Pluricultural Main Dish!…

by Lyne des Roberts alias La Dame dragon

What I love the most about my job is the fact I can mingle with so many different people each day of my life… although all Canadians, most of them come from other countries and they bring spicy flavour to each class. It is certainly a great opportunity for feeding conversations with diverse points of view and stances… while learning French, everybody also learns a bit more about their peers’ cultures, customs, religions and traditions. Some friends of mine wonder why I do not belong to any social networks on the internet: well… I can connect with people from around the world right here! Why would I spend my time in a “virtual” universe talking with people I will never actually meet when I can do it in the “real” world… with individuals who may eventually become my friends?

Extra-curricular activities are part and parcel of my students’ training… I cannot conceive teaching them French without providing them with consistent exposure to our French-Canadian culture. Of course they all are well adapted to the main stream (English) of our culture, yet they do not know much about the other side of the medal.

Going to the movies and theater is something I do often with them… and I always favour Québec movies and plays rather than “made in France” productions because, beyond the language itself, there are huge cultural differences… In order to communicate efficiently with their francophone colleagues, acquaintances and friends, they need to understand their idiomatic expressions and, above all… their humour! I am not saying that I avoid anything that is not “made in Québec”, but I do concentrate on what will be more useful for them to know.

This week, I took James (a Chinese-Canadian born and raised in Nova Scotia) and Seema (a sweet Indian woman who arrived here less than 15 years ago) to see the movie “Cruising Bar 2”… a parody of Québec male stereotypes starring Michel Côté, one of our best actors. I had extended the invitation to Alice (a woman born and raised in South-Africa), but she had planned to go biking that evening… the following day I was told she had read my blog instead (certainly not with the goal to perfect her French! Perhaps I should write in French from now on…)… For James, the experience did not cause him any difficulties because he is now quite advanced in French. Also he had had the opportunity to watch “Cruising Bar” on TV (a 20 year old movie featuring the same characters) a couple of weeks ago. For Seema, a beginner, the experience was exhausting! She relied on the visual part of the movie, more than on the dialogues, to get the gist of the story… and it was obvious she was not acquainted with this kind of humour so particular to the Québécois. She actually learned quite a lot this week!

I have to open a parenthesis here… Is there anyone out there who can explain to me the reason why, in a city of 750 000 inhabitants (of which a good proportion is francophone), not one single movie theater is featuring films in French? Maybe they do not know that Francophones in this country are the biggest consumers of movies because… if they knew, I am convinced they would trade a couple of stupid American movies such as Batman, The Incredible Hulk, Ironman, etc. for a few ones with more substance for the brain! Unless they consider they do not have to make any effort to please their French-speaking clientele since they all are bilingual (if so, they are missing the whole point! it is not merely a matter of language, it is a matter of culture! Hollywood movies are simply not our preference…). All this to say we have to go across the bridge each time we want to see a film in French! It would be neat if some movie theaters (not necessarily all, but at least one – especially in the Ottawa east end where there is a large concentration of Fancophones) had the courtesy to feature the popular ones made in either Québec or France…

Another cultural and social activity I do privilege with my students is lunching and dining out… Sometimes I pick the restaurant (then I take them where they serve French, Mexican, Spanish, Caribbean, “nouvelle cuisine” food) but, most of the time, I let them choose… Seema loves Chinese, Jianlin (a woman born and raised in China) loves Thai and James… well… James loves Chez Cora, a Québec chain that serves breakfast all day long! It is always quite an adventure to eat out with my trainees… it is anything except boring!

English... and some French!
Mandarin… French… Cantonese… Common denominator: English… and some French!
English... and soon, more French!
Mandarin… French… Hindi… Common denominator: English… and soon, more French!

My advice: Never ask the restaurant’s owner to take a group picture for you!!!

You may end up with something like this:

Jianlin - La Dame dragon - Seema - James - and... "en prime", the chairs!

Les trois mousquetaires: Jianlin - La Dame dragon - Seema - James - and... "en prime", the chairs!