Date: Tue, 11 Mar 1997 18:12:51 -0500

From: "Christopher R. Coolidge" ccoolidg[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]ZOO.UVM.EDU

Subject: Re: Quebec language & law

On Tue, 11 Mar 1997, mpicone wrote:

On Tue, 11 Mar 1997 08:13:28 -0500 Christopher R. Coolidge said:

For an example of failure of language programs, we need to look at my

former home province Quebec and their continued insistence in shoving the

French language down immigrants' throats(including Anglo-Americans; only

English speaking CANADIAN citizens are allowed access to English public

schools). Then they bemoan that immigrants are taking away all the good

jobsa from their children. I mean, who's more marketable; a Vietnamese

immigrant who speaks both English and French(of course he would have

learned English because he's using Quebec as a stepping stone to get into

the States as soon as he can pass the much stricter U.S. immigration

requirements), or a Quebecois who speaks English very badly? And even

though the Office de Language Francais is a black hole that sucks money

and does nothing but bicker about how big foreign languages are allowed to

be on public signs, the Quebec government still throws money at it. You

wonder why I'm impatient about wasting money on programs that don't work.

maybe it's because I've lived in Quebec all those years...

The definition of failure shifts as perpsectives shift. From Christopher

Coolidge's perspective and other immigrants who want access to English

language schooling for their kids, the policy is a failure. From the

perspective of the French speaker in Quebec who saw his/her language

threatened by the encroaching hegemony of Anglo-dominant infrastructure,

this same policy figures into a larger framework of linguistic legislation

that has indisputedly strengthened the position of French in Quebec, such

that the example of Quebec is cited by Fishman and many others as one of

the few cases where language decline has been successfully reversed.

Whatever one might think of linguistic legislation, these are the

realities, on both sides, that one must take account of if one is

interested at looking at the big picture. Personally, I don't understand

why anyone would not want to look at it.

Mike Picone

University of Alabama


Here's the big picture: the way Quebec's going, especially if it

separates from Canada, it's guaranteed to be little more than a

unilingual French backwater where those who have the money and power send

their kids to private bilingual schools and everybody else is effectively

imprisoned within Quebec's borders due to insufficient grasp of English.

The Quebec government isn't worried; even those members who don't speak

"perfect" English, have their kids in private schools so they can get a

job outside Quebec if they can't find one within its borders. Quebec has

been undergoing a massive brain drain since I was in high school in the

'70's. I can count maybe ten or so of my graduating class that I know are

still in Quebec somewhere; only one of those(she became a dentist)could

be considered successful. Those that I know are doing well are in the

States, Toronto, or Ottawa; anywhere but Montreal(or Quebec by

extension). The rest that are still in Montreal, most of them to my

knowledge are still living with their parents and/or working dead end


If I seem angry, it's not directed at the Quebecois people. I find

their dialect linguistically fascinating(and impossible to learn without

being laughed at or responded to in equally broken, or quite often, quite

good albeit accented English.), and the people, when I'm not frustrated

with their bullheadedness about language, are as openhearted and

passionately opinionated(not to mention obnoxious! :-))as Americans have

a reputation for being.(In fact, in some parts of rural Quebec, Johnny

Cash is considered very close to a God)Like Americans, the Quebecois tend

to speak their mind from the top of their heads, so they have an

international reputation for being course and boorish(like Americans!),

but that's the price you pay for brutal honesty, which they're very good at.

The other side of the coin is a Quebecois man is the best friend you

could have, and the women are among the most jaw-droppingly gorgeous(for

the most part!)I've seen anywhere. Among the most feisty too. Not many

shrinking violets in that province.

These are but generalisations, I realise, but otherwise I'd be writing

a book at this rate. I mean, I spent the better part of my life there...