The Bilingual Shortfall
It seems fitting that my 100th post should be on bilingualism in Canada. It's a coincidence, however, that the Globe and Mail chose to run an editorial today about Canada's bilingualism policy, endorsing, as so many other have, the conclusions of Graham Fraser's book Sorry, I Don't Speak French.
As someone who works on language policy in a university setting, I'm thrilled that Fraser has received so much attention for his book (and somewhat envious of the high profile that his work has attained, as columnists fall over themselves to read his book and critique it), because he raises some very pertinent critiques of Canada's bilingualism policy, which has some serious shortcomings after almost forty years in operation.
The Globe editorialist points to some of the challenges facing Canadian bilingualism:
Until French becomes something more than another foreign-language option in high schools and universities, until curriculums are overhauled and teaching is improved so that students have the opportunity to develop their language skills, and until exchange programs and other means of facilitating conversations between the two solitudes become commonplace, bilingualism will not become a fact of Canadian life.
I don't think these proposals go nearly far enough, however. These pedagogical changes are all needed. But the key factor in education, in my opinion, is the motivation of parents and students. Until Canadians (of all ages) internalize the belief that the ability to speak at least two languages is a substantial asset, all the tinkering in the world will not substantially improve Canada's rates of bilingualism. A majority of Quebec anglophones are bilingual because they believe that they have to be to live and work in the provice, and this is why Quebec anglophone parents send their children to immersion programs. Canadians in the rest of the country need to see the economic and social benefits of bilingualism and multilingualism if they are going to start personally investing in language learning, and calling for their governments to make the necessary improvements to the system.
And with that, my one-hundredth post, I'm off to Galway, Ireland to speak about the development of Canadian language policy at a conference. After that, I'll be on vacation for a couple of weeks. See you again in July! Recommend this Post