AngryFrenchGuy

Knowledge is Power. English is Not.

with 73 comments

In English-speaking societies the polite, or the correct, thing to say is that learning more than one language is a good thing. Learning languages is an enriching experience, it opens cultural horizons, facilitates travel and generally separates the good Anglos from the stereotypical Ugly Americans.

Multilingual Anglophones realize the personal benefits of languages such as career opportunities and the satisfaction of traveling without the constant impression that someone is talking behind your back, but the conventional wisdom in the English-speaking world is still very much that even though speaking many languages is nice, the only language you actually need, pretty much any where in the world, is English.

Learning foreign languages is perceived as a good thing in Anglodia in the same way charity, peacekeeping and volunteering are considered good things. A graceful gesture towards the less fortunate. A reasonable accommodation.

There is one fact, however, that hasn’t yet reached consciousness in societies where English is the first language:

In an English-speaking world, uniligual English-speakers are fucked.

Today, the world speaks English. That is a fact. But the world hasn’t stopped speaking other languages. That is also a fact.

You see, English as an international language is like a two way mirror. The whole world can see/read/understand English, but unilingual Anglos are stuck on the other side, unable to look out. They understand what we chose to say in English, but as soon as we switch to our other languages, they are locked out.

They, on the other hand, have nowhere to hide…

This is a serious disadvantage. Take the example of radical Islam. Radical clerics have made some very real inroads in the West, notably in poor urban areas and American jails because they can proselytize in English. On the other hand the CIA, Scotland Yard and the other Western agencies fighting terrorism candidly admit they don’t have enough translators to go through the Internet discussion groups where terrorists plan their attacks, in Arabic, Farsi, or other languages.

Or take scholarship. All the research and science coming out of the world’s universities and corporations is published in English. That means that nearly all the scientists and administrators in the world can access, understand and use that information directly, without any help from anyone.

On the other hand if an Indian scientist makes an important discovery – say, the nuclear energy field – that could be strategically important for India, it is much easier for him to control the circulation of that information by discussing it with his colleagues only in Hindi, or if his findings are really hot, he can write all his papers in the regional dialect of his youth in Arunachal Pradesh.

Sure, translation is possible. It is also costly, time-consuming and totally dependent on other people. And you also have too know there is information you are looking for in the first place.

The near universality of English in universities and science has often been accused of being a vicious circle that unfairly advantages native English-speakers, but the the exact opposite is probably closer to the truth.

In his book English as a Global Language, linguist David Crystal points out that the British are by far the least competent in languages of all Europeans with only 29% of executives able to conduct negotiations in a language other than English. He cites studies that show that one in three British company has reported losing business because of poor language skills.

Business executives in France and Germany have also read those studies and you can bet they have taken note of this advantage they have over the British.

Anglo culture -American, British and the rest- was enriched beyond reason by letting so many cultural influences into it’s own world, usually through the English language. This great advantage, however, is slowly turning into a disadvantage as we, the entire planet, can now access the whole of English Language culture, from Seinfeld to Radiohead to lectures by Noam Chomsky to Alan Greenspan’s autobiography as if it were our own, while monoglot English-speakers can only access what we decide to share with them.

Knowledge is power. Who’s got the power now?

And if you are still not convinced that speaking only English will make you the laughing-stock of the globalized world, just click HERE. Ne cliquez pas sur le lien si vous parlez français, c’est seulement pour rire des Anglais.


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Written by angryfrenchguy

June 8, 2008 at 5:01 pm

73 Responses

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  1. ABP: You sort of answered your own question. Ever wonder why service/signage in English in predominantly English-speaking Saskatoon isn’t a problem, yet service/signage in French is/was a problem in many predominantly French-speaking areas in this country?

    The truth is that in a perfect world you wouldn’t need bylaws like this, just as you wouldn’t need bylaws and mandatory building codes to ensure that businesses are accessible to people with limited mobility like wheelchair users. Or employment equity programs to ensure that public organizations don’t completely shut out certain groups from taxpayer-funded jobs.

