Canadian bilingualism: my definitely non-Canadian perspective
The problem with French language in Canada: it is both unique and not unique at the same time.
First thing first, Franco-Canadian cultures are basically western cultures expressed in the French language. French is one of the world’s major languages and, as an umbrella word, western culture is arguably one of the most dominant on earth. In the context of the entire world, it is certainly not one of its kinds.
Their extinction would undoubtedly be a painful loss for anyone who treasure human cultures. But, the pain would be more unbearable if they have unique language-culture combo (e.g. French language and a South Asian culture) or when the language and/or culture involved is endangered… you know, like indigenous languages and cultures of the Americas.
If Franco-Canadian cultures are unique on a global scale, Quebec’s harsh language policy would be more understandable.
Focus on the word “global” because I am going to contradict myself.
Every knows damn well Canada is often mistaken as the US. Its accents, TV shows, music, films (if you ever encounter one) and celebrities are often mistaken as American. Countless of American TV shows and films were shot in Vancouver and Toronto and no one — apart from the cities’ residents — realises.
When I say Canada, I clearly mean English-speaking Canada.
Admittedly, not everyone cares enough to try distinguishing cultures from each other. But, some of us will always try our best. Personally, I know how to differentiate Metropolitan France and Franco-Canada from each other. Well, at least, when it comes to their TV news broadcast.
Franco-Canadian TV hosts speak with lighter-sounding accents and behave more exuberantly than their Metropolitan French counterparts, the graphic design looks similar to the one on American TV (albeit less garish-looking) and there are lots of shots of suburban areas.
Obviously, those are narrow and superficial observations. But, it proves that anyone who pay more attention can easily spot the differences between Franco-Canada and France, no matter how surface-level they are.
With Anglo-Canada, it is a different case. If a Canadian TV show or film does not showcase the Canadian flag or mention the words Canada, Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa, I would have mistaken it as American. I find standard Canadian English accent and Anglo-Canadian aesthetics to be indistinguishable from their American counterparts.
You can argue the official bilingualism is burdensome for the federal government and the Quebecois people are being a dick about their language. But, you also have to admit French makes Canada stand out in North America.
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