Wednesday, March 19, 2014

québéc vs israel vs me

at the end of 2000, i left south africa and arrived in israel. israel had been doing alright politically, but within a month of my arrival the second intifada broke out and things went crazy. everyone became increasingly paranoid and aggressive and the palestinians i'd been living with were forced to leave their studies and return to their side of the border. the country's been on a downward spiral since.

at the end of 2012, i left israel and arrived in québéc. québéc's been amazing until then, but within a week of my arrival parti québécois came into power and tensions have risen to the point where many people have either left the province or are considering it due to the "language oppression" and, lately, religious and cultural oppression.

i find it interesting that both countries (québéc is a country, for all intents and purposes) are dealing with similar issues: they want to protect their cultural and linguistic identity. israel needs to be a refuge for jews facing persecution, and although it prides itself on being a democratic state its democracy can never be allowed to alter its jewish roots or everything would have been for nothing. québéc needs to be a bastion of french and francophone culture in canada, so it's kinda the same thing albeit not as extreme.

both of these countries have a significant immigrant population. both of these countries speak languages that are out-of-sync with the americanized globalized future we're all hurtling towards.

1) in order to participate in the new global village it's important that everyone can speak decent english.

2) in order to protect one's cultural identity it's important that the spoken and written language are dominant.

the thing is, israel has been wildly successful with regards to language and culture. hebrew went from a "dead" language to a relevant modern one, in spite of its population being largely immigrant. the reason for this is that anyone who immigrates is offered language instruction in a variety of methods and environments, but nobody's forced to speak hebrew and a lot of immigrants can get by just fine with english, russian or arabic. if you're an immigrant, you do what you like and in whatever language you like, nobody will "oppress" you or refuse to engage you because you don't speak the same language.

but your kids? your kids will go to school where the language of instruction is hebrew. between the schools, the internet and entertainment media they will hopefully learn decent english as well, but it's very rare to find people raised in israel, even recent immigrant children who've only been subjected to a year or two of israeli schooling, who don't speak fluent hebrew. and once you speak decent hebrew, you'd be silly not to take advantage of it in that environment.

in québéc, immigrants and non-francophone natives are forced to communicate in french; even though language instruction is available, it's complicated. if you're francophone, your kids go to french school and if you're anglophone, english school. so everyone's kids are isolated and none of them end up bilingual. adults, who have a harder time learning new languages, are harassed, technology companies - or any company that's not entirely local - need to continually deal with frustrating translation issues. tourism becomes a problem, as do all "international" events.

montreal, the only bilingual region in québéc, is not only an incredible mix of cultures but is also the most economically viable.


i guess what i'm saying is that being defensive is justified, but being exclusive isn't. they should't divide over language, they should unify with it! this is a magical place filled with wonderful people, there's really no need for language police or racism.

personally, i love both languages and i want to be fluent in french as well.

also, i have very bad luck when it comes to moving.

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