I've lived here almost seven years now and I think I'm getting used to the Montreal rhythm. Cold winters, party summers. Check. But there's one thing that continues to perplex me. There is a huge political hot button up here that centers on language. The predominantly French speaking population and the minority English speaking population often butt heads. (Just a couple days ago, a city politician referred to the "ugly anglos" on the west side of town.) There are laws here preventing parents from choosing what language their children will be educated in. There are laws specifying the way to paint a sign (French must be twice the size of English if, you dare, print the English version). The law says French must be the language of the workplace. I don't understand the necessity of these laws, but of course I couldn't, being an immigrant and all (I'm supposed to assimilate, but can't ever be truly admitted to the club). After seven years though, I've decided that these measures, while enacted to "preserve the French culture", are really the result of fear. And maybe even the self centered idea that we can control the choices of our children and thus contour a political/cultural landscape that we will no longer be participants in (eventually). If I had children, I would most certainly enroll them in French school and speak English within the home. Why not give my kids bilingual skills when it is most easy to acquire them? Unfortunately, francophone parents do not have this luxury. If the maternal language of the parents is French, then the children must me taught in French as well.
When I went to register my business of teaching English, which I had decided to name "Let's Talk!", I was told I couldn't have a business name in English only, I had to register a French name as well. (Parlons!) I tried to reason with them, to no avail.
And here's the funny, backfiring part. The very fear of English somehow squelching the French culture only makes the youth crave anglicisms all the more. On the bus the other day, I heard a young man exclaim to his friend, "C'était full cool man." I suppose the culture police would find this abominable. I find it totally natural and a given. I don't get what people are worried about. Nobody forgets the language of their parents.