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Irish pub in trouble with Quebec language cops for vintage English-only signs
Thread poster: Nicholas Ferreira

Nicholas Ferreira  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 06:57
Spanish to English
+ ...
Feb 16, 2008

How much is too much? Read this article about the Office quebecois de la langue francaise investigating a pub in downtown Montreal for English-only signs promoting Irish beers such as "Harp" and "Caffrey." And let us know your thoughts...

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/capress/080215/koddities/language_brew_ha_ha_with_list


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
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Let's not get on our high horses here... Feb 16, 2008

I agree that this particular case is rather zealous. The law does not go as far as regulating decoration, so I think they are wrong in attacking the pub. But there have been, and still are, many cases of disrespect of Bill 101. People are irritated by this because they feel that their rights are not being respected - and it is only normal that they fight back even in cases where they are clearly wrong, like this one. However, I fully agree that having to press 9 to hear the government's instructions in French when anglophones don't have to is rather odd, and I would have felt insulted as well. But complaining because of mere coasters on a table - or even worse, a unilingual parrot - is simply outrageous.

The article you link to was written by an anglophone, was published by an anglophone media and is biased that way. Also, the examples of other "cases" don't deserve being in the article. They are not actual cases of the "language police" doing their job - they are simply complaints of people being too anglophobic. They are extremes - and the author forgot to also mention cases where the plaintiffs were in their right and where there truly were derogations to the law. The excentric complaints cited in the article are a small minority. Most complaints are healthy. People are people - everybody interprets these things according to their own logic and mentality.

This being said, the law is the law and people have to abide by it. There are still too many businesses with English only display - and I am wondering why nobody rectifies the situation. Even worse, there are still many businesses where the people serving you don't speak French - and they don't speak English either! As per Bill 101, people in Quebec have the right to be served in the language of their choice. French has priority over English in display. If both languages are present, then the French part has to be printed in larger letters than the English. Nobody is asking anglophones to forget their language and learn French - they are simply being asked that francophones understand their signs. I don't see anything wrong with this. I also don't see why a francophone society would have to learn English to perform their day-to-day activities. Other provinces don't have any French display and they don't seem to care that francophones are all over Canada. I think it's only normal that people can speak their own language in their own province. When you leave Montreal, there are signs telling you which way Toronto is - but when you leave Toronto, Montreal is hardly ever on the highway signs...

There are two official languages in Quebec - and regulations are necessary if you want people to get along. If such regulations are not respected, anglophones and francophones will keep fighting each other, even hundreds of years after the fact. I think most people - whether anglophones or francophones - agree that that's not an option. Enough milk - and blood - has been spilt on the account of language conflict in this province. No need for more. Let's all just respect the law and get along.

P.S.: I always found that people in this province were unnecessarily bringing this up. To me, both anglophones and francophones are people. Why can't we all just get along? In my case, I automatically switch to either language depending on which one the other person prefers. It doesn't make me forget my English or my French - in fact, this allows me to practice both on a day-to-day basis, which is great because it just adds to my competences and makes my culture richer. I am perfectly fine with it. But laws are needed to allow both anglophones and francophones to use their language. If everybody respected these laws, maybe we could put the language issue behind us once and for all - but there is still a long way to go...


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Christiane Lalonde  Identity Verified
Canada
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English to French
Il faut aller de l'avant Feb 17, 2008

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:

I always found that people in this province were unnecessarily bringing this up. To me, both anglophones and francophones are people. Why can't we all just get along? In my case, I automatically switch to either language depending on which one the other person prefers. It doesn't make me forget my English or my French - in fact, this allows me to practice both on a day-to-day basis, which is great because it just adds to my competences and makes my culture richer. I am perfectly fine with it. But laws are needed to allow both anglophones and francophones to use their language. If everybody respected these laws, maybe we could put the language issue behind us once and for all - but there is still a long way to go...


