Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Why Dion's message gets lost in translation

This is a really interesting article on Stéphane Dion's troubles with English, interviewing his language pathologist. And I'm intrigued, I want to hear his Ken Dryden impression.

Why Dion's message gets lost in translation
The Ottawa Citizen
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Source: The Ottawa Citizen

Stéphane Dion should have listened to his father.

When the Liberal leader was deciding where to pursue his doctorate, his father urged him to consider a North American university. The elder Dion thought it was vital that his son become truly bilingual. Instead, Stéphane went to Paris for his PhD.

You have to wonder if he ever regrets that decision.

Mastering a second language as an adult is a struggle, but few have their efforts judged daily by an entire nation. What is it about Dion's English that we find so distracting?

Mary Houle has been Dion's speech and language pathologist for almost two years. This is the first time the party has green-lighted her to talk to the media about Dion's efforts to learn English.

Dion is struggling because of a combination of accent, intonation, hearing and, to some extent, his own stubbornness. The result is that we shift our attention from message to messenger.

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Proudpinko said...

I will listen to the French debate tonight with particular interest, not just to the entire content, but to Harper's french. I have always contended, and I haven't changed my opinion, that Dion's English is better than Harper' French. I really don't buy that Harper's French is going over "like ganbusters." It's just that francophone Canadians, being a minority, have always been more tolerant of someone making the effort to speak French, and so, will forgive a lot of mistakes. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case with anglophone Canadians. I realize Chrétien was an exception - his personality trumped a lot of things. But the media have treated Dion ruthlessly and unfairly.

I too would love to hear Dion's Ken Dryden impression. But I can understand that he would not want to be continually speaking publically in a voice that his not his own.

Mike514 said...

This is the first time the party has green-lighted her to talk to the media

Liberals controlling their staff's exposure to the media? I thought that was a Liberal complaint about the Tories...

Mike514 said...

My comment was totally tongue-in-cheek, btw. There are probably confidentiality and code-of-ethics clauses preventing her from speaking about a patient's condition.

Barcs said...

Key to release this talking point right before the debate (again) wasn't it.

Except he did pretty good in the leadership convention debate with a dozen other people on the stage talking.

I understand the problem with the tones. It is hard to produce them not having learned them young (when most people learn language). A second language later in life is very hard to lean the tones and the pronouncing.

But accents you can decipher and hearing enough of each or several you can easily decipher what is being said.

But Syntax is one of the larges challenges Dion faces in the quest for a second language. And syntax can be learned on paper. It has nothing to do with accents, tones or hearing.

And when I hear him I hear the old sterotype on the dumb rural people.

"We want for that our kids shoulda spoke as good'a english as we all done!"