Several factors contribute to the collapse of French: the Americanization of culture, massive immigration without the necessary resources for integration and Frenchization, the exodus of the middle class from Montreal… However, let’s not forget the systemic devaluation (buzzword to use) of our official language in Quebec for many years. Let’s be clear: it’s a real hidden war being waged in our society against the French.
The Charest-Couillard era was devastating in this regard. The erosion of the application of Bill 101, the introduction of intensive English in elementary school despite the shortcomings of French teaching, the scandalous neglect of integration and francisation, ECR courses teaching young Quebecers to open themselves to cultures from other countries, but not for those… Philippe Couillard demoted us all to the rank of immigrants and assured that the worker must speak English to answer the investor’s questions!
The French speaker is urged to become bilingual under threat of “withdrawal of identity”. On the other hand, once he is bilingual, what should have been (and indeed should be) a source of wealth turns against him as an instrument of submission: the Francophone is under pressure, in front of any person who is knows english speaking little or no french. In this way, Michael Rousseau can avoid having to learn French. Finally, any criticism of immigration policies is distorted and presented as an attack on the immigrants themselves.
This merciless devaluation has paid off. In what language do many Quebecers choose the names of their shops, cultural festivals (Poutine Week!), songs they choose in music competitions? Italian, Chinese, Punjabi? No: English, always English. This “openness towards the other” is actually only submission to the “globic” steamroller. Paradoxically, the very legitimate indigenous cause is being used to defend the French against “colonialism.”
“Purists” and “elitists” are people who speak French correctly with a diverse vocabulary. “Franglais” is presented as an “evolution” of the language rather than what it really is, which is the slaughter of English and French. Do we hear Anglophones proud to speak “French”? No, because they are not masochists.
While picadors tire the bull by goading it, French speakers are prevented from appreciating their language. Then, when he is completely exhausted, the bullfighter delivers the coup de grace: he is accused of being responsible for the decline of his language by speaking and writing it badly!
It’s like breaking someone’s leg and then blaming them for not going.
The remedy is simple, but requires courage: Cheer up. Without getting silly, let’s stop trying to be kind and loved at all costs. We encourage learning and fluent use of French. Let’s dance with the accusations of “identity deprivation” and “assimilation”. Let’s defend our laws, demand better resources for Frenchization and improve French teaching. Rather than systematically speaking English to people who barely speak French, bilingual Francophones need to help them practice our common language. Let’s finally let go of defeatism and stop saying it’s too late.
As Pierre Falardeau said: “If you go to bed, they will crush you. If you stand up and resist, they will hate you, but they will call you “sir”.
Caroline Morgan, Translator Saint Lambert