French Québec Doesn’t “Open Up” to English Culture. It Makes It.

with 150 comments

Quebec DiscoSo I’m sitting here ruminating on past humiliations because, you know, that’s what we Québec indépendantistes do, and the whole « should we have people singing in english at the Saint-Jean-Baptiste/Fête Nationale » crisis—as I’m sure you all are—and even though I personnaly though it was cool that a couple of Anglo bands we’re invited to sing in Rosemont, there is one argument hear time and time again during the debate that I just can’t let pass.

It’s the « Québec should open up to English-language culture » argument.

(For those who’ve moved on I apologize.  You are better people than I am. I’m a little bit slow. Despite my unrivaled mastery of useless trivia which has earned me the nickname of The un-sexy Cliff Claven, I would suck at Jeopardy. Even though we all know Alex Trebeck loves to show off his French and he would no doubt signal the Double Jeopardy to me.)

How ridiculous is this idea that Québec needs to “open up” to English language culture?  It quite quite possibly could be the dumbest thing ever said out loud in the history of La Grande Chicane, our century-old dispute that has inspired an encyclopedia’s worth of dumb statements.

And I’m not even thinking about the fact that we are surrounded by English speakers and are constantly bombarded with American media and culture.

English Québec has a healthy little local scene and have made a decent contribution to the wider English-language cultural world, but with the exception of Leonard Cohen and Mordecai Richler, both of whom are old or dead, its clear that French Québec has made a bigger contribution to the world’s English language culture than all of English Québec.

Listen, I am a aware that a few Québécois of English-language expression have done good. Cohen is a legend. Sam Roberts was called the future of Rock by the head of Sony Music.   I’m not enough of a hispter to get it, but I hear Rufus Wainwright and Arcade Fire sold a few records.

So what?  So have Simple Plan and Pascale Picard and Chromeo, all of whom are as French Québec as signing “Hey motherfucker get laid, get fucked” during the chorus of Billy Idol’s Mony Mony.

French Québec has always been in the game.

In the 1970’s Montreal nightclubs like the Limelight and Québec artists like France Joli, Martin Stevens and Gino Soccio were not only part of, they were once the heart of disco culture.

Or if you’re more of a metalhead you certainly know that even though Metallica certainly sold more albums than any other metal band in the 1980’s, their own inspiration was Jonquière’s Voivod and that’s the band Metallica bassist Jason Newstead chose to join when he quit Metallica after realizing, 10 years after the rest of us, that his old band sucked.  “I think that I’m in a band now that can kick their ass”, said the old Metallica rythm-man.

Oh yeah, and there’s that French chick who sold more English-language albums than any other woman in the history of recorded music.

And then she got together with the people at the Cirque du Soleil and other Québec artists like André-Phillipe Gagnon and Alain Choquette to save Las Vegas and give it it’s most glorious era since Sinatra and the Rat Pack.

So what was that you were saying? Y’all want Québec to « open up » to English language culture?

Québec doesn’t open up to English-language culture.  Québec makes English-language culture.  As well as any so-called native English speakers in Québec or elsewhere.

And then it has plenty of talent left over to invade France.

Written by angryfrenchguy

July 7, 2009 at 2:34 pm

150 Responses

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  1. Vous oublié sans doute les deux guerres mondiales et l’occupation allemande de l’Alsace. En fait les Allemands ont été les pires ennemis de la langue alsacienne si l’on veut.


    July 13, 2009 at 8:39 pm

  2. vous avez oublié, dis-je.


    July 13, 2009 at 8:40 pm

  3. svp Acajack, mais cessez ces comparaisons boîteuses. St-Pierre et Miquelon , c’est comme l’ancienne base militaire canadienne à Lahr en Allemagne , là aussi l’anglais se portait très bien merci et peu de nos militaires parlaient allemand.

    L’occitan n’a jamais été langue d’instruction publique dans le midi de la France, c’est une langue paysanne, peu importe le nombre de ses locuteurs. Le slovène était langue d’instruction même durant son appartenance à la Yougoslavie dominée par les locuteurs serbo-croates.

    la superficie de la Suisse romande peut rentrer quatre fois dans nos seuls Cantons de l’Est. Dans les parties aussi linguistiquement homogène du Québec que la Suisse romande, le français s’y porte tout aussi bien. Je crois que votre perspective de l’Outaouais fausse votre jugement. Je veux bien que le loup est dans la bergerie outaouaise, mais ne généralisez pas sut tout le territoire du Québec. Faut-il vous rappeler que Montréal fut jadis majoritairement peuplée d’anglophones ?


