Quebec Seeks to Ease Divisiveness

Alkistis Fleischer fleischa at georgetown.edu
Fri Apr 18 21:19:28 UTC 2003


It appears that the message I sent yesterday to the list did not reach all recipients in a legible form. Here it is again:-) A.





Dear Mr. Anonby,



I wanted to come back to some of your previous postings, offering some food for thought, which, I hope, will generate some further responses.



What exactly makes Quebec the "funniest province in Canada" in your view? The fact that it is the only Canadian province with French as its official language in an otherwise officially bilingual country, which is in reality mainly English-speaking?



You say that "it is harder for whole societies to remain multilingual." The issue in Quebec is not trying to remain a bilingual or multilingual society, at least not in the state's perspective. Quebec is officially a Francophone society, and the intention is to keep French strong despite the challenges that French faces, among them the effect of globalization and the introduction of new technologies of information and communications, in particular on the language of work and commerce, and the "fragility" of the Francophonie in a North American context.



In your message you write that "In Africa and Asia the ecology of language is different from Quebec. Mostly, you're talking about societies where people don't have the western world at their fingertips." I do not understand this comment. Does that imply that the world's lingua franca, English, is the language that is or should by default be associated with "the western world"?



You have twice mentioned the part in the New York Times article about Quebec Francophones allegedly writing their love letters in English. The part in the New York Times article (April 13) read: 

"More and more French men are writing their love cards in English," said Teresa Jedrezejak, a Polish immigrant who owns a flower shop in Notre Dame de Grace, a once thoroughly English-speaking neighborhood on the west side that is becoming increasingly mixed." You seem to have concluded that Quebec Francophones are generally writing their love letters in English: 

"If Frenchmen are writing love letters in English, ...." (April 15); "Frenchmen writing love letters in English sounded to me like old domains of use were changing." (April 16). The New York Times article is simply quoting a single person's impressions in a mainly Anglophone neighborhood. This can hardly be seen as evidence that Quebec Francophones are writing their love letters in English. They may well do, especially if they are dating or having a relationship with an Anglophone woman (just as an Anglophone woman might very well write love letters in French to her Francophone boyfriend). But the quote in the article certainly does not permit any conclusions about the language of love letters in Montreal! The Francophones I have met in Montreal have in general been very keen on their language, and would be more likely to use French at home, even in mixed marriages.



You have also twice cited "the view most older English speaking Canadians have of the French in Quebec." In your first message (April 14) you referred to your visits in Montreal, Quebec, and Ottawa a couple of years ago, when you "found the English speakers of [your] mother-in-law's age quite anti-French." I do not know any older Anglophones in Montreal, but at least for the younger generations this is not the case. Francophones and Anglophones, along with the "kids of Bill 101" as the post-Bill 101 immigrant (second) generation is often called, live harmoniously in Montreal and language barriers are often broken down by code-switching. The categories that are commonly used to describe the linguistic reality of Quebec, Anglophones, Francophones, and Allophones, are often used as if referring to real, sociological entities. Current anthropological and sociological research in Montreal suggests that these groups are in the process of getting redefined and that new "frontiers" are in progress.



I hope you will be able to renew your visit to Montreal and "la belle province" in the future. This is a fascinating place, all the more so for anyone interested in language issues.



Best,

 

Alkistis Fleischer
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Survey Coordinator Brazil 
  To: lgpolicy-list at ccat.sas.upenn.edu 
  Sent: Tuesday, April 15, 2003 11:17 AM
  Subject: Re: Quebec Seeks to Ease Divisiveness


  I'd like to see as many languages as possible survive.  I think Quebec is the funnest province in Canada.  However, though I think multilingualism is possible for individuals, I think it's harder for whole societies to remain multilingual.  

  In Africa and Asia the ecology of language is different from Quebec.  Mostly, you're talking about societies where people don't have the western world at their fingertips.  This should help slow down language shift.  Even so, there is a vast amount of language shift happening in Africa and Asia, as the weaker languages are gobbled up by the more powerful ones.    

  I also think societies can be bilingual longer if the languages they speak are restricted to their respective domains (Fishman talks about this).  If Frenchmen are writing love letters in English, this doesn't seem to be the situation of English and French Quebec.

  I've never been to Louisiana, but from talking to Americans, I've gotten the impression that they love the French aspect of the state.  This stands in stark contrast to the view most older English speaking Canadians have of the French in Quebec.  In Louisiana, can I surmise that for 3 generations the English and French have loved each other, French people have written love notes in English, and the French communities have been pretty bilingual?  And isn't this why today French is endangered in Louisiana?

  Stan Anonby
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