About Identity and Language

Do multilingual identities exist? The question was recently asked by an English psychiatrist. I talked about some of the facets of this intriguing question with the Canadian author Michael Jean.

Michel Jean is Innu from Mashteuiatsh. He is a writer, TV news anchor and investigative journalist revered and appreciated by audi­ences across Quebec. He has written 11 books and has contributed to a number of collections, as well as curating two volumes bringing Indigenous voices to the fore: Amun, and Wapke. His novel, Kukum, a tribute to his great-grandmother, published in Quebec in 2019 was the second-bestselling novel in Quebec in 2020, with total sales exceeding 95,000 copies.

His writing language is French. And with regard to the surrounding English langauge communities he expressed the bias clearly: “We simply live in two different worlds”, he said. So, is it a role change if he changes language? “Somehow”, was the laconic answer.

Somehow, We tend to not knowing it clearly but we “somehow” experience it in Switzerland, as well. And he added: “The English speaking majority does not know an ‘alter ego’… not sure, he added, whether they have a sense of identity… or belonging.” – we parted. Carrying the question with us.

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