Sometimes I feel schizophrenic. Let me rephrase that, I feel schizophonic. As in, I don’t know which language to think in. Before I elaborate further, a few things you should know about me: My father immigrated to Canada from Greece in the late 1960’s, and my mother is Québécoise. At home growing up, we spoke all three languages, but mostly English. I went to a French grade school and high school, but most students there were of mixed ethnic groups (I was raised in Chomedey, Laval). I continued in English at the Cégep and University levels. Most of my friends growing up were Greek, Portuguese, Italian, Haitian, Lebanese, etc. I married a Russian-Syrian girl, born in Crimea. Suffice it to say, border crossings are complicated.

I’m constantly at war with my inner monologue. My French side sees a street on the plateau and pronounces it “Jeanne Mance” while my English side counters with “don’t you mean Jeene Maance?” My Greek side notices the homeland’s flag on the side of the College Platon building.

college Platon

college Platon

My French side gets annoyed when the person in front of me waiting to pay at the cash automatically answers the French cashier in English. Tu pourrais te forcer I think to myself. Then, my English side thinks of my dad when he first arrived here and tries to understand that I might not know where this person is from and that maybe they mean no disrespect. My Greek side meanwhile wonders if the cashier would make a nice wife.

My English side feels proud when American tourists are amazed that I can switch to French on a dime. My French side likes to feel superior to said Americans. My Greek side already felt superior to all three.

My Greek side can look at someone I don’t know from across the room and pretty accurately guess their ethnicity by the amount of family members in tow. My English side finds this “politically incorrect”. I feel better about myself when my French side realizes I’m being too harsh and that I should go to a 5 à 7 to forget all about it.

My Greek side wonders how many words I can spot that have a Greek root. My French side is pretty impressed with myself. My English side is craving an artisanal beer in the Mile-End.

My English side likes CHOM FM. My French side likes ICI Musique and CISM. My Greek side listens to burned CDs.

burned-cds

My English side can’t digest that. My French side is curious to try that. My Greek side is all about that shit.

I ran into my Portuguese friend, Carlos, the other day. I like to tease him about how much chicken he ate that week, and he jabs back with some Tzatziki reference. We share a good laugh and a knowing nod that our other sides wouldn’t get the joke.

That’s what I love about Montreal. Whether you are of “ethnic” background or from Gaspésie or Abitibi, on some level, we are all a little schizophrenic when it comes to language, both in and out of our heads. You might even say that we are schizophonic.

 

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About The Author

Andre Papanicolaou
Collaborator - RREVERB

Andre Papanicolaou is a Montreal-based singer/songwriter, producer, touring and session guitarist. Over several years of recording and touring with other artists (Vincent Vallières, Daran, Pascale Picard Band, Patrice Michaud), Papanicolaou began to carry around a notebook and write down a series of essays. He brings to RREVERB a unique point of view: the one of a professional musician.