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. You just can’t let this drop, can you? All of this is really more wishful thinking on your part than anything.

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

    When other provinces start coming up with their own reactionary laws, to force English on everyone, then we can talk. Otherwise, your phoney schadenfreude is a bit misplaced.


    June 8, 2008 at 5:57 pm

  2. AFG, this is kind of an odd post for you, no?

    Generally, you use this forum to interpret, explicate, and comment on Quebec, its politics and cultural currents. You speak as a Quebecois, which of course you are.

    But here you are adopting another voice, that of a member of that class of people that (to my knowledge) so far has no name: an international/global elite group that moves across borders and cultures, a group in which one member may be, say, an Indian computer programmer living in Munich or an Italian graphic designer working in Japan. Members of this group can and do move all over the world, fluidly, and have access to more than one culture, as you describe. And of course, you are a member of this group too.

    But these people are a small minority. In the world, and in Quebec.

    Your main point is debatable, to be kind– the monoglot culture of the United States, for example, is plenty big enough for people to live full lives and make plenty of money, and so far my lack of Farsi has not led to the downfall of civilization.

    And I would suggest various Western governments’ lack of translators has little to do with the language skills of the population, and much more to do with the fact that an educated, ambitious person is likely to be able to find a better job than reading blogs for the CIA.

    But setting that aside for the moment, what does your post say about Quebec? If monoglot English-speakers are “fucked” because they do not have the breadth of skill that a multilingual person like you has, then what are you saying that those monoglot francophones who make up the majority of Quebecois? Are they more fucked than fucked?

    With all respect, AFG, perhaps it’s fortunate that they can’t read your post!


    June 8, 2008 at 6:29 pm

  3. None of this is about Canada, actually. Canadians really need to get over themselves. Maybe get out of their self-contained bubble and explore the world around them a little? I guess that kind of proves my point…


    June 8, 2008 at 8:31 pm

  4. The problem is that native english people already know the language everybody else is trying to learn.

    As such for an native english speaker living in an english speaking environment it is not obvious which language should be the second language. For example, trying to learn mandarin in Chicago is very likely to be a very difficult task.

    quebecois separatiste

    June 8, 2008 at 8:48 pm

  5. “For example, trying to learn mandarin in Chicago is very likely to be a very difficult task.”

    Difficult, hard, expensive. Whereas learning English anywhere is possible, easy and not only cheap, but usually free. English is now part of the school curriculum almost everywhere.

    As to what language Anglos should chose? I’d pick one that is also international: French, Spanish, Arabic and, increasingly, Chinese.

    If you want to make money, learn Chinese. If you want to to save the world, learn Arabic. If you want to have a good time, learn Spanish. If you want to be cool, learn French.


    June 8, 2008 at 10:03 pm

  6. And if you want to be a judge a the canadian supreme court… learn french…

    But then again.. for some narrow minded anglos that’s too much to ask.

    quebecois separatiste

    June 8, 2008 at 10:20 pm

  7. He AGF,

    Dont be such a poor sport…english has obviously won the language war …your probably still pining over Montreal being eliminated in the the Cup. ..”be cool, speak french”..would that be parisian or the “joual” edition.

    I am now feeling terrible to be such a deprived anglo, “que je suis.” I guess I will have to rely on the language translation programs to augment my existence or forever be banished to second class status as you suggest.



    June 8, 2008 at 11:53 pm

  8. “But then again.. for some narrow minded anglos that’s too much to ask.”

    Of course we dont have any intelligent unilingual english judges in Canada……how can you have any intelligence at all it you dont understand french?




    June 9, 2008 at 12:10 am

  9. “english has obviously won the language war”

    Would that be the proper kind or the one they speak in Canada?


    June 9, 2008 at 12:53 am

  10. AFG is absolutely right on this one. Too many of us Anglos are effectively monolingual, and of those of us who do speak another language, many of us are somewhat “impaired” in it.

