Language Matters: Canada’s Francophone Police

The people of Canada, like the people in many countries around the world, speak more than one language: English and French.

About 60% of Canadians speak only English, 22% speak only French, and 17% speak both of Canada’s official languages.  English and French are found everywhere, from cereal boxes to government documents.

However, in Quebec, Canada’s largest province, things are a little different.

Signs like this, in both English and French, are common in Canada. But in Quebec, all signs are in French only.

French is Quebec’s only official language, with 80% of people reporting it as their first language.  English is the first language of only about 8% of the population of Quebec.

While Canadian law promotes bilingualism, Quebecois law promotes only French as the common public language for that province.  And they’re serious about their linguistic regulations.

Recently, The Quebec Board of the French Language required the city of Montreal to take down several English traffic safety signs that were put up near schools in an English-speaking area.

A proposed bill could make the language regulations even more extreme, putting laws into place that, for example, would remove the bilingual status of cities whose English-speakers make up less than 50% of the population.

It’s a tense situation, causing some people whose sole language is English to leave Quebec for the other, more Anglophone-friendly provinces.

 

Do you think it’s right for Quebec to promote French exclusively when the country’s laws promote bilingualism?  What would you do if your country’s laws changed and your native language was no longer recognized by the government?

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In the United States, English isn’t regulated at all, so it evolves and changes freely and easily.  Check out our Foreign English studylist to learn some English words that come from other languages — many of them French!

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