Globalized Culture: How Our Languages Are Changing.

Here’s another one of those guest posts I did for my blog tour. The experience was disappointing in terms of reach and sales. But I had put my heart into these posts, so I’m taking them back (*FTW*).

Globalized Culture: How Our Languages Are Changing.

One issue that came up when we were editing A Teenage Suicide was the language I used. It was something that had come up also when I was still in college, workshopping stories and chapters. I come from Montreal. I was born there. I was raised there and it is as “problematic” as it is interesting. (I would also argue it’s part of the city’s appeal)

I was born a francophone but grew up pretty much bilingually. Like most (young) people in this city, I speak two to three languages and try to pick up a little bit of everything as I meet people from around the world. That includes a bit of Spanish, Japanese and I even became friends with a Persian women who speaks Farsi. That means that my English (and French, it is true) is deeply “tainted” by the other languages I encountered all my life.

It’s a well-known fact that languages in Montreal have a specific flavour. Think of it as the difference when you hear someone from New-Orleans or Dublin speak. If they are doing it right, you should know exactly where they are (or aren’t) from. Montreal is just the same in both French and English: you can hear it.

If you look at the history of immigration to Montreal, the story is similar to that of the Eastern US. The first nations were there, settlers from Europe came in and took the best lands. Of course, we had French settlers first and the US had British and Dutch settlers, but once that seven-year war was done, Britain shipped as many Irish and Scotts to Canada as they did the Us. Then came the Italians, the Portuguese, the Jews, Germans and Poles. A lot of escaped slaves settled in Canada, including Montreal, the same way a lot of them settled in the Northern states. Of course, you add to that the wave of Haitian immigrants and the more recent ”global” waves of Asian, African and Latino immigrants, I think we have diversity pretty much nailed.
What that means is that Montreal is a breeding ground for mixing language and I believe it is a laboratory for the globalisation of languages. I have heard the term “Hybridity” in college quite a few times. When you mix so many heritages together, what comes out has the potential to become a new language entirely, a lot like what Creole is to French. If I hear two Haitians speaking in Creole, I will understand a lot of what they say, but not everything. It has become another language over time. This will also happen to English as the cultures of the world collide. Languages will continue to influence one another, expand their vocabulary, change their syntax and integrate regional slangs.

It is probably true that my English could “feel” strange but I don’t see it that way and I know most people in Montreal don’t see it that way either. As far as using “Montreal English” to write a novel, some people hate it, some people love it. The bottom line is that the way I write represent where I live and I certainly am not the first author to do so (I could cite David Fennario and Mordecai Richler as influences)

On my island, the important thing is not necessarily to speak or write “properly” in general grammar terms, but to be understood within a large diversity of accents and languages. For example, when I play in the park with my daughter, there are parents there who are Scottish, Irish, Québécois and British (the “original” four) but also more and more Latinos, French (from France, which is no longer the same as Québécois in terms of language), People from all regions of Europe, Algerians, Tunisians and of course, Indians, Chinese, Vietnamese and Torontonians…

We all pretty much speak French and English and somehow we all understand each other at the end of the day. I think that says something about the future of cultural relations in the world. Of course it is complex, but it is also interesting and if you have any respect for mankind, you know that the human brain is capable of figuring it all out if you train it a little, there’s plenty of hope for the future.

While it’s still true that most Irish are in the south-west, most Italians are in the East, most Haitians are in the North, the Jews are in Outremont (center) etc… the linguistic divide that used to exist in the city is no longer real and it’s incredibly interesting. In Montreal you can meet a girl named Laurie Murphy who dosen’t speak English and a girl named Sarah Deshaies who’s an Anglo journalist. The fringe festival even seriously considers putting a “Montreal Franglais” category next year. Language hybridity is a significant movement, and again, it is incredibly interesting.

I live this on a daily basis and it influences the way I write. Some of my sentences may seem odd to some readers but I didn’t want to take out this “flavor.” I didn’t want to make the novel generic so that more people could feel “comfortable”  reading it. It wouldn’t have helped the story and it wouldn’t have felt truthful to me.

The bottom line is this, that whole “globalisation of cultures” thing ain’t going anywhere so you might as well get used to it right away.

Love it or don’t, it’s up to you but to be honest, I’m not gonna change the way I write in the end.
Thanks for reading,

Take care,
Ian

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Buddhism, Anarchy and the World We Live In.