    Re Canadian English and Joual: Why can’t we get over the idea that there are “substandard” languages??? If you ask me, when you learn a language, you should learn the variety that is spoken in the territory where you want to function. The biggest deficiency in my otherwise excellent (if not necessarily comprehensive) education in French was that my European born French teachers completely and purposely failed to attune me to even the most basic speech patterns of North American French, including (standard) Québec French and Joual. I am still trying to make up for this.


    June 9, 2008 at 5:16 am

  11. I am a unilingual- English speaker and you’re right. I am fucked. I am left in the dark. I live in Central Alberta, Edmonton. I was raised in a small town on a farm in an English speaking community. I never had the option or the oppurtunity to learn another language until I was 16 years old. French was offered at my highschool but was not manditory and I was too young, and too immature to realize how important it is to be bilingual. Today I hear other languages being spoken all around me. I am oblivious to anything that is said. And Im angry. Why didnt anyone tell me that its important to know more than one language? Why didnt my parents encourage linguistics?!!I feel that it is almost essential. We don’t need to be bilingual in this province in order to get by but there is no sense of community and no sense of unity or culture. We are “multicultural”. I believe the definition for this should be “a nation divided”…..I feel deprived. People from other nations or backrounds can so readily communicate with me. Yet I cant with them. It’s frusterating. No person can ever know every language known to man but at least by having a second language you open up more doors of opportunity for more levels and degrees of communication with people. I am almost terrified for what my future holds. I am a unilingual-english speaking rural white gal. My fiance is a tri-lingual-english-french-and swahili speaking african city man whose family resides in Montreal. Montreal where 13% of the pupulation are anglos? and most of them are probably bilingual or at least have enough knowledge of French to get by. I have been with my fiance for the last two and a half years. Thanks to him I have picked up on a bit of french but I am no where near fluent. My fiance’s in family crisis and must move back to Montreal. I am going with him. I am going to be put into a place where I will be the minority. I don’t know what to expect. Will my limited skills in French be enough? Will I find a job suiting my profession? or will I have to take what I can get? I will be forced into a situation where I will HAVE to somehow communicate with people. I will know what it means for immigrants that come to Canada with a limited knowledge of English or French. I will know what it feels like to be the minority. Although, I am terrified, I am going to embrace this new chapter in my life because I know that the experience will probably be the best one of my life. I know I will learn, grow and develop. Not just in my language and communication skills, but as a person and as a Canadian. I think it is bullshit to call Canada a bilingual country. I believe we should all be manditorily taught both French and English before we can be a “bilingual” country. Just like the francophones in Quebec. They are also limited, especially in Canada, more so than Anglophones. At least in Canada an Anglo can go anywhere in Canada and get by speaking English. A francophone doesnt have anywhere but Quebec. That is not fair. That is not bilingualism. It’s called oppresion and isolation. Prison. But then again because of that isolation, I can see where a francophone would be more inclined to learn English. And yet again, the Anglo still remains in the dark.


    June 9, 2008 at 7:47 am

  12. “Would that be the proper kind or the one they speak in Canada?”

    Must have struck a nerve…. and BTW that was my line…dont you have something better.



    June 9, 2008 at 8:22 am

  13. The fact of the matter is that there is no language war to win or lose. Languages come and go, Greek was replaced by Latin, thence French, now English. The problem with AFG is he can’t disassociate language culture emotions as in French in Quebec, versus language as strictly a tool for better communications as in English second language worldwide.


    June 9, 2008 at 9:17 am

  14. Although I am all for learning as many languages as possible, the truth is that no matter how many languages you learn, you can’t learn ‘em all (and certainly not all the dialects). Bottom line: no matter how much of a polyglot you are, there’ll always be tons of places in the world where you won’t be able to understand what people are saying. It doesn’t matter if you’re the reincarnation of Pope John Paul II, the world is a huge place with lots of different people(s) with lots of different words describing lots of different things.

