I’ve been learning and studying French since I was in grade four. Since the very first time my Anglophone French teacher walked in and said “Bonjour”. Since I circled my local arena while my sister skated reciting my French conjugations: je suis, tu es, il est….
My core French and extremely xenophobic learning environment were not enough to contain my passion for the language, and so by the age of 13, I had completed a French Canadian exchange. The monotony of my high school French experience nearly dragged me from the language, and yet before university I had managed to live in France for one month, complete the Explore program at Université Laval and graduate with an award in French language.
Language learning requires persistence, even when you think that if you have to read the subjunctive one more time you’ll rip your hair out. Studying at Glendon has taught me this, every day is a choice and your ability to succeed is dependent on your own efforts. Attending a bilingual university doesn’t make you bilingual, striving each day to improve yourself though is definitely a start.
Now in my final year at Glendon, with three intermediate/advanced French courses under my belt, another sejour in Quebec with Western University at Trois-Pistoles and a discipline course in French all with strong grades I still wonder- am I bilingual yet?
It’s a question I get asked a lot from my family, my non-French-speaking friends and pretty much any Anglophone who hears the word “bonjour” pass my lips. It’s one that I’m still not able to answer. What is bilingualism? There are some people, raised in a bilingual household, who have lived a varying amount of time in an immersive environment or who are blessed with natural language skills for which the answer is a simple yes.
But for me, and those like me, raised in a core French and exclusively Anglophone mileu, the answer is a lot more complicated. Our vocabulary is limited to the field in which we have studied and our speech, though understandable, lacks the fluency and persuasiveness of a native speaker.
In seeking bilingualism then, what can one hope to accomplish? Self-improvement and comfort of course, but the ideal of true bilingualism in the sense of dual native-like competency is often not realistically attainable for us.
Rather than see this as a futile effort then, I think the true meaning of any language endeavours can be seen as the ability to connect with others, to break down one of the many barriers that exist in our world. To do this, you don’t need to know every word in the book, you just need to throw yourself in and engage with the world around.
Perfection is boring, and I’d rather keep learning.