    July 13, 2009 at 8:55 pm

  4. My assertion that the francophones in Switzerland do better than we do here is based on the following points:

    – virtually 100% of the newcomers to French-speaking Switzerland integrate to the francophone milieu to some degree because there is no other choice. No one would dream of becoming a germanophone in Geneva just because they are the majority in the country, they are richer (actually true in both instances) or because it’s more “chic” to do so; note that immigrants or foreign nationals make up just under 50% of the population of Geneva, so it is also quite diverse there; the main difference is that almost everyone uses French to communicate between the various groups.

    – German-speaking Swiss who live in or move to French-speaking Switzerland pretty much always learn French or even know some French before they arrive

    – 96% of francophone Swiss work exclusively or primarily in French, which is the exact same % as Swiss German who work in their own language.

    – the % of Switzerland’s population comprised of francophones is stable or rising slowly even.

    – Francophone Swiss cantons are totally sovereign in matters of language and culture and free to set their own policies.

    More interesting stuff here:


    July 13, 2009 at 9:22 pm

  5. “Faut-il vous rappeler que Montréal fut jadis majoritairement peuplée d’anglophones ?”

    Pendant 20 ou 30 ans seulement sur 350 ans d’histoire!


    July 13, 2009 at 9:24 pm

  6. Irish was not the majority language at Ireland’s independence. Ireland became a mainly English-speaking country some 75 years before then, in the mid 19th century. By the time Irish independence came, the Irish language was too far gone to bring it back.

    Saying that Irish independence contributed to the decline of the Irish language would be like declaring Louisiana independent today and then saying independence precipitated the decline of French there.

    And even if it were true that Ireland’s independence worsened the situation of its ancestral language, it would only be one example. How many other examples are there of the exact opposite? Norway, Finland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia… just off the top of my head.


    July 13, 2009 at 9:30 pm

  7. L’Ecosse et le Pays de Galles ne sont pas des pays indépendants. Ils ne jouissent pas non plus d’une territorialité linguistique comme les cantons suisses le peuvent. C’est principalement pour ça que leurs langues ancestrales sont en déclin, même si on fait des efforts pour essayer de les raviver.

    J’ai déjà abordé la question de l’Irlande dans ma réplique à Dave.


    July 13, 2009 at 9:33 pm

  8. Si on regarde l’histoire récente des pays nouvellement indépendants, peu de francophones quitteraient le Québec advenant l’indépendance.

    Je ne suis pas favorable à l’indépendance du Québec, mais dire que ça nuirait au français ne tient pas debout comme argument. Il y a plein de pays dans le monde qui sont 100 fois plus pauvres qu’un Québec indépendant serait et dont la langue et la culture nationales sont florissantes.


    July 13, 2009 at 9:36 pm

  9. I’m honestly wondering why you would think this is a joke. You know, understanding goes both ways. You seem to be a very sensible person, maybe a little too much. Un peu trop à fleur de peau peut-être. You expect everybody to understand Québec, what it means to live here, but understanding goes both ways. Did anybody stopped for one second and thought : “You know, what the guy did for the community might outweight the fact that he does not speak French”. Seems like common sense to me.


    July 13, 2009 at 9:42 pm

  10. ”L’occitan n’a jamais été langue d’instruction publique dans le midi de la France, c’est une langue paysanne, peu importe le nombre de ses locuteurs. Le slovène était langue d’instruction même durant son appartenance à la Yougoslavie dominée par les locuteurs serbo-croates.”

    C’est justement ce que je me tue à vous dire : que c’est davantage une question de statut plutôt que de voisinage. Il n’y a pas de raison pour laquelle l’occitan n’aurait pas pu devenir une langue d’enseignement comme le slovène. Mais ce n’est pas arrivé (pour toutes sortes de raisons), ce qui a précipité son déclin.

    Une langue n’a pas tant besoin de millions de voisins la parlant juste de l’autre côté de la frontière, mais plutôt d’un territoire défini où elle peut s’épanouir, aussi petit soit-il.


    July 13, 2009 at 9:45 pm

  11. ”Je crois que votre perspective de l’Outaouais fausse votre jugement. Je veux bien que le loup est dans la bergerie outaouaise, mais ne généralisez pas sut tout le territoire du Québec.”

    Ce sont surtout mes origines francophones hors-Québec qui m’ont conscientisé que les choses peuvent changer très vite à ce chapitre. Dans l’endroit où j’ai grandi, la langue d’usage habituelle a complètement changé (passant du français à l’anglais) dans l’espace d’une dizaine d’années.


    July 13, 2009 at 9:49 pm

  12. The debate in the French blogs has started on my new book “Why Canada must end”. Please see:

    I do hope that AFG will see fit to both review my book and start a debate on it here as well.

    Tony Kondaks

    July 13, 2009 at 11:37 pm

  13. …and I can assure you that the Americans who live near Quebec — Vermont, upstate New York, New Hampshire, and Maine — may not know Bill 101 but they definitely know where Quebec is and have definite opinions on Quebec because of how they were treated when they travelled through Quebec.

