An English Person’s Experience Living in Quebec

Why Language Barriers Really Don’t Matter

Brandon Tumblin
3 min readJan 25


Photo by Ahmed Neji on Unsplash

I lived in Quebec City for about 2 years, and when I was there I only spoke broken French. The French and English relations in Canada are mostly good now, but there are some barriers there. For one, the French and the British back in the day fought over Canada. The British eventually claimed dominion over the country. But there remained in Canada a large population of French people; about a third of the population.

Hence, there was always a bit of a barrier between French Canadians and Anglo Canadians, and this was exasperated by the politics of the country as well. The French Canadians did have to fight for a while to be able to keep their language rights.

An Anglo Living in Quebec

With that background knowledge, you’d think that an English person moving to Quebec would result in some tense relationships. But that just hasn’t been the case, at all. In fact, I’ve made some great friends while there in Quebec.

Photo by Devin Avery on Unsplash

Sometimes, the relationship would be built in English, other times French (at least what I could muster). Sometimes it would be a bit of both. But it really didn’t matter; what mattered is that whomever I was talking to had to have some human decency towards me, and I had to have an equal amount towards them.

Mutual Decency and Respect

If there was even a hint of either of us wanting to laugh at the other for our language mistakes or resentment that manifested as anger, it simply wouldn’t work. But none of that mattered given that there existed some mutual respect.

Translation Issues

But it’s even more than that. What I didn’t realize until I learned more French is that a lot of things in one language don’t translate to the other. Sometimes, the way you say something in one language actually comes off as rude in the other. As an example, if you say “I appreciate you” in English, it’s normally a very sweet thing to say to a friend. In French, if you say the…



Brandon Tumblin

Host of The Strong Stoic Podcast