Je suis aussi excédée par cette question de langue. Je parle l'anglais autant que le français tous les jours et je m'en trouve beaucoup mieux. Parler anglais me permet de communiquer avec qui je veux, partout dans le monde. Parler plus d'une langue ouvre sur le monde. Mais je trouve excessiviment irritant que l'on nous reproche encore de bafouer les droits des anglophones ou autres. Nicholas, si vous habitez au Québec, vous savez très bien que les exemples cités dans l'article prêchent les convaincus. Point.
Comment se fait-il que des gens qui habitent au Québec depuis plusieurs générations ne parlent pas le français? Parce qu'ils n'en ont pas eu besoin. Personne ne les force à le parler d'ailleurs. Mais qu'on ne vienne pas nous reprocher de protéger le français.
Sans vouloir entrer ici dans le débat politique, je crois que la proposition lancée ces derniers jours par la chef d'un parti politique concernant l'apprentissage de l'anglais est une bonne chose. Car étonnament, les Québécois de langue française parlent assez mal l'anglais et c'est dommage. J'ai vécu plus de 5 ans au Cambodge, et là-bas les jeunes se précipitent dans les cours de langue, anglais bien sûr, mais français aussi, les classes du Centre culturel français ne désemplissent pas. Vous avez donc une société où des jeunes parlent trois langues, c'est merveilleux je trouve, même si par ailleurs la situation là-bas est épouvantable.
Le Québec est une société ouverte. La plupart des gens qui y vivent se disent Québécois, peu importe la langue qu'ils parlent.
Il faut arrêter de ramener sans cesse ces batailles identitaires qui nous empêchent d'avancer.


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Juliana Brown  Identity Verified
Israel
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Bravisima Christiane (& Viktoria), Feb 17, 2008

I agree whole-heartedly with the sentiments expressed here. Rather than a point of contention and "can you believe how crazy they are", bilingualism (and I use this word to include the need for Anglophones and Allophones to learn French, and vice versa) is an OPPORTUNITY which is a gift that opens up our ability to communicate with our neighbours. The gov't (not to mention the education ministries) would do well to emphasize the wonders rather than letting the press focus on the divisions.

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Christiane Lalonde  Identity Verified
Canada
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English to French
I agree with you Juliana Feb 17, 2008

Juliana Starkman wrote:

The gov't (not to mention the education ministries) would do well to emphasize the wonders rather than letting the press focus on the divisions.



Yes Juliana, you have a point here. This question, and some others identity-related (yes, I'm talking about the Commission Bouchard-Taylor) is the bread and butter of medias and political organizations that have nothing else interesting in their basket. They are certainly not making this society going forward.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 06:57
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Protecting languages Feb 17, 2008

I think that in order to have a better understanding of the issue, one needs to look at both sides of the coin.

Quebec is the only French-speaking community on the entire continent. We already endure heavy anglophone influence. For example, there are hundreds of English-language newspapers in Canada, and thousands on the continent - but the number of French-language publications can be counted on one hand. TV channels - same thing. Music - same thing. The present government in Quebec is also oriented towards English - the government phone service example illustrates this well. With the Bouchard-Taylor commission bugging me, I went and did my own research. The Quebec government has a form on their website where people wishing to immigrate to Quebec can enter basic data (their age, their level of education, the number of kids they have, etc.) to find out if their application for immigration is receivable (instant result available online). There is a question on that form asking if you speak English and/or French and at what proficiency. Well, I pretended to be a prospective immigrant and filled in the form. I filled it in twice - all my answers were exactly the same, except that in one form, I said I spoke French well, and on the other, I said I spoke basic English. In the case where I said I speak French, my application was rejected, and in the case where I said I speak English, it was accepted! This tells a lot about how important the protection of French is to authorities, and about how important it is for the people to protect it.

I do agree that making sure all of our kids will be proficient in English is important. But I think that before making efforts in that direction, we first need to make sure that those same kids can speak and write their native language. That is far from being the case at the moment. The education system takes no care of this at all. I have seen corrected copies of elementary school dictation, and the corrections made by the teacher herself contained errors! By letting things get out of hand to this extent, our government is contributing to the problem. If we add all the anglophone influence to this - we have a recipe for disaster.

Considering the above, it is only normal that people feel the need to protect their already fragile language. Most anglophones in the "Rest of Canada" have trouble understanding this, because they already are the majority and their language is not only not endangered, but promoted at a fast pace worldwide. They have no clue what it feels like to speak an endangered language because they've never lived through it. More importantly, most of us don't realize how closely our cultures and identities are linked to our respective native languages. When a language is threatened, the people who speak it are threatened as well.