    In addition to French and English, I am not too bad in a third language and know the rudiments of two more. This probably puts me in something like the top 1% of Canadians for multilingualism. But all of the languages I know are European, so I’d be totally lost in Hindi, or Thai or Swahili.

    Now, what is particularly depressing is when people live literally right next door to another language but never learn so much as a few words of it.


    June 9, 2008 at 1:23 pm

  15. “On a percentage basis the non-Hispanic population in the United States speaks Spanish to a slightly greater extent than Canada’s English population speak French as a second language.” – Jack Jedwab of the Association for Canadian Studies

    Read his study here:

    Click to access Jedwab.pdf

    There are few things about this story that are particularly depressing for Canadians, starting with the population share of French speakers in Canada (between one fifth and one quarter) vs. the proportion of Spanish speakers in the U.S. (around 10%).

    But the numbers are even more telling when one considers everything that is in place in Canada that should enable anglophones to learn a bit of French, from immersion classes in schools to French TV and radio available across the country to bilingual packaging on every single thing you have in your house. I mean, how many times in your life have you seen LAIT on the wrong side of the milk carton, yet you’ve never picked up that LAIT is French for milk? (I use “you” in the general sense here.)

    Spanish is also present in schools, in the media and in packaging in the U.S. it is true, but nowhere near the extent that French is in Canada.

    And then there is the question of “prestige”. French in Canada is the language of most of our prime minister during the past four decades, and of every second governor-general. I don’t believe there is a single high-level public position in Canada that hasn’t been held by a francophone at least once (usually more than once).

    Compare this to who is speaking Spanish in the U.S., and we must admit that French in Canada beats Spanish in the U.S. for prestige hands down. There are some positive exceptions thankfully, but most Spanish speakers people will encounter in the States are obviously recent immigrants, poverty-stricken or working for starvation wages, with little or no education or knowledge of English, who are perceived as being very desperate. Desperate enough anyway to risk their lives to cross the border illegally in search of a better life.

    So, what’s up with Canada?


    June 9, 2008 at 1:42 pm

  16. Well-wisher

    Of course people who have no English whatsoever are in trouble. The amount you need, though, is debatable.

    I, for one, do not give much credit to official bilingualism statistics in Canada. Only 40% of the Québécois consider themselves bilingual, but you know and I know that many more than that can read a basic instruction manual in English, a newspaper story or watch a television show.

    More than 40% are able to have basic conversations with other second language English speakers, which is what International English is for anyway.

    You are right. I’m not an average English speaker. The truth is I’m way above average. The average Québécois is probably more representative of the average English-speaker worldwide than you or me.

    That said, Québec should do a much better job of teaching English than it currently does. Not Canadian English, though. Global English.


    June 9, 2008 at 1:47 pm

  17. Case in point :

    My girlfriend works in a research laboratory in Mtl. : a lab with an international reputation, collaborating with other research units from Toronto to Madrid to Paris. Locally, research is done and published in French, as the Lab is affiliated with Université de Montréal. But international conventions happen in English, obviously: Except where special circumstances dictate (joint Quebec-France projects, for example).

    Where problems occur is when the lab welcomes outside local students or scientists, among which some English-only people (from McGill or Concordia, especially) in the course of their routine work or in local meetings.
    People will make an effort to translate for them, which means selecting certain facts. But when debates occur, as they always do, people naturally tend to slip back into French: the language where they find the required agility to argue their points. In such times, according to my gf, the debates will be interrupted by frustrated anglos asking : “English please !, English please !”, as they find themselves left out.

    Obviously, that problem doesn’t occur with bilingual anglos, who can understand what’s going on and can even reply in English.

    In Montreal, you’ll find such situations all over, from music shows to house parties, from business meetings to town councils. Discussions and debates happening in French with some English exchanges on the part of bilingual folks; punctuated by calls for “English please!, English please” on the part of frustrated English-only folks.

    The point you make is important, AFG. Anglos too often adopt the position expressed by ABP : “English has won” (though usually more unconsciously, or at least with less overt chauvinism). And for them that serves as an excuse not to learn other languages, unless they are forced to.
    Their loss.

