I'm Losing My French And I Hate It
Confessions of a bilingual Montrealer.
My name is Jeremy and I'm born and raised in Montreal. Both my parents are francophone and they did everything they could to make sure I would be perfectly bilingual.
It worked out pretty well, up until I started to realize I'm losing my French.
Let me start from the beginning.
I was spoken to in French since birth, but I attended an English pre-school. I remember the first day of school, I was terrified and I was clinging to the only teacher who knew a bit of French. It may have been tough at first, but by the end of the year, I was fluent in English. (Or at least as fluent as a 4 year old could be.)
The rest of my education happened in both French and English. Like I said before, I started at an English pre-school, however I went through elementary and high-school in French, and then I finished my Cegep and University studies in English.
All of my childhood friends were anglophones, so growing up I rarely spoke French outside of school. And once I started Cegep I barely spoke it at all (unless I was speaking to my parents).
Here's where it gets interesting. My dad was born in Morocco so his French sounds like he's from France and my mom was born here so she speaks with a Quebecois accent.
So growing up, I actually developed 2 different accents depending on who I was talking to. No one seemed to noticed unless they happened to witness a conversation between me and my parents. I was constantly switching between accents, sometimes mid-sentence. It got really confusing.
This caused me to have a mild identity crisis. I wasn't even sure which accent was really mine and which one I was imitating. And now when the time comes to address a stranger in French, my brain has a mini-internal debate to figure out which accent I should be using.
I first noticed I was losing my French when I tried sending an email to someone. It took me 15 minutes to type out 3 sentences. I used to be a French grammar champion, but these days I'd be lucky to get through a single sentence without making some kind of grammatical error.
As if that wasn't bad enough, I find myself hesitating when I'm speaking in French.
I'm starting to forget certain words I don't use very often. I catch myself giving up altogether and just using English words instead. Even when I know the proper word, hearing them come out of my mouth is beginning to sound awkward and out of place.
It's gotten so bad I'm actually starting to feel like I don't belong.
I always identified as a French Canadian, but now I'm realizing I'm just not French Canadian enough for them. I don't watch any of their shows, I don't listen to any of their music and I don't get any of their references. I don't even understand the slang any more.
It's not like I can move somewhere else in Canada to live happily ever after with the rest of the English Canadians because they're TOO English for me.
So basically I'm not French enough to live in Quebec and I'm not English enough to live in the rest of Canada.