January 4 – LANGUAGES IN THE INSTITUTE
LANGUAGES IN THE INSTITUTE
At the start of the year 1949, Br. Louis Bureau, Provincial of India, took an original initiative. He started the D+S review to offer his Province the Engli_sh translation of all the important documents of the Institute which until then were exclusively in French: historical articles on the origin and growth of the Institute, circulars of Superiors, biographies of departed Brothers, etc. At the end of 1964, when this review saw the end of day (it was the only English review for the whole Institute) it had completed 84 issues. Br. Louis Bureau had published it for obvious reasons: the first batches of Indian Brothers who had been taught French had not learnt it sufficiently well to be able to read and understand. ·
The problem of communication between Brothers in different languages was raised rather late in the Institute. The first non-French Brothers were French Canadians. In Belgium, a country with ·two languages, the directive of Brother Benoit-Made, Provincial of the North, that the French Brothers of the Province should learn Flemish hardly had any follow-up. So much so that Flemish Brothers had to speak French and, before the 1939 war, at a time when Flemish nationalism was on the rise, not sparing even religious communities, the French Provincials made some energetic interventions to make everyone fall in line. On the other hand, those who arrived in Spain very soon took to the language of the country. In the same way many Spanish Brothers studied French. As much could be said of the Italian Brothers, especially those who went to France to do tneir novitiate.
In Africa and in the Indian Ocean sector, the French Brothers always taught, if not in French-speaking countries (Ethiopia was not one such), at least in French medium schools. As for the African Brothers, they are at present all French-speaking.
In Asia (India, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia) and ·in Oceania (Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga), the language of communication between all the Brothers is English, and it is spoken by all the Asian Brothers as was also the case with those who went there earlier from France, Spain and Canada. The latter learnt Thai in Thailand as did some of them learn Tamil in South India.
After 1968, all the documents coming out of Rome – letters of Superiors General, reviews and bulletins- were published in French and in English. From 1969, the General Chapters, the Councils of the Institute and other international meetings were also bilingual and had arrangements for simultaneous translations.
At the end of the 20th century, most of the Brothers understand English and French. Exceptions are in Spain, where only a quarter of the Brothers know French well. In Brazil, the candidates speak Portuguese; in Thailand some young Brothers are less at ease with English than their older Brothers. With the expansion of the Institute to countries like Poland and the Philippines, the problem of communication for candidates to religious life in the Institute is going to enter a new phase.