The Reality of the Duality: Growing Up Bilingual

I grew up in a suburb of Montreal. I grew up in an anglophone suburb of Montreal. I grew up in the 70s when Montreal was being torn into two solid political camps: those FOR the separation of Quebec, and those firmly saying “NO”. My family was a symbol of the line drawn between those two camps…

The leaders of Quebec needed two complete referendums (one in the late 70s and a 2nd one in the 80s) to convince themselves that their people did not want a separation. It only needed the threat of one referendum to clear out a strong majority of its mainly anglophone corporate world heading West to Toronto, contributing to its economic boom and securing it as Canada’s financial capital. But that’s just my opinion.

In the 70s, the population of La Belle Province was 6 million. One of those sixes was considered “allophiles” by the government of Quebec. Although I’m not sure where this expression stems from, it means that one million people in Quebec did not speak la langue de Molière.

According to Jocelyne, the best of best U professors I’ve ever had (for which I needed my dad to pass away and meet her mother at his funeral to find out that she was my 2nd cousin, confirming that intellect does indeed run in my family) Montreal is home to the largest Jewish community having directly escaped the holocaust. Surprising fact, isn’t it.

Now I ask you, what happens when a culture comes close to absolute extinction? I’ll give you the pause of a new paragraph to think about it…

Correct: they turn inwards for protection and survival. Their own culture becomes a reason to live, forget about speaking other languages, learning new tricks or even being open to different foods.

Such was the case with the Jewish community of Montreal. Remember, this was the 70s, not that far away in time from WWII – the wounds were still fresh in their collective memory, even fresher than it is now! Montreal’s Jewish community was a strong Orthodox one, the kind that does not even speak to anybody outside of their club. Self protection and survival is a most primal instinct. This community was also the main source of Montreal’s old money. To this day the best, biggest and most advanced hospital on that island is the Montreal Jewish Hospital. They raise money for building new wings faster than you can ask for cream cheese to go with that bagel!

The true French-Canadians, who at this time in the 70s were all catholic, still listened to their pedophile priests who insisted that to earn a place in heaven, one must suffer on earth. Suffering is gained through poverty. We were taught that a good Catholic was a poor Catholic.



10 thoughts on “The Reality of the Duality: Growing Up Bilingual”

      1. I love the idea of that series! One of the greatest joys of blogging is when someone, especially when they have your expressive ability, shares their experience of life and views of the world, because only your eyes can see it the way they do and only you can feel life the way you do… but I want to see what you see and know how you feel it as it enriches me.

        That sounds… like me saying things as I see them 😉

        I grew up bilingual, so there’s an added connection there for me. Different language as the second (or first) one and culture, although je parle et comprends le Francais but could never spell it well 😀


  1. “A man who speaks but one language understands none.” – Orson Scott Card.

    That’s why I really do intend to learn Japanese one of these days. Well, that and the fact that I’m somewhat obsessed with the culture. I already know how to call someone an idiot in at least three languages (one of which is Japanese, of course). That has to count for something.


    1. High five for Japanese!!! This language is on my to learn list as well. I can understand a few things (thanks to anime and Studio Ghibli etc.), but I’d love to learn more.


  2. I have nothing but admiration for someone who can speak more than one language. I still have nightmares of struggling with German and Indonesian at high school. Perhaps the secret is to start earlier than I did


    1. I have nightmares about German as well! Lots of people think that German and Dutch are similar. In a way they are, but not a lot, though. So it’s not that I can automatically understand it. I was a lot better in French than German, haha.


  3. I come from a home with many languages and have trouble speaking any but English and wish I knew more! I think it’s connect me to my family and heritage more (


  4. Hiiiiiiii *waves* I haven’t visited your site in such a long time. Hope you’re well and Happy 2014!!

    I grew up only with Dutch, but both my parents have knowledge in different languages. My dad more than my mom though. I’m not completely sure why my dad never taught us creole though. I can understand and write stuff in few languages, but not that I’m fluent. Not at all. I had an affinity with the English language from a young age. In a way, I’m a “self-taught” bilingual, because the way I can speak/write English, I haven’t learned this in high school/college, but through my own intensive reading and watching lots of series! Hehe.

    This was a great read and I’d love to read more you and being bilingual! I find languages fascinating.


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