This thought was inspired by a Facebook page I recently saw titled:
"YOU came to OUR Country. YOU learn OUR language."
Before I dive into the good stuff, I want to make clear that this post is NOT about illegal immigration. I am NOT in support of people coming to the United States without proper documentation. I am NOT trying to justify why people cross the border illegally. This post is my thoughts about the Facebook page. Period.
With that said....
In 2005, my husband, Dustin, and I vacationed in Montreal, Quebec on our honeymoon. It was my first time visiting the Eastern side of Canada and I was excited to see a new part of the world.
As most of you probably know, Quebec's first language is French. After living in Montreal for two years, studying French in school (which included a 3 week course in France), Dustin was prepared to speak the language. Of course, because French was not his first language, any Quebequoi would know right away he wasn't local because of his accent. Nevertheless, he was prepared and fully capable to communicate in French. Because I didn't speak French, however, when it was just the two of us talking to each other we, obviously, would speak English.
Our first evening in Montreal, we went to a restaurant near our hotel. When we were greeted by the hostess, out of habit I said "hello" to her. Her entire demeanor changed and, based on her facial expression, there was no denying she was utterly annoyed. I could just imagine her thinking "Ah, stupid Americans!" She began speaking English and walked us to our table. When our waiter arrived, she spoke to us in English despite Dustin's attempts to convert to French. The service was awful and I felt like I was such a bother to everyone.
We experienced the same type of reaction almost every place we went. The Quebequoi refused to speak French with Dustin. At dinner, our waiters only came to our table when they absolutely had to (to get our order, to give us our food and to give us our check), and never asked us how we were doing, if we needed anything else, etc. It was so frustrating and I couldn't believe how horribly we were treated just because people assumed we couldn't speak French.
One day, we were in Quebec City. We just so happened to be in the city on a busy day when some festival was going on. While driving around, we got to an intersection where a policewoman was directing traffic. Dustin apparently did something that upset her, so she came to our car to talk to him (in French, go figure). She realized he had an accent which only made matters worse. For the next 10 - 15 minutes (and I'm totally not exaggerating), she made us wait at this intersection while she let all other directions go multiple times. Only until there was a huge line of cars behind us did she finally let us proceed.
Overall, it was a great trip. Quebec is a beautiful area. The architecture was amazing, and in some areas it looked like Europe. The pros of the trip definitely outweighed the cons, but I'll never forget the way we were treated.
Some of you may be thinking that I'm too sensitive and interpreted things incorrectly. Maybe the people were trying to be nice by conversing with us in English? Had I not been there myself, I probably would've thought the same thing. But, in these few examples it was very obvious the people did not like us.
Up until this trip, I had never been treated with such disrespect based on my nationality and language. I was floored by the experience and not because I expected everyone to conform to me (after all, I was the one who was in another country), but because everyone assumed we were unable to communicate with them in their primary language.
I immediately thought about my experience in Quebec when I saw the aforementioned Facebook page (which, by the way, three of my "friends" are "fans" of. I'm sure they'll get a kick out of this post). I couldn't help but wonder how many Mexicans, Hispanics, Latinos, etc. (because, let's face it, that page isn't referring to Europeans or Asians) that appear not to speak English actually do.
Is being bilingual a thing of the past?
Is it possible we are too quick to judge?