AngryFrenchGuy

The Definitive Guide to Switching Between French and English in Québec

with 266 comments

bilingual Montreal

At the Dépanneur, the Caisse Populaire and waiting in line at the SAAQ

In business situations, there is one rule and it is the same as anywhere else in the world:  The customer is always right.

The Good Faith Clause:  For months I had to visit the Royal Victoria Hospital twice a week to se a physiotherapist and an occupational therapist.  Both were English-speaking.  The Ocupational therapist always greeted me in French, apologized profusely for not speaking it better, and tried really hard.  The physio greeted me in English and made no effort to find out my preference.  I eventually asked the Occupational Therapist if we could speak English.  She had been very respectful and made a sincere effort but my English was better than her French and we mutually agreed that the communication would be easier in English.  Because the physio never made an effort, neither did I.  I only spoke French with her and she eventually had to deal with it.

At the Yacht club, Bingo and your local chapter of the Bilderberg group

When speaking to Montreal Anglos in social situations, I always speak French.  The Anglo usually responds in one of three ways:

French: The Anglo answers in fluent French and that’s that.

Franglais: The Anglo responds in a half French/half English bastard tongue.  I can understand him/her, so it’s cool.  I, however, stick with French.  Franglais is great for Hip Hop lyrics but I have no inclination to trade my ability to converse in two of the world’s greatest international language for the regional creole of Federal government secretaries.

English:  My fellow conversationalist answers in English, I respond in French, he continues in English.  We both understand each other, we are both speaking the language of our choice.  All is good.

The rules above are exactly the same for Anglo-Québécois addressing Francophones.

How to avoid being labelled a Maudit Anglais if you don’t speak French

French-speaker in Québec have very high expectation for their Anglo neighbors.  They’ve been telling us they are fluently bilingual for three decades now and, get this, we believe them.  That is why some visitors to Montreal and Québec sometimes faced with an aggressive response when speaking English.  To avoid this use accents and dress like a tourist.  If you can pull off a British or Australian accent people will not expect you to be able to speak French.

Sri Lankans, Philipinos, Canadians and other Immigrants

There are two schools of thought concerning the proper way to communicate with our new countrymen and women.

The pseudo-cosmopolitans: They believe that everyone who is not from Québec speaks English and that they are ‘helping’ immigrants by communicating with them in English.  This school of thought is very widespread in Québec City and other places that have little to no contact with actual immigrants.

The AngryFrenchGuys: We assume immigrants are just like real people and would appreciate to understand the social conventions of their new home as soon as possible, therefore we only speak French with them.

The Switch

English-speaking visitors to Québec frustrated by the Switch – the habit of Francophones of switching to English as soon as they hear the slightest hint of an accent your speech – should refer to the rules above.  The Francophone can switch to English if he wants to, but who is forcing YOU to switch with him or her?  Just keep on speaking French!  That or pretend to be a German tourist.

These are the rules.  Put them on the fridge.  Carry them in your wallet.  Now you know.

Written by angryfrenchguy

January 4, 2009 at 6:05 pm

266 Responses

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  1. Dave:
    “90 % of English Canadians live more than 600 km away fron 7 million French speakers”

    I think Acajack’s response to your post says pretty much all there is to say. The only thing I would add is that if you look at communities across the ROC where anglos and francos have been living and working together in more or less equal numbers (often intermarrying) for a few generations now, you’ll still find that Anglophones are extremely unlikely to learn and use French. The trend is rather for a significant percentage of Francophones to adopt English exclusively with each generation. Of course, we aren’t supposed to say that, and when other people do, were supposed to dismiss it as separatist propaganda. But it’s true. So how do you explain it? It certainly isn’t a question of opportunity or proximity.

    “The percentage of people in a given society who have closed minds is virtually identical across the planet.”

    I pretty much agree with you on this, but I might phrase it a little different and say that all societies are closed-minded to a certain extent about certain things. I’m not being nitpicky, I’m just trying to avoid pointing the finger at specific people or dividing people into permanent categories of “close minded” or “open minded”.

    So my question is, what are some of the things that English-speaking Canadian society is somewhat close minded about?