    I used to work in Vermont and Maine and whenever I would drive to a client’s house in my car with Quebec plates, I learned very quickly to park in such a way so that they couldn’t see my plates because, inevitably, I would hear a very negative story about their travels through Quebec.

    Same with anglophones from the Maritime provinces.

    And I am convinced that Quebec’s Ministry of Tourism knows all about this. I can’t believe they haven’t done studies and surveys of Americans in those states asking them about how they feel about Quebec. Someone should do a freedom of information request to the Ministry of Tourism and ask whether such studies exist.

    Tony Kondaks

    July 14, 2009 at 12:15 am

  14. My knowledge of Belgium is second hand, but you are quite right, Tony, that there is a huge division between its French speakers (Walloons) and Dutch speakers (Flemings). Just one vignette: A couple of years ago, someone put out a hoax over the local media to the effect that the Flemings had proclaimed the secession of Flanders. The story caused a panic in the entire country (especially in the French speaking parts, and particularly in metro Brussels, which is majority French speaking but which lies in Flanders) until the authorities issued an official denial.

    A short summary of the situation: Flanders is more populous and has for some time been economically better off than Wallonia; many of the Flemings think that they pay too much into the local fisc. The French language was dominant in Flanders until the middle of the last century. The situation is complicated—still—by historical memories, and particularly by memories of the two German occupations of 1914-18 and 1940-45.


    July 14, 2009 at 3:50 am

  15. Just a reminder that the Eastern Townships *were* majority anglophone in the ~1790-1870 period; many of the inhabitants were Tory refugees from the American revolution and their descendants. There must be a bunch of anglophone people all over North America with roots there, which may explain why some anglos are moving there now.


    July 14, 2009 at 7:35 am

  16. Je dis simplement que c’est une possibilité pas une probabilité forte. Combien de Serbes ont quitté la Bosnie et la Croatie ? Combien de Canadiens-Français ont quitté le Québec pour la Nouvelle-Angleterre au 19 ième siècle ?

    Ces choses-là sont imprévisibles. Ce que je reproche le plus au mouvement souverainiste c’est de ne jamais vouloir tenir compte des scénarios plus pessimistes, l’idépendance se ferait sans heurts, les frontières sont sacrosaintes, les autochtones suivraient, le Canada n’aurait aucun sentiment revanchard, les autres pays reconnaîtrait le Québec sans que le Canada le fasse, l’économie ne serait aucunement perturbée, le 50 % des gens pro-Canada se rallieraient, les Québécois, toujours plus pacifistes que partout ailleurs, n’auraient pas besoin d’armée.

    Si le mouvement stagne, c’est en partie parce que la population ne croit pas en la pensée magique et que le risque de boulversements dépasse de beaucoup les avantages potentiels de l’indépendance.

    Il va de même pour la protection de la langue française. C’est bien trop important pour laisser aux seuls indépendantistes. Souvent leur dogmatisme nationaliste dépasse le bon sens. On dirait qu’ils seraient prêts à risquer le tout pour le tout pour avoir quoi au juste ? Un minable siège à l’ONU assi entre le Qatar et le Rwanda à voter des résolutions inutiles et inapplicables ?


    July 14, 2009 at 8:12 am

  17. Finland, Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia were all subjected to Russification before they became independent. Slovenia, meanwhile, was subjected to Serbification. There is no Canadian equivalent to Russification or Serbification. Therefore, I don’t think the aforementioned countries are appropriate examples. Nor do I think Slovakia is an appropriate example, as Slovakian and Czech are mutually intelligible languages, unlike English and French.


    July 14, 2009 at 4:41 pm

  18. acajack,

    you can walk a fine line in obtuse phrasings at your own risk. you can observe and recount all you have seen, but it becomes tedious musing when at the end of the day you are not able to discern up from down, left from right, and right from wrong – what a model modern canadian you are!

    are you surprised that human beings act in their own interests?

    “It’s people like this that may very well push me over the edge some day”

    are you a little tense living in an environment where a strong opinion is considered inappropriate? i have marvelled at your patience and ability to see both sides of any given coin – but i long for the day when something falls out of the sky – wiggles on your face – and provides the opportunity for you to make a declaration. your identity depends on circumstances where such declarations are not just appropriate but necessary.

    today, as you have by example shown, may not be the day for such remonstrations – but in the face of obvious chicanery i feel it it always gratifying to say “ça va, la tête?” (not to you but to the authour of “i don’t get anything.”)

    i find that this is not aggressive in the real sense, but keeps the idiots on their toes – as in – i remark that what you have said/written has been noticed and thank you for that.

    the way i see it – the more anglos that move to quebec, the better. they will eventually learn french and be better off for it. as for the secessionists –
    f**k them and the horse they rode in on – i am fatigued by their cries of “the king is dead – long live the king.”

