Les Anglos et le français: le débat continue

frogs-150x150Notre dossier sur les Anglos et le français a créé une petite tempête dans les médias anglophones du Québec.  Tout y a passé: la méthodologie, la formulation des questions et, pour quelques-uns, la présence dans le dossier de votre blogueur favori, qui ne semble pas être le favori de tous.

L’attaque la plus surprenante est cependant venue de Jack Jedwab. Le directeur de l’Association des études canadiennes avait pu longuement — et sobrement — donner son point de vue sur le sondage dans les colonnes du magazine, juste après mon analyse. Son nom apparaît d’ailleurs sur la couverture du numéro.

jackNotre surprise fut donc grande de lire une critique vitriolique de notre numéro dans les pages de The Gazette de samedi dernier. Omettant d’informer ses lecteurs anglophones qu’il avait été invité par L’actualité à commenter la chose ou que Josh Freed était blogueur invité pour deux semaines sur notre site, Jack nous a reproché de ne pas avoir voulu ouvrir un dialogue (!!).

Puis il m’a accusé personnellement d’avoir sciemment imaginé des questions pour démontrer que les Anglos ne sont pas intégrés, donc pour souffler sur les braises de la discorde linguistique.

La Gazette a bien voulu publier la réplique que j’ai préparée. La voici, dans la langue de Shakespeare:

J’avais intitulé mon texte:

My not-so-hidden agenda

Mais la Gazette a titré plus sobrement:


Poll result surprised L’actualité

Magazine expected bilingual anglos to be more sympathetic to French

By JEAN-FRANÇOIS LISÉE, The Gazette March 29, 2012

I’m a pretty straightforward guy. I say, and write, exactly what I think. After 12 books, some say I actually have a way with words. Imagine my surprise then, upon reading Jack Jedwab’s piece last Saturday on L’actualité’s survey of anglo Quebecers (Opinion, March 24, « A survey that sets up Quebec anglos to fail the integration test »).

« Lisée implies » this or that, writes Jedwab.

Some other impure thought « appears to be the verdict » of Lisée, he adds.

I didn’t recognize any of my thinking in Jedwab’s attempt to interpret my work. For instance, there is absolutely no mention or allusion to the notion of « integration » in my article. So let me announce that, as a translator of my views for Gazette readers, he’s fired.

Since 2000, I have been on record as a proponent of the reframing of Quebec’s language policy with long-term security as a common goal – a common goal for the francophone majority, for the English-speaking community and for First Nations.

I wish for a time when all Quebecers will feel they have a stake in securing the predominance of the French language in Quebec, in securing the rights and vibrancy of the Quebec English speaking community and in enabling a robust culture, including linguistic resilience, for the First Nations. In this more inclusive vision for the future of languages in Quebec, should we ever come to see that we are falling short with respect to one of these objectives, I think we ought to act together to correct the situation.

I am also, of course, a separatist, as are, as of last week, half of francophone adults in Quebec. I was also the author of former Premier Lucien Bouchard’s notable Centaur Theatre speech to anglo Quebecers after the 1995 referendum. (Remember when he said: « When you get to the hospital, you might need a blood test, but you certainly don’t need a language test »? Well, those were my words.) So that is my not-so-well hidden agenda.

In conceiving L’actualité’s survey, we simply wanted to have a better understanding of the current reality of anglo Quebecers’ use of French – and of their views on the future of French in Quebec.

We made sure to inform our readers of the massive growth in both their knowledge of French and their interactions with French-speakers. (Ironically, Jedwab, in calling in his piece for « dialogue, » forgot to mention that he makes these very same points with respect to French and interactions in a long Q&A interview that was published in the same issue of L’actualité, the current April 15 issue, in which our survey can be found.

To our surprise, we found that there was a disconnect between the considerable – and admirable – investment that anglo Quebecers have been putting into acquiring a knowledge of French and their apparent lack of concern for either the future of French in Montreal or the rights of francophones.

Yes, it came as a surprise to us that 63 per cent of Englishspeakers feel, that « as a rule, » « large Montreal corporations should be allowed to hire unilingual anglophones as managers, even if this means that French-speaking employees need to work in English. » We thought, naively it would seem, that this had been settled decades ago. That the proportion is higher still in the 18-to-34 age group (77 per cent) had us genuinely scratching our heads.

We were also baffled to find that 63 per cent of anglo Quebecers disagreed with the following statement: « The predominant position of the French language is the key component of Montreal’s originality. Without it, the city would lose its soul. » Naively, we thought this was a given.

We were taken to task by some for having asked English-speaking respondents if « as a citizen of Quebec, I feel it is my duty to do my part to make sure that French remains the most important language here. » Let me point out right away that 28 per cent of them answered yes. The proportion rises to 37 per cent in the 55-plus age group. A significant portion was therefore not antagonized by the question. Our expectation had been that 80 per cent or so of anglo Quebecers who had made the effort to learn French and send their kids to immersion school would simply say: « Yes of course! That’s exactly what I’m doing! »

We did not expect that a majority of respondents would reject the idea of contributing to Quebec’s distinctiveness – especially not the younger ones.

In the Jedwab Q&A, he is quoted as pointing out that it is « tough to ask anglos to show solidarity with the majority in a linguistic conflict where they are perceived as the problem. » And much of the reaction points to that understandable defensiveness.

It seems that most anglo Quebecers are individually invested in adapting to a French-speaking environment, but show a strong reluctance to identify with the collective objective of maintaining that environment.

We at L’actualité are totally aware that the questions asked reveal just as much about the questioner as the respondents. The questions reflect exactly what we, bilingual Frenchspeaking journalists, wanted to know. The answers reflect exactly what the respondents wanted to say.

Now the question is: Can we all handle these truths?

Jean-François Lisée is an author and journalist, and was an adviser to former premiers Jacques Parizeau and Lucien Bouchard.