Saturday, August 05, 2006

Sunday Scribblings

This week's Sunday Scribblings prompt asks, "who else might I have been"? Last year, I attended a lecture by Nicole Brossard, author of Hier (Yesterday at the Hotel Clarendon), and posted about her musings on what it might be like to live and breathe in another language, an excerpt of which I am reproducing here:

Nicole's work has been translated into several languages. While she writes in French and is a native French speaker, she read to us in English from a text that had been translated by someone else. She spoke to us about the idea that you are a different person if you grow up in another language. Who, she asks, would she be, what kind of a woman would she be, if she had grown up in English, Italian, Spanish? Each language has a different way of breathing, and of being...

I have grown up sandwiched in between Canada's two solitudes - French, and English. Never completely at home in French while surrounded by a culture that is predominantly English, and where my mother tongue (the language first spoken to me by my mother) always felt like an uncomfortably big sweater where the sleeves had been rolled up. And at the same time, I am never completely whole in English alone - I feel as though a part of me is missing somehow when I live my life entirely in that language. So how do I then construct my subjectivism, in the spaces between these two languages? How do I breathe in this space between two silences?

Who would I have been if I'd grown up entirely francophone, or entirely anglophone? Would I have felt more at home in Toronto, or Quebedc? My bilingualism is a core part of who I am. Sometimes it serves as an extension of my thoughts, if one or the other language happens to fail me momentarily. If I'd been Spanish or Italian, would I have been more hot-blooded? Who would Christina have been, rather than the quiet Christine of half British roots who often has extreme moments of extroversion tied to her Quebecois roots?

Ceebie

3 comments:

paris parfait said...

Excellent point about growing up with two languages, as opposed to just one. I've spent all my adult life trying to learn others (French, Arabic and now Spanish), because I hate not being able to communicate properly - and it's not fair to expect everyone to always communicate in my language. I wish the American school system would embrace the concept that children learn languages easily at a young age - so they should offer the languages from kindergarten on, not just in high school. Lovely, thoughtful post.

chiefbiscuit said...

This beautifully put,and about something I have no inkling about - or have never thought about. It's an intriguing thought that language makes us who we are ... Thank you for this - I can see I will ponder aout it for quite some time.

Ceebie said...

Hi guys:

Thanks for your comments. I can't really take credit for the idea, though - I have to give it to Nicole Brossard, who is brilliant...