Canada isn’t really a bilingual country except in theory or in legislation. Outside of Quebec and New Brunswick as well as some small pockets in Ontario, if you speak in French you will have a hard time getting yourself understood.
Origin of English vs French tensions
In reality there is a lot of tension between French and English speakers that can still be felt today. This goes back to when the English invaded French settlers in Canada and essentially took it over in a watershed victory called The Battle of the Plains of Abraham. This anger also stems from the fact that the French people, eventually becoming a minority, had difficulty getting their voice heard and rights respected in an English-dominated Canada.
The English aren’t the only ones who have contributed to this antagonism. French speakers (Francophones) have also stirred up similar feelings in the English residents of Quebec. They have passed language laws (i.e. Bill 101 – The English speaker (anglophones) refuse to accept it as a valid law, hence Bill 101) that to this day prevent many people from going to English school. There are also strict laws regarding signs and advertising. French must be on all public signs and must be a certain percentage larger than English. Stiff penalties are dealt out for those who refuse to put French on signs that are posted.
A riled-up fuming Canadian teenager
There’s a popular video going around of some Canadian kid that gets worked up to a frenzy over the way French is influencing his neighborhood. I mean he goes so far as to tell the French to get out of his “country, province, etc.” and raves about how stupid French sounds. This video got an overwhelming number of views and got such negative publicity that people started making death threats and flooding the kid with phone calls. It got so bad that the kid ended up taking down the video and his account while setting up another one in which he made a public apology admitting to his tactlessness!
Anyway, I’ll leave you to see the rest of the video yourself, but it illustrates beautifully how strong tensions (although not always expressed in public) can sometimes be between the two languages in Canada – something that you don’t really see much of in more (officially) monolingual countries like the US.
So have a look through, and decide for yourself. Is this kid going way overboard?
About the Author
Charlie has been a French as a Second Language Classroom Teacher at the Elementary and Secondary levels and has been teaching and tutoring adults, teenagers, and children for over 8 years.
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