    I believe that one of those things is speaking French, and there is plenty of evidence to support my belief.

    gcl

    January 7, 2009 at 7:24 pm

  2. Kriss:

    I, to have French as a mother tongue and also speak English. You can go ahead and speak or learn whatever language you like, but posting in Icelandic on this site might not be the most effective way of getting your message across.

    Kudos, though.

    gcl

    January 7, 2009 at 7:35 pm

  3. gcl:
    > The trend is rather for a significant percentage of Francophones to
    > adopt English exclusively with each generation. Of course, we aren’t
    > supposed to say that, and when other people do, were supposed to
    > dismiss it as separatist propaganda.

    While your main claim is true, there’s no way that pointing it out could be construed as “separatist propaganda”. In fact, it seems like a pro-Canadian multiculturalism statement to make; it’s the kind of thing I’d expect the Official Languages Commissioner to point out, and there’s no way to call him a separatist.

    Yes, Quebec nationalism and separatism is grossly misunderstood in the rest of the country — some people in the West, of which ABP may be one, would blame official bilingualism and multiculturalism on it, even though they’re actually opposed ideologies — but I don’t think there’s any way to misconstrue the fact that Canadian anglophones are not very likely to speak French while Canadian francophones are likely to assimilate as “separatist propaganda”.

    Marc

    January 7, 2009 at 8:19 pm

  4. gcl:

    #

    Kriss:

    “I, to have French as a mother tongue and also speak English. You can go ahead and speak or learn whatever language you like, but posting in Icelandic on this site might not be the most effective way of getting your message across.

    Kudos, though.”

    Weel it looked like this page was becoming a kind of “look which foreign laguages I speak!” so I wanna be part of the game as well….what do you want, I am in love with Bjõk….

    Kriss

    January 7, 2009 at 9:44 pm

  5. sorry Bjõrk

    Kriss

    January 7, 2009 at 9:46 pm

  6. Marc:

    “there’s no way that pointing it out could be construed as “separatist propaganda”…

    and

    “I don’t think there’s any way to misconstrue the fact that Canadian anglophones are not very likely to speak French while Canadian francophones are likely to assimilate as “separatist propaganda”.

    The official story regarding the French language in Canada is that as a bilingual country, Canada not only values and protects Francophone culture from sea to sea, it actually allows it to thrive. If you live in Quebec and you openly challenge that official story, what you say will most likely be dismissed and you will be viewed with a mix of resentment and suspicion. The actual words “separatist propaganda” may not be used. Words like “complaining,” “whining,” “bitching,” “gripes,” “demands,” or “bullshit” (all stemming from Quebec, of course) might be used instead, but the general sentiment is the same.

    “it’s the kind of thing I’d expect the Official Languages Commissioner to point out, and there’s no way to call him a separatist.”

    Mr. Fraser may very well have pointed it out at some point in the past. It’s been a while since I read his book, but from what I recall, he framed the whole thing as a threat to national unity. And from what I recall about the reviews, that’s why Canadians paid attention. Again, it’s been a while, but I recall him talking about the failure of official bilingualism to bridge the gap between the two solitudes rather than the failure of Canada to live up to its claims that it ensures the longevity of French outside of Quebec. Since then (again, this is just a general impression), he seems to have been busy promulgating the myth of healthy and vibrant French-speaking communities in the ROC while whitewashing the reality of assimilation.

    So no, he doesn’t get called a separatist.

    gcl

    January 7, 2009 at 9:59 pm

  7. “Acajack–sorry to bug you for statistics again, but can you tell me where you get your figures for anglophone Americans who say they can speak Spanish?”

    Here is a quote from the following report (http://www.irpp.org/po/archive/feb04/Jedwab.pdf): “Indeed on a percentage basis the non-Hispanic population in the United States speaks Spanish to a slightly greater extent than Canada’s English population speaks French as a second language.”

    Jedwab doesn’t cite numbers for this in this particular report, but I’ve heard him talk about 5 or 6% of American anglos knowing Spanish in news reports on the subject, which he compared to around 9% for the total number of English Canadians who speak French (a number which drops to 7% when you take out Anglo-Quebecers, who are much more bilingual than anglos in the ROC).

    In any event, whether we’re talking about 5, 6, 7 or 9%, we’re not talking about a significant percentage of anglos (be they American or Canadian) who know a second language in either country.

