I am trilingual. So Bartleman's story made me smile, appreciate and bond...
Currently living in Squamish BC, Bartleman is a proud Canadian athlete who has come to understand the importance of French/English bilingualism. “I am a big supporter and enthusiastic proponent of Canadian bilingualism, a subject that is often treated with a lot of contempt and mockery out here in Western Canada,” she writes in her blog.
Originally from Montreal, Bartleman grew up in an English-speaking home and is the oldest of four children. In her early years, her family moved to Alberta where she attended a French immersion elementary school. Growing up, she didn’t understand the full scope of her parents’ insistence on bilingualism and like most children, didn’t care for French in school.
Around age 11, she and her family moved back to Montreal where she attended an English high school. “It’s different when you’re in Montreal once you get to high school. You go to French class in high school in Montreal and sure you might hate it, but then you go out with your friends who are French or who speak French and it translates right . . . no pun intended.”
While Bartleman went on to pursue her life’s passions, she began to understand her father’s insistence on her learning Canada’s other official language. As she travelled across the country, she noticed that a whole lot of people speak French in Canada. “I go other places in Canada and meet all these francophones and I think it’s really cool.”
As she started participating in international competition, Michelle understood the importance of her second official language even more, meeting other athletes from around the world, making friends and picking up other languages in the process!
“I recently had this enlightenment, after speaking at the Jour de la francophonie where there were all these BC francophones,” she says. “I had the realization that I’m their counterpart. I’m an anglophone Quebecer, an anglo-Québecoise.”
As guest speaker, Bartleman delivered her speech in French. Some other speakers were unable to deliver their speeches in Canada’s other official language. She describes this in her blog: “I couldn't understand why the francophones, on their day, were still pandering to the anglos. And then it struck me. The BC francophones at this event get it. They understand the give and take needed to perpetuate understanding and appreciation between different cultures. They realize that, even on their day, they need to respect and accommodate anglophones in they same way that they as francophones hope to be accommodated and respected every other day of the year.”