About languages


Going back, I remember that in Grade 10, we were required to take French. It seemed strange at the time since we didn’t know anyone who spoke French that we might converse with. We were told that we might work for the government some day and this would come in handy. And, it was required so just do it.

I took the class like all my friends and I actually did fairly well. I seem to recall a final mark in the 80s so that was good. It wasn’t until later that I found out that I didn’t really learn the language; I learned the words. I guess it probably made sense; my mathematical mind would translate an English word into French or a French word into English. Put enough French words together and I could make a sentence, apparently four times out of five.

Of course, I never used my new found skill in school beyond the class or at university. When I ended up getting a job in Essex County, I learned that LaSalle was the biggest speaking community west of Quebec. The locals were proud of that although I still have this nagging feeling that there are communities in Manitoba that would argue. I did have a few students who were bilingual in my home room and I could listen to and make a bit of sense of their conversations. And, to their amusement, try to respond to them.

It wasn’t until I became the webmaster at OSAPAC that it really hit home. My goal was to make the website bilingual since there are all kinds of French speaking educators in the province using Ministry licensed software. I looked forward to finally applying my high school skills towards something productive. And, there was this Google Translate thing to help me with the things I got stumped on.

Well, it didn’t take long until the French language speakers on the committee let me know that, they appreciated my effort, but my work wasn’t cutting it. Even when I tried to speak like I thought I could, they felt sorry for me and replied in English! But they were awesome and so helpful and we did reach a point where we had the website fluent in both languages.

So, why all this history?

Well, this morning, I ran into an interesting article.

Make Cree available on Google Translate, online petition demands

That stopped me for a second and so I checked…

There are indeed a lot of languages there in Google Translate. But the word “Cree” and presumably a translator wasn’t there.

So, it goes back to the original question posed in the interview.

One of the things that I value about being connected is making connections to people smarter and more worldly than me. A while back, a former colleague Tina, invited me to join an Indigenous Education group on Facebook. They’ve been awesome with their sharing and their insights. To pay my dues, I will share stories about Indigenous Education and I shared the story above. As per my normal practice, I also shared to Twitter where I notice a number of favourites and retweeting. Obviously people are interested.

But then, there was this interesting comment.

That took me back to high school where one of the complaints about learning French was that we were learning French French and not Canadian French and that there was a difference.

I can tell you that, even in this French area, the language has been butchered.

Around here, some of the street names …

  • Ouellette – pronounced as Oh-Let
  • Pierre – pronounced as peery
  • Grand Marais – pronounced as Grand Mair-ess

In Canada, we’re seeing actions taken to reverse the effect of Residential Schools and the loss of a first language. If you are sensitive to the regions within the province, you know that Cree isn’t the only language needed. For example, we have the Caldwell Nation on the shores of Lake Erie.

Thanks to the wonderful feedback from all, it’s clear that more than one language and one dialect would be needed to address all the needs. Certainly, you have to start somewhere but this isn’t going to be a one and done deal.

In the meantime, I wonder how effective this is.

OTR Links 02/23/2021


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.