Bilingualism is a concept fully related to the issue of language. In this context, bilingualism is referred to the ability of someone speaking two languages. However, the concept have been widely applied by individuals who have grown an interest in learning two languages while in some circumstances the concept have been formalized into institution, and legal policies. Such institutionalization of two languages is popular in Canada.
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In Canada, two languages, English and French have been accorded a legal status in a constitution provision that allows the two languages to be given priority in courts, public institution and office and even in the Canadian parliament. However, the issue of bilingualism in Canada does not specifically mean that all citizens and individuals should be bilingual.
The formalization of English and French as the official languages in Canada was effected in the 1969 to 1988 as a constitutional act (Howard, 2007, p. 78). However, there have been issues that have continued to surround this linguistic phenomenon in Canada and such include; English and French are not linguistically similar, political issues, education challenges psychological effects and speech problems for the minority groups.
The political issue that surrounds bilingualism in Canada has had unresolved issue of inequality of language among the minority groups in Canada. For example, some areas like Quebec are monolingual. This have resulted to a governance and political crisis especially in ensuring all people have equal access to administration services either in trade, government etc.
In other words, the francophone speaking Canadians have been shortchanged in issues of governance since Anglophone speaking Canadians are the majority in the country. In fact, in the commercial sector, it is evident that English had dominated all areas that concerned business in the country.
Educational issues have been an area of concern in Canada. Francophone minority speaking students have for a long time not been offered programs that promote French language in their education curriculum until recently. On the other hand, francophone speaking students have been forced to learn English, showing asymmetrical application of bilingualism in Canada’s education system.
Bilingualism has had a socio-psychological impact on Canadians especially on speech accommodation. In the context of bilingual societies, a lot of word borrowing and code-switching is always exhibited. Relatively, this psychologically affects a speaker’s choice of language depending on the social set up he or she is in at a particular moment. In this perspective, factors such as emotions, motivation, confidence in speakers is greatly affected by pressure to use any of the two languages.
Therefore, this ahs led to Canadian speakers using code-switching to accommodate both languages. However, the code-switching of language words between English and French have raised concerns of the French standard in Canada, particularly in Quebec. The Québécois French has attracted a lot of criticism from classy French speaker who terms Québécois French as in appropriate and below French language standards.
This under standardization of Québécois French has been identified in the use of grammar, pronunciation and even vocabularies. For example, while normal French vowels have around 12 to 13 vowels, the Québécois French vowels are sometimes lengthened to almost 17. Grammatical errors are also prominent in Québécois French especially in use of verb conjugation.
An example is the verb conjugation “ils risent” which is incorrect from an international French perspective. However, the correct verb conjugation should be “ils rient”. All these under standardization of French language have been greatly related to socio-psychological and word borrowing or code-switching issues that bilingualism have had on Canada.
Amid all the problems that surround the bilingual situation and Québécois French in Canada, it would be important to understand the purpose of language in the society and the benefits that a bilingual system of language can bring to Canada. The use of French in Quebec, a part of Canada is justified by history, that is, Canada was once a French colony (Kingsford, 1890, p. 56).
However, the dominance of English language is a global phenomenon that cannot be dismissed, owing to the fact English is globally used to administer international commerce etc. on the other hand, the French speaking Canadians are entitled to quality French speaking programs in their education programs if Quebec is to fully become bilingual like the rest of Canada.
This will eliminate all political, economical and social integration problems that Quebec has been experiencing (Cornwell & Stoddard, 2001, p. 34). However, considering the importance of language in the society, Québécois French has tremendously improved communication among people of the society, confidence in their socio-economic undertakings like nay other language.
It would therefore, be unjustifiable to acknowledge the positive impact that Québécois French has had on Canadians. In a literal perspective, language development and literal works and arts like poetry have been from this stylistic variation of French language, improper grammar and pronunciation based on lexical and phonetic characteristics of French language (New, 2002, p. 90).
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It’s therefore, inappropriate to refer to Québécois French as low quality French in the context of where it is spoken. In any case, Canada’s achievement in promoting bilingualism is far more successful than many other countries in the world (Howard, 2007, p. 123). Furthermore, Canada has exhibited a high level of accommodating diverse cultures from a global point of view.
It is in the context of these bilingual issues, that Canada is trying to offer quality French language programs to francophone minority speaking youths in schools. By focusing on the problem and the relevant issues of; use of improper grammar, pronunciation and writing of French, the program are offering students with skills on writing, reading (Brundage & Lahey, 2009, p. 145).
Brundage and Lahey offers one of the best practical starting point in improving language in Canada. However, the impact of their handbook and such other programs is still unknown.
The dominance of English as the most spoken language in Canada and in the world is unmatched. In actual sense, English language has been argued to be the factor behind globalization and the underlying factor behind the success of large economies in international trade. The effectiveness of French speaking programs in Canada is unknown. On the same note, Québécois French is a growing language and like any other language it has already impacted itself in the society, making it difficult to discourage it use.
Considering the issue of social identity, Québécois is part of Quebec identity, a heritage that Canadians who live in Quebec will and cannot relinquish in anytime soon. However, the issue of bilingualism in Canada is a typical example of how bilingualism can have a vast effect on a society, considering the two languages are not individually based but formalized and entrenched legally in the country’s constitution.
Brundage, D. & Lahey, M. (2009). Acting on words: an integrated rhetoric, reader and handbook, second edition. Ontario: Pearson Education Canada.
Cornwell, G. H. & Stoddard E. V. (2001). Global multiculturalism: comparative perspectives on ethnicity, race and nation. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.
Howard, M. (2007). Language issues in Canada: multidisciplinary perspectives. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
Kingsford, W. (1890). The history of Canada: Canada under French rule. Saratoga: Roswell & Hutchinson.
New, W. H. (2002). Encyclopedia of literature in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.