    Acajack

    January 7, 2009 at 10:39 pm

  8. “I think Acajack’s response to your post says pretty much all there is to say. The only thing I would add is that if you look at communities across the ROC where anglos and francos have been living and working together in more or less equal numbers (often intermarrying) for a few generations now, you’ll still find that Anglophones are extremely unlikely to learn and use French. The trend is rather for a significant percentage of Francophones to adopt English exclusively with each generation. Of course, we aren’t supposed to say that, and when other people do, were supposed to dismiss it as separatist propaganda. But it’s true. So how do you explain it? It certainly isn’t a question of opportunity or proximity.”

    Ooh yeah. One has only to look at the Stats Canada site and check out the language numbers for places like Timmins, Sudbury, North Bay, etc. in Ontario, or Gravelbourg in Saskatchewan or a whole bunch of others where the two groups coexist.

    Stats Can actually lists mother tongue, language spoken at home, and knowledge of official languages.

    Look up a place in Ontario with a mixed anglophone-francophone population and the number of mother tongue French speakers is almost exactly the same as the English-French bilingual population. And the mother tongue English population is almost exactly he same as the “speaks English only” number.

    Acajack

    January 7, 2009 at 10:44 pm

  9. “The official story regarding the French language in Canada is that as a bilingual country, Canada not only values and protects Francophone culture from sea to sea, it actually allows it to thrive. If you live in Quebec and you openly challenge that official story, what you say will most likely be dismissed and you will be viewed with a mix of resentment and suspicion. The actual words “separatist propaganda” may not be used. Words like “complaining,” “whining,” “bitching,” “gripes,” “demands,” or “bullshit” (all stemming from Quebec, of course) might be used instead, but the general sentiment is the same.”

    Speaking from personal experience, I am not a sovereignist however I’ve often been accused of being one for questioning the myth that the situation of French is not all “hunky dory”. It is sort of a dogma in many circles that Canada is the greatest thing since sliced bread for French, or at least, Canada has done everything it possibly can (and more) for the language, and that if it declines or dies out, it’s ultimately the fault of francophones.

    As incredible as it may seem, a lot of seemingly intelligent people in this country actually think the presence of Quebec in the cozy confines of Canada is actually what has saved French from oblivion.

    Still with this train of thought, I think most people here have heard millions of times the somewhat specious argument that Quebec independence would most certainly lead to the death of the French language and culture (due to the widespread poverty that would allegedly ensue).

    Lost on these people of course is the fact that Somali seems to be doing quite well as a language in Somalia, and Spanish seems to be on pretty solid ground in Honduras, for example…

    Acajack

    January 7, 2009 at 11:00 pm

  10. “I don’t think these things would change at all, let alone overnight. You seem very certain that English would fade over time, but we are still hearing about how English is dominant in Montreal so many years after loi 101. A unified school system could have a big effect, but I am not sure how much political appetite there would be for that (just see the reaction to Marois’ recent proposal). The biggest effect of a unified school system I think would be an outflow of English speakers from Quebec and significant emigration is something Quebec -like many other western countries with ageing populations- can ill afford.
    And I am not sure how important an English federal system is. Other than paying their taxes and getting your passport, how much “contact” do people have with the federal government? Education and health care are mainly provincial jurisdictions so there should not be a big difference there, unless again, Quebec stops dealing with citizens in English.”

    Sorry to say this but English does not in and of itself inherently possess magical, superhero qualities. Quebec is still in Canada and English has nonetheless in recent decades declined to a relatively insignificant local status in many places where it was equal to French or even dominant (think Sherbrooke).

    There is no doubt that the fact that Quebec is in Canada gives English a significant propping up both from the federal government, various other national Canadian institutions and corporate Canada as well. Much of this would slowly fade away under a Quebec independence scenario, and certainly weaken the local presence of English in everyday life.

    Lots of anglos in Montreal (though perhaps not enough to some people’s liking) are already totally cool about speaking French at the dépanneur, with their neighbours and with métro ticket-takers. If Quebec ever were to become independent, they wouldn’t likely be the ones to leave, and would therefore make up an even greater share of the Anglo-Montreal population.

