chapter  6
8 Pages

Another Drink in Subanun

I’m a poor language learner. That’s not modesty; that’s fact. I speak English and not much else. Granted I can bow, mumble and gesture in a variety of countries, but does that really count?

Growing up in Canada, my first encounter with learning another language was when my bilingual mother enrolled me in a French kindergarten not far from our home. Fantasies of me fluently conversing with my French grandmother seemed to dance in the background of her decision. Grandmamma couldn’t speak much English and our sporadic phone conversations were very limited. They always started with her singsong laughing greeting ‘Bonjour mon petit’ to which I’d been drilled to reply ‘Bonjour Grandmamma’. This greeting stage was followed up by ‘Ça va?’ to which I would reply ‘Bien’. We were talking but we never spoke meaningfully. As a result I was lukewarm with the French Kindergarten idea. This didn’t really matter because when you were a kid in my family, you ate what was on your plate. Any resistance was met by my mother’s standard response, ‘I’m not running a cafeteria here’. In my mind, food and school had a lot in common.