AngryFrenchGuy

Posts Tagged ‘immigration

English as an Official Language (in the USA)

with 15 comments

Mauro E. Mujica

Last March a Polk County judge in Iowa ruled that the State government was violating it’s own laws by providing websites and voter registration forms in a variety of languages, including Spanish and Vietnamese. Iowa, you see, made English it’s sole official language in 2002. It is one of 30 states that have enacted some form of legislation making English their official language.

At the federal level the United States do not have an official language. English is de facto the language of administration, but there is no official language act that says has to be that way. Legislation to that effect has been introduced many times in the Congress, as recently as 2006, but as of yet none has successfully survived the Washington legislative process.

A the frontline of the Official English movement is the US English organization founded in 1983.

The current president of US English is Mauro E. Mujica, a naturalized US citizen born in Chile who speaks fluent English, Spanish and French.

He kindly accepted to answer a few AngryFrenchQuestions:

1.Can you tell me how someone with your background, Spanish-speaking, born outside the United States, came to the conclusion that the US needed to make the English language official?

When I came as an immigrant to an English speaking country, I knew that I had to learn the language of the country I was going to in order to be successful. In fact, when I first came here, I assumed that English was already the official language of the United States.

In addition to my experience as an immigrant, I also discovered the importance of a common language during my career as an architect. Many of the projects I worked on involved projects overseas – projects I would be unable to get if I didn’t speak the language of that country, or if we did not have a common language through which to conduct business.

To build a nation, all you need are people. But to build a civically united society, you need the common bond of language.

2.Considering that English is the uncontested global language and that 95% of the children of immigrants to the US are considered fluent, isn’t pro-English legislation just overkill?

The societal expectation is that immigrants to the United States will learn English and become Americans. The discussion of the second generation ignores the fact that a growing number of immigrants are unable to speak English themselves, and that a rather significant gap exists between societal expectation and reality. Census data reveals that for some immigrant groups, less than half of the immigrants living in the United States are considered proficient in the language that will enable them to get better jobs, earn higher incomes and help their children advance to higher education.

The intended audience of promoting English acquisition is the immigrant his/herself, much like the intended audience for message promoting smoking cessation is the smoker him/herself.

Furthermore, when we are talking about fluency in English, a characteristic that the Urban Institute called “the most effective anti-poverty tool for working families” in the United States, 95 percent English acquisition is not an acceptable figure among the second generation. There are some startling facts about English fluency that run counter to the notion of English acquisition. According to the U.S. Census, there were more than two million native born Americans, age five and older, who spoke little or no English. That’s two million people born in this country, presumably raised and educated in this country, who speak English at the lowest levels of proficiency.

Finally, 95 percent is simply not a good enough figure to sit back and rest. We should be no more proud of a 95 percent English acquisition rate for the children of immigrants, than we would be about a 95 percent graduation rate or a statistic showing that 95 percent of the children of drug abusers don’t abuse drugs. In any of those cases, there is still a significant portion of the population that will be unable to reach its highest potential, and will be more likely to require government services.

3.I’m sure you have studied official language models worldwide. What countries, according to you, have the best approaches?

I have long been impressed by the Israeli adoption of Hebrew as the official language of the country, and the steps the nation takes to ensure that new residents are able to read, write and converse in this language.

4.How do you feel about Québec’s language legislation? How about the Canadian government’s bilingual approach?

As a citizen of the United States, I don’t have an opinion on the Canadian government language policy as it pertains to Canada. The linguistic and ethnic composition of Canada is unique and quite different from that of the United States.

On an academic level, however, I feel that understanding language policy in Canada offers lessons in how and how not to formulate a language policy here in the U.S. The experience in Canada offers examples of how language differences can result in social discord, increased expenditures, and pit one side against the other in an us vs. them mentality. I believe the Canadian policy shows several potential pitfalls the United States may endure should it opt to go officially or quasi-officially multilingual.

5.Québec’s language legislation went beyond the government and imposed some obligations to private businesses such as the language of commercial signs, the right to work in French and the right to be served in French. Would such measures be necessary in the US? Would they be possible?

The official English legislation proposed in U.S. Congress would not affect the rights of private businesses or business owners. Our legislation is exclusively focused on the language of government and government documents. Official English legislation has never been about preserving the language or the proper use of the language. Instead it is rooted upon the belief that English, however accented or pronounced, is the unifying factor in this diverse nation.

6. US English has been accused to be a polite and clean facade for anti-Mexican and anti-immigration sentiment. How do you feel about those accusations?

