What My Second Language Has Done For Me (and What Yours Can Do for You)

Based on this census data report released in late 2015, about 79% of the population of the US speaks the English language at home. I don’t think that number would surprise anyone.

Would it surprise you to know that there are over 192 languages spoken in the private space among the people of New York City?

How about the fact that over 50% of the population of Los Angeles speaks a language other than English?

What would the US be like as a nation if it was more like the small, multi-lingual countries of Europe?

Personally, I find it interesting that there are over 1.25-million French speakers in the States – that’s about half the number of French native speakers living in the Greater Montréal Area.

Looking at this language retention table for Montréal, it’s intriguing to note that while 98% of Francophones speak mostly French (their native tongue…duh!) at home, only 94% of Anglos fall into the same category. The difference between these two figures means that there is an adventurous group of English guys and girls out there who are willing to get down with the language of their partner and/or family. That would certainly be my reality if I lived with a Francophone partner!

Back in my uni-lingual days, almost every single new social situation or venue that I would walk into in this town scared the crap out of me. There’s just no other way of putting it – I was nervous as heck meeting Francophones and being in rooms where French was the dominant language being thrown around. Now it’s a different story…

Although I’m not perfectly fluent in French, I’m now pretty much « à l’aise » (at ease) in the language. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve banged out several French e-mails, taken at least one French phone call (confession: speaking French on the phone still scares the crap out of me!), read a few news articles, visited the very French town of Québec City, and caught up with some of my Franco colleagues and friends en français. It’s all a lifestyle thing now!

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Bilingualism: A Lifestyle

For me, the French language is a pretty immense part of my life. I live in Montréal, one the largest French-speaking cities in the world, and by far the largest one in North America. When I arrived in Montréal as a university student back in 2006, I brought with me my exposure to eight years worth of primary and secondary school (non-immersion) French classes. Although there was a small part of me that believed that I’d casually just keep improving my French to the point of being able to fully communicate, the truth of the matter is that I was completely hopeless en français!

After spending a number of years attending an English university, located right in the middle the city’s mostly-bilingual downtown core, I still had not really advanced myself in French. Although many things have changed since my days as a unilingual, the most significant change that I’ve made (which has led to significant progress linguistically) is in regard to my attitude and approach to language learning.

Montreal 1

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Meeting Charlie Brown’s Teacher: Learning a Second Language in Adulthood

Happy New Year everyone!  A new round of Montréal’s chilly winter nights has me typing out this blog post about arguably the most relevant subject in my life these days: my (continued) learning of the French language.  In the last several weeks, friends, family members and colleagues alike have shown an incredible level of interest in my recently-completed adventure as a coach at the exceptionally French CEGEP de Trois-Rivières.  More specifically, their curiosity has gravitated toward the fact that I was living and working in French (a total first for me!), a common but often discouraging goal of people who move to Québec (or to other French-language-speaking parts of the world!).  I thought I’d try and put down in words a few quick tips, shoot down a couple of demoralizing myths, and try and lend a little inspiration to those who may share the same goal that I have – to one day attain native-level speaking competency as a second language adult learner.

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