It’s often said that French is the language of love, but many Francophones across the country have fallen—for better or for worse—head over heals into relationships with Anglophones.
If the plan is to stay in from the cold and snuggle up with your Valentine tonight, you may want to check out the bilingual play, subtitled in French and English, Je parle français and I love in English.
Both funny and touching, the play explores the relationships between Francophone women and their Anglophone partners, reflecting on the joys, challenges and misunderstandings met by couples who don’t share the same language or culture. As one character puts it, “…relationships are beautiful and complicated at the same time. It’s complicated enough communicating in the same language…Imagine what it’s like when you speak different languages.”
With an ensemble cast spanning several generations, the play is as entertaining—and hilarious—as it is truthful. At the beginning of one relationship, a sweet and fumbling Anglophone is only able to muster, “J’ai un crayon jaune” as a pick-up line. As the relationship progresses, his Francophone girlfriend explains, “Only this week I stopped saying burning house instead of housewarming.”
The script is based on true stories, collectively written through the testimonials, commentaries and interviews of some thirty Francophone women in the Yukon. Produced by Les EssentiElles, an organization dedicated to supporting Francophone women in the Yukon, it was first presented in 2013; it’s been so well-received that it was performed again in 2015 as a part of Les Rendez-vous de la Francophonie. Since then, it’s been revived and adapted by other Francophone and women’s organizations in Canada.
In its depiction of the realities of French-English couples and the complexity of these relationships in Canada especially, the play, at times, offers poignant reminders of past tensions. And though perhaps a testament to the richness and vitality of Canadian bilingualism, it also reminds us of the fragility of our minority language communities—and what we can do, together, to keep them strong.