    As you mentioned in a different post, the consequences can be seen when you travel and meet anglo-Saxon travelers, who are usually the only ones completely clueless about all the culture that doesn’t happen in English around the World.

    But also in a different manner. -Having been an expatriate resident in an Asian country for 5 years, I quickly noticed that, among the expat community, the ones who generally failed to learn the local language were the native English speakers.
    Whereas the German, French, Dutch, Italian expats made an effort and learned, the British, Canadian, American and Australian ones simply didn’t bother.

    Two things explain that difference : The people who, like me, did endeavor to learn had once been through the process of acquiring a foreign language (English), so we knew that it wasn’t the end of the world. And we also knew that we’d benefit greatly as far as the number of people we could befriend, as well as knowing what was going on in our environment. We weren’t stuck inside the illusion that “Everything worthwhile happens in English anyway”.
    As a consequence, whereas we could move much more freely through that society and get to know it more intimately, English-only folks were condemned to mingle with a very small circle of people, condemned to read and listen to very few news sources, and could only go out in those areas where people had the kind of education or jobs that required they master English. So the anglos tended to remain in a ghetto and hang out only with each other, with other expats, and with very few bilingual locals (much like the Anglos in Montreal).

    Just like the folks from McGill and Concordia at my girlfriend’s lab, who live here but who fail to see the importance of knowing the local language, those people assumed, wrongly, that English being the lingua franca means that other languages have become pointless.

    No matter how well established they are materially, uniligual Anglos in Montreal, as in Asia, condemn themselves to remain cultural tourists forever.


    June 9, 2008 at 4:54 pm

  18. I haven’t read your stuff for a while, but this is the first one where you and I agree in the most part. People who speak only English ARE somewhat fucked, in that they miss out on every bit of great literature, film, and conversation they could be enjoying in another language.

    They are doubly-fucked if they live here, and frankly they are just plain ignorant if they reside outside of Quebec. I’m not one of those silly blokes who seems to think they are entitled to everything they want instantly available in their mother tongue. This is a French province, and you can’t be bothered to learn the language of the land, or even make an attempt (cause believe me my fellow anglos, trying DOES make a difference).

    Ryan Kirkpatrick

    June 9, 2008 at 6:58 pm

  19. (sorry, forgot to finish my sentence)

    …and if you can’t be bothered to learn the language of the land, or even make an attempt (cause believe me my fellow anglos, trying DOES make a difference), than you should be living in Hartford or Seattle.

    Ryan Kirkpatrick

    June 9, 2008 at 7:01 pm

  20. Funny story that happened to me today, yet has very little relevance to this post (except maybe to Ryan’s claim that trying does make a difference).

    I had to contact the Quebec government today to get some form mailed to me. As I usually do when communicating with the provincial level of government, I spoke french. I don’t even press nine or nuthin’.

    So the girl on the other end takes my information, then asks, “when did you come here”. I thought I may have misunderstood the question so I tell her “I live here”. She asks “but when did you move to Quebec” I tell her I was born here. She then asks, and I ain’t kidding “So, you didn’t move here from Ontario?” WTF??

    I realize I have an accent, but damn that stung. Anyways, continue with your discussion.


    June 9, 2008 at 8:19 pm

  21. “and frankly they are just plain ignorant if they reside outside of Quebec.”

    I guess the majority of people in Canada are ignorant and stupid… least by your standards.

    Nice talk….!!!