    Sadly, we don’t like in a perfect world. I wish we did, but until we do, any private business that operates in interaction with the public won’t be totally free to do as it pleases without any form of government intervention or regulation.

    Sorry.

    Acajack

    June 17, 2008 at 12:52 pm

  2. “Sadly, we don’t like in a perfect world. I wish we did, but until we do, any private business that operates in interaction with the public won’t be totally free to do as it pleases without any form of government intervention or regulation.”

    Well you might have a point…..we definately dont live in a perfect society..that is for sure.

    Employment equity programs…what about the requirement for bilingualism for many federal programs. Is that equality..seems that the policy is shutting out a certain groups. Seems to be a bit discrimatory wouldnt you agree by your own argument about equality.

    It really is a question of how far the government regulations go before we have a state of “reverse discrimination”…..whereby the rights of the individual are trumped by the rights of the “perceive collective welfare”.

    Have you every read any of Ayn Rand’s writings such as the classic “Atlas Shrugged” or the “Fountainhead”.

    Just wondering??

    ABP

    ABP

    June 17, 2008 at 11:03 pm

  3. I understand the frustration many Anglos feel about the Official Languages Act, but it seems to me there is an cruel logic we can’t escape:

    1. The bilingualism requirement means unilingual English-speakers and French-speakers are excluded for some jobs in the federal government because they don’t speak the other official language.

    2. If we remove the bilingualism requirement, only unilingual French-speakers are excluded from federal government jobs.

    The current arrangement spreads the burden equally on all citizens. The other option discriminates only against French-speakers. (We tried it for some 200 years. Your turn, now.)

    As Graham Fraser wrote in “Sorry, I Don’t Speak French”, the idea that the OLA discriminates against unilingual Anglos is based on the eroneous idea that every Canadian has the RIGHT to work for the government.

    No you don’t! Some jobs require engineering qualifications, others accounting certifications. The Ministry of National Defense won’t hire you just because you have combat boots and a .22.

    Some government jobs require the ability to communicate with Canadian citizens in French. If you can’t, learn. If you won’t, look for another job.

    angryfrenchguy

    June 17, 2008 at 11:46 pm

  4. “Employment equity programs…what about the requirement for bilingualism for many federal programs. Is that equality..seems that the policy is shutting out a certain groups. Seems to be a bit discrimatory wouldnt you agree by your own argument about equality.”

    You are mixing things up here. Discrimination is based on things people cannot change, like the colour of one’s skin or being paraplegic. Being unilingual is not an unchangeable status, it is more like being illiterate. I personally am not particularly scientifically minded, yet I cannot allege discrimination just because they won’t let me be a doctor without going through medical school (which I could not realistically succeed at).

    “It really is a question of how far the government regulations go before we have a state of “reverse discrimination”…..whereby the rights of the individual are trumped by the rights of the “perceive collective welfare”.

    Sleep well my friend. When it comes to the treatment of persons with disabilities, aboriginals and visible minorities (to name just a few groups), Canada is a very long way from a situation of “reverse discrimination”.

    “Have you every read any of Ayn Rand’s writings such as the classic “Atlas Shrugged” or the “Fountainhead”.”

    Not those two. I did read “Night of January 16” and something I believe was called “Selfishness as a Virtue” a long, long time ago. I see your point and I get hers (from what I recall), though I don’t necessary agree with it. Brilliant writer, of course.

    Acajack

    June 18, 2008 at 7:48 am

  5. “This should again, be a choice of the individual business owners as to which flavor of sign they display. This could be english only, french only or both but it should be at the discretion of proprietors of the businss and not forced by municipal bylaw. I note the the local Chamber of Commerce is vehemently opposed to this bylaw.
    The real point..freedom of choice.”

    The type of freedom you are alluding to is that which is covered by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is a Charter for individual citizens, not for businesses.