    Acajack

    January 7, 2009 at 11:13 pm

  11. Acajack–Thanks again for the source. Based on my own experiences in the eastern states and in California, I suspect that Mr. Jedwab has given us more credit than is due, although I have no way to prove that because the US census does not, AFAIK, ask any of us non-Hispanics whether we speak a language other than English, or how well.

    My sense is that the language situation in places like southwestern Texas, south Florida, etc., resembles the one you describe in eastern Ontario. A lot of local Hispanics are functionally bilingual, and a small group of local Anglos is.

    littlerob

    January 8, 2009 at 6:36 am

  12. Nom–I see we have another Monty Python fan here :-)

    littlerob

    January 8, 2009 at 6:39 am

  13. “There wouldn’t be a Quebec-wide (or Montreal-wide) ban on English at the grocery store. Rather, things would slowly evolve to the point where the person demanding English service would either be perceived as either 1) a completely lost dumb tourist or 2) an extra-terrestrial”
    Acajack

    This is exactly what happened to the English minority in Quebec City- it took a long time but it happened without independence, ie independence won’t necessarily better protect French and some would argue that it could lead to a serious demographic decline- maybe as a percentage of the population, French speakers would go up, but overall numbers could go down

    Dave

    January 8, 2009 at 7:51 am

  14. “Nom–I see we have another Monty Python fan here :-)”

    OK, so to keep us at least a little bit on topic, could we say that the much-vaunted and alleged *excellent* health of French in Canada could be the Canadian political equivalent of the famous “Dead Parrot” sketch?

    Acajack

    January 8, 2009 at 9:28 am

  15. “This is exactly what happened to the English minority in Quebec City- it took a long time but it happened without independence, ie independence won’t necessarily better protect French and some would argue that it could lead to a serious demographic decline- maybe as a percentage of the population, French speakers would go up, but overall numbers could go down”

    Good points. This is precisely what happened in the Baltic states like Latvia and Estonia, and has resulted in a local strengthening of the national languages relative to Russian.

    Acajack

    January 8, 2009 at 9:29 am

  16. “Acajack–Thanks again for the source. Based on my own experiences in the eastern states and in California, I suspect that Mr. Jedwab has given us more credit than is due, although I have no way to prove that because the US census does not, AFAIK, ask any of us non-Hispanics whether we speak a language other than English, or how well.”

    I’d say you’re probably right here. Note also that the Canadian census questions are self-assessments as well, and no one tests the French skills of the anglo Albertans who proudly say they are bilingual.

    Acajack

    January 8, 2009 at 9:31 am

  17. When I was growing up in Mtl in the 60’s everything was in English, especially downtown- French was seen and heard East of the Main. Anglos made up over 15 % of the population of Quebec and most businesses were run almost exclusively in English, at least above the level of foremen. Even outside of Mtl, this was the case in Sherbrooke, Shawinigan, Trois-Rivières ( they called it Three Rivers back then!)and many other industrial centres.

    The French kept mostly to themselves, in fact they even classified Jews as Protestants in order to keep them out of their schools. Italians, catholic to a man, were sent to the Irish- catholic schools. Virtually all other immigrants went to English schools. French speakers were at the very bottom of the economic chain.

    How times have changed! A quick glance at the 2006 census reveals that English speakers are now 7.7% of the population and those that only understand English are down to 4.5% of the entire population. In the business world, French has become the main language, very few big shots can’t speak it . Try finding a “maudite grosse Anglaise de chez Eaton” hey Eaton’s went bankrupt 20 years ago, was replaced by Les Ailes de la Mode, which ironically also went belly up.

    Yet the angst of the danger of disappearing has never been higher. Every word of English overheard in a downtown boutique seems to get parsed to death by some journalist worried about French disappearing. The sovereignists specialise in this kind of fear mongering by avoiding discussion on any positive signs and focusing entirely on the negative. There doesn’t seem to be any sense of perspective.

    For example, 35 years ago, 90 % of immigrants assimilated into the English community, now 60 % assimilate into the French community. Quite a major shift in my opinion. But no, what do we hear, 80 % of the population is French, ergo it should assimilate 80 % of immigrants, ergo we must do something DRASTIC NOW to reverse the trend. Hello, the trend is positive. The cure just might be worse than the disease!

