We all know how complicated can be the life of a grad student; full of schedules, experiments, meetings and all sorts of things in between. The room for extra activities becomes more and more reduced over time, especially towards the end of the degree. However, we should spare some time to learn French. Why? Well, for starters, it is a beautiful language that happens to be the preferred way to communicate in the province of Québec, where our beloved University resides. Unfortunately, at the very beginning, it can be kind of shocking if you could barely speak English before arriving in Montreal. I still remember the day I was walking towards the customs officer to declare all the stuff I brought from Mexico. It would be the first time using my English in a real situation, where the other person probably would not speak a word of Spanish. I gathered all my confidence to talk in a horrible English marked with a strong accent. The next time in front of the pizza restaurant, where I took my first Canadian meal, was the same. After that, I managed to talk with the receptionist at the hotel, then to a random guy when I asked for directions to McGill and finally with my supervisor. Once I felt more comfortable with English, I started with French studies. Lately, I try to speak French when I go to Tim Hortons or to any office (even if I must switch to English midway), but then I noticed something funny. Quebecois love Spanish. My wife and I find people everywhere trying to make some small conversation with us to practice their Spanish, talking about their vacations in Cancun or La Riviera Maya. I cannot tell you how happy this makes me; Spanish is not a simple language and it varies greatly from one country to another, just ask your closest Hispanic friend and he/she will tell you the complications we have between ourselves. To see these people trying to learn it and to practice, even when they have been studying for a short time, makes me feel like I should do my best to catch up with French. Right now, I spend some time trying to improve my French through online courses, videos, podcasts and virtually everything that crosses my path. Even if you do not plan to live in Quebec, we have an amazing opportunity to learn not only French but the rich Quebecois culture.
Photo by Luis Villegas and Dulce Lopez