Having a "language police" is one of many great ways to protect a large part of our identity. Not long ago, there was a survey in which citizens of Quebec were asked if they are in favor of new immigrants being required to learn proficient French. Surprise, surprise! Not only most francophones and allophones were for it, but even anglophones were for it! This says a lot! When the anglophones living in Quebec agree to teach French to immigrants, there is a general agreement that a society needs to protect its language - even when it is not the native language of the people who were consulted. It doesn't matter which side you're on and what language you speak - what matters is to protect your culture.

As I said previously, nobody is asking anglophones to forget their language, or even to learn French. The point is not being at war with each other. There are no intentions of getting the larger slice of the cake. The intention is only to get to keep what we already have. And laws are necessary for this to work. When francophone kids have better grades in English than in French - things need to be done. At least, in Quebec, anglophones have the right to be served in English. Francophones outside of Quebec don't enjoy the same rights, even though the country does have French as an official language. It is easy to feel irritated...

But I agree that that pub should not endure such attacks. I am actually saddened by this - because of this, we are once again being seen like people trying to impose their supremacy, whereas it is far from being the case. For the most part, we just want to get along.

To see the other side of the coin in this matter, take a look at these articles:

On this page, the Office is quoted as saying that if the signs are meant as decoration, they will be exempted - the complaint they received was rather about the personnel not speaking French and about the outside menu being only in English. The Office also apparently asked the owners of the pub to communicate with them directly and explain the situation rather than contacting the anglophone media to start a fight - which doesn't seem to be what the owners ultimately chose. So, they are under fire for unilingual service and a unilingual menu - but they seem to have distorted the facts by saying that it is because of their decoration that they are being attacked (and they never got fined yet - they just got a letter asking to comply with the law and asking them to explain what the purpose of the unilingual signs is).
http://www.vigile.net/L-Office-de-la-langue-francaise-a

This article is actually written in English by a Gazette journalist. It seems there are also some well-intentioned people working for the media. Thanks, Don!
http://www.vigile.net/A-pint-sized-tempest

Maybe with this information, we will get a bit closer to the facts. Sorry, the first page is in French. With the exception of Don's article, all I found in the anglophone media was articles bashing the OLF and Quebec in general... and Don explains, in plain English, precisely this bashing phenomenon.

[Edited at 2008-02-17 21:25]


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Christiane Lalonde  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 06:57
Member
English to French
Langue française, suite Feb 17, 2008

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:

Well, I pretended to be a prospective immigrant and filled in the form. I filled it in twice - all my answers were exactly the same, except that in one form, I said I spoke French well, and on the other, I said I spoke basic English. In the case where I said I speak French, my application was rejected, and in the case where I said I speak English, it was accepted! This tells a lot about how important the protection of French is to authorities, and about how important it is for the people to protect it.

I do agree that making sure all of our kids will be proficient in English is important. But I think that before making efforts in that direction, we first need to make sure that those same kids can speak and write their native language. That is far from being the case at the moment. The education system takes no care of this at all. I have seen corrected copies of elementary school dictation, and the corrections made by the teacher herself contained errors!


Si c'est vrai, c'est vraiment choquant, il n'y a pas d'autres mots.

Ayant quitté le Québec voilà 20 ans, j'ai raté sans doute beaucoup de débats autour de la langue. Tout de même, quand j'ai entendu l'autre jour à la télé que l'on allait remettre la dictée à l'honneur, les deux bras m'en sont tombés! Je ne savais même pas que la dictée n'existait plus! Je me souviens des longues heures de dictée chaque semaine à l'école, je peux vous dire qu'à 10 ans j'écrivais le français pratiquement sans faire de faute!

Mais le problème est le même en France. Beaucoup de gens font des fautes d'accord par exemple, des trucs hyper simples. Je crois que c'est générationnel, mauvais apprentissage, manque de lecture et hop, le tour est joué.

J'y étais encore cet automne, on ne peut pas tenir une conversation avec un Français sans qu'il vous sorte 3 termes anglais dans la même phrase, j''exagère un peu, mais c'est à peu près ça (business plan, prononcé avec l'accent français bien sûr, ce qui donne businaisse plan, tout le monde n'a que ce mot à la bouche maintenant).
Bon on s'écarte du sujet.
Bref, d'accord avec toi Viktoria, et merci pour tes recherches.


