Living in a city like Montreal that sits firmly on the fracture between two glacial language formations is without doubt an interesting experience. For those that have grown up here it may be hard at times to see the forest for the trees, but for a starry eyed prairie boy there are trees a plenty.
Language is a hot issue here, and why not? Language afterall may well be the root of consciousness, certainly the root of culture and society. How we communicate with each other is almost more important than what we actually say and here there are so many ways to say so many things.
Montreal isn’t strictly French, nor is it strictly English, nor do those two languages even begin to represent the city and all of its other languages. I know many people who are fluent in three or four languages. I know a few who really only know one. I have felt what its like to be kicked back to the minors in terms of the ability to communicate and understand – something that few of us experience if we don’t venture out of our native culture for an extended period and try to make a life for ourselves.
Montreal tries pretty hard to get bilingualism right though there are of course people on either side who just can’t bridge the divide and some that are vehemently opposed to even trying.
A report was recently leaked from a government taskforce in Quebec that seems to say that in order to make it in our increasingly integrated world Quebec needs to increase its tolerance and understanding of immigrants’ cultures and probably most nettling, learn more English. Of course the shouting started early and loud. And then I found a thread of comments trailing after a blog entry by people espousing the use of Esperanto as a universal language.
Of course I’ve heard of Esperanto, the attempt a century ago to create a truly universal language for politics, commerce and universal understanding. Needless to say it never really took off. I’ve only ever met one person who spoke Esperanto, a fellow from Brussels while playing pool in a dingy old pub in the Australian outback. So it was interesting to hear from the old language again more than five years later.
I watched a video on the language and read through those comments. Everyone claims that its ridiculously easy to learn and so, rather than making snap judgments based on little to no first hand experience I made a decision. I’m going to try and learn it.