Some statistics on language released this week weren’t just startling they were alarming — mon Dieu!
In many communities outside of Quebec, you will be better off knowing a second language that isn’t French — perhaps Spanish or Tagalog or Punjabi — as witnessed in the numbers released by Statistics Canada on Wednesday.
Pundits now suggest people are going to choose English as a second tongue, not French, unless they are forced to, as in Quebec.
This puts a huge question mark as to the viability of French immersion programming across Canada.
The French should be alarmed for the future of their language in Canada, outside of Quebec.
However, we do have a duty to protect French as a second language. We can’t deny our history, we are a bilingual country.
But with multiculturalism comes a problem with keeping French relevant.
A good example comes with the daily regimen of Brandon’s mayor.
The first item on Mayor Shari Decter Hirst’s daily calendar reflects the findings of the recent Statistics Canada census data on languages spoken and used across Canada.
Decter Hirst starts her day at city hall with Spanish lessons she pays for out of her own pocket, before she does anything else.
As reported by the Brandon Sun, of the 45,335 people who reported what their mother tongue was, 1,915 Brandonites said Spanish was their first language and 1,720 said Spanish is the language they use at home.
Decter Hirst said she has used her limited abilities in Spanish to address basic civic issues such as waste management with area residents who aren’t comfortable doing that in English.
English does remain the dominant language in Brandon, with 37,675 calling it their mother tongue and 40,222 saying it’s the language they use at home.
However, the census findings show Canada’s other official language, French, has an insignificant presence in the city compared to its national status, with 600 people calling it their mother tongue and only 135 using French as the first language at home.
That, when compared to the 1,230 people who call the languages of China, which include Mandarin and Cantonese, their mother tongue, the 685 saying Ukrainian is their mother tongue and the 685 who called German their first language shows not only a cultural diversity for the city, but the challenges faced by the Brandon School Division’s English as an Additional Language programs.
“We are a bilingual province and those languages are English and French,” said Greg Malazdrewicz, the assistant superintendent of the Brandon School Division. “Those are the programming strands in the system. When we talk about the language groups, the French-immersion group are predominantly an English-language group studying French. That’s part of the difference.”
But as students in the Brandon School Division now coming from as many as 26 countries — with between 15 and 20 different mother tongues — Malazdrewicz said as many as one-quarter to one-third of the English as an Additional Language students come from Spanish-speaking families.
However, we note you still have parents clamouring to get their children into some form of French immersion studies.
We wonder if that’s the best choice for a second language for English-speaking children.
Sure, historically it was the most logical one — especially if you wanted your child to have a chance at landing a federal civil service job — or if travels to Quebec or countries in the Francophonie were planned.
But now, you might be better off knowing Ukrainian, Chinese or Spanish — especially Spanish — if you want some help in casual conversation while walking down a street in Brandon or at a public market or social event.
This was the last batch of data from the 2011 census that Statistics Canada will be releasing.
The data suggest that multiculturalism is not simply an abstract concept to describe a motley collection of diverse communities.
Rather, it is a reality for a growing number of families, even within the confines of their own homes.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 27, 2012