Saturday, January 11, 2014

Symbols of Canada - Part 5 - Bilingualism

Symbol #5 - Bilingualism

Canada's history is rich with cultural traditions that stem from both our British and French settlers.  One of the most unique characteristics that comes as a result is our two official languages.  While many in our country don't speak both official languages, this trait permeates our entire society, for better (and for worse).

I have lived in other countries where there are more than one official language.  One language unifies.  More than one language enriches and adds diversity to the culture.  It broadens the appreciation of things, as you have the opportunity to look at life and society through two or more lenses.

As a young man growing up in an anglophone region, and not being able to speak French, it was always a source of great confusion when confronted with labels, which, by law, were required to have both languages on them.  Over time, a habit developed, where you simply turned a product around until you arrived at the label that you could understand.  It became deeply ingrained in me.  So deep, that I never even noticed it, until it was brought to my attention when I arrived in Switzerland.  As I reached for a box of cereal or some such basic item, I found myself at a loss as to what it was.  I proceeded according to habit and turned it around.  Again and again.

And so, to me, bilingualism is personified in the following example.  A carton of orange juice.

Bilingualism is complex.  It adds all sorts of things to our culture and country that we wouldn't have otherwise.  So, even if you aren't bilingual, embrace it.  It is a neat opportunity.

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