A Fulbright Scholar in Montreal

January 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

Writer Cam Terwilliger is spending the year in Montreal, one of my favorite cities, on a Fulbright Scholarship, researching his novel on the French and Indian War. At Electric Literature , in a post from September, Terwilliger offers his impressions of the city in the first of what I hope is a regular feature.

Montréal is a city that embraces the protean, the heterogenous, the strange. The most obvious example of this is the language issue. Even something as banal as standing in line at the post office becomes an exercise in controlled chaos as the clerks respond to one person in French then, a split second later, jump into English for the next in the queue. Of course most Americans think of this duality whenever they think of Montréal, a town that makes the list of the world’s most bilingual cities (Miami, Barcelona etc.). But what many forget is that in Montréal these two languages are only the start. Wandering through downtown, you’re just as likely to hear Chinese, Arabic, Italian, or Haitian Creole. And immediately outside the city you’ll find not one but two reservations of the Mohawk people, a group reinvigorating their own language with regular classes on how to speak Kanien’kéha. Really: it’s the Tower of Babel up here.

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