Pascal Derrien

5 years ago · 2 min. reading time · visibility 0 ·

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My First Language Is Not My First Language

My First Language Is Not My First Language

My first language is not my first language it is a bit like saying my happiness coach has depression right? Besides the figure of speech the tongue in cheek statement I have come to realize it is actually the reality. Let me explain, like many others I left my birth country roughly 17 years ago for another country, my destination was not too far but yet it still took 24 hours by ferry the final port of call being Ireland.

But far or not I had to adapt, I had to operate professionally and personally in a complete different format and ultimately had to get on with a language which while not strictly alien to me was not the one I was educated or brought up with during my childhood. Now I would consider myself lucky as the transition to English from French is not that bad providing there is a common alphabet others have had a bigger mountain to climb

18 years on now I read, work, engage and breathe in English probably 98% of the time, in terms of usage, utilization or thinking it has actually become my primary modus operandi language. What the big deal would you say roughly 225 million people live in a country which is not their country of origin and probably had to follow a similar or harder path to adapt and some may even be more proficient and fluent that I will have ever be in a language be it English or else.

That’s the thing I am not Irish but no longer French either in the traditional sense, I don’t overly evolve in French expat circles except on a need to basis, I did not feel the need to integrate or recreate a community or play the little France abroad I thought that would defy the purpose of the journey, while I respect those who do or those who need to I choose rather the opposite path and decided to engage fully and completely with my country of adoption.

That’s said I did not try to become something I was not , I was not rejecting or fleeing anything you have to be pretty lucid otherwise this could be borderline schizophrenic right? One of the few rules I gave myself was to make sure I did not use expressions which were not mine or overly Irish such as ``grand`` or ``thanking people a million`` times when I only wanted to thank them once, there was no point in my opinion in becoming a plastic Paddy and I would not even dare today using expressions that only locals would, I just thought this would sound uncomfortable, I had seen people trying very hard to sound Irish even adopting a fake accent and it was probably more pathetic than an admirable stunt of the mind.

But this involvement had a cost, unconsciously day after day, wave after wave, conversation after conversation I have drifted away from my birth language I even think jokingly that I have lost that ability to be eloquent and sharp in a language I was born with. I cannot write French anymore without a spellcheck tool (I know it is sad). For the defenders of integrity, the champions of identity and other lesson givers I would like to say it does not really bother me, for those who know me I even commit articles and blogs in English on, LinkedIn and WordPress and I am conscious they are sometimes probably full of ``grammatikkal`` mistakes. I suppose I am past that now and my focus is on the intent rather than the result, the aim is to convey a message or an opinion leaving aside the inhibitions.

But maybe all those theories are irrelevant, the thing I know is that I actually don’t master any language properly at this stage and I have probably become an hybrid version of myself.

Recently the world cup saw Algeria and France doing relatively well and I was delighted to see second , third or fourth generation of French-Algerians celebrating victories and displaying the language of joy with Algerian and French flags I thought this was encouraging until the enthusiasm was broken with certain city councils passing a bill stating that only French flags could be displayed you had to choose you cannot be both apparently, how backw(o)ard was the official language, how binary was the speech, how poor was the reasoning in comparison of the richness of the symbol, should we not let the world come to our homes?

Why don’t we admire the velocity, sharpness of the Swiss, Belgian or North African bilingual abilities to name just a few, why the Gibraltarian citizens with their dual identities are not role models, why the system wants to limit us to one dimensional blue print. I am no scholar and don’t have the answers but as a regular guy I am happy to be a


Article previously posted on a different platform in August 2014

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Pascal Derrien

5 years ago #6

many thanks Franci Hoffman glad you liked it :-)

I love the last line - A Perfect Imperfection. Great article, Pascal.

Pascal Derrien

5 years ago #4

Thanks Laurent BOSCHERINI comments and encouragements are greatly appreciated :-)

Laurent Boscherini

5 years ago #3

Thank you Pascal Derrien for sharing your relevant and smart article. I really enjoy it, so wise and honest.

Pascal Derrien

5 years ago #2

I fully get that Brian :-)

Pascal Derrien

5 years ago #1

Thank You/Merci Teresa :-)

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