While not too willing to bring up the extremely touchy language politics in Quebec on my blog, I don’t think there is anything else that accurately sums up my opinion how to deal with and maintain the French fact in Quebec while still welcoming multilingualism and me being an anglophone who respects that fact and tries to be reasonable to make all linguistic groups satisfied.
I spent much of the past couple of weeks back in my childhood city of Montreal. It was an eventful time. Thousands of student demonstrators marched past the restaurant where I was having dinner, banging on pots and pans. The partial remains of a dismembered Chinese student were found not far from where my brother now lives. And scores of shopkeepers in downtown Montreal greeted their customers like this: “Bonjour, Hi.”
This last development was reported by the Office Québécois de la langue française—this is the body charged with overseeing Quebec’s language laws, not-so-affectionately referred to by many English Canadians as the “language gestapo”. In a study released on June 1, the OQLF noted that while compliance with signage laws have increased over the past two years, there were concerns about how customers were being greeted. Evidently, in downtown Montreal, unilingual French greetings are in decline, from 89% in 2010 to 74% in 2012. More shopkeepers are initiating an exchange in English only, up from 10% to 13%. And bilingual greetings—”bonjour/hi”—have risen quite sharply, up from 1% to 13%.
The report drew stern warnings from several Quebec politicians, who argued that Montreal businesses should be doing more to encourage transactions taking place in French. For example, Quebec’s culture minister and language hard-liner Christine St-Pierre noted in an interview with Le Journal de Québec (06/01/2012) that while bilingual greetings are legal (as long as service is available in French) the practice should be “corrected”.
A good article, indeed.