When I visited Montreal for a conference fifteen years ago, it was not only love at first sight but also love at first sounds. The remarkable soundscape of the many different languages spoken in the streets of the city is very different from where I grew up: I was raised in a small town in Germany that was, and still is, almost entirely monolingual – including my parents’ household.
past three years, I have been working as a Greek heritage language teacher in a
Greek secondary school in Montreal. The first two years, I was assigned grade
10 classes, whereas this year, I was assigned a grade 7 class. I consider
myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with students of
different ages. Even though I have taken several courses on children’s
developmental psychology, pedagogics, and school psychology, I truly believe
that being given the opportunity to work with students of different ages has
been by far the most informative experience I have had.
I think that at this point in Canadian history, most of us have some awareness of the realities of language shift. Courses in many undergraduate programs discuss the loss of indigenous languages of Canada through the linguistic and cultural repression that occurred in residential schools.
After the chaos of a summer filled with travelling, working, family visits and July 1st “déménagement”, I was grateful to barbecue with good friends in my new backyard. We
reconnected over food, stories and laughter, updating each other on our summer adventures. The stories were told in a variety of languages too, showing off the multilingual competencies of my friends. English seemed to be the common language, but at a few different moments throughout the evening, some groups formed to share and laugh in Arabic or Spanish, neither of which I speak or understand. I observed these small groups admiringly…but with the distinct feeling that I was an observer, an outsider.