    Its now become a matter of dogma for the sovereignty movement. Since their best argument is that independence will put an end to the threat to French, any argument that diminishes the perceived threat is considered ultra vires. A whole industry of so-called demographers has sprung up to accuse anyone who doesn’t see the imminent threat as a jovialist sellout. Difficult to have an adult debate about a dead parrot.

    BTW these developments have almost nothing to do with the state of French in ROC.

    Dave

    January 8, 2009 at 10:10 am

  18. “French has none of this going for it in the UK, and proximity to France likely has nothing to do with it.”

    History my boy counts for something too. Why does the Queen speak much better French than Stephen Harper ? Proximity is also important, I don’t think you realise just how many Brits go to France on holidays, how many French products they consume.

    “Excuses, excuses. French is an official language of Canada and used to some degree by every single one of this country’s institutions”

    Ya so what, Latin is an official language of the Vatican. I’m not trying to excuse anybody, I’m just saying that your comments sometimes lack perspective. 40 % of Quebeckers understand Englsh, do you justify that by us being more open , more intelligent ? I say in large part its because of proximity and necessity.

    “all of which contribute to many people pretending that there isn’t actually a huge part of their country that functions in another language.”

    Just tell them to take a look at the map and consider the huge hole that would be left if Quebec went. How long did East and West Paskistan survive after the partition of India?

    Dave

    January 8, 2009 at 10:28 am

  19. “Proximity is also important, I don’t think you realise just how many Brits go to France on holidays, how many French products they consume.”

    Here is some perspective for you.

    Ontario has something like 1.3 million French-English bilingual people out of a population of some 12 million. Take out the 500,000 or so Franco-Ontarians who almost all bilingual, you’re left with something like 7% of the non-francophone population of Ontario that can speak French. Which is still less than half the percentage of Brits who can speak French.

    Note also that tons of Ontarians holiday in Quebec (not too many good ski hills in Dalton McGuinty’s kingdom) and many thousands also own vacation homes there.

    I would also venture to say that Ontario businesspeople probably do more business in Quebec (given that we are talking about the same country) than your average Brit does business in France.

    Frankly, I don’t really care how many anglos in the ROC speak French. Their overwhelming unilingualism is not an issue for me as I can speak English perfectly well and have no problem doing so even in my country’s capital city of Ottawa.

    But I draw the line when people allege that anglos in the ROC are soooooo open to French and bilingual in significant numbers, or when people pretend that the (surprisingly) low levels of French competency in the ROC don’t have something to do with psyschological “hang-ups” or “issues” that a lot of people there seem to have with respect to my language.

    Acajack

    January 8, 2009 at 11:18 am

  20. “When I was growing up in Mtl in the 60’s everything was in English, especially downtown- French was seen and heard East of the Main. Anglos made up over 15 % of the population of Quebec and most businesses were run almost exclusively in English, at least above the level of foremen. Even outside of Mtl, this was the case in Sherbrooke, Shawinigan, Trois-Rivières ( they called it Three Rivers back then!)and many other industrial centres.
    The French kept mostly to themselves, in fact they even classified Jews as Protestants in order to keep them out of their schools. Italians, catholic to a man, were sent to the Irish- catholic schools. Virtually all other immigrants went to English schools. French speakers were at the very bottom of the economic chain.
    How times have changed! A quick glance at the 2006 census reveals that English speakers are now 7.7% of the population and those that only understand English are down to 4.5% of the entire population. In the business world, French has become the main language, very few big shots can’t speak it . Try finding a “maudite grosse Anglaise de chez Eaton” hey Eaton’s went bankrupt 20 years ago, was replaced by Les Ailes de la Mode, which ironically also went belly up.
    Yet the angst of the danger of disappearing has never been higher. Every word of English overheard in a downtown boutique seems to get parsed to death by some journalist worried about French disappearing. The sovereignists specialise in this kind of fear mongering by avoiding discussion on any positive signs and focusing entirely on the negative. There doesn’t seem to be any sense of perspective.
    For example, 35 years ago, 90 % of immigrants assimilated into the English community, now 60 % assimilate into the French community. Quite a major shift in my opinion. But no, what do we hear, 80 % of the population is French, ergo it should assimilate 80 % of immigrants, ergo we must do something DRASTIC NOW to reverse the trend. Hello, the trend is positive. The cure just might be worse than the disease!
    Its now become a matter of dogma for the sovereignty movement. Since their best argument is that independence will put an end to the threat to French, any argument that diminishes the perceived threat is considered ultra vires. A whole industry of so-called demographers has sprung up to accuse anyone who doesn’t see the imminent threat as a jovialist sellout. Difficult to have an adult debate about a dead parrot.
    BTW these developments have almost nothing to do with the state of French in ROC.”