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NancyLynn
Canada
Local time: 06:57
Member (2002)
French to English
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Update: they've made up Feb 19, 2008

I think an agreement was struck, and a much-needed review of the law is in the works:

http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20080218/irish_pub_080218/20080218?hub=Canada

Nancy


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 06:57
English to French
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Thanks for the update! Feb 21, 2008

That's good news. What I don't understand is that this whole affair was blown out of proportion because, while the OLC was talking about the outside menu being only in English and some personnel not providing service in French, the owners went to the media complaining about the vintage signs. There are already clauses in the law for decorative display - they could have just applied that had the pub's owners contacted the OLF to explain that the signs have cultural value and are only used as decoration. Instead, they went out and had a party blasting the OLF - which led to lots of very heinous comments from lots of people outside of Quebec. The comments I saw were such that I would rather not mention them here - some of them may be against site rules. Let's just say there was a lot of wishing people dead and such... Sorry, my blood is still boiling just thinking about the messages of hatred.

That they review their inspection procedures is fine - but they should also do something to avoid the Quebecer-bashing that ensued next time something like this happens. It wasn't pretty! Ultimately, those who will be harmed in the process are not the interested parties, but the public, who is not responsible for what happened. Maybe the OLF could visit them in person and talk it over with them so they have a chance of explaining things on the spot - the whole circus could have been avoided that way. Or maybe they could send a letter asking them to call them back to answer some questions instead of sending a letter about how they will give them fines. Manipulating public opinion like this can be very dangerous and the OLF could probably do some things to prevent that from happening.


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Michael Barnett
Local time: 06:57
English
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Painful memories Feb 25, 2008

I've been out of Quebec for 15 years now, but this discussion stimulates sensitive memories.

French to English medical translators know me as a physician who offers medical translation help. I do it to relax. Montreal based translators may be surprised to learn that I am the physician who owned and founded Clinique Medicale En Route in the Gare Centrale in Montreal. Although I am a native English speaker, I was sensitive to the language issue and was determined to have a bilingual clinic. Despite my good intentions, I found myself immediately involved with attacks from every direction.

First, before the clinic had even opened, I got a polite call from the Office de la Langue Francaise. There was a sign on the window of the clinic, as it was being built, that said, in French only, "Clinique medicale bientot!". At that time, English was banned from commercial signs. A concerned citizen had complained to l'Office that the sign maker had neglected the circumflex over the "o" in "bientot". I had the problem corrected immediately, on pain of severe fines. (Next I got a complaint from the Red Cross. I had infringed their copyright by using a red cross with a white border in my logo, but that is off topic.)

I will never forget the time I had to interview a young woman for the job of receptionist at the clinic. I was determined to have functionally bilingual staff, so I gave her a piece of printed text in French and asked her to translate it. She failed the test, but to my complete shock, she then revealed that not only was her French not too good, she could not see the text well enough to read it because she was legally blind! She had failed to mention that earlier, and was not wearing glasses or using a cane.

She obviously could not do that particular job, pulling charts, taking messages, reading the computer, but I was concerned about the legal implications of declining to hire her because of a physical handicap. No problem. She couldn't speak French. In La Belle Province that was sufficient reason for not hiring someone. In fact, I would be congratulated.

So, while I understand well the political and demographic facts that made the language laws necessary, I never completely got over the feeling, that as an anglophone, I was being persecuted, and that in order to stay in business, I had to join the Nazis. Ultimately, I sold the clinic, walked away from a $250K/year practice and moved to BC.

