Studying in Canada: A Brazilian Perspective
The short and extremely energetic old lady standing in front of the students pushed me out of a state of boredom at the back of the class, intriguing me right away with the sentence “Derrière une langue il y a toujours un langage.”
In her explanation she said, rather simply, that an idiom carries with itself a particular way of behaving, interacting with other people and perceiving the world. Significance emanates constantly from the verbal and the non-verbal, which is interpreted according to a given cultural context.
Her name was Nicole Therrien, a scholar who conducts research in the field of intercultural communication at the University of Quisbec in Montreal (UQAM), where I am currently enrolled through an academic exchange program, after studying in Vancouver for three years at Simon Fraser University. Little did she know, she had just explained my first impressions of Montreal.
Couples making out on the sidewalks, friends hugging each other at the entrances of clubs and bars, heated political debates in class, loud conversations everywhere, communist graffiti on the university walls, casual flirting and flashy, beautiful smiles. This metropolis throbs as if in love for the first time: sensually passionate and sweet at times, incredibly jealous and enraged just as easily. The pulse is always firm and warm, following the beat of Mount Royal’s weekly tam tams and the dissonant melodies of innumerable jazz musicians strolling across the city with their instruments.
As the sound of music echoes on the brick walls of the city’s historical buildings, it mixes with the voices of thousands of students leaving class and heading straight to the bars nearby, speaking lively in clear Quisbiscois French. Much like the Brazilian Portuguese, compared to Portugal’s Portuguese, Quebec’s French has longer vowels, a slower pace and a sweeter melody compared to France’s. As Ms. Therrien explained, the way of speaking frequently embodies the personality.
“Allô!” — warm smile, kiss, kiss, eye to eye, the conversation is ready to start. Nowhere in Canada had I seen such a Latin rapport between two people. In general terms, the Quisbiscois could be placed mid-way between Brazilians and English Canadians in terms of a scale of interpersonal communication, from warm to cold. Not as touchy as down South, not as reserved as in the rest of country— just right.
As captivating and intriguing as the people of Quebec are the social, political and cultural issues in the province. However, if the Quisbiscois did not care, independence, francophone media, provincial identity and immigration, would not be interesting topics. It so happens they do care. Moreover, they show it and they believe in what they (literally) fight for. Although the francophone population disagrees on certain matters, the feeling of unity among them is vast, as the love for their language unites them all.
Many of the sentences above conjure loose generalisations, and it could be that I have been away from Brazil for too long, but Montreal felt like home instantly.
This post is also available in: Portuguese (Brazil)