    There is a big difference legally between John Smith the person and John Smith’s Bar and Grill. John Smith the person doesn’t have to have a wheelchair ramp in his house. John Smith’s Bar and Grill does. John Smith doesn’t have to have a separate room (with its own ventilation) for smokers in his house. In many jurisdictions, John Smith’s Bar and Grill would be obliged to have one. Or it would be forbidden to smoke at all in the Bar and Grill, a ban which you couldn’t apply to his house.

    You are basing your arguments on a flawed legal analysis that has been used at times by cigarette companies that alleged than bans on tobacco advertising were infringements of their freedom of expression. They lost every time.

    Acajack

    June 18, 2008 at 8:07 am

  6. “I understand the frustration many Anglos feel about the Official Languages Act, but it seems to me there is an cruel logic we can’t escape:”

    Do you??? A program which has been
    astronically expensive and has produced very little results. French usage outside of Quebec has declined 25 % in the last five years….(stats Canada)…Young adults rates of bilingualism 14.7% down to 12.2% over the same period. It is not working but we continued to “waste” vast sums of taxpayers dollars on a program which is not effective. Einstein’s defination of instanity again, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results!!! Of course those in charge don’t have to worry about a balance sheet do they!!! They only have to worry about the publics balance sheet.

    Also, what has it done for the average Canadian. The federal civil service was looked after with immersion programs (paid leave to take french classes -in some instances in another province at the taxpayers expense) Where is a similar opportunity for people such as myself in the private sector. Other than some pittance tax credit, you are on your own. I would like to learn better french, why wont they pay for a six month leave of absence for me. I posed this question to an MP, indicated I would actually take 75% of my salary per month as compensation (civil servants were at 100% on my tax dime). Was told no such program exists for this…. and that I was just being difficult. Is this fair to all Canadians…..tell me?? So then, many Canadians are precluded from jobs with the civil service because they are not afforded the same opportunities as others.

    On your other issues regarding the biased (or unbiased depending upon which side of the fence you are on) hiring practices.

    HMMM let me see:

    In Quebec:

    67% anglos are bilingual.

    36% Francos in Quebec are bilingual
    (I think this is likely higher due to some reporting issues in the last census)

    Outside of Quebec:

    7.5 % of anglos are Bilingual…

    84% of Francos are bilingual.

    Looking at the above you dont have to be a rocket scientist to figure out who the bilingual policies of the federal government clearly favor.

    “Some government jobs require the ability to communicate with Canadian citizens in French. If you can’t, learn. If you won’t, look for another job.”

    So they require bilingulism but wont afford those who are not priviledged (read civil servants) the same opportunity to become bilingual. Hmm, sounds like a form of discrimination against the average uniligual Canadian who are paying the bills.

    I think this thread has digressed enough…and certainly is long enough…but your commentary did spark some reasonable debate.

    EOS on this one. At least for me.

    ABP

    ABP

    June 18, 2008 at 11:04 am

  7. “The type of freedom you are alluding to is that which is covered by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is a Charter for individual citizens, not for businesses.”

    Small businesses are usually owned by individuals. Your smoking analogy is flawed…..smoking is proven to be hazardous so smoking in a public bar or restaurant may put in peril the health of others…This is an infringement upon the non-smokers rights and freedoms. The smoker is conducting behavior which may be harmful to others.

    Signs, give me a break, not the same thing Acajack.

    “Who is John Galt”.

    ABP

    ABP

    June 18, 2008 at 11:10 am

  8. I wasn’t equating smoking to French/English signs, but rather to give an example of how businesses are not as free to do as they please as individuals are.