It is unfortunate that some individuals choose to stymie debate on the official language issue by mischaracterizing its supporters. In reality, many supporters of official English are immigrants or children of immigrants. In polls, first- and second-generation Americans demonstrate the same level of support for official English as do Americans of the third-generation and beyond. Furthermore, labeling the more than 80 percent of the nation that supports English as “xenophobic” is an extremely pessimistic view of the United States population.


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Written by angryfrenchguy

June 15, 2008 at 11:30 am

Camille Laurin’s Bitches

with 54 comments

Who\'s your daddy?

Who says Montreal should be French, anyway?

This is a complaint I’ve been hearing more and more from Anglophones.

Montreal is a bilingual city. Why should French have a special status?

Because if French didn’t have a special status Montreal would have the economic and cultural importance Akron, Ohio.

Bill 101 isn’t about wiping out English From Montreal. It’s about providing a counterweight to the massive power of attraction of English in North America and the world.

Bill 101 created bilingual Montreal.

Before bill 101 there was no bilingual Montreal. It was as Jane Jacobs and many others observed: “An English city containing many French-speaking workers and inhabitants.” About 70% of the inhabitants actually.

Before bill 101 there was no French in the workplace, there was no French in the boardrooms and there was little or no French in the shops downtown. Before Bill 101 the Canadian National Railway and the big banks could have their headquarters in Montreal and not have to hire a single French-speaking person above the second floor.

Before the French Language Charter became law bilingualism was such a valued skill in Montreal that in his book “Sorry I don’t speak French” journalist and new Official Languages Commissioner Graham Fraser recalls meeting the editor of the Montreal Star, a man who’s position would suppose that he was not only well read but that he also had some very sensitive antennas in all of the city’s communities, and that he did not speak French at all.

Before those darn separatists took power immigrants only learned English because that’s the only language they needed to earn a living. Anglos didn’t need to speak French to get a job. Francophones who wanted to rise above the shop floor had to consider an English education. The market value of bilingualism was sweet fuck all.

By giving the French majority the right to work in French the French Language Charter’s creator Camille Laurin reversed that. All of the sudden Anglos and immigrants needed to learn some French to compete with the bilingual Francophones. The French classes suddenly got more important in English schools and the very idea of immersion programs was invented.

The children and grandchildren of unilingual Anglophones are now proudly bilingual and this proficiency with languages gives them a unique advantage other Anglo-Saxons would pimp their sister for. This ability to speak two or more languages has kept bilingual English Montrealers right at the top of the earnings pyramid in Montreal, Québec and Canada.

It has also given them such a unique access to federal public service jobs that in the West people complain that Canada has been hijacked by Montreal lawyers.

The language laws probably saved Montreal’s economy. Contrary to popular myth, the decline of Montreal as the economic center of Canada was well under way when English was the only language of business. Toronto had already caught up with Montreal by the 1940’s, a good quarter of a century before the Parti québécois came to power.

In those days Montreal was slowly becoming just another English-speaking town on the outer periphery of North America’s economic heartland. A Hartford or a Pittsburgh. By making French a central part of Montreal’s business and commercial life, bill 101 positioned our city as a unique bridge between two of the world’s most vibrant cultural and economic spheres.

A position it holds alone, without the shadow of a challenger, in North America or even the world.

So why should French have a special status?

Because that special status paid for your Lexus, biatch!

Written by angryfrenchguy

April 19, 2008 at 9:40 pm

Québec Immigration Policy = False Advertising or Lying to Your Best Friend

with 35 comments

All newly arrived immigrants to Québec, especially the French-speaking ones, take down this number:

1-888-OPC-ALLO

The above number is the complaints line for the Québec’s consumer protection agency: the Office de Protection des Consommateurs du Québec.

If you came to Québec under the impression that you were entering a thriving job market in need of your education and skills of if our were led to believe that your knowledge of French would be an advantage to you, you should call this number.

You were lied to.

If you read the Immigration Québec website you will read that: “According to labor market forecasts, 640,000 positions must be filled by 2008.” You will also read that the current unemployment rate for Montreal is 9,4%.

Actually, hum… no. Immigrants who’ve been in Montreal 1 to 5 years have an 18% unemployment rate. Three times that of native Montrealers.

The Immigration Québec website also informs you that “Québec is committed to preserving and promoting its official language. French represents not only an essential communication tool, but also a common symbol of belonging to Québec society.”

