The Ongoing Battle of English vs. French


In high school, one of the many assignments we had to do was write a story about living in Montreal and dealing with the fighting languages of English and French. Here is my short story about a girl who breaks away from her mother's way of thinking in order to begin living her life to the fullest extent.

L'irruption into Freedom

The words flowed well. The drums were powerful; the guitar electrifying. The rhythm helped her feel stronger even though she knew it was only temporary. She understood the meaningful lyrics despite her oblivion to the entire language. As the song ended, her strength slowly drained from her and she was brought back to her problem. A problem which she faced daily ever since she could remember.

Véronique sat in the booth alone with her Walkman. She finished her fries and replaced her Walkman in her bag, zipping it shut. Nearby, Véronique could hear a group of teens talking. They were speaking English, she knew. She knew because she often listened to English music behind her mother's back. Véronique wanted to join in the conversation but couldn't because of the boundaries her mother had set ever since Véronique had begun to speak. She lived in Quebec and could not fathom why the French will not accept any other language.

After dumping her trash, she walked home. The weather was frosty and bleak. The wind blew against her. As soon as Véronique arrived home, the phone rang.

-- Véronique ? C'est Michelle. C'que tu veux aller au Centre Ville 'vec moi et André ?

-- Euh... je...j'peux pas.

-- Ah, OK. Ben, bonne journée, Roni !

-- Oui. Toi 'si.

The phone's dial tone rang in her ear. Véronique wanted to go downtown but her mother forbad her because she believed English was the only language spoken there. Véronique felt the weight of the house's emptiness. Her father was at work and her mother was probably running errands.

Véronique relaxed in her room before going to work the late shift at La Cache boutique. Originally, she had wanted to work at Simons or The Bay but most of Véronique's preferred stores had English names for which her mother held a grudge.

She left the house and arrived at work punctually. Véronique's colleagues were already there, getting ready for their shifts.

After running the cash for awhile, she went on the floor to fix the clothing racks. Véronique ran into one of her guy friends.

-- Salut, Roni ! She turned upon hearing her name.

-- Rémi ! Qu'est c'que tu fais ici?

Véronique had a crush on Rémi. His sleek, long black hair and dark eyes gave him a mysterious allure. It took her breath away.

-- Ma mère cherche des nouveaux draps de lit. Et, toi ?

-- Ben, je travaille ici. Ça fait quelques mois. She smiled.

-- Tu sais, ça fait un long bout d' temps qu'on s'connaît, n'est-ce-pas ?

-- Ben...oui.

Véronique wasn't sure what Rémi was trying to say. It was a struggle for him to get the words out, at first.

-- Veux-tu... venir 'vec moi ....après ton shift?

Véronique was about to accept his offer when she heard a horrible sound.

"Remy? Oh, there you are! I've found some sheets," Remy's mother saw Véronique, "Is this a friend from school?"

"Yes, this is Véronique."

-- Véronique, ma mère.

Before she knew what she was saying, Véronique blurted out, "Hi."

She didn't know what had happened. All she could think about was her mother's horrified expression because she spoke a different language.

"Hello," she smiled before turning to Remy, "I'll be at the cash, okay?"

"Alright," His mother walked away.

-- Tu parles...anglais ?

-- Ouais. Alors... le souper ?

-- Oui ...euh, non...oui...j'ai aucune idée.

-- J'comprend pas.

-- Est-c'que j'peux te téléphoner demain ?

-- Euh, ouais.

-- D'accord. Faut que j'range les vêtements.

Véronique turned and walked away, broken-hearted and confused. If her mother ever found out that she was friends with someone English... Véronique stopped. She wanted to be with Rémi and she was not going to let a little thing like language get in her way. After sixteen years of not crossing her mother's line, Véronique had had enough.

When she arrived home from work, her mother, Janelle, was already there. Janelle was a short woman with good taste in jewellery and clothes, but not in make-up. She wore too much rouge. It clashed with her hair color which was also a shade of red. Véronique was more like her father.

-- Véronique, qu'est ce que tu veux manger ce soir?

Véronique took a deep breath...and answered:

"I want to have pizza for supper."

Her mother froze; her face ghostly pale.

-- QUOI!?

Véronique stood firm. She boldly repeated her response and without a translation.

Janelle pointed a finger at her.

-- Ici, dans cette maison et dans ce pays, on parle le FRAAAN. ÇAIS !

-- Mais ça pas d'bon sens ! On utilise le smoking, le week-end, une pizza. Pourquoi pas toute la langue ?

-- Parce que c'est comme ça. Point finale.

Janelle opened a cabinet to retrieve the dishes.

-- Non. Je parlerai c'que je veux...

Janelle looked at her daughter and parted her thick red lips to speak, but Véronique plowed on.

-- Et j'me tiendrais 'vec les gens qui me plaît. She walked towards her room.

-- AIE ! Tu restes ici, Véronique !!

Véronique whirled around to face her mother.

"You can't stop me. C'est fini, Ma, pour toujours!" Véronique went to her room and shut the door.

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