Ici, on parle English

As it is often the case when it comes to language perspectives in Montréal, the conclusion of a survey conducted by L'actualité magazine is stirring the pot. You can read it here [Google translation], but it's pretty much the usual stuff for those who mix with both English and French cultures on a regular basis. A lot of huff and puff... one side discovering the limited knowledge of the other for what they take for granted... etc.

One important thing that I'm pleased to put a number on is the proportion of Anglophones who consider themselves Québécois. Findings of the survey suggest that 80 percent of Anglophones identify themselves as such. A number that contrasts with results from other provinces where about two thirds of the residents see themselves as Ontarians, Albertans or others. A number that would have been even more surprising a few decades ago, but is somewhat consistent with testimonials and reactions The Gazette has been publishing once in a while.

One thing that I particularly liked about this survey is the contribution of Josh Freed. The man is, among other things, a well-known columnist, the creator of the word "neverendum", the co-author of The Anglo guide to survival in Québec and, above all, a true dyed-in-the-wool Montrealer... un vrai de vrai Montréalais pure laine... un Anglo-Québécois who loves his province with all its buoyancy and contradictions... I trust you get the picture.

In his recent column, Mr. Freed reflects on the limitations of the cover story published by L'actualité:
We Québec Anglos chose to stay here when hundreds of thousands of others left. We stayed through exhausting sign-law battles and two neverendums we didn't want.

We stayed because we're Québécois - and Montrealers, who love this city with a passion few Canadians have for theirs. We like the French language, French bistros, French wine, French food, French kissing and French's mustard.

We've stayed in Montréal while many Francophones have quit for the suburbs. And as I wrote in L'actualité: We may need a Bill 301 to save French in Montréal by forbidding more Francophones from moving off the island.
Click here to read his full reaction.

1 comment:

Skinny Dipper said...

Going to Montreal reminds me of my one-day trip in Luxembourg. In both places, the signs are in French. However, the Luxembourgers speak some Germanic language related to formal German. The Anglos of Montreal use a few dialectic words that are unfamiliar to English Canadians living outside Montreal. Even the word "Anglophone" is a Quebeckism that no person in Toronto would refer to him/herself. "The Anglophones of Toronto" sounds so redundant.

The Luxembourgers do say "merci" instead of some German sounding "Danke." I imagine English Montrealers using "merci" and "thank you" interchangeably in English. When I am in downtown Montreal, I know that I can start speaking English to a store-clerk and that clerk will likely respond to me in English. The métro is a different situation. It's employees are assumed to be Francophone. I'll use my simple French with them. When I bump into some one on the escalator or subway/métro platform, I don't know if I should say "Excuse me", "S'excuser", "Pardôn", or grunt. I usually grunt.

Back in my multicultural city of Toronto, we Anglophones know that the lingua franca of Toronto is English even if we walk into a Chinese shopping mall. We will be served in English even the signs are written in Chinese. A store clerk will speak at least very basic English. Never will they speak Mandarin or Cantonese to me or my non-Chinese-speaking friends. In Montreal, one does not always know what the lingua franca is--French, English, or Luxembourgish.

I still love the Luxembourgish phrase, "De Mann ass grouss. No, the man's ass is not gross. He is tall.