Posts Tagged ‘bilingualism

Howard Galganov Has a Legitimate Case.

with 91 comments

Howard Galganov has a legitimate case.

The self-proclaimed language rights activist has embarked on a campaign against the Ontario township of Russell’s bylaw that requires all businesses in the area to have bilingual signs in both French and English.

The rule was adopted after a series of incidents where Francophones of the township complained that local businesses, notably the governmentally-operated Beer Store, had english-only signs. Russell township is about equally French and English.

Mr. Galganov’s problem with the legislation is that, according to him, it limits his freedom of expression, a freedom protected by the Canadian Charter of Human Rights.

Not only does it deny him the right to put up signs in English only, he rightly points out that it denies area francophones the right to put up signs only in French, should they choose to do so.

The idea that commercial signs are a form of personal expression and therefore a protected form of speech is controversial, but it has nevertheless been recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada during the various challenges to Québec’s sign law.

Howard Galganov has a perfectly legitimate case.

It’s not a very strong one, though. The Supreme Court of Canada has said that commercial signs are a protected form of speech, but it also said that they could be regulated. Québec’s amended sign law, for example, which allows English and other languages on signs as long as French is predominant, is perfectly constitutional.

It’s hard to see how mandatory bilingual signs would not be. As Ontario’s French-language services commissioner said: “As a constitutionalist, I am really curious to see what their arguments will be.”

We will all find out when he pleads his case in the courts. Mr. Galganov and his supporters will present their arguments and explain in what way their rights are being violated. The defenders of the bylaw, starting with township mayor Ken Hill, will explain why the law does not unfairly limit anybody’s rights. An impartial judge will decide.

Democracy. Rule of law. Justice. The system at it’s best.

Howard Galganov has a legitimate case. Unfortunately, that is not the case he is fighting.

Using the Russel township bylaw as a pretext, Howard Galganov is waging war against democracy and a group of individuals singled out because of their language: francophones.

Howard Galganov is not a resident of Russel township. He only rented a storefront there and became a member of the chamber of commerce on June 18th, several days after announcing he would challenge the bylaw in court and months after he started his campaign against it.

Howard Galganov does not believe the people of the township have the right to decide for themselves what laws meet their own community standards. Nor is he merely supporting local opponents of the law. He is forcing himself and his ideas into someone else’s family affair.

That, however, is a minor detail compared to the much darker side of his crusade.

Apart from the legal challenge to the bylaw, Howard Galganov is financing a vast public opinion campaign, which is is a perfectly legitimate thing to do.

As part of this campaign, Mr. Galganov is calling for a boycott of all French-owned businesses in the area.

Now, by all accounts, the bylaw is controversial in all parts of the township, including within the French-speaking community. The bylaw’s champion is mayor Ken Hill, an anglophone. The law was voted by the democratically elected representatives of the township, both French and English.

Yet, Howard Galganov asks his supporters to punish only the French-speaking business owners. Only those who speak French, regardless of the fact that they could individually be supporters or opponents of the bylaw. Regardless of the fact that they could be members of the chamber of commerce that opposes the bylaw.

Howard Galganov asks his supporters to ignore the actual language of the signs, to look only at the surname on it. According to him Raynald Godin of Godin’s Hardware should be punished for being a Godin, even is his sign is in English, French, Tagalog or any combination thereof.

A boycott of Russell township francophones in protest of a municipal bylaw is the same thing as boycotting Anglo-owned businesses in Montreal to protest the decline of French in Montreal regardless of how these individual businesses treat their francophone patrons. It is the same thing as boycotting all Jewish-owned businesses to protest Israël’s occupation of the west bank, regardless of these individual business-owners’ opinion, if any, on Middle-Eastern geopolitics.

This singling out of one group for blame, ostracizing and punishment
only the basis of their ethnic, linguistic or racial origin is
something very sinister that has a variety of names. Names Mr.
Galganov is very familiar with as he is very fond of claiming he is the
victim of such logic and activity.

Howard Galganov was contacted in the course of writing this post. His response was: “I usually never turn down interviews (French or English), but your articles have been unfair, dishonest and insulting. Therefore the answer is no.”

Since I did offer him an opportunity do defend his position, he can’t call me unfair or dishonest anymore. As for insulting, he’ll have to get used to that.

Bookmark and Share

Written by angryfrenchguy

June 19, 2008 at 2:51 pm

English Country Converts to Spanish

with 11 comments

You’d think they had it all: beaches, calypso and English.

Think again.

Trinidad and Tobago wants the entire country to learn Spanish by 2020.If the government did not take this step, to ensure our nationals are not left behind this global trend of bi-lingualism, our nationals would not be competitive in the global marketplaces of tomorrow“, reads the website of the The Secretariat for The Implementation of Spanish.

Latin America is expected to be one of the booming economies of the next century. Demographically Spanish is on the rise all over the continent(s), including in the United States where Hispanics are now the most important minority. Brazil requires all schools to offer Spanish classes and encourages students to pick it as a second language instead of English.

The capital of Trinidad and Tobago, Port of Spain, is actively campaigning to be the seat of the
Free Trade Area of the Americas. The challenger is Miami, the unofficial capital of the Hispanic USA.

Should French and English-Canadians still spend all their resources on learning each others languages or is not time for us to learn our own continent’s common language?


Written by angryfrenchguy

June 10, 2008 at 9:53 pm

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.

Bookmark and Share

Written by angryfrenchguy

June 8, 2008 at 5:01 pm

Letter from Ottawa

with 20 comments

Ottawa bilingual sign

Salut Georges,

You probably remember me: we worked together in another life. We worked weekends and I remember you enjoyed reading the National Post to get angry. I just discovered you blog thanks to the article published in the Gazette and I said to myself: I only know one Georges Boulanger and it can only be him!

