Parallelogram: English as a Second Language

\One experience explored from two points-of-view\



What is the mother tongue of Mayaguez and what is your history with that language?

Spanish is what the locals speak to each other. I took 7 years of the language in school.  Man, I should have more to show for it! yikes!

But English is the other official language of Puerto Rico. Most everyone speaks it. We bought a car, opened a bank account, set up our internet, eat out, meet the neighbors (even the 7 year old neighbor girl), and even bought some fruit from a vendor at an intersection in English.  (seriously, I think I could’ve understood ‘un dólar‘ in Spanish.)

 a local we met at the beach.  Spoke English

a local we met at the beach. Spoke English

How has your English-as-a-Second-Language experience been so far?

Fine.  I try to speak Spanish as much as possible, even if the locals speak English back at me. Some are impressed that I try to speak Spanish, as if they are flattered.  They especially LOVE it if one of my kids says “hola” or “adios” to them.

But most of the Spanish I know the best is related to kids.  I don’t use “mete la mano dentro de la manga” (put your hand in the sleeve) very often in normal conversation.

I found the manual laborers are the ones least likely to know English. Then my broken Spanish serves ok.

What’s it like for your kids and husband?

Trevor has been just fine speaking English to everyone, and miming to those who don’t understand him. I think he feels comfortable going out on his own to run errands and such.

My son however, is a little overwhelmed by all the Spanish spoken at his school.  I know he understands more than he speaks, and his teachers are totally bilingual, so I think it’s just a matter of time before he really absorbs it and ends up teaching me Spanish. haha



What is the mother tongue of Montreal and what is your history with that language?

French, and very seriously as Loi 101 states: “…in the province of Quebec in Canada defining French, the language of the majority of the population, as the only official language of Quebec.”  Our neighborhood, Le Plateau, is one of the most French-dominant in Montreal.

Luckily I had four years of French in high school, a year in college and some adult classes when we got married.  Unluckily, high school was 25 years ago.

How has your English-as-a-Second-Language experience been so far?

Day to day it is manageable as English is spoken all over and not just when you ask for it.  I hear it on sidewalks, at the playground, almost everywhere I go.  This allows me to comfortably practice my French which I try to do everyday.  Where it is a problem for me, as you could assume from Loi 101, is in every administrative task that needs accomplished.  Driving is also a problem as all traffic and parking signs are in French.  Basically anything official is in French and you are reminded of this by the “French is the official language here” (“…..francais….ici”)  signs posted on every on desktop and wall.

I recently had to obtain our residential street parking sticker.

I do not know how to say “residential street parking sticker” in French.  So instead I said this:

Je besoin (I need) pour ma voiture (for my car) sur le fenetre (on the window)

And this is what I looked like when I said it, all sweaty-stressed-out armpits and attached toddler, appearing as the universal symbol for Please, Just Help Me Out Here.


It worked and we didn’t even get applesauce on it.IMG_0988

I’ve never left a place not getting what I needed.  I take that as a win.

What’s it like for your kids and husband?

Kris is studying French using the app Duo Lingo.  He’s doing very well with it.  His office is in Montreal but the company is Toronto-based so all work communications are in English.  Still though, there are all the unofficial communications in French.

Arlo’s interest in learning has increased as he settles in.  The move has been rough on my child and so we are going at his pace, peppering our conservations with fun vocabulary words, greetings and salutations, etc. and backing off when he resists.  I am content to wait until he is comfortable here before getting serious about his learning French.

Farrah Star, my 19-month-old, will probably speak better French than all of us by summer.

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