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.