    June 9, 2008 at 8:38 pm

  22. Anglo’s living in Quebec that have not made any attempt to learn French? I find that rediculous. How do u function in society, ignorant and in ur own little “bubble” of unawareness?
    I can see how in Canada, with it being a “bilingual” nation, people want to access their rights. I can see where the line is and why it pisses so many people off and people do have a right to be pissed off about it. It is very frusterating. Frusterating to be living in a place where you should have the right to be spoken too in ur own native tongue in accordance to the law of ur nation. That is very frusterating. Especially in Quebec where allot of the Anglo’s who resided there for generations felt so alienated that they made the choice to leave. But then there is the completely reverse side of the line, where Quebec in itself as a French speaking province is alienated out of the rest of Canada. If someone from Quebec moved to say Alberta, they would have an extremely hard time functioning in society unless they learned English. I know a few Quebec families that moved to my home town when I was quite young. In the beginning, they all primarily stuck together and were ‘alienated’ out of our community because they did not speak English and we did not speak French. Over time however, all of those families still reside in my home town and are now all very fluent in English. If they would not have made the choice to learn and function within society and within our community they most likely would have went back to Quebec. They made a choice. And that choice was to make an effort. Once the effort was made to become a functioning member of society, our community embraced them. They have been a huge influence on the people and on the community over the years. But it was a CHOICE! If they would have came here and they chose not to speak to Anglo’s and chose not to learn English. They would have most certainly felt alienated. But it would have been a self-inflicted alienation due to pure ignorance and pride. They would have isolated themselves. It goes for the same Anglo’s residing in Quebec. If they don’t make the effort to be a part of society, they will be isolated, they will be alienated. They will feel mistreated.
    In a region that speaks primarily one language and someone who speaks another language moves to that region. The citizens of that community do not feel abliged to learn the opposing language to communicate. They do not have to. Communicating to those people of the opposing language isn’t generally going to be something that interferes with their life, at all. There may only be a few cases where I could see it necessary and an asset to be in that situation with someone of an opposing language. For example, a french speaking family are trying to enroll their child into an English school in another province. The principal doesn’t speak French and many things need to be communicated so that the family is fully aware of what is going to be happening with their child. That is important! If that was not somehow properly communicated to the family of the child that wud be a very sad ordeal. That would be unlawful and would very much so violate that families rights. I would call it inhumane.
    However, for a person to be welcoming towards that French family and invite them to community functions and allow them to be a member of society is something that is allot harder for people to embrace. So much is lost in communication. If u can’t communicate with someone, you dont know who you are communicating to, u don’t know if there are any risks involved in befriending that person, and you are fully unaware of how that person may really and truly be acting towards you, your family, your friends, collegues and children. And lets face it, the one thing in this world that people are the most terrified of, is the unknown. People are afraid to attempt to communicate because they don’t know what to expect and dont know what the outcome will be and it scares them. Some of it is complete heartlessness and ignorance as allot of Canadians don’t know what its like to be the minority. I think if more Canadians had the experience of being the maniority in their lifetime they would be allot more accepting of minority groups within their own communities.


    June 9, 2008 at 8:55 pm

  23. I work in the software industry in Montreal where the dominance of english is overwhelming.

    Last year, a finnish guy went to visit us from Nokia. We had a technical meeting with 5-6 people all could speak french except that guy from Finland. 100% of the meeting was in english. Do I find that normal? yes totally. Was I mad? Not at all. Was I offended? no. Nobody can learn french in 2 days. That business guy spent 2 days in Montreal before going to other places in the world for business presentation. That’s international english.

    But let’s say that guy from Finland immigrates to Quebec, become a citizen, buy a house, live here and even after 5-10 years we still have to do entire meetings in english only when he is present, then I am mad and I am offended.

    There is a difference.

    Meetings are often entirely in english even when everybody lives in Quebec for many years.

