2009/03/29

A day in the life

Learning English ain't like it used to be. In the mid-60s, Sherbrooke preschoolers had no French channels to choose from on morning television. Neither Radio-Canada nor the local Télé-7 were broadcasting before noon. English channels, on the other hand, were abundant. CBC, CTV, ABC, CBS and NBC were all up for grabs in the morning.

Captain Kangaroo, Chez Hélène and The Friendly Giant rapidly became my personal English trainers. The words "Here we are inside..." are forever engraved in my mind. I don't really know what not being able to understand English feels like.

I remember experiencing dismay when being asked by my Mother if I understood what was being said on television. She obviously didn't have a clue; I did. English was just there... everywhere... it was overwhelming in a very American way; that's how it always has been for me.

In second or third grade, having learned to read and write in French, I went to the tobacco shop and got myself a copy of Captain America. Boy!... was that ever frustrating!... I couldn't understand a thing. English spelling made no sense to me.

As a teenager, I took every opportunity I could to expose myself to English, enrolling in linguistic exchanges with students from Upper Canada College in Toronto and joining Katimavik. I eventually topped it off with an undergraduate degree from Bishop's University.

Nowadays, kid programming on French television in Québec seems almost limitless. Both my daughter and my son are totally oblivious to what's happening on English channels. The local cable provider, Vidéotron, exploited that reality in a commercial a few years back.A boy comes to his father watching TV and asks in French: "Dad?... how do you say 'J'aime mes amis' in English?" His eyes glued to the screen, the father replies to his dumb faced son in a hesitant tone: "Jaymiss maze aymiss?".Well... that could've been my kids' answer... Sigh...

I've recently found a way to stir some of my kids' interest for my second language. Up until now, all screens (television, Nintendo and leisure Web surfing) at home were off limits from Monday to Thursday. Television is now OK in English, after homework has been properly done. Let's see how that goes...

1 comment:

WILBO43 said...

Having grown up in Switzerland, I know exactly what it is to live in a bi-lingual society but that makes it exciting.
Great post!