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Question for French learners in The United States, Canada and Great Britain/UK

Question for French learners in The United States, Canada and Great Britain/UK. For being so close to the country of Canada, how do you feel about the laws that require you to learn French in Canada to be in any high state of government? Do you think it's fair? Do you think it show Canada's diversity?

This post is not ment to cause any political arguments and all political arguments will be deleted

March 19, 2018



That is a highly political question, actually. You must remember that originally French Canadians were required to learn English for any job even in Quebec where they were the majority. This is just the pendulum swinging back. How can either group work with the other if they don’t understand each other? If you are talking about the highest level of government, they must work with Quebec which is effectively a French province. My question though is are they required to speak Inuit, or Anishinabe? They will need to have translators ready for all the native languages if they want to treat these groups fairly also. I wonder if there is a province in which the native culture outnumbers the English and French?

How does it work in Belgium? There is more than one language spoken there as well?


The numbers of natives that live in Canada are smaller than the population of Quebec with about 386 people counted for. There are theories that there are more out there that are out of contact with the Canadian government, but not enough to override the English or French speaking population.

In Belgium, there are schools on the border of Flanders and Wallonia for however wants to learn the others language. There is also English which is taught in all schools. There are 3 official languages (Dutch,French and German). Dutch and French are more used in government than German. The Germans are really the ones that require to learn both languages and English.


Do you normally talk about Dutch rather than Flemish in Belgium?

I would have expected all schools in Canada to have both English and French as core subjects, whether as the teaching medium or as additional languages.


Luscinda, I am not sure about Quebec. In anglophone Canada core french is indeed mandatory, up to high school I believe. However core french teaches very basic french, like counting and colours. On the other hand there are special schools with french immersion programs which are optional but teach french to an advanced level. Early immersion starts at kindergarden and friends I have had who went through this system were fluent in French by grade one. I went to late immersion from grade seven onwards. I learned to read and write in French pretty well, as most of our subjects except for gym and of course English were also taught in French. (Sadly, post school I forgot everything do to lack of use) Every province, and in fact every school board is a bit different. Basically if you choose to go to french immersion in Canada, you can learn to (at least read and write) in french rather well, otherwise, you probably know colours and how to count to ten.


If "core French" is mandatory "up to high school" - how can you possibly just learn counting and colors? They have this every year and they just...what, spend one day remembering colors and counting? Is it not a normal class you have every day?


Well, maybe I was exagerating a bit. I only took core french until grade six myself (and then it was counting and colours, maybe some animals, it was very fun and games basic stuff). From what I remember, in elementary school, yes we did french not nessarily daily, but at least a couple times a week (we had a six day rotation). We played some games, maybe sang some songs in french... it was very basic and sort of let’s make french ‘fun’.
In elementary school, we had one teacher for the whole year for all our subjects, so bear in mind also that this teacher probably did not specialise in french themselves. Teachers who do specialise in French are highly sought after in the french immersion system, so no offence to my teachers, but teachers of core french are bot neccesarily experts in french themselves. I didn’t learn verbs or any grammer until grade seven, and by then I had swtiched to immersion.

I switched to extended french in grade 7 (actually it was called immersion in my province, but then I later moved provinces ans schoolboards). So, I am going by the anecdotal evidence of friends. I suppose core french probably does teach a bit of grammer. Just because it is a mandatory subject does not neccesarily mean it is daily, and by high school you can choose a different elective, another language or even art or drama instead. I stoped taking french myself in grade twelve.

So, all in all, no one I have ever met who did core french knew french even to a basic conversational level, unless they studied it further. However, as I did not go through that program myself by all means take my words with a grain of salt. My impression, from living in Canada and having friends who did core french is, they don’t know french.. but as always, every schoolboard is a bit different.

Here is some more accurate information. This is the breakdown for the province of Ontario, if anyone is interested:http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/amenagement/FLS.html It seems core french is only mandatory until grade 8, after which french is optional for everyone.


Flemish is common, but people do also use the term Nederlands (Dutch).


386? Where did you get that number? That is definitely not accurate.

[deactivated user]

    Since the law applies equally to everybody and both are official languages in Canada, I fail to see what the problem is.


    Some English canadians say that bilingualism in Canada is unesscary and that most people in Canada are not even bilingual anyway.


    That is not a politically good thing to say. Only 56 to 57 % of Canadians have English as their mother tongue, which is a majority, but barely if you ask me. Then you, need to remember that the provinces and territories all have separate governments though they are combined into one country with a national government. Quebec is predominantly French. Nunavut is predominantly Inuit. There are many immigrants allowed into the country and they learn English in most of the provinces, but they learn French in Quebec. So, even if only 16% are listed as speaking both English and French, there are 21% that speak French and not English. The reason that the French did not seek independence, like the 13 US colonies did, is because they were allowed to keep their language and culture. I think what happens is that people look at the Quebec population which is more than 8 million and think that is the only French in Canada which would be wrong. Then they look at the entire population of about 35 million and get confused. They are forgetting that you cannot take one number and subtract it from the other to get the number of English speakers.


