[lg policy] Canada: Dan Delmar: Here's why I speak French with an English accent

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Mon May 16 11:15:57 EDT 2016

 Dan Delmar: Here's why I speak French with an English accent
[image: MONTREAL, QUE.: SEPTEMBER 10, 2015 -- Dan Delmar will be writing
some election columns for The Montreal Gazette, photographed in Montreal,
Thursday September 10, 2015. (Vincenzo D'Alto / Montreal Gazette)] Dan
Delmar, Special to Montreal Gazette
More from Dan Delmar, Special to Montreal Gazette
Published on: May 15, 2016 | Last Updated: May 15, 2016 1:00 PM EDT
[image: MONTREAL, QUE.: NOVEMBER 05, 2012--Alexandr Cebotari, left ,from
Moldavia is looking at a Larousse French dictionnary during an integration
class at Ecole primaire La Mosaique.Right is Kyong Seo Lee from Korea.The
photo op was held during a press conference on November 5, 2012, at Ecole
primaire de la Mosaique which reunited francophone experts.They talk about
how to integrate non-French-speaking immigrant children when they make up
the majority of the school population. (Marie-France Coallier / THE

Today, children who immigrate to Quebec are obliged to attend French
schools, but a couple of generations ago, they were often excluded.
Coallier / The Gazette

As Quebec again strengthens language laws
members of minority communities are reminded, even subtly, that in the eyes
of their government, they are not quite equal in standing to their
francophone counterparts. Misguided language policies, inspired by
ethnocentrism that flies in the face of science, have unfortunately sowed
the seeds of cultural divide between citizens.

I am reminded by that link between policy and people when, every so often,
I am asked variations of the same question: Why do you, a lifelong Quebecer
raised in a francophone neighbourhood, have an anglophone’s accent? It’s
the equivalent of asking, why don’t you seem like one of us; why is your
laine still somewhat impure?

The query, most recently from an educated, apparently tolerant francophone
entrepreneur, doesn’t offend me. It points to relatively common questions
that many francophones might have about anglophones and other minorities;
questions about cultural integration, exemplified by exercises like the
amusing 2013 Journal de Montréal survey
<http://www.journaldemontreal.com/2013/10/20/who-is-marie-mai>, which
indicated that anglophones are largely ignorant of major Quebec
cultural influencers like Marie Mai, Guy A. Lepage and Jean-René Dufort.

The standard answer I provide to such questions about gaps in my Québécois
cultural credibility is, “it’s a long story,” and here it is.

I shouldn’t be an anglophone, but the Quebec education system forced my
family into that linguistic camp.

English is my mother tongue, but there’s nothing about my ethnicity that is
even remotely anglo. I, and a generation of Quebec millennials born to
immigrant parents, became anglicized as a result of the same sort of
xenophobic, identity-based policies that Quebec’s political elite continue
to tell us is meant to strengthen the French language. They’ve had the
opposite effect.

Both of my parents arrived to Quebec as children. Their own parents wanted
them educated in French. In those days, immigrant children were at the
mercy of religious school boards. The Catholic boards often were reluctant
to admit even Catholic immigrants to their French schools, much less Jews.
And prior to Bill 101, French Protestant schools were almost
inexistent. Neither of my parents spoke a word of or were particularly
receptive to the English language, but they were nonetheless forced into
anglophone schools.

My parents and their siblings, many of whom were raised in francophone
Morocco, continued their upbringing in anglophone environments. Most would
go on to marry anglophones, raising children of their own as a part of
English Quebec. Failing to assimilate even francophone immigrants remains a
glaring failure over decades of nationalist leadership, and I embody that

Though the religious segregation of Quebec students has ended, linguistic
segregation persists. Both further the cultural divide. Ultimately the goal
of Quebec policy-makers should be to further both French and English
language learning
within francophone environments, for all students, to promote cultural

Given that I was raised as an anglophone, it was comfortable to pursue my
education in English, even in the Laurentians. Dissatisfied with
French-language resources in English public schools, my parents
decided before high school that I should have some French-language
schooling in order to improve my chances of success in largely francophone
professional environments. Most anglophones aren’t so fortunate.

If I choose to raise a family in Quebec, my children would likely be
educated entirely in French and have more opportunities as a result. The
mistakes of Quebec’s nationalist leadership will have taken two generations
to undo — at least using my family’s story (not an uncommon one) as a

The answer, then, to the question about my accent is that it remains
because, over the decades, integration of minorities has been less than
smooth, and leaders in both linguistic camps ought to examine their
complicity in raising generations of outsiders. But “it’s a long story” is
more diplomatic.

*Dan Delmar is a public relations consultant at Provocateur Communications
<http://provocateur.media/> and host of The Exchange
<http://www.cjad.com/TheExchange.aspx>, Mondays and Wed*
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