I have sworn to myself that I would never hurt anyone ever again. There was a time in my life where anger, hatred were fueled by struggles and idealism. It was years ago that I gave up on hate and followed my beliefs as a Buddhist. “Life is full of suffering, suffering is due to attachment, attachments can be overcome and there is a path to accomplish this.” These are the four noble truths which I now live by, but the eightfold path is hard to walk. And I find it increasingly hard to follow in the kind of decadent society we live in.

Because it is a decadent society we live in. Not because people embrace sexuality freely or because they dare to be themselves. Do not mistake this cry for some re-run of christian morality. I have no need for these. Our society is decadent and decaying by the powers-that-be and in this moment, it has a name : Jean Charest. The prime minister of Quebec has just passed repressive laws that severely restrain freedom of speech, freedom of association as well as encroaching on constitutional rights. (known as bill C-78)

I find it increasingly hard to remain peaceful and to feel compassion towards the police, the media or the people. In some ways I am conflicted because I should love them and understand their situation. But on the other hand, my beliefs come under assault by those very same people who I should love. It is hard to feel compassion when their hearts are so full of hate, when the media has them cranked up on images they know nothing of, cited out of context or edited in such ways that they seem to be taken out of a movie by Michael Bay. Buddha didn’t have to deal with such media manipulation. Siddartha Gautama did not know, as far as I know, the kinds of strife we know today : heroine, alcohol, opium, cocaine, hatred, violence, fascism and brutality beyond belief. Did the Buddha know such dire aspects of human kind and did he manage to overcome his anger anyways. Will I be able to be equally steadfast in today’s world.

As the mass media keeps fueling the fans of hatred in the general public, should I feel like the elite, or a snob because I feel enlightened. Even in my extended family, people are turning to fascist ideals, people are giving in to hate-speech and racism. People are asking the government for more security and to hell with liberty. I have been called a hypocrite because I own a television. Yet I am not plugged into any sort of cable. Am I guilty of hypocrisy just because I love the art form that is known as cinema. Am I to be considered a snob because I’d rather line up two words about the early years of Japanese cinema instead of the latest movie-hype, regardless of what it is?

In the face of such conservatism, I react by closing down on the world. I have found my niche, a spouse and a child, a few friends and colleagues, a limited amount of relationships with people who share my ideals. And as long as I remain in that circle of friends, life seems to be fair, but as soon as I step out of that comfort zone. As soon as I opened up the Right-wing papers, just to see if the world had change while I wasn’t looking, I am thrown aback, repulsed and appalled by what I see. And I am being called upon because of that sentiment. I have been told that it was my fault if the police was beating me, that it would be my fault if I would be arrested, fined or detained by the police. The very people I have been told by the Buddha to love do not want to be enlightened. They are blind and the strongest pliers I know of are not enough, it seem, to take off the thick, rusted steel plate that covers their eyes.

They claim that we have no ideals, that we do not know what world we want to live in. They will claim that the struggles of the youth, worldwide, are divided, distant and unrelated. They ask me (us) what it is exactly that we want, yet they reject our answers without hearing them.

I have decided to never consume any form of drug, alcohol or meat. The former because they are harmful to myself, the latter because it is harmful to my earth.

I want a world where the life I live will not cause suffering here or abroad.

I have decided to never impose my authority on anyone, anytime, anywhere. I believe that dialogue and fair societal-structures will lead to a society where conflicts are not so constant.

I want an economy where the workers elect their own foreman and define their own objectives.

I want an economy where investors do not have an indefinite and eternal “return” on their investments. Where their money will be refunded with a reasonable interest of 4% instead of the “stock market” system.

I believe that credit towards housing and land should not be suggested to interests.

I believe that democracy should be political AND economical with regular assemblies defining the objectives of governments instead of governments defining the objectives of society.

I want a world where there are electric forms of transportation available to all at fair cost. I also want that electricity to come from renewable sources. How is it that our roofs are covered with tar instead of solar panels?

I want a world where I do not feel the need to hate anyone in order to build my own identity.

I want a world where I do not need to steal, hustle, beg or borrow in order to make something of myself.

I want a society where anyone can create without being looked upon as a hippie, a freak or a dreamer.

I want a world where the perpetual pursuit of knowledge and education is not looked upon as petty-intellectualism or a refusal to grow up and “live in the real world.”

If those are now solutions to the decay we now live in, I can invite you to leave now and make your own dystopia elsewhere because the youth of today will build this kind of world and there will be no place in it for your lies, your hatred or your thievery.

I sign this here, on the 21st of May,

Ian Truman