[lg policy] Language policy in Montreal
hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Thu Aug 7 19:38:49 UTC 2014
Second Cup mulling change to menu language policy August 6th, 2014 This is
the fifth in a series of articles looking at stores and companies and their
language policies in areas with majority and significant anglophone
populations, as documented by Hampstead’s Harold Staviss and Côte St. Luc’s
The language policy of fast food and popular coffee establishments in
Montreal is a very mixed bag, especially when it comes to their menu boards
customers consult before ordering.
The Suburban checked out several local establishments, and found that the
menu boards are mostly in French only, whether in a borough like St.
Laurent or downtown. Notable exceptions are Thai Express, Cultures and the
McDonald’s on Côte St. Luc Road in Côte St. Luc, where the boards are
And amongst those establishments that are popular for their coffee, Tim
Hortons and Starbucks have bilingual menus as well. And at several
locations, Starbucks is even called “Café Starbucks Coffee.” But at Second
Cup, their board goes only part way in including English. Kovac only
noticed an English reference to Fair Trade Coffee at the Ste. Catherine
Street location near Stanley. We checked late last week, and the menu
board’s item categories are in both languages, with the English being very
small, but the items themselves are only in French.
Unhappy with this, Kovac had an e-mail exchange with Second Cup’s Sara
Jackson, manager of café operations and implementation at their
Mississauga, Ontario headquarters. She copied this exchange to Staviss and
In her message, Kovac pointed out there was not any English to explain the
items to herself or any potential out of town guests, and that the location
is situated between two English-language universities and in the heart of
Montreal’s tourist area.
“What foolishness from a business perspective and how disrespectful to any
English speaking clientele,” she wrote of Second Cup’s current policy. “I
am quite certain you are all familiar with the language laws in Quebec and
therefore realize that English is permitted, albeit at half the size.
“Why is my bilingual dollar or my patronage not as respected as the French
one?” Kovac added. “Although your staff is bilingual, why are you ashamed
or afraid to place English signs where only French now exists? Should I or
anyone else have to struggle with some of the descriptions of what is
offered? Is it wise to hold up a line while a server translates? This is
really not even so much about language but about respect.”
Jackson replied that customer satisfaction is “paramount” at Second Cup.
“We are taking your comments about our menu boards in Quebec into
consideration,’ she wrote. “We hope you can appreciate that this may take
time. In the interim, we will be providing all cafés in Quebec with English
laminated menus they can share with customers. As always, our team members
in every café are behind the counter to help with product selections.”
In a subsequent message to Kovac, Jackson wrote that she will provide an
update on Second Cup’s consideration of its policy in September.
Montrealer Dan Fuchs also recently protested Second Cup’s lack of English.
For his part, Staviss said he had not seen any English signage at Second
Cup locations until very recently. “I contacted their head office last year
and the responses I received back from them, including their previous
president, was to the effect that if they had English on their menu boards,
it would be too small,” he added.
But Staviss then very recently noticed some English at the Greene Avenue
location in Westmount.
“And now, with Ruth having communicated with Second Cup, maybe, just maybe,
they will finally wake up and do what is right. We need people like Ruth to
stand up, write, call and do social media to get the message across. For
now when I want some coffee I go to Starbucks, not Second Cup, as Starbucks
has bilingual menu boards, thereby showing more respect to the anglo
community than Second Cup.”
Staviss and Kovac have set up an e-mail address bonjour
hi2u at gmail.com —“for anyone who is interested in getting involved to
encourage merchants, retailers and the like to post English signage or more
English signage in their establishments,” Staviss told The Suburban.
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