One of the more challenging things I've found to explain to French nationals is why Canada's French language requirements are bad.
Let me explain it simply.
Only about 20% of Canadians speak French, and a vast majority of them live in one area of the country.
But in order to hold government positions in Canada you must be fluent. This includes politicians, judges, and other civil service jobs.
The result is a soft ruling class of Quebecois over the rest of Canada.
@emacsen From a different angle: Québécois learn English, even though a majority of English speakers live in other areas of the country.
Or are you arguing against linguistic diversity? :-)
This isn't about food labels or road signs, but about who holds power
Quebecois learn English for the same reason that Germans and French learn English, because it has become the de-facto language of commerce.
But when a minority has ruling power and uses it to perpetuate their ruling power, that's a problem.
You can't gain fluency after childhood and the French language requirements are so strict, some French natives have failed the test.
@civodul It is necessary to ask, Which of Canada's French language requirements are bad? I don't think anyone really worries about the labelling requirements (bilingual cereal boxes is the classic example). I don't think @emacsen really thinks it is unwise to teach French as a second language in anglophone public schools, or the corollary for francophone schools.
The real contention, IIRC, is about jobs with the federal government. Is that correct?
I thought you had to speak French in order to qualify as a politican. That idea riled me up, but appears to have no substance.
You *do* need to speak French to be a civil servant, and for judges, and also for the RCMP (ie national police). This creates a bit of a separation between those in power and those on the ground in a place like BC.
In Vancouver, 42.5% of the population are immigrants, and 20% of Vancouver identifies as Chinese.
Don't give up. It is probably the case that you and I will never speak French like someone who spoke French as a child. But that does not mean we cannot become fluent with persistence. (Again, Stephen Harper and Jean Chrétien are good examples.) I know many, many Canadians who have taken up French or English or both as adults who communicate well.
Native speakers are normally forgiving of errors & accents, in my experience, if one makes an honest effort.
Civil servants cannot speak all the commonly spoken languages, but speaking the official federal ones sounds reasonable to me.
Now, there also also those native languages that don’t have official status…
@emacsen Isn’t it the majority, which pushes its language and culture until it’s “de facto” unavoidable, that “holds power”? Isn’t the minority just preserving its right to speak its language?
I've sat on this response because I'm unsure how to express it with the mix of genuine empathy and humor that I have, and somehow translate this into text.
I'm very sympathetic to the feeling that French, and especially the Quebecois have around preserving language and culture. French is a beautiful language, and I'm very sensitive in general to how language is a tool of culture that homogenizes it.
So yes, cultural sensitivity, absolutely 100%, to the max.
Okay, maybe not but... "At the same time".
I'm not sure the right order to put this in, so I am sure I will ramble a bit.
First, I think that representation is important. Quebecois speak French, but here in Vancouver, many people are first or second generation Chinese. Why isn't Chinese preserved or treated special?
In the US, despite English being the predominant language, there is no national language. It doesn't exist, and I think it's a good thing.
Also French is not an endangered language. My French grandparents spoke Yiddish. Yiddish is a shrinking language.
My wife's family, I'm sure, spoke either Ladino or Haketia, both of which are essentially (if not factually) dead languages at this point.
Cultural sensitivity makes sense, but it needs to be contextual, and sensitive to the relative powers of the cultures.
It's hard to compare cultures morally, but French folks live under a feeling of being crushed by English, but the French idea of assimilation is also a thing.
People living in France are expected to assimilate to the "French way", which is secular, yes, but secular Catholic, and secular French. French immigrants are expected to shed their previous identities.
The Quebcois have many similarities. It makes it hard for me to be as sympathetic as I might otherwise be.
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