    As a Canadian, I would say for gouvernement positions where the m.p. is supposed to represent the population the expectation is absolutely fair. If we are talking about job positions, including all jobs paid for by taxpayers: like doctors, snowplow drivers, etc. These do not require being bilingual.

    Furthermore, you will find in practice the bilingual requirement is very flexible (listen to any anglophone politician speak French). Many elected m.p.s speak barely passable french, however some do make noble efforts to improve on the job (others less so) However, while I think that goverment leaders should set an example and learn our countries two languages, it wouldn’t be a deal breaker for me at the ballot box. Respecting the countries bilingual status is more important than their personal language skill. The important part is that services are provided and communication is given with both languages. It is better for a political representative to travel with a competent translator than to confuse everyone with their brocken French/English. Also, if you are really interested in Canadian politics, there was a recent stir when our Prime Minister answered a question posed in English in french, because he was at a town hall in Quebec (you can read about it online). It was generally considered a fauz paux on his part. I have always lived in Anglophone canada, so I can’t offer much on the francophone perspective however, and these are my own opinions.

    Just for fun however, I will leave you with this gem https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Exlos3s9ETY (perhaps it was the inspiration for duolingo’s bilingual podcast). Surprisingly, this innovative language experiment did not catch on, and our politicians continue to make us their promises us stumbling through one language at a time, with various skill.

    On a more serious note, To clear up confusions here is a Fac about the actual language requirements in Canada. You will see it is not mandatory for gouverment workers to be bilingual. Official bilingualism does not mean that everyone is required to be bilingual, but that services are available in both languages. http://www.ocol-clo.gc.ca/en/resources/frequently-asked-questions

    Anyone can run for and be elected to parliment regardless of their language abilities.


    According to the law, the courts in Canada have to provide a translator that will translate to their own language for accused and witnesses, etc. if they don't speak or understand English well enough. That's for any language, not just French. If they speak Chinese, for example, they have to provide someone who can translate for them between English and Chinese.
    They can find translators in Canada for any language on earth, because there are people here from all countries on earth so that is not a big deal.

    I read a news article on CBC about a man up north somewhere who was charged with a crime but he didn't understand or speak much English and he spoke some Indigenous language but they didn't provide a translator and he was complaining about that.

    Just after Justin Trudeau became Prime Minister on the news I watched a speech where he was talking in French. I could understand everything he was saying in French. When the English translator started talking in the background, I found it to be a big annoyance because I already could understand everything he was saying in French but since it was CBC, they had to provide an English translation.

    For me, it would have been less annoying to either talk in English only or in French only and leave out the translator. I've heard that in the federal parliament, that lots of times a politician might ask a question in one language, for example French and the other politician would reply in English and vice versa. They all have ear phones in their ears, which is a translation service so if they don't understand they can listen to a translation of it.
    In Alberta it is not required for politicians to speak French. They only learn French when they're in federal politics.


    You could always watch the french cbc. If you were watching an English channel of course they would provide a translation for their viewers. Also, if anyone wants to want to watch some Canadian parliment, here http://www.cpac.ca/en/programs/question-period/


    I think it's pretty cool actually, it definitely shows that Canada wants to hold onto that part of diversity. I'm glad we are required to take a language in the US, its a helpful skill to learn and as long as the student can handle it, I think its fait :)


    Where are you required to take a language in the US? Maybe there are some schools that choose to require it, but I don't know of any states that have foreign language requirements for say, high school graduation. They should, imo, but they don't.


    See here — in 2007, there were foreign language requirements for high school graduation only in DC, NJ, and NY. (A foreign language was one of the choices for graduation requirements in some other states, e.g. either a foreign language or computer technology was a requirement in OK.)


    In some ways for a country the size of Canada, it is a little perverse - a Vancouver resident is closer to Spanish and Russian speaking populations than they are to Quebec. For that matter, Paris is closer to Moscow than Vancouver is to Montreal. But that issue is partly addressed by the fact that the requirement is strictly federal.

    One of the unintended consequences is that the government struggles to reflect the racial diversity of the country.. The most genuinely bilingual region of the country is the Montreal-Ottawa corridor, which is quite a bit more homogenous than Toronto or Vancouver, notwithstanding the racial diversity of Montreal. The government quite accurately reflects the ethnic composition of that region, largely because of the hiring requirement/incentive.

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