Again.. Apparently not. According to a new study by our good fried Jack Jedwab of the Center for Canadian studies, an allophone who only speaks French is two times and a half more likely to be unemployed than one who only speaks English. A bilingual immigrant only gets a statistically insignificant advantage of 0.4% over one who only speak English.

If you are a French-speaking North African your unemployment rate is an appalling 28%! (Google English) You are a sub-Saharan African? It’s 20%. Haïtien? It’s 18%, pathnais!

These are the French-speaking immigrants we were told were going to put an end to the demographic decline of French-speakers in Montreal and Québec. The ones that would be the easiest to integrate. Well, the above numbers tell me something is already going very wrong and that it’s time we address this problem before it catches fire.

We owe it to these guys. They left country and family to come here out of many possibilities in a very competitive immigration market because we told them we valued their skills, culture and language.

To increase immigration levels to 50 000 new people a year when 30% of North Africans can’t find work is a curious way of increasing the market value of immigrants who are already here. A cynical person might say it only serves to keep wages down for Québec’s struggling manufacturing sector.

What seem especially treacherous is that it is done at the expense of Francophones who were told that speaking French would be an advantage to them in Québec, and who will slowly realize that it is nothing more than an obstacle to their mobility, further reducing their market value.

Of course the idea is not that immigration is a bad thing and certainly not that we should stop encouraging Francophone immigration. Quite the contrary.

There are jobs out there and an enormous amount of people not being hired for these jobs. Is the problem discrimination? Racism? Education? I don’t know but it seems urgent that we find out.

I only suggest that perhaps the current economic news coming from the US could be the signal that the time might be appropriate to re-examine not only our immigration policy, but the use and value of French in the workplace, and ways to increase it.

We are now recruiting immigrants based on the job market we want, not the one we have. Employers are still demanding that employers speak English. Is it always necessary to do the actual job or is it only because, well, English kind of became the default common language in the office? Is it only because the Toronto office only writes reports in English? Is it only because it makes meetings more efficient?

The right to work in French is only very loosely enforced in Québec and not much thought has been given on how to harmonise that right with the internationalization of the markets. Those are complicated questions indeed in a global economy.

As we figure these things out, perhaps it could be time to ask ourselves how filling Montreal with young overqualified and underemployed poorly mobile young people lured into Québec under false pretences is a desirable move as we head into a recession?

Written by angryfrenchguy

April 14, 2008 at 10:00 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

Does Montreal need more immigrants?

with 61 comments

That’s the fascinating and highly controversial question a small but determined group of scholars have been debating in Québec newspapers lately.

49 000 new brothers and sisters. That’s how many new immigrants the Québec government decided to recruit for Québec in 2008. That number, which is proportionally much higher than the immigration levels in the United States and most of Western Europe, will be increased to 55 000 in 2010.

The standard justification for this high level of immigration is that it necessary to compensate for the low birthrate in Québec, to maintain the province’s demographic and economic weight in the federation and simply because we need the workers.

Last week demographer Marc Termotte publicly denounced the Québec government for not publishing his study–that the same government had commissioned–demonstrating that French was declining in Montreal at least partly because Montreal Francophones were having a hard time integrating an always increasing number of immigrants.

In a December 28th letter to Le Devoir (google’s robot translation), demographer Guillaume Marois takes another look at Québec’s seldom questioned immigration policies and concludes that immigrants already in Québec will be among those who have the most to lose with a more ambitious immigration policy!

Pointing out that in Québec, as in Ontario and the rest of the Western World, immigrants move to urban areas and stay away from far away regions, he argues that increased immigration will do nothing to solve the shortage of workers in Rouyn and Alma.

The true question is not, according to him, if Québec need more immigrants, but:

Does Montreal need more immigrants?

“In December 2007 the unemployment rate in on the island of Montreal was 8,5% while it was only 7% for Québec as a whole. How are immigrants doing? According to the latest ISQ (Institut de Statistique du Québec) compilations, more than 10% of immigrants are unemployed…”

So if there is no worker shortage in Montreal, why are we bringing more people in, Guillaume?

“We often hear that “immigrants don’t steal our jobs, but occupy jobs that Quebecers don’t want because of bad conditions”. But if working conditions are staying bad, it is precisely because employers find in the immigrant community people who are ready to take these jobs. Employers don’t have to raise salaries or improve working conditions.”

