Canada’s Languages eh!

One man’s view on bilingualism in Canada!

If we believe what we read/hear about Canada, then we know that it is bilingual… that is to say it has two official languages. Simple eh?

In reality, it is very complicated because the two official languages are English and French and yet the majority of the Provinces, and the greater proportion of the population do not really demonstrate that position.

Take Newfoundland for example. The folks in Newfoundland (you’ve got to love them) speak something that vaguely resembles English, plus something that can only be assumed to have had some mysterious tongues in its origin! Newfoundland could therefore be considered as bilingual, but only on the basis of two very creative languages.

The other Maritime Provinces have also adapted English in such a manner that it can be difficult to grasp conversations. However, they have also adapted French in much the same way. In fact, listening to Maritime French is an exercise in pure entertainment as their pronunciation is quite different to anything I learned in 5 years of French at school! They are, like Newfoundland, bi-lingual in their own unique way.

Then there is Quebec, the source of our French Language problems and ultimately the reason for two official languages. The problem here is that Quebecers (Quebecois) really don’t like speaking English and, as I learned during some time in Montreal, can be quite rude if you don’t speak French.

The fascinating thing about Quebec French is that it not easily understood in France! I am told that if you spoke Shakespearean English in London (England), it would get a similar reaction to speaking Quebecois French in Paris. Confused looks. Quebecois tend to be very proud of their French heritage, but it would seem that the French in France are not so enthusiastic about those “pioneers”!

The rest of the Provinces all tend to try and forget French in their day to day activities and seem to function quite well in English. English?

Having such a prominent neighbor to our South, it was probably inevitable that their development of the English Language would migrate North and into Canada, with the result that our English is very much USA influenced.

It was George Bernard Shaw who apparently said “England and America are two countries separated by a common language!”

To complicate matters further, and noting that Canada has been the country of choice for immigrants from around the world for many decades, there are many other languages spoken on a regular basis. In fact I would suggest that there are more Canadian citizens speaking a form of Chinese, than there are speaking French! Perhaps our bi-lingual status should be based upon English and Chinese?

Canada may well have two official languages, being French and English, but given that neither accurately reflects their language of origin (and allowing for many immigrant languages), I would suggest that Canada is multi-lingual, but with Canadian/American (CanAm) English as the official language. The reality is that there are more people speaking CanAm English here, than any other language!

Food for thought!




17 thoughts on “Canada’s Languages eh!

  1. Someone should tell the Frenchies that their language is not even on the list of the first ten most widely spoken languages 😀 In South Africa we have eleven (yes, 11) official languages, but English is spoken by almost all residents. I was so pleased when google was introduced as a “language” (although the translations do not always hit the mark). My mother tongue is Afrikaans and when I commented on a blog by a Norwegian blogger, I inadvertently commented in Afrikaans – he promptly responded by thanking me in Afrikaans! Go Google.

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  2. At least you have a leg up and can speak French. I was not aware that the US has affected some of the language in Canada.

    Here in Texas we have Tex- Mex which many Mexicans speak after having lived here for many years. I know very little Spanish even though I have been around many Mexicans that have worked as carpenters, etc. My son’s girlfriend is a Texas born Mexican and does not have an accent. She teaches bilingual to the little ones in a public school.

    I find the various languages fascinating even though I can only speak English.

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    • Hilarious isn’t it! I used to know an elderly Polish gentleman who was fluent in numerous languages. He was a WWII holocaust survivor. He took some friends to Montreal (I think to the zoo…but not sure) however, they could not get any response from the ticket sales person in English. He tried Spanish and Russian but got nowhere, but he refused to use French because of the attitude he was up against. Eventually, the one language that worked was, sadly, German. He never went back to Montreal as far as I am aware.

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  3. Wow! Didn’t know about all the variations of languages there, thanks for sharing. LOL about the French in Paris not being overly enthused about the Quebec French. My guess is also that you forgot to mention a language. Latin has to be in there somewhere, right? 🙂

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  4. Isn’t Montreal the bilingual city? I know that many go there to learn both languages… first English and the French (or the other way around. But at least Canada is pretty big. In our neighbor country Switzerland, we have four languages: German (the biggest part), French, Italian and some thousands who speak Romanic. They are at least divided in sections of the country.

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    • All of Canada is designated bi-lingual. Montreal is strongly pro-French language to the point that many businesses and English speaking citizens moved out of Quebec in the 70’s and 80s. Other parts of Quebec are more receptive to English, but then they have a tourist industry to consider! The problem is a small but vocal pro-French/anti-English (language) faction. The current bi-lingual designation dictates that all Federal Government documents and signs are printed in both languages which is seen as a horrendous and unnecessary expense. Whereas I think it fair to say that most Canadians happily accept French being spoken, they see it no different to the Dutch, German, Ukrainian, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Chinese etc, areas and should be treated the same i.e. Canada is an English speaking country, but everybody is encouraged to preserve their own language as they wish.

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  5. It’s interesting. Where I live there was a huge influx of German immigrants at the end of the 1800s and “Pennsylvania Dutch” which is some corruption (Dutch being a corruption of deutsch or German and having nothing to do with Holland) of languages was spoken broadly. Today it’s very rare. As a child our next door neighbors were very “Dutch.” The language is very melodic and fun. For a while there was an interest in reviving it. It was offered in the local community college. However in the 80s we got an influx of Latinos from Central America so you are more likely to hear Spanish than German (in any form) these days. I find languages and their origin very interesting. Put a bunch of people together and they’ll come up with their own language!

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