Francophones and bilingualism

I have started to write this blog a half dozen times and then scrapped it because whenever you talk about language at all in this province you are bound to stir up raw feelings on all sides.

I have talked at length about the need to have more Anglophones learn French in New Brunswick. I have said that this is the only real way to ensure bilingualism remains an important feature of our community and culture.

But I have been surprised at the lack of Francophone public support for Anglophone bilingualism. Maybe they don’t want to inflame old Anglo prejudices. Maybe some are worried that more English bilingualism will dilute the French language in the province. I don’t know but I was thrilled when Donald Savoie, Louis Robichaud, et. al. came out with a position on the proposed French Immersion changes.

For 50 years, ‘bilingualism’ has been code for ensuring French language services and infrastructure in New Brunswick. It has never really been about encouraging Anglophones to speak French. We have French hospitals, French schools, French media, French cultural institutions, French government services, French Chambers of Commerce, etc. and I am not saying those are bad things. In fact, they are important and critical to the ongoing cultural evolution of New Brunswick.

But bilingualism now has to move out of the French silo and embed better in the English silo. In fact, we need to break down a bit of the silos.

Al Hogan at the T&T runs a lovely expose on Korean kids learning English in Moncton. Lovely. Do you think Al Hogan will ever run an editorial calling for more French language training for Anglos and immigrants that move here?

Never. Because the there are two camps. Two distinct camps. For the survival of both, we need to get into the same camp.

Francophones need bilingual Anglophones and immigrants to ensure the strong position of the French language.

Anglophones need to be more bilingual to ensure access to many of the best jobs and opportunities in New Brunswick.

So bravo to Savoie et al.

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0 Responses to Francophones and bilingualism

  1. Anonymous says:

    I was with you all the way … until you turned into a rant against Al Hogan. It went from thoughtful debate to Charles LeBlanc and his rants about the sergeant-at-arms.

  2. richard says:

    Is it really advantageous for NB francophones to promote bilingualism for NB anglophones? After all, their access to services in French is largely protected by legislation combined with voting power. A smaller proportion of anglos speaking French would seem to increase francophone access to employment. Perhaps that is why francophones have been largely silent on the issue.

  3. mikel says:

    Both of those are non issues. Anybody who has spent five seconds at Charles’ site knows that this one sentence criticism of Al Hogan isn’t even on the same planet as the former. Moncton is New Brunswicks most bilingual city, and actually Mr. Campbell gives Mr. Hogan an offhanded compliment-which is rare here. He even points out the REASON that such an article would not appear is because of the political climate-NOT due to Mr. Hogan’s personal views. That’s something that may not be true, we don’t know, but it’s barely even a criticism of Mr. Hogan. The blog has been pretty lite as of late in bashing Mr. Hogan, it just goes to show why it’s not a good idea to try to ‘write for the audience’-people will criticize no matter what.

    The other point is just weird. If you lived in a town where a neighbouring neighbourhood association was fighting for, I don’t know, better street lighting. What would you be saying, and would you be saying it loud enough that it gets through the media filters? Essentially what is being asked is why didn’t the organizations mentioned write letters to the editor or appear on CBC. I seem to recall at least one of those organizations did have comments on their website.

    What is more the issue is why is there so much noise from the anglophones who DON”T use early french immersion. If you don’t use a service its somewhat hypocritical to support depriving other people of a program-which is why the debate has been framed as one about ‘choice’. It’s fine if you don’t choose to use a program-it’s NOT fine to deprive others, at least without good reason.

    As usual the way this has been framed by the government is what has caused all the problems. Apart from wiping out early french immersion there was some good ideas there. I know many people who went through immersion but couldn’t pass the test. More importantly, I know many who didn’t continually use their french and so are not recognized now as bilingual-they can’t ‘check the box’. That’s partly their fault, nothing is stopping people from studying and taking the tests. Sadly, while they can understand french and even speak it some, they’ve simply accepted the inevitable and are just like regular non french anglophones.

    So relaxing what is meant by ‘bilingual’ is definitely a good step and got some people talking. Getting english people into some of those positions is what would get them the continuous exposure to french. Canadians now work longer hours than anybody in the OECD except the US, you can’t expect that people will take up learning a second language just for the warm feeling of ‘doing something nice to understand another culture’. People do things because they have a reason or motivation, IF the government wants bilingualism, its up to them to provide them. The prospect of public service jobs hasn’t been good enough….what is left?

  4. Anonymous says:

    The fact this is an issue speaks to the lack of ED in NB.

    It is sad when the best available jobs are with the government therefore you need to be bilingual. Parents have grown to accept that our children cannot read or do math but OMG, don’t mess with french immersion and the chance at a government job.

    Of course we need to be bilingual; this should be a minimum along with efforts to be functional in other languages strategically important for international business.

    Unfortunately, the desire and emotion on the issue is not rooted in the recogition that a multilinguistic capability is good for business. It is rooted in politics and the lack of quality jobs generated by the NB economy.

