I notice more people are speaking English openly on the street.
has a paranoid cover story about anglophone Montréalers and their supposed disdain for French. Way to go to whip up hatred towards linguistic minorities,
, although of course they are picking on the only linguistic minority anyone in Quebec ever worried about.
For the most part, I am sympathetic to Quebec’s desire to preserve its culture and language, although considering that the pur laine québécois stopped going to church and, for the most part, stopped having children, they are arguably their own worst enemy in the culture department. Every anglophone Montréaler under 40 that I ever met is more than competent in French. The great exception to this rule are American students and other foreigners who pour into McGill University. Most anglo Quebeckers born in Canada after 1970 are bilingual, end of.
And alongside the non-franco foreign students, there’s the tourists. I am only a tourist, which I considered explaining years ago when the ladies behind me at the counter at Eaton’s huffed and puffed in French about how people who live in Quebec ought to learn to speak la belle langue. It never occurs to some people that people who can’t immediately enter into a French conversation can sometimes understand them.
“Women and their chocolate,” said the cab driver in French from the train station, to my French-speaking brother. (As a matter of fact, I was scarfing a cake laced with maple sugar.) “Ah, these women eating their chocolate in the rain.”
“Be careful,” said my brother in French and his hey-you-that’s-my-sister voice. “All my family understands well the French, them.”
The driver, who was a vaguely Persian-looking immigrant, shut up.
Ah, the immigrants. Montréal is, of course, a multicultural city. All big North American cities are multicultural. Duh. There is a mural on the rue St. Laurent (aka The Main) celebrating The Main and “Les Autres”. “Les Autres” means anyone who is not a French Canadian, but more specifically, immigrants. As “Les Autres” means, basically, “Them” or “THOSE people”, it was a little odd seeing it in a tribute, Jews carefully depicted with prayer stoles.
Anyway, Les Autres have been a part of Montreal life since the end of the 18th century, and we were all in fine evidence at the bus stop on south-east corner of Jean-Talon and St. Denis yesterday afternoon. There was a young Latino couple in the bus shelter fighting in Spanish. A pair of little old Italian ladies plodded by with a shopping cart, speaking in Italian. They came back, one saying “E li. E tanto fuori.” A slim and very pretty black woman with a stroller asked me in French for directions. Having no clue, I said “Je ne sais pas, madame,” and she moved onto the next white woman. A dark-haired couple with a stroller walked by, the woman speaking in what might have been Polish or Russian. A woman in hijab joined the queue. There was a battered-looking Thai restaurant with Thai script on one corner, and a battered-looking Vietnamese restaurant, with Vietnamese signage, on the corner opposite. A Chinese or Vietnamese or Thai woman who got on the bus was chatting in a language I couldn’t recognize into her mobile phone.
Despite all its hysterical laws about signage, the Quebec government doesn’t really care about non-English signage. It whips the immigrants into linguistic line by making their children go to francophone schools. Immigrant parents have no choice, even if they are British or American professors hired by McGill, but again I am sympathetic to this. English is a juggernaut, and I think it only polite to speak as much of the language of a host culture as I can when I am abroad or in Quebec. (I am slowly eliminating Canadian diction and adopting British, although I doubt I will ever be able to abandon Canadian spelling.) What I object to, of course, is the continued demonization in some Quebec circles of les anglos.
By the way, no French-Canadian stranger has switched to English while speaking to me this week. I am edified. So far I have understood everything said to me in restaurants and shops. I understand about half of what bus drivers say to me. And everyone, with the arguable exception of an immigrant in a shop who looked and spoke like she thought she was too good for her job, has been absolutely charming.
P.S. Only a rabidly anti-anglo francophone magazine or person would depict francophones as a frog or frogs. Not in a billion years would an anglophone Canadian do that. And as it is not a symbol francophones use for themselves, one suspects its sole purpose is to express and foment resentment of anglophones.