Unlike most columnists, journalists, and most Reader Letter contributors, I am not part of the Quebec intellectuals and even less of the university community. At 32, I am trying to complete my bachelor’s degree at UQAM. However, I take the opportunity offered by the reader’s letter to express myself.
The linguistic debate, in my opinion, is mainly about geopolitics, but also economics. English lovers constantly say that the working language is English, and therefore knowledge of this language is a must. However, this discourse is malicious, because it removes the cultural aspect of language.
The fact is that language brings together literature, a set of arts, a way of life, etc. If we remove that, then, yes, language is only a tool of communication, and therefore it adopts English everywhere on earth. This is clearly not what we want. While diversity is celebrated, why shouldn’t the protection of languages be part of this celebration?
The linguistic debate is not limited to the “conflict” between English and French. It is about English and all other languages of the world. We are all to blame for imposing English as the only language, regardless of our origins. English speakers, French speakers, German speakers, etc. Don’t you understand my point? Well, here are two examples that will explain to you the dangerous situation we find ourselves in.
In 2019, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, attempted to establish a decision-making procedure in English only. This was happening when the UK started Brexit.
Another example: the categorical refusal of the United States, in 2005, to ratify the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. As you can see, the preservation of the French language goes beyond Canada.
Some pessimists will say that there is a certain justice, because French, which was once the language of the colonizer, imposed itself on others in a similar way, that is, through cultural assimilation. Well, I tell them that language is not responsible; Those who manipulate it for their ends are to blame.
Should we stop learning German because of the Holocaust? Should we stop learning Mandarin or Hebrew because we disagree with Chinese and Israeli policy toward Uyghurs and Arab minorities? of course not. The language is not mistaken in the behavior of some of its speakers. Should we protect indigenous languages? Of course ! Should the French face the same fate? No, because our past mistakes should be a warning for our future behavior towards languages.
We stress a lot, on a daily basis, about our failures and mistakes in Quebec and Canada. This makes me think of the disdain of our society, which sometimes viciously attacks the CAQ government, Prime Minister Legault, Prime Minister Trudeau, Bill 101 and the French language office. , etc. However, I find that there is little mention of the individual responsibility of people, which, in my opinion, is certainly one of the reasons for promoting this very poor linguistic code.
How many of you regularly consume French Canadian TV shows, or even Canadian TV shows? I honestly think many would rather back off from the US productions of Netflix, HBO, etc.
Others would be proud to have cleansed themselves of this “painful” Quebec accent in order to speak impeccable English. Finally, there are those who will extol the merits of Anglo-Saxon culture while reducing French-speaking institutions, for example the Quebec University Network, and are often the prey of bad tongues. For these, you deserve to be rewarded rug academy english.
The government has a wide back when it is time to find someone to blame on the French state. If the latter had a share of the responsibility, just like the Anglo-Quebecs, nothing absolved the French-Quebecs of their mistakes. They are the first to be blamed, before the government or our English-speaking citizens. If we don’t have love for our culture, let’s demand it from others.
The way we treat our languages is unacceptable. French is not a crumbling old world nor should English be assimilated into an everyday tool limited to earning hard money. In my opinion, the language of Shakespeare, Margaret Atwood and James Baldwin is much more than the language of a screwdriver.
Bill 101 exists because the French language, unfortunately, will always and forever be a minority in the Americas. Looking at the current situation, it seems to me very far away, the day when French, English, and allophone speakers listen to productions from CBC/Radio-Canada, TVA, etc., rather than American content; where they will learn each other’s language other than to do business; Where prime-time French and English commercial radio stations in Quebec will play Damien Ropitel, Chloe Bilgaug, or even Jerry Bullett.
If that day arrives, then yes, at that time, I will be sure that French will survive in North America. Bilingualism is not only a legislative issue, but also a matter of culture, and unfortunately, it is often the forgotten part.
– Charles-Vincent Chevalier, Documentation Technician and Undergraduate Student at UQAM