    Dave, nothing of what you have posted here can be disputed, however the real question is: how are things “trending”?

    Most francophones on this forum and also many francophones in my personal entourage (most of whom are die-hard federalists and often Liberals – I live in Gatineau after all!) report they have noticed of late an increase in the number of people who speak only English and who work in services to the public, who are taking the bus with them, in their neighbourhoods, and who seemingly expect everyone they meet to speak English with them. (And thus are little inclined to learn French to adapt to their Quebec surroundings.)

    I have lived in Quebec for about 15 years (most of my previous existence was in Ontario, with some years in other ROC provinces), and this is a fairly new phenomenon. I wasn’t hearing this from people, say, in 1997, or in 2003. Do you think that Québécois francophones have become more nationalistic and thus more obsessed with the language issue in the past two or three years? If one looks at the overall political landscape, some might argue that the exact opposite might be true.

    So what is the explanation? Is everyone just hallucinating?

    I think it will be very interesting to see the numbers from the next census or two. I think we’re likely to see a decent upsurge in the anglo population in several areas of Quebec, including the Outaouais, Montreal, the Laurentians, Montérégie and the Eastern Townships. I also predict that after countless censuses in a row (since the 70s at least) with significant numerical drops in the number of English-only speakers in Quebec, that the unilingual anglo group’s actual numbers might actually start to nudge up due to more of these people moving to Quebec from the ROC and abroad. (Though the proportion of English-only speakers in the overall Quebec population is likely to continue to drop due to the proportionately greater growth of the francophone and allophone groups.)

    Acajack

    January 8, 2009 at 11:37 am

  21. When you sleep beside an elephant, every twitch can be unerving… PETrudeau about Can-USA

    We are like a sugar cube beside a great big urn of boiling hot coffee… Yves Beauchemin

    The trend , the way I see it, is in favour of French. A trend isn’t supposed to be measured in seasons, but more in generations. Of the 4.5% of English only speakers in Quebec, I would venture to bet that the average age of this group has done nothing but go up- thats a trend. You really have to go out of your way to find a young person in Quebec who can’t speak French.

    I find it irresponsible that language activists are pushing for greater constraints on English in Quebec based on anecdotal evidence only. You may think and predict certain things, that doesn’t justify enacting stringent laws and regulations. There exists a law of unintended consequences that may very well cause a backlash amongst the anglos, who could refuse to speak French as a reaction to legal constraints on their language.

    I can’t comment on Gatineau, but I don’t see an upsurge of Anglos in the Townships ( anecdotal only).

    Also the sheer dominance of the English language internationally is a factor. I don’t see why we should punish Quebec anglos for that. If a Greek meets a Finn in Shanghai, they most probably can communicate in basic English, neither of whom picked it up on the streets of Westmount.

    Dave

    January 8, 2009 at 12:04 pm

  22. ­Acajack:
    > Speaking from personal experience, I am not a sovereignist however
    > I’ve often been accused of being one for questioning the myth that the
    > situation of French is not all “hunky dory”. It is sort of a dogma in
    > many circles that Canada is the greatest thing since sliced bread
    > for French, or at least, Canada has done everything it possibly can
    > (and more) for the language, and that if it declines or dies
    > out, it’s ultimately the fault of francophones.

    Okay then. But it seems to me that a real sovereigntist would not care about the situation of French outside of Quebec. That’s something a Canadian bilingualist, usually of the Liberal persuasion, would care about.

    I guess many anglophones still think in terms of the “French-Canadian minority from sea to sea”, so to them it makes sense that a Quebec nationalist should be concerned with what language people in Edmonton speak.

