What do Canadians think about living in a bilingual country, and is there any difference between the French-speaking and the English speaking views?
I can only speak for myself. Being a French-Canadian, born and raised in a French speaking home, with parents who did not speak a word of English, I can say it meant something. What? I’m not quite sure. Thinking about this made me realise it is a big source of conflict (personally) since some part of me feel strong about certain issues and they are conflicting with other beliefs… no wonder so many people fight over this.
I think it’s great that Canada is bilingual. On ten provinces and three territories only one is actually French, and it’s Québec. There are French-speaking concentrations in other provinces like in New Brunswick or Manitoba but Québec is the largest. Does that justify having French as a second official language, I don’t know. In being a bilingual country it sure brings expectation, like when a Québécois goes somewhere he/she expect to be spoke to in French (within Canada), and it makes sense. I especially agree with this in regards to government offices, services, etc. To hear our Prime Minister’s broken French or English (depending which clown is up there) saddens, actually it embarrasses me. How can he/she represent the people right? In all honesty I think he/she should speak well, and in the best of world he/she would be bilingual. Do both languages honor.
Because my parents came from the North of the province, there wasn’t any (or very rarely) English being spoken there. They didn’t need to learn or speak it in their daily lives. I was born there but really grew up in Montreal, which is a big cultural city. You see and hear everything here. While walking downtown, you can hear Arabic, Spanish, French, Chinese, English, Hindu, name it, it’s here. For a lot of Québécois, it means a lot to be able to speak French and to get services in French. I do care but not to the point of wanting to separate from Canada to make sure we preserve our language. When I hear some people talk (like I’ve mentioned on this post) I can’t believe that some of us are actually fighting to preserve “that”. I have some friends who are separatists and the way they speak (French) is really bad.
At home we speak English, mostly, no real reason, we just do. Hubby is among the lucky ones who speak more than one languages, he speaks three: Hungarian, English and French. When he speaks in English you can’t tell he speaks French and vice versa. It’s beautiful. I’m not so gifted. I tend to switch from one to the other without even thinking about it. Recently while shopping with my mother we walked in a show store where I ask a sales person, in French, if he had a specific shoe. He went in the back store. During that time Hubby came in, talked to me in English and continued on. When the clerk came back, I asked him something else but this time in English. He got all offended and started lecturing me. I told him to relax and to simply answer my question; in either French or English I didn’t care. Attitude like that pisses me off. As far as I’m concern, especially is sales, one should adapt. But then again, I understand the French speaking wanting to speak French (there’s one of my dilemmas). I’ve caught myself saying “You’re in Québec you should speak French” and I believe that. If you made a choice to come here (I’m talking about emigrants) knowing French was the main language then you should try and learn it. I’ve told this to my father in-law the few times he complained about some Québécois clients of his. I truly believe one should adapt to where he/she lives.
If you speak with some Québécois, French, in Québec, should be the only language spoken, and on display. There are so many rules and laws about signage here. We even have some “language nazis” (as Hubby calls them), who give fines to stores for not having their signs in French. Some areas are totally beyond this, and show no respect for that at all. I don't agree with excess, if there's French and English, I'm ok. If there's French and English full of mistakes, it bothers me (which ever language it is). I wrote a post about that back in 2006. Read it here.
When it comes to signage (menus, publicity, etc) there should be no mistake. But if I’m walking around Chinatown I expect to see some Chinese, but that’s me, and I’m weird. When I went to Vancouver I wasn’t shocked to see there were signs in English and some Asian (can’t remember if it was Chinese or Japanese). I didn’t freak out, even if French, our second official language, wasn’t being displayed. Maybe it should have been because it is “official” but then again, they adapted to their “clientele”. That makes sense to me.
My dad always told me, and this despite him not speaking it, that I could go anywhere with English and a will to communicate. He was sure right about that.
Cinn., I’m not sure if this answered your question... I'm doubting it. :-/