    July 14, 2009 at 9:06 pm

  19. tony,

    it’s great to be able to put a face to a name – thanks for that.

    i read a great deal of what you have written and i’m interested to know what happened to “laurier” and partition. how did you get from point “a” to point “b”?


    July 14, 2009 at 9:18 pm

  20. “I was saying it even before the recent English resurgence in Quebec, and will say it again: in order to slay the separatist dragon once and for all, Canada is going to have grant Quebec virtually all of the linguistic and cultural advantages of being an independent country (think of what the Swiss cantons have).”

    Bonne chance avec ca..ACJ…I think the ROC have had enough of the special entitlements to Quebec. Could be wrong, they (the ROC) have given in before but times are changing rapidly. Maybe it’s better that the same mistake is not repeated twice and Quebec separates once and for all so the continued language debate and other issues are put to rest.


    July 14, 2009 at 11:12 pm

  21. Congratulations all. You have asserted you rights and turned a supposed anglo blog about Quebec into one which is french.. Must be assimilation :) LOL


    July 14, 2009 at 11:21 pm

  22. Hi johnnyonline.

    Sorry, I don’t understand…what do you mean by “Laurier” and partition?

    Tony Kondaks

    July 15, 2009 at 12:03 am

  23. regretably, it was just some confusion on my part.

    i can recall reading documents about a proposed new province called laurier comprised of a gatineau/montreal/townships/beauce partition land belt to protect the integrity of canada “sea to sea” in the event of a referendum mandating secession and the resulting negotiations.


    July 15, 2009 at 1:05 am

  24. Just want to recount an experience I had two days ago.

    My Asian neighbours are rowdy, have their dog poop on our lawn and throw their garbage on our side of the fence. So, we sent them a cease and desist. In French. In Montreal.

    The day they received the cease and desist, they came knocking at our door (actually, it was more like trying to tear the door down). They screamed at us at the top of their lungs “How dare you send us a letter in French?” They really seem to believe we are violating some fundamental rights they think they have. And they never questioned the fact that we threaten them with legal action if they keep it up – that was fine by them. It’s not the content but the language that bothered them.

    They bought the house they live in in 1982. And they always swear at me in French when I call the cops on them for keeping me up at night…

    Add that up! I don’t need to go as far as trying to figure out how the ROC feels towards Quebec or what people down south might think – I only have to look as far as my own backyard…

    Of course, you can tell me they are just ignorant immigrants. You may be right. Inviting us to open up to English is just icing on the cake… The fact is, if immigrants that have been living in Quebec for the past 25 years truly believe we are obligated to address them in English (in a francophone neighbourhood, too), then someone somewhere must have made them believe English is mandatory here. I doubt they heard it from the francophones–they wouldn’t have understood it either way, now, would they?


    July 15, 2009 at 1:27 am

  25. Is this what you mean by a threat to French, ignorant impolite neighbours, whew I guess its time to amend law 101 to include dog dirt! You can’t legislate manners.


    July 15, 2009 at 7:10 am

  26. You shouldn’t let oddballs taint your objectiveness. Good luck with your neighbor.

    Pure Laine

    July 15, 2009 at 8:28 am

  27. Wow, good valid arguments and then we get AngryFrenchGirls rant…well to add to hers. As an Anglophone, my new Francophone friend refuses to let me type in French, insisting they understand English…DAMN am I pissed!


    July 15, 2009 at 3:25 pm

  28. Hey Tony, I’ve been reading through your stuff. My honest reaction was, “hey, somebody came up with an idea that would be equally opposed by both angryphone and pur et dur”, but maybe I’m misjudging people.

    I gotta say though, you have to explain that map of Quebec West. My math may be off, but wouldn’t the population of the province be majority francophone (even using your numbers, as opposed to what I suggest below)? Wouldn’t that majority be the most concerned about legislation to protect french? I think you’re setting anglophones up to be a minority in an even more linguistically sensitive situation than what already exists.

    As for the numbers you used to determine francophone and non-francophone, you seem to have used mother-tongue, even though the source you cited, Le Directeur General des Elections, provides data on the language most often spoken at home for each riding. Your numbers are wrongly classifying allophones who prefer French as non-francophones.


    July 15, 2009 at 3:41 pm

  29. It’s not a “boiteuse” comparison. The classic line from you guys is that Quebec is too small in comparison to anglo North America in order for French to truly thrive without intrusion from English (whether Qc is independent or not).

    So I give you an example of a place that is really, really tiny with big, big neighbours that speak another language, and now you say that it’s irrelevant…


    July 15, 2009 at 3:52 pm

  30. The name was actually Maisonneuve. It was the brainchild of former Liberal cabinet minister Marc Lalonde.


    July 15, 2009 at 3:53 pm

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