Don’t blame bilingualism for the decline of French language in Canada

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Quebec’s Bill 101 prohibits francophone students from attending anglophone primary and secondary schools in Quebec, but it doesn’t currently dictate which colleges they attend after high school.

Recently Quebec has seen a rise in French speaking students attending English colleges in spite of their previous French education.

Although Canada has two official languages, English is overwhelmingly favored in most Canadian provinces. Due to this, the French language is fiercely protected in Quebec. Bill 101 was created in response to what some believe is English Canadian culture encroaching on French Canadian culture within Quebec.

Not all Quebecois students, nor their families, feel the same way. More Quebecois students are seeking to enter english colleges, which are not included in Bill 101, in order to learn and improve their English language skills.

French culture is seen as secondary to English culture in Canada. Anglophones can get by with their native language alone throughout most of the country and even some parts of Quebec, while francophones need to acquire a good command of English in order to pursue a variety of careers both in and outside of their communities.

The unfortunate reality of being Canadian is that English is seen as the default throughout most of our country. Only speaking English isn't a barrier in the same way that only speaking French is. The field is tilted in favor of anglophones in Canada and barring or discouraging Quebecois students from improving their English by going to english schools will only disadvantage them.

French Canadian language and culture is threatened even in Quebec, but not by French Canadians who aspire to be bilingual. Discouraging students from attending English colleges, when they are already native French speakers, is fighting the wrong battle.

Keeping French alive in Quebec won’t be done by forcing out English education. A 17-year old won’t forget their native language and culture just because they learn a new one. Just because English colleges exist doesn’t mean that French ones will disappear. 

Statistically, English speakers are wealthier than francophones in Canada. If speaking English can provide more opportunities for French Canadian students, they should be encouraged to do so instead of being held back by their francophone status.

Canadian French is dying, but bilingualism isn't it’s killer. Languages and cultures are fluid things and you can’t maintain one by outlawing another. Encouraging young people to embrace francophone culture is important for its survival, but having the government exert control over their education choices based on native language is going too far.

— Journal Editorial Board

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