So congratulations for your blog, I’ve read a few articles and I found it very interesting. I think we have to tell the Anglos in their own language what the fucking problem is. I’m not sure they’ll get it but if we write in French they’ll say “Oh it’s French” and it stops right there. Communication breakdown.

I felt especially concerned since I now work for the federal government (Oh yes! The superb city of Gatineau) and I work in English 90% of the time. I write briefing notes in English, memos in English, instructions in English, research and analysis in English, etc… My colleagues are all Anglophones, except for the secretaries, of course. Ah, government secretaries have to be Francophones (bilingual, of course) because they are the point of first contact with the public.

French training usually gives rather poor results. In theory management jobs are bilingual but it’s a hoax: once someone has passed their French exam, they can easily never speak French ever again. I do have some Francophone colleagues in other ministries but meetings, even if Francophones are the majority, are in English.

That’s the big problem with Canadian bilingualism: its purely institutional and imposed from above. The reality is that Anglophones (except those who live in Québec, and even then…) have no reason to learn French, so why would they?

Anyway, all this to tell you I found your blog interesting and that I’ll continue following it.

Again, congratulations,


Written by angryfrenchguy

March 19, 2008 at 9:59 am

The AngryFrenchGuy has been declared a Traitor to the Nation!

with 33 comments

In a post called Les Traîtres du Français about a blogger called Un Homme en Colère (isn’t this just wonderful!) writes:

“It goes without saying that I have no more respect for someone who claims to defend French in English than I do for someone who bombs a country in the name of peace or a rapist who rapes in the name of virginity.”

And later: “What you are doing is SHAMEFUL, a disaster. At least it is only small scale, but your contribution annihilates all the efforts of hundreds of Québécois like me and others who are trying to make French Québec’s only official Language.”

Goddam. Fighting off Barbara Kay on one side and now these clowns on the other. I must be doing something right.

The debate has spread to other blogs, including Renart L’éveillé‘s.

Written by angryfrenchguy

February 26, 2008 at 1:13 am

Separatists for English Unite!

with 34 comments

Pauline Marois’ leadership of the Parti québécois is a first in more ways than one. She is, of course, the first woman to lead a major political party in Québec. She is also the first PQ leader not to be perfectly comfortable speaking English.

René Lévesque spoke English fluently, having grown up in the English-speaking town of New Carlisle and spending the Second World War in Europe with American troops. Although bilingual, neither Robert Bourassa nor Claude Ryan had his ease and fluency in English.

Jacques Parizeau evidently enjoyed using the British English he picked up at the London School of Economics while Robert Bourassa, a Harvard man himself, spoke his English adequately, without any style or apparent pleasure.

Jean Charest raised the Liberal standard considerably, but Lucien Bouchard and Bernard Landry were not impressed. (And I’m pretty sure Charest doesn’t speak Spanish or Latin like Landry!)

At the Federal level, with the notable exception of Pierre-Elliot Trudeau, the Liberal leaders speak even worse English than their provincial counterparts. Jean Chrétien carefully cultivated his non-threatening image with a heavily accented pea soup English while Stéphane Dion has the bookish accent of someone who learned the language by reading, not talking. Their Bloc opponent Gilles Duceppe’s English, while it would’ve been considered mediocre in Québec City, was paradoxically more than good enough by the standards set by Québec federal politicians.

Brian Mulroney and Paul Martin spoke easily in French and English, but they were Anglophones.

The current situation, with Pauline Marois speaking considerably less English than the fluent Jean Charest is the exception, not he norm.

Less English schools, more English in School

Pauline Marois is under attack these days for suggesting that the Québec education system should make sure that all children are functionally bilingual when they graduate from high school. She demanded that English be thought from the first grade on, and even that some form of immersion be created, by teaching geography and history in English, for example.

As expected, the cowardly Right of the independence movement opposed violently the plan. More frighteningly, some intellectual elites, such as author and playwright Victor-Lévy Beaulieu used the T word. Treason.

VLB, as he is known, certainly speaks English. He just published a 1000 page essay on James Joyce, one of the most notoriously difficult writers in the English language. Yet, the knowledge of English has never diminished his commitment to independence or his passion for the French language!

The knowledge of English has never had a negative correlation with support for Québec’s independence or support for the protection of French. Support for independence rises in the Francophone community with education level and income, both of which usually suggest some knowledge of English.

Nor does bilingualism diminish a student’s ability to speak and write in their mother tongue. Many studies have demonstrated that the kids who go through the French-immersion program in the rest of Canada score better in ENGLISH than those who go through the regular program!

The modern independence movement was born in Montreal’s bilingual Francophone intellectual community, inspired by hearing Martin Luther King and Gandhi speak about freedom, justice and liberty, in English!

80% to 90% of young people in Scandinavian countries speak English. Yet, they are still Swedes and Finns, still speak Swedish and Finnish and still play hockey not football. If the Québec school system could properly teach English to Québec’s youth, the English language CEGEPs and universities would not look so attractive to young people who want to practice the language.

By suggesting that the knowledge of English is dangerous for the people, that they are not ready or that it could threaten the integration of immigrants, Pauline Marois’ elitist bilingual opponents like Victor Lévy Beaulieu only managed to demonstrate that speaking English won’t make you smarter either.

(Also published in the Montreal Gazette as Pauline Marois and her problem with English)

Written by angryfrenchguy

February 12, 2008 at 11:12 pm