    > As incredible as it may seem, a lot of seemingly intelligent people
    > in this country actually think the presence of Quebec in the cozy
    > confines of Canada is actually what has saved French from oblivion.

    They think the presence of Quebec inside of Canada has saved French inside of Quebec or outside of Quebec? If it’s the former, of course they’re wrong, but if it’s the latter, it is not untrue that the existence of Quebec has made francophones outside Quebec into more than a simple minority.

    Marc

    January 8, 2009 at 1:04 pm

  23. “They think the presence of Quebec inside of Canada has saved French inside of Quebec or outside of Quebec?”

    I’d have to say both. As you mentioned yourself, a lot of people in the ROC see francophones one single group “from sea to sea” with the same political and societal interests.

    You know, I lived for a long time in the ROC (as a minority francophone) and witnessed enough linguistic battles to know that any time French speakers in Ontario, Saskatchewan or wherever ask for something the word “Quebec” always comes out of the mouths of anglos every couple of minutes or so.

    A wide segment of the ROC population sees enhancements to the rights and institutions of francophones living in their own communities as “pandering to Quebec”, rather than legitimate redress for people who have usually lived in these places for many generations (often arriving way before the local anglos).

    Acajack

    January 8, 2009 at 1:37 pm

  24. Dave: “The trend , the way I see it, is in favour of French. A trend isn’t supposed to be measured in seasons, but more in generations. Of the 4.5% of English only speakers in Quebec, I would venture to bet that the average age of this group has done nothing but go up- thats a trend. You really have to go out of your way to find a young person in Quebec who can’t speak French.”

    I agree that there isn’t too big a problem with the native-born. The kicker will be migration, both internal (Canadian) and also international. With a relatively low birth rate, a significant proportion of Quebec’s (and it’s even truer for Montreal) comes from newcomers.

    “I find it irresponsible that language activists are pushing for greater constraints on English in Quebec based on anecdotal evidence only. You may think and predict certain things, that doesn’t justify enacting stringent laws and regulations. There exists a law of unintended consequences that may very well cause a backlash amongst the anglos, who could refuse to speak French as a reaction to legal constraints on their language.”

    I don’t think you have to worry much on this front. For differing reasons, there is little political appetite for revisions to the language policies at the moment. See how the Liberals stayed away from the Noée Murchison/Journal de Montréal episode with a ten-foot pole. And some influential PQ members apparently feel that Bill 101 was “good enough” and took away enough linguistic irritants to cost them the 1995 referendum. Language angst is always good for sovereignty, doncha know.

    In any event, should the language issue ever be revisited by the Quebec government, rest assured that it won’t be based on anecdotal evidence. There are several Quebec government agencies whose mandate is precisely to monitor the situation of French. When you take into account all of their studies, plus Canadian census data, plus the work of academics… well, there isn’t exactly a dearth of info on the topic.

    “Also the sheer dominance of the English language internationally is a factor. I don’t see why we should punish Quebec anglos for that. If a Greek meets a Finn in Shanghai, they most probably can communicate in basic English, neither of whom picked it up on the streets of Westmount.”

    Sure, but I’ve never heard of the global dominance of English leading to people in Helsinki or Athens having to speak in order to be understood by clerks at their local grocery store…

    Acajack

    January 8, 2009 at 1:47 pm

  25. “having to speak *English*” is what I meant of course…

    Acajack

    January 8, 2009 at 2:05 pm

  26. I guess you have never been to East Los Angeles, Brixton or Richmond BC

    Dave

    January 8, 2009 at 3:16 pm

  27. “Sorry to say this but English does not in and of itself inherently possess magical, superhero qualities. Quebec is still in Canada and English has nonetheless in recent decades declined to a relatively insignificant local status in many places where it was equal to French or even dominant (think Sherbrooke).”

    I think Sherbrooke is a good example as it has had a very large outflow of its Anglo population over the past decades. It is natural that the presence of English would decline commensurately. Again, unless English language services decline significantly in an independent Quebec, I don’t see why there should be a similar emigration of English speakers (perhaps economic reasons) from other parts of the province.

