4.1101 Languages of Humanist, French, etc. (2/123)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Wed, 27 Feb 91 20:36:17 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 1101. Wednesday, 27 Feb 1991.

(1) Date: Wed, 27 Feb 91 09:58:10 EST (87 lines)
From: "Ian M. Richmond" <42100_1156@uwovax.uwo.ca>
Subject: Re: 4.1094 Languages of Humanist / French (7/259)

(2) Date: Wed, 27 Feb 91 19:00:57 -0600 (36 lines)
From: "John A. Dussinger" <dussinge@ux1.cso.uiuc.edu>
Subject: language of humanist

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Wed, 27 Feb 91 09:58:10 EST
From: "Ian M. Richmond" <42100_1156@uwovax.uwo.ca>
Subject: Re: 4.1094 Languages of Humanist / French (7/259)

This is my last message on the subject of minority languages in Canada
or elsewhere. I have come to the reluctant conclusion that the issue is
too emotional, or perhaps too politically hot, for the long-distance
debate possible through E-mail. I feel compelled, however, to respond
to Germaine Warkentin's comment about my postings.

Germaine's comments about Scottish bankers, etc. are simply
absurd. Nothing in my posting suggests such an attitude on my
part. My example of the Chinese engineer washing dishes was not
a racial stereotype; it was a simple statement of the facts as
they exist. He might just as well have been working in a
warehouse. As it is, he is washing dishes in a Chinese restaurant
because that was the only job he could find. This does not, it
seems to me, suggest that all Chinese or Canadians of Chinese
origin work in restaurants or laundries. It does, however,
suggest that those who cannot speak one of the dominant, official
languages sufficiently well are stuck at the lower end of the
socio-economic scale.

Germaine is right about my disillusionment. I am very disillusioned
with official bilingualism. I should perhaps explain here that
the Canadian government's version of bilingualism is not comparable
to that in countries like Belgium and Switzerland, to which Canada is
often compared. In those countries, a policy of regional bilingualism
was adopted. That is to say, it is officially recognized that one
language or the other predominates in various regions. Thus, Belgium
has a French-speaking region and a Flemish-speaking region. The
Canadian government rejected this concept in favour of "personal
bilingualism". In other words, the form of bilingualism officially
encouraged and funded in Canada involves the learning of both official
languages by as many individual Canadians as possible. It is *this*
form of bilingualism that, in my view, has been a failure. Canada is
certainly a bilingual country if one defines bilingualism as regional.
If Quebec is unhappy, it is largely because the official bilingualism
refused to recognize that there is a coherent, French-speaking society
of over 6 million in Quebec. (It often comes as a surprise to
non-Canadians to learn that only one province in ten is officially
bilingual, and that that province is not Quebec, but New Brunswick.
Quebec is officially unilingual, French-speaking, although it grants
very generous language rights to its anglophone minority.)

In practice, official "personal" bilingualism has benefitted the
anglophone majority more than the francophone minority. For example,
the bulk of the federal government's efforts has been in the teaching of
French as a second language. There are, of course, intrinsic benefits
in this, but primarily to those directly involved. Quebec has largely
ignored the federal government's language policies and, rightly, I
believe, has taken its linguistic and cultural future into its own
hands. The Quebecois were, and are, very aware that, when a
minority-language group is in contact with a majority-language group,
personal bilingualism is usually the first step in the cultural
assimilation of the minority group.

Outside of Quebec, official bilingualism has done little to change the
status of francophone minorities. The simple fact is that, despite more
than 20 years of this policy, the number of people claiming French as
their language of primary use has declined dramatically outside of
Quebec and New Brunswick. It is true that the bilingualism policy has
created a greater awareness of these minorities. One of the results of
this is that the francophone groups are more likely now to have their
own schools. This is certainly the case in Ontario. Nevertheless, in
areas where the English-language culture is dominant, francophone
schools do not seem sufficient to halt assimilation; they merely delay
it a few years.

That is the problem, I see. What is the solution? I don't know.
Certainly, if our primary goal is to preserve French language
and culture in Canada/North America, then the Quebec government's
approach seems the logical one. This will not, however, help the
French minorities outside Quebec. Creating a French-language
infrastructure, with an education system extending to post-
secondary institutions probably would help them. Most Canadians,
however, would likely not agree to bear the enormous costs.

The problem is extremely complex. My reaction to Germaine
Warkentin's postings has been perhaps coloured by my frustration
at what I perceived as a simplistic, "French-on-my-Cornflakes-box"
attitude towards it. Perhaps I wrong her.

Ian M. Richmond, Department of French, University of Western Ontario,
London, Ontario, Canada N6A 3K7. 519-661-2163 Ext 5703

(2) --------------------------------------------------------------48----
Date: Wed, 27 Feb 91 19:00:57 -0600
From: "John A. Dussinger" <dussinge@ux1.cso.uiuc.edu>
Subject: language of humanist

Since I'm only a newcomer to HUMANIST and inadvertently walked into a
minefield of Canadian linguistic politics, until being slyly referred to
as a "bigot" in one or two of the most recent postings, I had fully
expected to let Canadian problems take their course. I have no claim to
professionally declaring what is "scientific" or "dialectic" except by
appealing to the usual dictionaries. But I must register my dismay at
the very use of a questionable grounds of truth when dealing with the
utterly cultural, emotional exercise of language.

So for the record, please know that PERSONALLY I hope that the French
stay as french as possible in Quebec so that I can once again enjoy a
French vacation without the expense of going to France. My one daughter
is a French citizen and utterly identifies her present life with the
social pace in Dijon. Now let's face it, can't you hear some Parisian
sneering at the whole thought of living in Dijon or maybe even Lyons?
The "bigotry" that a few paranoid French Cana- dians have addressed in
this net is nothing more or less than the cultural pain of DIFFERENCE
that other superstar and marginal writers like Jacques Derrida have made
their fortunes from in the academic world.

Again, my original point was the depressing marginalization that occurs
when an ethnic group becomes so adamant as to deny their offspring the
opportunity of gaining full status as citizens in the hegemonic culture.
That was the lesson so nicely displayed by the present mayor of Miami, a
Cuban who mastered the way Americans at least speak the language,
whether it's REALLY English or otherwise.

So VIVE LE FRANCE in Quebec from MY personal choice as a would-be
tourist who gets tired of the usual Disney crap down here. But I still
won't budge an inch on the matter of making Spanish the second language
in this country below your borders.