It’s been a few weeks now since I have posted, (my apologies), but I have spent the last few weeks really thinking and analyzing what my next move would be. After playing around with some of what I want to say with other people, I have finally come to a conclusion: Where did we go wrong with bilingualism in New Brunswick. I have a feeling this post may be a little all over the place because I have so many ideas and arguments flowing through my mind, so bare with me.
Before I even begin, I think it is important that I address the elephant in the room (or in this post, or whatever). Who am I really fighting for? Below you will find a list of who I am fighting for:
- The French Only Speaking Population
- The English Only Speaking Population
- Bilingual Francophones
- Bilingual Anglophones
- Heck, I’m even fighting for people who don’t fall in those categories
There, now that we have that off the table, maybe I can get on with the points I’d like to make without being discriminated against or accused of being a bigot. I LOVE BEING BILINGUAL, I LOVE FRENCH PEOPLE, I LOVE ENGLISH PEOPLE, I LOVE EVERYONE. So here we go.
It is not a secret that over the past few decades our province has been in a linguistic crisis. Then again, it seems that we have always been if we think way back. At first, it was an English majority population in favor of anglophones. Then, with the help of Louis J. Robichaud, the Equal Opportunity Program and the Language Rights Act were put into place. Many people, at the time, thought that this program and this act would finally put out the fire of language issues. That was not the case. Little by little, each party became more aggravated with the other, fast forward a few decades and here we are. Not one step ahead, just a few behind.
It is now nearly impossible to get a job in this province, which is why so many graduates leave the province, get a career, buy a house and start a family. I don`t blame them, I mean really, what does this province have to offer anymore? Any person who cannot speak both languages (FRENCH OR ENGLISH) have difficulties finding employment, even if they are 100% qualified in their field. And to think that we now value language more than competence is a little outrageous don’t you think? I think I would rather have a competent uni-lingual surgeon operating on me than a so-so bilingual surgeon.
When I go out in public, and I am asked if I would like to be served in English or in French, my answer is often : Whichever, it makes no difference to me; or Cela ne fait aucune différence. I am capable of speaking both languages fluently so I couldn’t care less about what language I am served in -all that matters is that I am being served.
Continuing on, why is it near impossible for anyone to meet in the middle? There are many people who don’t know how to speak a second language or who just aren’t that comfortable speaking in their second language, and hey, that’s OK! In my opinion, I do not see any problem having two people speak to one another in two different languages. Most people understand the basics of the opposite language so it is perfectly fine to have a French speaking human and an English speaking human converse in their own languages and still understand one another. Where did this sense of entitlement come from?
On the other hand if no one supports that idea and would much prefer that everyone be 100% bilingual in this province, we have some work to do. The immersion program is clearly not up to par if only 10% of high school graduates graduate with a proficiency certificate in their second language. I walked out of high school with that certificate and could barely hold a conversation, if that doesn’t scream that there is something wrong then I don’t know what does.
I actually tutor 5 students, 4 of which are in the immersion program and in elementary school. Do you want to know why I tutor these kids? They are struggling and their parents don’t speak French. Do you see the problem here? How can a parent support their child in their education if there is no support for the parent either. Many people would say : Tell the parents to go learn French. If only it were that simple. Learning a second language takes time, dedication, oh and money. The last thing a parent has is free time and extra money. So if this province, if this government, wants every citizen to be bilingual they need to start providing some ressources. Instead of spending extra money for busses to segregate children like the 1950’s, how about spending money on educating and enriching the population’s linguistic competence.
This also goes vise versa for the french population. Some students excel in their English classes because they may have one English parent or they may just speak English more often at home because of neighbors and family friends. But then there are other students who have two francophone parents who do not speak English and consequently struggle in their English classes . These students do not end up being considered officially bilingual.
Yes I understand the importance of bilingualism, but I think we’ve taken it a bit too far… I totally agree that we should have bilingual employees in every business, but that does not mean that every employee needs to be bilingual. As long as there is always someone in the business who can speak one of the languages the customer desires, there should not be a problem.
It truly saddens me that it is possible my future children will grow up in a place where everyone hates each other, where everyone feels the need to constantly argue about language and where everyone seems to have a sense of entitlement. Why can’t we all just live in peace, and respect thy neighbor.