    “There is no doubt that the fact that Quebec is in Canada gives English a significant propping up both from the federal government, various other national Canadian institutions and corporate Canada as well. Much of this would slowly fade away under a Quebec independence scenario, and certainly weaken the local presence of English in everyday life.”

    Could you please expand on this? Again I don’t see how an English dominated federal government makes a big difference in the day-to-day use of English on the streets of Montreal, let alone places outside Montreal.

    “Lots of anglos in Montreal (though perhaps not enough to some people’s liking) are already totally cool about speaking French at the dépanneur, with their neighbours and with métro ticket-takers. If Quebec ever were to become independent, they wouldn’t likely be the ones to leave, and would therefore make up an even greater share of the Anglo-Montreal population.”

    I agree with this, which is why I think not much would change. These “cool” Anglos (and English speaking Allos) will continue to speak French on the street, will continue to work in English/French and will continue to send their kids to English schools.

    AM

    January 8, 2009 at 3:53 pm

  28. “Okay then. But it seems to me that a real sovereigntist would not care about the situation of French outside of Quebec. That’s something a Canadian bilingualist, usually of the Liberal persuasion, would care about.”

    This is an interesting statement. Sovereignist or not, if I were Francophone, I would care quite a bit about the situation of French in the ROC. I would very much care whether my fellow Francos could send their kids to French schools and pass on the language to them. Hey, I am not Franco and I still care (and I do not identify myself as a Liberal either…).

    AM

    January 8, 2009 at 3:56 pm

  29. Acajack:

    You have been on fire here for the last couple of days, man. Hope you’re familiar with that expression. It’s a good thing. Very impressive.

    gcl

    January 8, 2009 at 7:19 pm

  30. Acajack:

    Actually, I’ve pieced together a few sections from your recent posts and I think they prove something I’ve suspected all along.

    Consider the following:

    “Most people can’t seem to think outside the box and persist in viewing the current Canadian model as the have-all-end-all of arrangements for multi-national states.”

    “…lots of people around the world have historical/societal hang-ups about many things, including language. This is probably true of most English Canadians with respect to French, for a variety of reasons (superiority complex, resentment of French as an “imposition”, etc.), all of which contribute to many people pretending that there isn’t actually a huge part of their country that functions in another language.”

    “As incredible as it may seem, a lot of seemingly intelligent people in this country actually think the presence of Quebec in the cozy confines of Canada is actually what has saved French from oblivion.
    Still with this train of thought, I think most people here have heard millions of times the somewhat specious argument that Quebec independence would most certainly lead to the death of the French language and culture (due to the widespread poverty that would allegedly ensue).”

    “There is no doubt that the fact that Quebec is in Canada gives English a significant propping up both from the federal government, various other national Canadian institutions and corporate Canada as well. Much of this would slowly fade away under a Quebec independence scenario, and certainly weaken the local presence of English in everyday life.
    Lots of anglos in Montreal (though perhaps not enough to some people’s liking) are already totally cool about speaking French at the dépanneur, with their neighbours and with métro ticket-takers. If Quebec ever were to become independent, they wouldn’t likely be the ones to leave, and would therefore make up an even greater share of the Anglo-Montreal population.”
    “OK, so to keep us at least a little bit on topic, could we say that the much-vaunted and alleged *excellent* health of French in Canada could be the Canadian political equivalent of the famous “Dead Parrot” sketch?”

    “I draw the line when people allege that anglos in the ROC are soooooo open to French and bilingual in significant numbers, or when people pretend that the (surprisingly) low levels of French competency in the ROC don’t have something to do with psyschological “hang-ups” or “issues” that a lot of people there seem to have with respect to my language.”
    “You know, I lived for a long time in the ROC (as a minority francophone) and witnessed enough linguistic battles to know that any time French speakers in Ontario, Saskatchewan or wherever ask for something the word “Quebec” always comes out of the mouths of anglos every couple of minutes or so.
    A wide segment of the ROC population sees enhancements to the rights and institutions of francophones living in their own communities as “pandering to Quebec”, rather than legitimate redress for people who have usually lived in these places for many generations (often arriving way before the local anglos).”

    I’m onto you, buddy. You’re a closet separatist, aren’t you? Aren’t you?! Confess!!

    gcl

    January 8, 2009 at 7:29 pm


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