    quebecois separatiste

    June 9, 2008 at 9:07 pm

  24. “I mean, how many times in your life have you seen LAIT on the wrong side of the milk carton, yet you’ve never picked up that LAIT is French for milk?” – this is a good point. However, pronunciation and grammar in French is quite different from that of English. If your not taught french pronunciation and grammar, in a french speaking conversation whether u know the spelling of some french words because of “the wrong side of the milk carton” are still not going to understand what is being said. French pronunciation and grammar is not taught in the majority of English schools in Canada or it is taught but it is not manditory or it is not even an option to take until a child reaches highschool. I myself am a unilingual English speaking Albertan. I have heard many people speak french in my lifetime but most of it goes well over my head. I know a few catch phrases but not enough to properly communicate with French speaking people. I am more inclined to understand french if I read it than if i hear it spoken, simply because I was never taught proper French pronunciation and grammar. It is not that we dont catch on to certain words in french because of “the wrong side of the milk carton”..we most certainly do. We just don’t know how to say the words..or put together sentences correctly. We have bits and pieces of french spelling and no idea how its pronounced so to say that we should catch on to the french language from “the wrong side of the milk carton” pretty radical. I am not saying that the means to learn French is not there for us. It is there, if we want it. Unfortunately, many people do not take on more than what they need to function in society and it is much harder to learn another language when you are not emmersed in it. If french television was subtitled in English, us anglos would probably catch on allot faster. When ur watching french television and have no idea what theyre saying and nobody to translate it to u and teach u what it means, then how are u expected to learn it? In my highschool, our French teacher was also the English teacher and drama teacher and he, himself was not fluent in French. Because who needs a fluent speaking french teacher, when u live in a rural farming community in central Alberta and have textbooks and audio tapes to listen to? Half of the audiotapes don’t teach u how to properly communicate with French speaking people either. They teach u the BASICS and by BASICS I mean basics. It is like grades 1 and 2 English. So basically I know how to spell and speak like a 6 year old in French. I can count to 10, I can say simple words such as Cat, I know my manners, Merci Beaucoup! and its all thanks to our wonderful board of education!


    June 9, 2008 at 9:46 pm

  25. I find that people from the urban communities in Alberta are more inclined to learn a second language. In rural Alberta we are very sheltered. Most of our parents are uneducated farmers and their parents were uneducated farmers. It is my generation that is finally leaving rural Alberta, going to the cities where life is more prosperous as now adays farming is a debt sentence. The youth are being educated as engineers, doctors etc etc. However, allot of youth from rural Alberta are not leaving. Allot of youth dropped out of highschool to work in the oil patch. Some are prospering but others are well on their way to working pay cheque to pay cheque and going from job to job. In rural Alberta, there is not allot to do. Many people resort to alcohol and drugs for leisure activity. I was lucky to escape my home town. I am very saddened when I go back there as allot of my fellow peers that remain have failed to set goals, achieve them and accomplish them. Allot of them have been plagued with alcoholism and drug abuse. Their futures are not on the positive spectrum.
    My family was not goal orientated. My parents didn’t have high expectations of their children, they didnt encourage us to learn and become as knowledgable as possible. My parents believed that my brothers would stay in our hometown and farm or move to a town nearby and farm as did they and the generations before them. They believed I would be a farmers wife. They were not adapting to the change in the world around them. They were trapped in a farming community in rural Alberta, where there is no longer oppurtunity.
    In urban Alberta there are many diverse languages spoken, there are many diverse cultures and in most of the schools there are allot more oppurtunities. Many Urban schools teach French manditorily from grades 1-12. Other language classes are also available such as German, Spanish, Portuguese, etc. People that are educated in an urban setting are educated on a much higher level than those from Rural Alberta and they do have much more oppurtunities to learn, set goals, and prosper in life as well as learn a second language. They have more access to different cultures and to learn more about all kinds of different people. They are not in isolation to the world. Canada is “multicultural”, mainly in the cities. When you are not living in the city, you do not gain the knowledge of diversity, you do not experience it first hand. You are isolated.


    June 9, 2008 at 10:20 pm

  26. QS:
    “100% of the meeting was in english. Do I find that normal? yes totally. Was I mad? Not at all. Was I offended? no. Nobody can learn french in 2 days.”

    “But when debates occur, as they always do, people naturally tend to slip back into French: the language where they find the required agility to argue their points. In such times, according to my gf, the debates will be interrupted by frustrated anglos asking : “English please !, English please !””

