mercredi 7 octobre 2009

Politics and the French Language

From todays Globe and Mail

FRENCH LESSONS: How Michael Ignatieff can find his groove in Quebec

1 CARRY AN ENGLISH-FRENCH DICTIONARY Mr. Ignatieff can speak pretty good French, but his remarkable eloquence in English is hardly matched by his slow cadence and pregnant pauses in answering questions in la langue de Moliere . He might also reconsider the less-than-charming use of English phrases when addressing a francophone audience []

2 STOP RAISING THE DEAD With all due respect to Mr. Ignatieff's grandparents, do we really need to be reminded that they are buried in Quebec? []

3 ENLARGE THE CONCEPT OF CULTURE [] To be immersed in Quebec culture is not only about enjoying classical concerts [Orchestre symphonique de Montréal], but also about acquiring a sensitivity for Quebec's original cultural expressions, from the sophisticated to the mundane.

4 BEWARE THE BILINGUALISM TRAP So far, Mr. Ignatieff's message about bilingualism has been more suited to parents sending their kids to the Toronto French School than to Quebeckers who use French as part of their daily lives.

He repeats the chant of bilingualism from coast to coast - perceived in Quebec as a centralist message more suited to the 1960s Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism - without seeming to realize that for most francophone Quebeckers, today's language issue is about French as an expression of identity. []

5 APPEAL TO THE HEAD, NOT JUST THE HEART Mr. Ignatieff's message to Liberal stalwarts in Quebec emphasized the province as the "soul" of Canada, from where "social justice" could be a positive example for all Canadians. It's not clear that Quebeckers want to be cast in that role and even less clear that the current Liberal brand in Quebec reflects these values. Indeed, Mr. Ignatieff's speech to his Quebec audience could have been translated for any audience anywhere in Canada. The party's new slogan is the same in Quebec as elsewhere - nous meritons mieux - but Mr. Ignatieff will have to start articulating what it is that Quebeckers specifically "deserve" better if he wants to deserve their support.

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