Canada, an officially bilingual country, is a world leader in the promotion of second language knowledge. We should also note that Ottawa and the provinces spend more than $2-billion a year offering government services in both French and English.
Yet the actual ability of our population to speak both French and English remains stubbornly low. While 35 per cent of francophones in Quebec speak English, only 7.4 per cent of anglophones outside speak French.
In the Unitd States 9 per cent of the population speaks two languages – to say nothing of the European Union where 56 per cent of citizens can hold a conversation in a language other than their mother tongue and nearly one-third have mastered a third language.
No fewer than one-third of people from British Columbia and Alberta think Spanish and Mandarin might be better choices as a second language than French.
Is there resentment in parts of the country at the push for French? Mastering both of Canada’s official languages may be wrongly perceived as an historic anomaly, or an expensive government-imposed obligation. The fact of the matter is there is no official requirement for anybody to learn French and English except for public servants.
If you don’t like French on your cereal box just turn it around.
Was there anything more ridiculous in the GOP than criticizing Romney for speaking French or Huntsman for speaking Mandarin?
Surely learning a second language should be viewed as a gift to society that confers significant global advantages and bridges cultural divides. Bilingual employees are more likely to be better paid, especially in Quebec, and in the public sector.
Canadians should feel blessed – not cursed – to be home to two of the world’s great languages. Our bilingualism reflects our fundamental history.
Is bilingualism worth the money?
What do you think?