Language Crisis in Canada?

According to  this article from the National Post, in about two decades, less than half of Montréal’s inhabitants will speak French. And the reason is not because of anglophones pushing for more English – no, it is because of the influx of a new group called “allophones”. They are immigrants whose native tongue is neither English nor French. Though the article does state that some allophones are opting for learning French over English, it still seems to me that French is gradually becoming less and less prevalent in our nation.

Take Alberta for example. Back in April of this year, the CBE (Calgary Board of Education) decided that learning a second language will no longer be mandatory in elementary schools. It used to be that students would begin learning French from grade four until grade nine, but now students can choose other languages besides French or not learn any language at all. The CBE says in a news report that by doing this, students will be given more choice in their learning, though there are some who believe that this is happening because the Calgary Board is lacking in funding (which I think may be the real reason).

But this is the question I’m asking: What is more important to Canadians – that students are able to choose what they wish to learn in school, or that we recognize and maintain one of our nation’s official languages? Okay, I might be biased since I am a French teacher and have fallen head over heels in love with this language since the fourth grade, but we’re talking more than just giving students a choice here, we’re talking about preserving Canada’s identity. And yes, I do realize that we are made up of a mosaic of different cultures and languages besides just English and French, but the history and heritage of our country was built on these two languages and I think that means a little something, don’t you?

On a slightly different note…

I don’t agree with the CBE’s decision (clearly) and I think their “let’s give students choice!” is a ridiculous reason for ending mandatory second language classes. So if a student decides that they don’t like learning languages, then they have the choice to not learn any? I’m not good at math. I hate math with a passion. I rejoiced when I got just above 50% on my math diploma exam.  So how come students who hate math don’t get the option to opt-out of it? Does our society really value math, science, social studies, etc over foreign languages?

My opinion is that French should have remained a mandatory second-language for elementary students. And I understand that not everyone enjoys learning a new language and not everyone is linguistically inclined, but I strongly feel that students should know at least the basics of French as much of it is used in all parts of Canada. I know that when I lived in Québec, all students had to learn English in school as it was mandatory – and that makes sense to me. Anglo-Canada teaches French as a second-language and franco-Canada teaches English as a second-language. With French already ebbing away as the nation is growing (and I am by no means blaming or looking down in contempt on immigrants!), why are we speeding up this sad process by eliminating French from elementary schools? Why are we devaluing learning any new language for that matter? What are we saying to children by deemphasizing the learning of new languages?

Something to think about.



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