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On a Culture of Language

by Archives February 12, 2008

The Parti Québécois intends to propose this week that the French language be protected under the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms, reported The Globe and Mail last Saturday.
This would make protection of French a right in equal standing with other fundamental freedoms, such as free expression. While the particulars of how this new right would be applied or even protected are still unclear, this just seems like another PQ tactic to keep the discussion on the French language alive after it was revealed a few weeks ago that French is in decline in Quebec homes and offices.
In the past, Quebec laws, such as Bill 101, were intended to protect the language. But pushing French down the collective throat of a province isn’t working, not will it ever.
Quebec society has been so afraid of losing its heritage, so fearful of finally being assimilated that we have failed to pass on how truly beautiful French is. We have lost our passion. The key to saving the language isn’t having more signs in French, nor is it forcing children to attend French schools.
The only solution, the one that nobody seems to have thought about, is completely rethinking how we educate our children. We have to get them reading French books and plays, and if all else fails, watching movies made in Quebec.
High school students have French class everyday, yet with the educational reform some of them read absolutely no books during the school year. All they do is grammar. No wonder nobody wants to speak French anymore.
Teachers spend so much time on grammar because the rules change every year, in a misguided attempt to simplify a language that needs no adjustment.
I recently spoke with five or six French private high school students, only to find that they couldn’t wait to reach CEGEP level, when they will be free to study in the language of their choice, which means English. They said that they hated their French classes and were struggling to learn the new rules. None of them knew what a marqueur de modalité was. None of them knew if the new correct feminine form of author is auteure or autrice. None could name any famous Quebec writers.
By focusing on the rules instead of the style, Quebec society has failed to even give French students an opportunity to enjoy their language. Let alone sharing their passion with others. We have focused on converting new comers and have forgotten about ourselves, and now the future of French is bleak.
So enough with laws, enough with the rules, what we need to do is bring back Moli

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