Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Dion in French and English

Too many times in the course of the day I hear complaints about Dion's English and too many times I have to leap to his defense.

I think my sensitivity to the issue comes from the fact that mom was a francophone who only learned English late in life, much like Dion. I understand him perfectly well because it's an accent I'm used to.

It turns out that part of Dion's problem is a common congenital hearing problem.

I've argued that Dion's English, minus his accent, is more sophisticated in structure and vocabulary than that of most native English speakers. Just look at this quote from the story noted above:

But he said it (the hearing problem) affects his ability to "catch the music of the beautiful language of English."

"I hear everything when it is isolated, but when it is confused with other sounds it is completely confused," Dion, 52, said Monday during a campaign stop. "My mother has the same problem. It is kind of a hereditary problem, but it does not stop me from listening to Canadians.
When was the last time you heard a politician refer to catching the music of the beautiful language of English? Need I make the comparison with the local politicos who drivel endlessly about "piece of due diligence drill-down on a go-forward basis at the end of the day, to be honest"?

And that seems to be part of his problem. Because he does not dumb down his remarks when he switches to English, native English speakers are caught trying to follow complex and sophisticated remarks on top of hearing them in an unfamiliar accent.

Maybe he should just dumb done his remarks in both official languages. He could do that. But then he would not have attracted my attention or my support.

This article goes some way to help explain the issue of Dion and his English.

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