Quebec Quiz Aims To Keep French First
Asking students to spot where English creeps in
MONTREAL — English is always a big worry in Quebec, especially for the people who teach French. In French-language schools in Montreal, there are rules about speaking only French in the corridors. No English is allowed.
It might sound harsh, but otherwise immigrants - who must attend French-language schools - might not learn to speak fluent French.
English-language schools are restricted to students whose parents were educated in English. Their enrollment has declined sharply in the last 20 years.
More than 80 percent of Quebeckers are primary French-speakers, and many of the rest of them speak French as a second language.
But teachers of French are always worried about English slipping into everyday life - in music, movies, even on T-shirts. The clich is that Quebec is a French island in an English sea. Language purists are manning the dikes.
One big concern of teachers is that students will borrow words from English, known as Anglicisms. Ordinary Quebeckers have a sense of humor about their language and use a lot of words borrowed from English.
But the pooh-bahs in the ministries of education and culture are not amused.
In the middle of March, students in Quebec's 3,500 schools will be given a quiz to test their "Language Pride Quotient."
The questions in the quiz mirror the worries of teachers about their students losing their French-speaking ways. Here are some of the 25 questions, to be answered true or false:
* I let others Anglicize my first name, or I do the same to others.
* I listen to English radio stations most of the time.
* I don't like the use of Anglicisms.
* I speak French to Francophones.
* I demand to be served in French.
* I usually rent English videos.
* I speak nothing but French at home.
* I have an English message on my telephone-answering machine.
* I know it is unacceptable to employ a person who can't serve a customer in French.
* I send or receive greeting cards that are not in French.
* I wear sweaters or T-shirts with English words on them.
* Most of the time I watch English-language television.
* I listen to American music.
* I speak in French when I talk to immigrants.
That last question sums up the object of Quebec's language policy: to make everyday life in Quebec as French as it is in France and to make people who arrive in Quebec speak French, not English.
But living next door to the United States means English slips through no matter how much the bureaucrats in Quebec City hope it stays away.
This past week, Celine Dion won two Grammy awards. The Quebec singing star won for songs she sang in English, including "Falling Into You," which sold 21 million copies. Until a few years ago, Ms. Dion was little-known in the US and rarely sang in English.