“Although immigrants are generally better educated than average Quebecers, they are over represented in menial and manual jobs. They’ve been promised a lot of nice things but, in the end, they have to go towards this type of employment for various reasons (not recognized diplomas, false promises, etc…) or be unemployed. A good proportion of immigrants who are here will pay the price of an increase in immigration.”

More immigrants means lower wages for poor working-class Quebecers. Guess who are the poor working-class Quebecers of 2008?

That’s right! Immigrants.

Written by angryfrenchguy

February 4, 2008 at 11:22 am

Give TQS to Québec’s cultural communities

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What should be done with bankrupt Télévision Quatre Saisons? How about using the prime broadcast real estate of TQS to revive la Télévision Ethnique du Québec, the multicultural and multilingual cable TV network hijacked by CanWest Global in the early 00’s.

TEQ was a locally owned and operated community channel that aired programming by and for Québec’s cultural communities. The station experienced financial difficulties in the late 1990’s and was eventually sold to Rogers and later CanWest Global.

CanWest turned TEQ into CJNT-TV. Nearly all of the Québec-produced programming of TEQ was dumped by the new owners. CJNT now airs a mix of ethnic programming from Toronto and Montreal in the daytime and American TV in prime-time, all tied together with English-only branding. Montreal’s so-called “multicultural” TV station has an ENGLISH-ONLY website!

There is some French-language programming on CJNT, essentially produced by Montreal’s Lebanese and Haïtian communities. The token French-language shows, bundled up with Urdu, Cantonese and Armenian programming and the station’s deliberate editorial choice to make English the common language of the station strongly suggests that Montreal’s French-speakers are just another one of the city’s minorities.

It’s as if an American multicultural channel used Spanish as the common working language. Or as if a French channel used Arabic.

From being the voice of Québec’s minorities CJNT became the agent of their ghettoization and Anglicization by CanWest’s owners who only really cared about the 40% of American programing the station’s license allowed it to air.

“There is a debate that we need to have on Québec’s ethnic television and the Anglicization of ethnic communities through television”, declared Michel Tremblay, president of TEQ’s producers union in 2000.

TQS’s bankruptcy might be a good opportunity to have that debate.

Written by angryfrenchguy

January 9, 2008 at 7:30 am

Québec needs an English-language newspaper

with 23 comments

Québec doesn’t have an English-language newspaper. Québec doesn’t have an English-language television, radio station or Internet portal.

The Québécois are keeping silent in the lingua franca of the Internet.

In 2008 that means Québec doesn’t exist.

French-speaking North Americans who are celebrating 400 years on the continent have no media of their own to talk to the 400 million English-speakers who surround them.

Is it any wonder the wildest politically-fictional fantasies still circulate about Québec?

An Indian or an Armenian googling some news about Québec has 10 times as many chances to come upon Barbara Kay’s or Mordecai Richeler’s paranoiac diatribes about a fascist ethnic tribe trying to wipe it’s province clear of strangers and “coloreds” than a simple description of the French Language Charter.

What about the Montreal Gazette? The Gazette is not a “Montreal newspaper that happens to be in English” as columnist Henry Aubin once told me. It’s the newspaper of Montreal’s English-speaking minority. Period.

One token separatist columnist is not enough to fairly translate the diversity of thought of a population twice as numerous as Ireland’s. The Gazette deserves credit for giving some space to strong voices, from former RIN leader Pierre Bourgault in the 80’s to the current incumbent Josée Legault, but one person can’t possibly incarnate the diversity of ideas and opinions barely skimmed by 13French -language dailies.

Is it any wonder Canadians confuse the Parti Québécois, small-town nationalists, right-wing conservatives, 19th century ecclesiastic ideologues and violent student radicals of the 1970’s into a single seditious movement of anti-Canadianism that has to be crushed?

Why does Québec need an English-language newspaper? 2 reasons:

1. Because if Québec doesn’t talk directly to the world, it lets Barabara Kay, Jan Wong, Mordecai Richler and the Gazette do it for them. If the curious individuals around the world have access to The Gazette’s, The National Post’s and The Globe and Mail’s perspective on Canadian events, they should have access to Québec’s. Or more accurately to the plural: Québecs’.

2. 48 000 newcomers will come to Québec this year. At least half of the will not speak French when they arrive. Many of them will have some understanding of English, though. These people will learn to know their new country through the biased, truncated and partial coverage of the Anglo minority’s newspaper. With no access to French-language media, they will assimilate and adopt the Anglophone perspective and identity. They are entitled the French majority’s perspective as well.

Written by angryfrenchguy

January 7, 2008 at 9:41 pm