    My prediction (at least my hope) is that as the Québécois and other non-Anglos worldwide realize that they are the majority in the English-speaking world, they will no longer have any patience for unilinguals who can’t keep up.

    International English enables a guy from Finland and programmers from Québec to talk face to face without any translation services, that’s remarkable. No one wants to prevent that type of efficiency.

    An Anglo can’t follow a discussion in a French speaking environment because of his own limitations? Tough! English please? Hum, let me think? Non.


    June 9, 2008 at 10:41 pm

  27. Some excellent posts here in the past 24 hours. They go a long way in explaining why there is much more that just one Angry French Guy out there. And why there will still be many for some time to come.

    Regarding Raman’s post:

    What you have effectively demonstrated is how most of the “made in Quebec” anglos are effectively integrated into a society that functions primarily in French. They are the ones who can follow along and take part when people from the U de Mtl are presenting.

    So the issue would seem to be with people McGill and Concordia bring in from outside Quebec, be they from Ontario, Alberta, Mississippi or Taiwan.

    And as someone else pointed out, many of these people at McGill and Concordia will in a few years’ time “immigrate to Quebec, become a citizen, buy a house, live here and even after 5-10 years we still have to do entire meetings in english only when he is present”.

    Which leads to people being: “mad and offended”. More Angry French Guys and Girls in the making.


    June 10, 2008 at 8:08 am

  28. Anonymous post:
    “However, pronunciation and grammar in French is quite different from that of English. If your not taught french pronunciation and grammar, in a french speaking conversation whether u know the spelling of some french words because of “the wrong side of the milk carton” are still not going to understand what is being said. French pronunciation and grammar is not taught in the majority of English schools in Canada or it is taught but it is not manditory or it is not even an option to take until a child reaches highschool.”

    All of this is true. However, Anglo-Americans face the same challenges with Spanish (which is pronounced very differently from English as well). So it still does not explain why the Americans are doing better with Spanish than Canadians are doing with French? Could it be because they’ve listened to the Macarena more often? Or they’ve heard Ricky Martin sing “Livin’ la vida loca”?


    June 10, 2008 at 8:12 am

  29. Florida, California, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Texas to name just these, all have significant hispanic minorities that rub shoulders with the Anglos. Apart from northern NB and Eastern Ontario, there are no significant French minorities in Canada. Hence, not many Canadians grow up hearing the language around them.


    June 10, 2008 at 1:03 pm

  30. There are francophone minority groups all across Canada. Anglos in places like Winnipeg, Windsor, Niagara Falls, Edmonton, Halifax, etc. all have francophone communities in their midst. More than 15% of Canada’s francophones actually live outside Quebec.

    The only province from which I’ve never met a native francophone is British Columbia.

    So to suggest that your average All-American anglo in the U.S. actually “rubs shoulders” with local Hispanics (regardless of their percentage of the local population) is simply not true. There are a few little things in the U.S. you are overlooking, like residential segregation, white flight, etc. A state like Illinois may be 10% Hispanic, which is maybe twice as high as the % of francophones in Manitoba, but the reality is that Hispanics in Illinois are heavily concentrated in a few areas in and around Chicago where your All-American anglos never go. Your average Manitoban living in Winnipeg would have far more contact with Franco-Manitobans, given that this latter group (like all of the francophone minority groups across Canada) is much more integrated into the city’s economy, civil society, etc. than Hispanics are in most areas of the U.S.

    Also, don’t forget that between 30% and 40% of the people classified as Hispanics in the U.S. speak little or no Spanish. One can’t really take the Hispanic numbers from the States and compare them to the number of francophones in a Canadian provinces. Jimmy Hernandez, who has lived in Boston his whole life, whose first language is English and doesn’t know any Spanish beyond si, no and gracias, counts as a Hispanic in the stats, whereas an English-speaking Calgarian named Brad Tremblay is not counted as a Franco-Albertan.


    June 10, 2008 at 1:59 pm

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