Michael


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Christiane Lalonde  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 06:57
Member
English to French
Histoire 101 Feb 26, 2008

Michael Barnett wrote:

So, while I understand well the political and demographic facts that made the language laws necessary, I never completely got over the feeling, that as an anglophone, I was being persecuted, and that in order to stay in business, I had to join the Nazis.
Michael


M. Barnett, vous devriez voyager un peu plus loin que Vancouver pour voir à quoi ressemble réellement le monde, et vous devriez suivre aussi des cours de rattrapage en histoire pour vous rémémorer ce qu'on fait les Nazis.
Le mot persécution doit être employé avec des pincettes.
Ma mère qui allait chez Eaton ou Simpson et à qui on refusait de parler français était-elle persécutée? Non, elle était méprisée.
Je vous accorde qu'il y a des idiots zélés partout, y compris à l'OLF.
Ceci dit, personne ne me fera pleurer sur ces pauvres anglophones soi-disant persécutés, obligés de vendre leur entreprise pour faire fortune ailleurs... Un tas de Québécois anglophones n'en ont pas ressenti le besoin et font de très bonnes affaires ici.


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Suzanne Éthier
Canada
Local time: 06:57
English to French
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Merci pour les liens vers l'Action Nationale et Vigile.net!! Mar 12, 2008

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:
http://www.vigile.net/A-pint-sized-tempest

....Sorry, the first page is in French. With the exception of Don's article, all I found in the anglophone media was articles bashing the OLF and Quebec in general... and Don explains, in plain English, precisely this bashing phenomenon.


Grand merci pour les liens vers www.vigile.net et www.action-nationale.qc.ca/ surtout les Cahiers de lecture de l'Action Nationale!!! Une vraie corne d'abondance. J'y ai passé quelques heures très enrichissantes...

Excellentes sources d'information et d'éducation, surtout pour le recto de la médaille c.-à-d. ceux qui aiment « basher » sur les Québécois. Encore là, s'ils sont de bonne foi et qu'ils VEULENT vraiment COMPRENDRE...

P.S.: En passant... pourquoi vous excuser que la première page soit écrite en français?? On est sur un site de traducteurs après tout...

Salut!


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Suzanne Éthier
Canada
Local time: 06:57
English to French
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Histoire 101 (suite) Mar 12, 2008

Excellente réponse, Christiane! Totalement d'accord avec vous!

Je pourrais aussi vous en raconter des histoires de mépris que, moi-même, j'ai vécues au centre-ville de Montréal... Loin de moi de vouloir jeter de l'huile sur le feu, je vous ferai part que d'une anecdote assez éloquente.

Un été, je travaillais au siège social d'Air Canada, milieu très anglophone, comme vous devez le savoir. Un jour, pendant la pause-café, je m'adresse à une autre employée à l'accent très british. Je lui pose une question anodine en anglais. Elle me répond assez sèchement, merci, qu'elle ne parle pas français! Interloquée, je rétorque que je suis en train de lui parler en anglais! A ma stupéfaction, elle répond : « But your accent, your accent!! » avec une expression de dédain et de dégoût imprimée dans la face. Ce qui m'a coupé le souffle et quasiment jetée par terre... inutile de le préciser. Ne l'ai jamais oubliée cette histoire...


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xxxBAmary  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 06:57
English to Spanish
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My French experience Mar 19, 2008

I have a strong accent in French, but I can proudly say that my French speaking colleagues at work ask me to proofread their texts because I know the rules. I never though I would one day speak French, but the fact that I do has opened many doors for me professionaly and socially. If you come to live in the French province, you need to speak French, unless you want to be a handicapped, and (as we say here) that's it that's all. People who don't are just missing out. Having moved to Mont St-Hilaire only one moth after I arrived in Canada helped me to pick up French quite fast. Yes, people sometimes (naaah, always!) look at me when I open my mouth (except in Montreal) because it's obvious I'm not from the area, and yes, it used to make me feel uncomfortable, but I've learned to deal with it with a smile and the reactions are usually good.

Out of respect, when I address someone in the street, I address them in French, unless I know they are English speaking. If I invite you to my home and you light a cigarette and start smoking, I'll tell you my home is a non smoking home. So if I move to another country, I just learn the language of the community where I live.

By the way, I'm still more comfortable speaking English than French, but I think Quebequers really appreciate it when the other person makes the effort. There are many other places to live in Canada if you want to live in English only. Now, if you are open minded and willing to adapt to your new environment, come to Quebec!


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
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Let's try to moderate this thread a bit... Mar 20, 2008

This thread is slow but getting interesting!

In light of the different anecdotes and opinions expressed, I feel we should clarify a few things.

