slight increase in speed, and then suddenly…BOOM…”Houston, we have lift-off!” This story can be read in bits and pieces on this site, but the take-home nugget of wisdom (I like to call wisdom “learning from your or other people’s mistakes”) is this: perspective is SO key!
Perspective gives grounds for thoughts to form.
Thoughts precede words and actions.
Actions (good or bad) build up into habits.
Habits define our lives, because they are the tools that a person can use to transform their life.
“Success is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well”
– Jim Rohn
OK, so we’ve clearly gone from nice, neat little anecdote to massive, profound, epic coaching philosophy!! And yet, it is all as simple as the few lines that I wrote above, and it all starts on perspective. How we view ourselves, our peers, the world around us, the written pages of history and the blank pages of the future – our points of view in all of these areas impact how we live our daily lives.
I will leave you with some questions, some food for thought. At a time of the year when many of us are making big plans to change how we live our lives, perhaps we should start with some extra reflection. If you don’t totally understand the spectra of perspectives that I’m stating here, please feel free to ask me for clarification! I’d love to help you out!
What kinds of perspectives do you cultivate?
Abundance vs. Scarcity
Failure vs. Chance to Learn
Opportunity vs. Problem
Richness vs. Poverty (and not necessarily in financial terms!)
Individuality vs. Conformity
Individual vs. Community/Team
Glass half full vs. Glass half empty (go pour yourself a physical glass of water and see!)
Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Finally, may your perspectives, thoughts, words, actions, and habits give rise to a healthy, happy and fun year for you and for those you love!