Language politics in Canada, Seven-up and Quebec Health website.

Languages can divide just as much as they can bring us together. In Canada, French-English language hostility is something we have just become used to in our country. The most recent nonsense concerns two unrelated issues. On the one hand a francophone passenger on Air Canada was awarded $12,000 because he was unable to order a soft drink in French on an Air Canada flight from Toronto to Atlanta. (He asked for half a million dollars.)

At about the same time, we have another controversy, as the province of Quebec put up a website with information about government health services in French only, promising that an English translation would be available in months. (Note that Quebec is 80% francophone).

My view is that a lot of people are being very silly. The French rights campaigner who won $12,000 is being silly.?? I have seen him interviewed, and he is fluent in English.

Air Canada, as the national carrier,?? is just stupid for not being able to provide services in both official languages.

Above all, it is appalling to me that in Canada, where English speaking school kids study French for ten years or so at school, people expect to be hired as flight attendants by the national airline, if they cannot communicate in French.

And the fuss about the Quebec website is also silly. I am sure that the Quebec government could have arranged for translation into English, concurrently with the preparation of their website. We deal with translation into 12 languages at LingQ and we do not have the unlimited means of government.

As with most government undertakings, this website probably cost millions and took years to produce, and so there was ample time to ensure that everything was available in both official languages. The Quebec government just wanted to make a language point.

On the other hand, if the inept Quebec government only has a French language version available, and assuming that the website has useful information, the government might as well put it up and help people, while awaiting the English version.

All in all, just a lot of silliness.


2 thoughts on “Language politics in Canada, Seven-up and Quebec Health website.

  1. Hi there! I smiled quite a bit reading your article. I am Quebecois myself, living in British Columbia for about 10 years. I must say I’ve witnessed a few instances of silliness during my stay in BC and I have taken it with grain of salt using mostly humour to diffused the ‘cultural bombs’ I was sometimes thrown.I do agree with all these events being quite silly. But I will add that in my views, no silliness can ever be understood without it’s historical context. In regards to the current ‘hostilities’, at least in my understanding, they seem to stem from about 350 years of push-pull from either cultures that started with a war won by the English, follow by attempts to ‘assimilate’ French speaking Canadian in Lower Canada and throughout the territory, and finally, allowing political autonomy regarding most cultural and linguistic decisions in Quebec. It’s been a long time coming and my understanding is that cultural ‘wounds’ take as long to heel on either sides of the fence, explaining quite a few of these reoccurring silly reactions.

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