A resurgent interest in bilingualism
Given my own research interests, I have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of my copy of Toronto Star columnist Graham Fraser's new book, Sorry, I Don't Speak French: Confronting the Canadian Crisis That Won't Go Away.
My copy finally arrived yesterday, and I'm about one-third of the way through it - hoping to be finished by tomorrow, after a good afternoon's read at Sackville's Bridge Street Cafe. I'll have my full comments up soon - so far it's a very enjoyable and provocative read, meshing a good overview of the history of Canadian language policy with personal insights of a multi-decade career in Canadian journalism.
I wanted to put a post up, however, to draw your attention to Chantal Hebert's column in today's Star about the book, and its implications for Canadian political life. As she points out, Canadian politics is indeed at a crossroads, as many of the would-be Liberal leaders are woefully unilingual, and some of the more prominent bilingual candidates (such as Martin Cauchon and Domenic Leblanc) have bowed out of the race.
Frankly, I find it incredible, and saddening, that would-be federal politicians haven't taken it upon themselves to learn both of Canada's official languages. Apart from the political implications of being unable to express oneself clearly to 25% (or 75%, depending on one's mother tongue) of the electorate, it sets a poor example for younger Canadians considering whether second language acquisition is necessary. North Americans generally have an abysmal record when it comes to language learning, and it is bound to catch up with our society eventually. Our students should be encouraged to become multilingual, and yet even bare-bones bilingualism is seemingly becoming too much to expect of a would-be Prime Minister.
I will have more to say on this topic in the next few days. But for now, I have a rather stimulating book to finish.
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