We are here in Quebec province, spending time mainly with people from Quebec, and speaking French most of the time. Sometimes we communicate in English. But there is a gap of understanding in both languages. Our French is imperfect, plus we are still getting to grips with the Quebec dialect, so obviously this creates a gap of understanding (btw the word “dépanneur” in the photo above means “corner shop” in Quebec, not “mechanic”) – but when we speak English it’s become obvious that Quebeckers’ English is not fluent either. Metaphorically we find ourselves staring at each other over a linguistic crevasse – uncertainty takes over the intentions behind each other’s speech.
In other words, it’s a case of “I understand what you’re saying but why are you saying that? Was that a question or a statement of intent? I just said something to clarify a situation but you thought I said it because I didn’t actually understand the situation.”
Maybe it comes from feeling of being in the dark because we don’t understand enough of what people are saying around us to be sure of the context. Or are we missing the little cues – the non-linguistic or linguistic ones – that give that subtle, extra meaning to an utterance? We could also be victims of our hosts’ adaptations to their own speech – so they stop speaking as they would normally and so no one is speaking their native language. And so we find ourselves in a country between two languages…..