  5. David Campbell says:

    To the person who is offended that I didn’t post their comment, I do not post profanity or overly nasty personal attacks not grounded in any facts.

  6. richard says:

    “What is more the issue is why is there so much noise from the anglophones who DON”T use early french immersion.”

    1) an opportunity to express anti-french sentiments in a non-obvious way;
    2) there is a perception that early immersion consumes too many resources – this is cleary the card Lamrock is playing. Consequently, many feel that their non-immersion kids are not getting their ‘fair share’ of resources.

    After looking at the available data, its clear Lamrock can’t support his position with data. He is a perfect example of rhetoric run amuck. If you listen to the guy, he sounds convincing and sincere. But when you look at the data, he does not have a case. What surprises me is how he got this past cabinet. Oh, wait a minute; aren’t there a lot of lawyers in cabinet? UNB lawers, in fact; people trained to use and admire rhetoric but not analyze data.

  7. mikel says:

    I guess it DOES get pretty inflamed! Actually, I’d posit the opposite, bilingual training is something that is rarely mentioned. It is a ‘given’ for ‘good government jobs’, but it’s not like there have been protests about that. The Anglo Society is down to a few old guys, and to be honest, I’ve been rereading stuff about COR and they were by no means a one issue party only concerned with french.

    Again, the WAY that the government deals with linguistic issues is what inflames. Cancelling a program to improve french is obviously an insane way to enhance bilingualism-whether that was intentional or not we don’t know.

    But it’s no coincidence that Irving made his headquarters in St. John. The family was from a french area but stayed adamantly english. But I don’t think ANY parent has ‘accepted our kids can’t do math’. Again, the best test scores are the english kids who learn french, they are bilingual AND they learn math and other subjects better-that’s what the whole elitism argument is all about.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Sorry Mikel, I missed making my point.

    There have been no protests, no public meetings, no marches on the leg because our children are last in the country in math and reading. These actions only happened when adjustments, okay, transformation, of language training is announced.

    I absolutely support effective language training; my point is, when a significant motivation to obtain it is so young people are eligible for a government job, that is depressing in the sense other good opportunities are limited.

    I look forward to the day when Spanish immersion is being debated because South and Latin American countries are strategic export areas for NB…from an economic perspective, that motivation is more comforting than having our best and brightest destined for the bowels of government.

  9. Anonymous says:

    French immersion doesn’t work well in many areas of the Province (eg. Miramichi) as youngsters do not speak the language outside of school.

    Spanish immersion would not work well as students would have the opportunity to speak it nowhere.

    We may be an officially bilingual province, but do we really want to drive out our young unilingual English population?? Do we?

  10. mikel says:

    That’s actually not true, there have been NUMEROUS protests regarding education. However, only a small minority EVER go to public protests, no doubt because they know how pointless they are. Yet Lamrock has made numerous decisions that have had the public being quite vocal.

    In the past most protests were in rural areas when schools were closed. I’ll mention it again, the Vermont example shows the people were RIGHT to protest because rural kids often need extra attention and busing them a long distance to urban, larger classroom schools has been shown to be a major factor in learning problems.

    Vermont turned around its test scores in less than a decade by restricting class sizes to 9 students, and Vermont is no more wealth a state than NB.

    But again there is a lot of hyperbole, we KNOW now that when conducting its tests New Brunswick has the bizarre policy of marking a ‘0’ on scores for kids who do not take the tests. This is strange to the extreme and has the consequence of making the scores LOOK much lower than they actually.

    I’ll again mention that girls in urban areas tested HIGHER than the international average for OECD countries, so this whole ‘the sky is falling and all our kids are retarded’ is overkill, its just not true. What IS true is where scores are lowest and bad-in rural areas, particularly french rural areas. Now it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to think that when you have ONE demographic that is doing worse on scores, and you want to bring up test scores, then you invest in that one area.

    This government is NOT doing that, its instead making it so that the kids that DO have higher scores will get mixed in with the other kids, perhaps giving them a harder time. In rural areas it has a program of privatizing schools by bringing in as many corporate sponsors as possible. That will mean MORE ‘training’ in the areas that these companies want, and LESS education.

    The issue of bilingualism is a different one. There is a good argument to make for NOT ‘forcing’ every civil servant to be bilingual, which in a small province has the result that its a very small urban elite that ends up with jobs. I expect if you looked around there would be a lot of ‘chiac’ speakers with the same complaints as anglo NBers. But again, the government isn’t even discussing that.

    This is NOT a New Brunswick problem, this is a New Brunswick GOVERNMENT problem. You have a government that invests less in public education than any province but PEI,and lower than PEI as a percentage of its total budget.

    As for languages, its wrong to assert that just because people don’t speak french outside of school they can’t learn it. How often do you see kids doing social studies, geography, or math outside of school? Learning another language is NOT that difficult. In all of this debate I don’t think there has been ONE story about what kids are actually DOING in school. If a kid can’t read or write, what exactly is going on for 40 hours per week? I’d almost say that early education should be nothing BUT languages. People talk a lot about math, but the vast majority of students will go into fields where very little math is necessary.