First of all, I can relate to what Michael is saying. I am francophone for the most part and I do speak more French in day-to-day life, so I can't relate to being an anglophone in Quebec, although I do have plenty of occasions to speak English right here in Montreal. My bilingualism prevents me from getting frustrated because I simply switch from one language to the other as needed and that's the end of the story. I know there are people living in or around Montreal whose French is bad or non-existent or whose English is bad or non-existent, and I think that's a pity for both categories, because they are missing out on a lot of good stuff (wink to BAmary ) but most of all because they must eventually have trouble communicating, something that would seriously frustrate me if I was walking in their shoes. Therefore, even though I am not really siding with Michael, I can understand his frustration. It is true that the OLF is not always consistent in its decisions and methods, and they are not that well organized. But I think their work is necessary and even though it is far from perfect, it is already much better than nothing, and thanks to them, we've come a long way since the 60s. I think in Michael's case, the law was too recent and people weren't accustomed to it yet, which caused somewhat of a chaos back then. Moreover, attacks coming from individuals cannot be construed as attacks from society as a whole. There were, after all, people who complained that the parrot doesn't speak French, which is just ridiculous in my opinion. Let 'em be, those are not people who can in any way represent the mass of the population. I think that Michael was more a victim of stupidity on the part of the general population than a victim of the law. Most importantly, even though the prejudice suffered by Michael was unjust, I think that at least part of it originated from francophones' feelings of being persecuted by anglophones, so they fought back in the ways Michael describes. I am not saying you got what was coming to you, Michael, but I do understand that at that very moment in time, francophones had a lot of unexpressed anger and it had to come out. I am sorry it did in a way that left such a bad taste in your mouth, especially since you tried to accommodate francophones more than most other essentially anglophone businesses. What happened back then didn't happen overnight, and even though the actions of those people back then weren't justified, they were in their right of claiming that their linguistic freedom be respected.

This being said, it is true that many francophones have suffered for a long time from anglophone supremacy. Back then, all the better-paying jobs were reserved exclusively to anglophones, and francophones all worked in factories. Even today, the richer neighbourhoods in Montreal have mostly English street names, anglophone businesses and most of the people who live there speak more English than French. There was a time when people who didn't speak English were nobody and couldn't get ahead. I think that what would set the record straight is a role-reversal, that anglophones are persecuted and despised in the same way. But I don't wish for that to happen because it would just make things worse. I am not heinous enough to wish such things. But the least that can be done is to give francophones the choice and give them the right to speak their language and not be disrespected, despised or ridiculed. Still today, here in Montreal, the largest city of the province, there are jokes in which the francophone represents the stupid, illiterate person, much the same way as newfies in a newfie joke. I think that's more than enough now. Also, it seems that Canadians from the West are giving us lots of publicity - in the United States, there is a new trend. Instead of calling people immigrants or stupid, they now use the word Quebecker there to designate undesirable people. That says a lot...

ZetieZ, it's a pleasure you find the links useful. I like vigile.net - it's very informative. And why am I sorry if the article is in French? Well, this thread was started in English and it is not because we are all from Canada in this thread that I will assume that we all speak French. But I don't regret having cited a French article here, not the least!

BAmary, your message is a ray of sunshine. Your post is full of positivity and there is nothing mean in it, which is refreshing. You also sound a lot like me. The only difference is that my analogy isn't about smoking in somebody else's home but rather about taking your shoes off when you go to someone else's house. I just think that people should recognize the culture and the heritage of any country, province, territory or city they live in, and sadly, too many people don't give a flying fudge about that. This leads to unnecessary conflict - and when people start behaving in an inappropriate manner in my house, I have them leave. I don't understand how this is hard to understand for people whose original culture is not the one in Quebec. If you can't adapt to your new environment, time to move back home. And I say this without any hatred. If I moved to another country, I would practice exactly what I preach, and if I had any trouble, I'd leave, not only out of respect for others, but out of respect for myself as well. If I wasn't able to fit in, I would be a sad, sad person - and I don't need to live that way.


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How about you start tracking translation jobs and sending invoices in minutes? You can also manage your clients and generate reports about your business activities. So you always keep a clear view on your planning, AND you get a free 30 day trial period!

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