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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Je ne parle pas francais.

I just got home from a Thanksgiving trip to Quebec City. It was my first time visiting our neighbors to the north, and their hospitality was warm and welcoming. Neither Sarah nor I speak a word of French, at least not beyond the few phrases I printed out before we left. I had made up my mind to make an effort, but I rarely got out more than two words before they broke seamlessly into fluent and flawless English. It's funny that even in the province of Quebec, where French language and heritage is celebrated to the point of revolution, every school child is taught to speak English. Yet I live in a country which is nearly fifty percent Spanish speaking and xenophobic loonies treat Dora the Explorer like she's going to break up the Union.

After overhearing one restaurant owner speaking five different languages. I felt amazed and ashamed all at once. Something has to be done about this.

1 comment:

Mackenab said...

I recently took a business trip to Montreal and had a very similar experience. I have been to Canada several times, but this was my first trip to French-speaking Canada. But, as you have pointed out, calling it "French-speaking Canada" is itself a bit of a misnomer. Perhaps we should call it bilingual Canada as I never heard people speak anything but English in other parts of Canada. In Montreal it was about 50/50. I was traveling with someone who was quite proficient in French, but everyone we met still quickly dropped to English.