Culture and language are indivisible. Language is culture. They are components of one system. Losing one’s language is losing one’s distinct cultural identity. Through our language, we generate our customs and traditions distinct from others, thus building our own identity.
‘The French Quebecoise’ is a term used to portray the people of Quebec. Understanding its history, the threats and challenges it is facing, the government’s strategies to preserve its unique identity, as well as weighing the benefits and drawbacks of its preservation to our current time will help us appreciate its value for preservation.
History of French in Quebec
Quebec is a well-known French speaker, distinct from other French-speaking nations. In the 15th century, Jacques Cartier arrived in Gaspé, where the first French settled. After a lengthy war involving the British and French militaries, New France was defeated in the mid-18th century. French settlers in Quebec lost contact with France, which isolated them from the European French. In the year 1960, Quebec had undergone a major change with the Quiet Revolution, known as Révolution tranquille. This ends the sociocultural and political control of the Roman Catholic Church. This leads to the social development control of the Quebecois in its provincial territory. The said revolution identifies Quebecois identity, which is linked to its language – the French Quebecois.
How Does the French Language Represent Its Culture?
Quebecois are known to have an accommodating and adapting attitude. They did not only welcome the French language and culture but built their distinct identity from it and introduced it to the French-speaking world. Up to date, they continue to adapt to changes and keep their divergent culture. They show their reverence and love for its language. Despite the invasions of the British and Americans, they were able to keep and nourish their language. This can be seen with the laws and programs created by the government to promote its language and maintain its distinct cultural uniqueness.
Threats to French in Quebec
Various threats are challenging the emergence of the French language in Quebec. One of the main factors is education. The promotion of the advantage of learning English to become globally competitive attracts students, especially adolescents, to enroll in English schools. Next is the continuous arrival of non-French speakers to the region (assimilation and acculturation). As more and more non-French speakers arrive in the area, French speakers tend to adapt by speaking English more and more, and this could slowly and unnoticeably decrease the number of French speakers. Apart from its geological location, the dominance of English culture and language on social media has an enormous impact on its people. It is observable that some words in English are now replacing and being used often, such as char (auto), lumières (lampe), librairie (bibliothèque), and many others.
Safeguarding the French Language
The Quebec government continues to promote the French language to all immigrants in the region. In November 1969, Bill 63, known as Loi pour promouvoir la langue française au Québec, required children of English-speaking immigrants to go to French education to acquire operational comprehension of the language. In 1974, Bill 22 declared French as the official language of Quebec which requires immigrants to enroll in French schools. And in 1977, Bill 101, Charte de la langue française was initiated by Camille Laurin, the bill made the French language the second official language of Canada. This makes the French language authoritatively used in communication, commerce, and the workplace in Quebec. It also mandates that all immigrants from different countries and from other provinces in Canada have education in French, except if they have a reciprocal agreement.
Advantages and Disadvantages of the French Language in Quebec
Quebec has a diverse program that helps its immigrants to adapt well to the region. It is not only promoting its language but more of its culture and preparing them to be competitive in Quebec's market. Learning the language gives the immigrants confidence in communicating with the French Quebecois and effectively integrating with them. However, the French language also scares professional immigrants that they cannot practice their profession because of the language proficiency that needs to be met. The language also scares potential investors. Thereby, they are strained to move to other provinces. These professionals and investors can be an asset to the Quebec market. It is also a burden to some parents since they cannot help their kids with their assignments as they themselves cannot speak the language. The number of English schools is fewer and they are expensive, thus adding to their burdens. Finally, the government is paying a generous amount of money to French learners. This money could be invested or be placed into more valuable needs of its people.
Preserving language means preserving culture. Language adaptation and learning a new language are of great help in making its people internationally competitive. The Quebec government is on the right path in protecting its language. Creating laws and making sure of their implementation, as well as providing substantial training and encouraging people to use and speak their native language, promotes its preservation and keeping its identity.