Le Canadian



It comes as no surprise that 56% of Montrealers are bilingual, but it is curious as to how much of that percentage are Quebecers who are as fluent in English as they are in French, if not more. Felix Mercier, a third-year Concordia student studying business administration, belongs to the latter category. Born at the same time as his twin brother Hugo in Montreal to full-blooded French-Canadian parents, he moved with his family to Connecticut when he was five, only to return to his hometown for university studies, thirteen years later at the age of 18. Despite not speaking a word of English at the time of his arrival in the United States, he now says he is more comfortable in it than his mother tongue of French. Felix happens to be an ideal specimen for investigation into the mind of someone who is divided not only in language, but also in identity, given most of his upbringing in a country elsewhere than that of his birth. What follows are his personal thoughts and opinions on such musings:

Q: Were you nervous about starting a new life in a new place and if so, how did you manage to overcome that?

Felix: I don't really know. I can't say because I was too young and don't remember that well. I do remember going to kindergarten and not being able to talk to anyone at first, which was pretty weird, but I just sort of started speaking English one day and picked it up pretty quickly. Kids can definitely learn a lot faster than adults.

Q: When did you become able to speak it fluently?

Felix: I was pretty much fluent by the first year of living there. I was still speaking French at home with my parents and my brother but I started it speaking it less and less as my English got better.

Q: Did you eventually stop speaking French completely?

Felix: Not completely but nearly. At some point, I started speaking English with them instead while they would almost always respond to me in French. Today, I try my best to talk to them only in French but I'll switch to English here and there when there are certain things I can't express.

Q: Do you find it easier to speak one or the other?

Felix: Not really, even though I speak better English. I just think it doesn't take any more or any less effort for me to speak one than the other, but I personally find it simpler to express most things in English.

Q: What do you think is simple about it?

Felix: I don't know, I can't quite put my finger on it. Things just seem to flow better and it doesn't require as much attention to what you're trying to say, if that even makes sense. I just feel like French sometimes takes more words to express the same thing that would take less words in English.

Q: What language do you think in?

Felix: That's a tough question. I think English for the most part because I've been exposed to it a lot more and for longer, but French is still my mother tongue so I have been thinking in French more and more since moving back to Montreal and getting the chance to speak it more often.

Q: Are you an American citizen?

Felix: Yeah, I hold dual citizenship. It comes in pretty handy when I want to cross hassle-free into either Canada or the States by just showing the passport of the country where I'm going to.

Q: In terms of nationality, what do you want to be identified as?

Felix: Good question. I'm not entirely sure because when I lived in the States, I felt American even when my friends would make fun of for being Canadian. When I came back to Montreal for university, the PQ came to power and there was a lot of that separatist stuff going on so I considered myself Quebecer for a bit, but that's all done now so I've just been saying I'm Canadian. I guess it changes depending on where I live, but I don't take pride or preference in being identified as this or that. I'm just a North American, I guess.

Q: Where do you think you would want to live in later life?

Felix: That's hard to answer because I don't even know where I want to live after university, although I'll most likely end up moving back in with my parents for a year or so. It's nice that I can live either in Canada or in the States since I'm a citizen of both but I think I might want to bounce around until I find a place where I feel the most at home and at ease.

Q: Do you think that might be in Canada or in the States?

Felix: To be honest, probably the States since that's where most of my family and friends are. I have family and friends here in Montreal too but my grandparents live a few kilometres out and most of my friends here are most likely going back to where they're from once they're done school.

Q: Is there anything that you miss in the States that Canada doesn't have?

Felix: That's easy. Cheap alcohol and cigarettes (laughter). But in all seriousness, I just find life in Canada to be a lot more expensive for basic stuff like groceries and gas--even though I don't drive here--but I guess it makes sense because there are more benefits like free healthcare. I guess if I ever get cancer from cheap Marlboros, I'll have to come back here for treatment!

Q: How do you feel about Canadians as an American, and vice versa?

Felix: That's funny, I was just thinking about that. As an American, I almost think that Canadians are just mild versions of Americans. I feel like they do what Americans do, just not to the same American "go big or go home" degree. It's not a bad thing, it's just an observation. As a Canadian, I find that Americans aren't really that different from us but they just happen to get a bad rap because of a few bad apples, and mostly their government, but everyone I know back in Connecticut is as friendly. intelligent and open-minded as people believe Canadians to be.

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