    Sure, many businesses are mom-and-pop operations owned by the individuals, but in our society it is still the individual (and not that the company that he or she might own or holds stocks in) that has the most rights (balanced with those of the broader “society”. At one point in recent years, there was an attempt to give the corporate world its own “charter of rights”, but thankfully that failed:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multilateral_Agreement_on_Investment

    The bottom line is that as soon as you start dealing with the public governments are going to stick your nose into your affairs a little bit more. You can decide not to invite a certain race of people into your home as friends but you can’t prevent them from coming into your store as clients just because you don’t like them.

    And if you’re going to be putting up a sign in front of a new business in Embrun or Russell, then it’s going to have to be in English and French. Big deal. Some would say that the issue was a minor one, but one has to admit that the solution is relatively innocuous as well.

    Now, I’ll make this point again: none of this would have been necessary had businesses setting up shop there had done so in respect of the character of the place, and offered service in French rather than trying to impose English on a long-established francophone majority population. Many if not most of the newer businesses apparently didn’t act with the proper respect, and that alone explains the bylaw. They asked for it.

    Though rarely used in language-related cases, the Russell-Embrun is an example of the “market failure” principle, under which it is totally legitimate for a government authority to intervene when the free market has failed to deliver as it should (in this case: decent service to most members of the community in their own language).

    Acajack

    June 18, 2008 at 12:11 pm

  9. “I wasn’t equating smoking to French/English signs, but rather to give an example of how businesses are not as free to do as they please as individuals are.” I thought as much but wanted to make a point of distinction.

    The business being owned by individuals and therefore having the same proxy, should be allowed to do what they wish so long as they are not infringing upon the rights of others. Displaying a sign in a particular language or not, is not infringing upon anyones rights or freedoms. So then, vis a vis, why is it the town council is not showing the same respect to the business owners.

    “And if you’re going to be putting up a sign in front of a new business in Embrun or Russell, then it’s going to have to be in English and French. Big deal. Some would say that the issue was a minor one, but one has to admit that the solution is relatively innocuous as well”

    The debate got quite heated from what I read in the press….with even some bilinguals being quite negative on the passing of the sign issue. Obviously a bigger issue and the big issue is the fundamental rights of the business owners as I see it.

    “Now, I’ll make this point again: none of this would have been necessary had businesses setting up shop there had done so in respect of the character of the place, and offered service in French rather than trying to impose English on a long-established francophone majority population. Many if not most of the newer businesses apparently didn’t act with the proper respect, and that alone explains the bylaw.”

    It is their right (business owners) to do as they want. Respect, how respectful was the franco seniors group at the beer story with their stickers…To the point the police had to be called.!!! On this point the franco majority could have simply quit patronizing the business outlets not displaying french or bilingual signs if they were so offended. It is their right to patronize whichever outlet they wish, correct.

    “They asked for it”

    Sounds to me like “now we will teach those maudits anglo entrepeneurs”. Of course there are a number of franco businesses that are not in favor of the bylaw either from the news reports.

    You simply cannot rationlize to me how this sign law is not an infringement upon the rights of the individual business owners. In the end I doubt the business owners will comply with the bylaw…just out of protest or perhaps there will just be a lot of ageing and faded signs in the area.
    The municipality will not likely enforce the issue vigorously due to what they have discovered as a very sensitive issue. Will be interesting to see if there is actually a court challenge. Keep in mind the OLA can be a double edged sword as in this case; in Embrum, the francos are the majority and the anglos are the minority.

    ABP

    ABP

    June 18, 2008 at 1:46 pm

  10. “The debate got quite heated from what I read in the press….with even some bilinguals being quite negative on the passing of the sign issue. Obviously a bigger issue and the big issue is the fundamental rights of the business owners as I see it.”

    The bigger issue is actually how many people are allergic to even the slightest increase in the presence of French in this country.

    “It is their right (business owners) to do as they want. Respect, how respectful was the franco seniors group at the beer story with their stickers…To the point the police had to be called.!!! On this point the franco majority could have simply quit patronizing the business outlets not displaying french or bilingual signs if they were so offended. It is their right to patronize whichever outlet they wish, correct.”