    Anyway, we know what is lacking, just look at the budget and the studies. Kids aren’t getting the individual attention that they need. This is a social failing of our government-many learning disabilities are directly linked to environmental factors, and even those get very little mention. It’s true that there are few protests even about that, that’s not surprising in a ‘company town’ province where many are simply afraid to speak up. That’s how you know policy is REALLY bad-when people start coming out of the woodwork to complain.

  11. richard says:

    “People talk a lot about math, but the vast majority of students will go into fields where very little math is necessary.”

    Ahh, yes, perhaps they end up in english lit or econ jobs, places where math skills would help but are seldom used. Seriously, tho, the value of math in early grades is in analytical thinking, and the value of education is not simply training. How can you train people for jobs that do not yet exist?

    “How often do you see kids doing social studies, geography, or math outside of school?”

    Quite often, actually. Kids can apply these skills everyday outside of school. But immersion kids rarely exercise their language skills outside of class. That is one of the great weaknesses of the immersion program. If NB really wanted to improve immersion results, it might want to look at making french more of a living language for immersion students.

    Having said that, I am actually pretty impressed with NB’s education system, at least at the elementary level. As far as my kid’s experience indicates, NB is certaily better than ON as far as quality goes. Nationally, test outcome is probably more linked to family income / GDP than differences in school systems.

    If there is a problem in rural schools, then I expect that is related to poverty. NB’s solution to that seems to be to empty out rural areas and encourage all to move to urban centres. A stupid approach, but what can one expect from a bunch of UNB lawyers?

  12. Anonymous says:

    “NB’s solution to that seems to be to empty out rural areas and encourage all to move to urban centres.”

    I am not a UNB lawyer, but if this statement is true, it would be one of few signs of intelligence from NB governments in the last 10 years. I don’t have anything against all the nice people living in the rural areas, but the excessive degree of ‘ruralization’ of NB is at the core of our endless falling behind in most economic indicators. And it’s not me who is saying it. There are several recent reports indicating that the relatively low degree of urbanization of Canada is an important factor for our low productivity. If that is the case for Canada, what can we say about NB?

    NBers have an important choice to make. We either choose to keep our nice, ‘healthy’, small-town lifestyle and keep falling behind in all economic indicators, or we open our eyes to reality and do the ‘right’ thing: increase urbanization. Our current lifestyle is probably better fit to the beginning of the 20th century or to a (still largely hypothetical) future where everything will have to be produced locally because of high transportation costs. Until those times arrive, we better try to adapt to today’s reality. Otherwise, we risk end up looking like loonies.

  13. Anonymous says:

    “NBers have an important choice to make. We either choose to keep our nice, ‘healthy’, small-town lifestyle”

    or become another Toronto,montreal,calgary,or vancouver with “economic indicators” and a cough.
    A land of poverty.(Poverty indicator,is how much junk is unloaded at the store checkouts from lack of money)

    You can only dream of living the life of many 18th century citizens.
    Ever see anyone returning from Cuba and not gushing over their lifestyle.

    Have you never been to these interesting places?
    Having just driven the 401 I assure you I won’t again,being able to travel more sensible thru the States.And I a 10 year montreal driver.
    Apparently the largest frozen food,transportaion,gas and oil production,paper and cardboard,candy,and on and on are doing ok.
    Did you ever wonder what it is your looking for?

  14. richard says:

    “There are several recent reports indicating that the relatively low degree of urbanization of Canada is an important factor for our low productivity.”

    What ‘reports’ would those be? Let me guess – R. Florida et al.

    It ain’t a lack of urbanization, its a lack of high-paying jobs. Those jobs could be rural or urban, but you’ve got yo have the high-paying jobs.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Richard, here is one:
    You can find several more if you take your time.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Anonymous 12:52 PM:
    Cuba’s urban/rural rate is approx. 70% urban and 30% rural.

  17. richard says:

    “Richard, here is one:

    As I suspected, its Florida et al. Not written by him, but influenced by him. No data to back their assertions re urbanization. Typical of the business school mind-set. Do these guys get paid for this woo-wwo?

    Urbanization results from industrialization; that’s the history of the past 2-3 hundred years. You want NB to urbanize more? The way to do it is to attract large employers; the people will follow. That is how urban areas develop. You don’t get that by forcing people to move into urban areas w/o having good-paying jobs for them. Sorry, there are no new paradigms.

  18. Anonymous says:

    “No data to back their assertions re urbanization.”
    Excuse me, but what does Exhibit 8 show? It’s just plain easy (and way too simplistic) to try to disqualify something by linking it to a person of dubious reputation. Like I said before, if you do your homework you will find more papers with consistent data.

    “You don’t get that by forcing people to move into urban areas w/o having good-paying jobs for them.”
    And do we get good-paying jobs by artificially keeping alive nonviable towns and businesses? What is the comparative advantage of those towns and the competitive advantage of those businesses? Like you said, there are no new paradigms.