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!