    Well, in the case of the Beer Store, they can’t patronize another business because there isn’t anywhere else to buy beer in Ontario! The Beer Stores are a government-sanctioned, privately-run monopoly.

    And if the argument about “taking your business elsewhere” was at all valid, then there wouldn’t any type of regulatory framework at all for private businesses, including consumer protection laws, etc.

    “Sounds to me like “now we will teach those maudits anglo entrepeneurs”. Of course there are a number of franco businesses that are not in favor of the bylaw either from the news reports. Sounds to me like “now we will teach those maudits anglo entrepeneurs”. Of course there are a number of franco businesses that are not in favor of the bylaw either from the news reports.”

    Yes, there are francophone business owners and municipal councillors who are against it, and there are no doubt some individual francophones who are against it as well. As someone who lived as a francophone outside Quebec for most of his life, this isn’t surprising to me. There is always a segment of the community that will side with even the most radical anti-French anglos on pretty much any issue, in order to put themselves above any suspicion that they are “evil separatists” and prove to everyone that they are “loyal Canadians”. Having been through some of these unfortunate episodes before, I am pretty sure that the people who asked for the bylaw have also been called every name in the book, including of course “separatists” (there’s lots of s’s in that word, so it’s easy to seethe when you pronounce it), and that they’ve also been told to go “back to Quebec” many times during this debate. Of course, I guess the irony of calling a Franco-Ontarian simply asking for more respect for French a “separatist” (when Franco-Ontarians have nothing to win from Quebec separating and everything to lose) is totally lost on these people.

    Now, how in several centuries of history we have come to the point where people who are pro-French in Eastern Ontario are routinely portrayed as being un-Canadian is quite astonishing, but anyway…

    Acajack

    June 18, 2008 at 2:26 pm

  11. Not sure what the federal Official Languages Act has to do with the language of private businesses in Embrun, Ontario? Unless you feel that the much-vaunted concept of Canada as a bilingual country has given francophones in Ontario a false impression of how much French they are entitled to in their daily lives.

    I mean… the nerve! You’re three quarters of the population in a town that your people have inhabited for 150 years, and you expect that most businesses will post signs in your language and not treat you like an alien from another planet if you dare speak it. Come on, man! Go with the flow. Get over it. Move on. Get a life. Just like everybody else in the world would do (including our fellow citizens who speak the other official language), right? Or not?

    Acajack

    June 18, 2008 at 2:36 pm

  12. “Not sure what the federal Official Languages Act has to do with the language of private businesses in Embrun, Ontario? Unless you feel that the much-vaunted concept of Canada as a bilingual country has given francophones in Ontario a false impression of how much French they are entitled to in their daily lives.”

    OLA recoginizes english as an official language and its mandate is to protect both english and french. In this case the francos are the clear majority so they would have to uphold the rights of the minority anglos. Not often this is the case in our country.

    Interesting you comments on the francos who are opposing the bylaw. WOW.

    I get your point Acajack….I suppose if the shoe was on the other foot and an anglo lived in an area predominately english and all the signs were in french …there could be and likely would be an issue.

    This, however, is a question of culture and language… and not one of the individual rights and liberties of the business owners. This is the only point I was arguing.

    Bilingual signs might well be a good think in the majority french community of Embrun..We have them in some of the more franco towns in SK. and in fact I know of a couple I have seen in the smaller centers that are french only. I doubt anyone has any issues at least to my knowledge.

    What really is astonishing is the debacle which has been created over the issue.

    Hopefully it will not leave the quaint little community not too divided.

    ABP

    ABP

    June 18, 2008 at 3:20 pm

  13. Love it. I’m a Kenyan. In this country everyone speaks three languages. English, Swahili and their local dialect. This is normal. When people want to learn, say, French we call it a second language (even though it is really a fourth) Kusema tu kweli, si kila kitu lazima iwe kiingereza.

    Michael

    May 15, 2013 at 9:32 am


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