(Quebec) If the Legault government wants to make young people aware of the overabundance of Anglicisms with its advertisement of a “really sick” peregrine falcon with “insane” hunting skills, the target has probably not been reached, note French teachers.
The vice-president of the Quebec Association of French Teachers (AQPF), Alexandra Pharand, is in her third year of teaching. This year, she is teaching Secondary 2 students at a school on the South Shore of Montreal. The English words that young people use when they talk to each other, she hears them every day in the hallways.
After the bell had rung and her students were paying attention, Ms. Pharand asked them earlier this week if they had seen the now famous government falcon.
“Right away they started laughing. They found it funny. These are many of the Anglicisms used by teenagers. There was a mix of students in the class who found it funny and others who found it uncomfortable, ”the young teacher told La Presse.
During a class discussion, Ms. Pharand noticed that several students had not understood the message that the government wanted to convey. Yet it even says in white letters on a black background: “In Quebec, French is in decline. Let’s reverse the trend. »
“When I asked them what they understood from advertising, if they [decoded] what the government wanted us to remember as a message, nothing was going towards improving the French language. I asked them if they felt sensitized to the fact that they use a lot of Anglicisms and if they wanted to use less of them and their answer was unanimous: “No madam, it won’t change anything”, explains- she.
For months, Prime Minister François Legault and his ministers, starting with the one responsible for the French language, Jean-François Roberge, have been repeating that a “national awakening” is needed regarding the decline of French in Quebec. The most recent census shows that the proportion of people who reported having French as their mother tongue increased from 77.1% to 74.8% in the province between 2016 and 2021. The proportion of people whose first language is French spoken official also decreased from 83.7% to 82.2% over the same period.
Quebec has promised to table an action plan by next fall to “slow down, stop and reverse the decline of the French language”. The AQPF will meet this spring with the Minister of Education, Bernard Drainville, who wants to review the teaching of French in Quebec.
As a first step, explains Alexandra Pharand, we should start by promoting French in a positive approach, which insists less on Anglicisms than on the benefits associated with speaking the official language of Quebec well.
“You have to show the students how useful it is to speak French well. They always ask what is it for. If they don’t have an interest in speaking French better, they won’t care,” she says.
In his class, several students are looking for part-time jobs, for example. Ms. Pharand speaks to them these days about the notion of registers of language: the current register, the sustained register and the colloquial register. We do not speak in the same way as we address a future employer or his friend.
“Often the approach is to speak against English. But why do we always come back to English when we talk about our language? It would be better to value French rather than devalue English and say it’s bad, “said the teacher.
At 27, time has not yet begun to create a distance between Alexandra Pharand, at the start of her career, and the cultural references of the students she teaches. Personally, without involving the AQPF in her reflection, she wonders if the sense of urgency associated with the decline of French is something rooted in previous generations.
“The sense of alarm, I hear it from my parents, from my grandparents and from the media. But when I speak with people my age and with students, the decline of French, I don’t hear it,” she says.
Ms. Pharand nuances, however, that she is deeply attached to French. “I don’t think our generation sees English as a threat. We see it as a tool. But do I want to protect French and for French to keep its place in Quebec? Absolutely,” she said.
But looking at this advertisement showing a “really sick falcon who is known to be quite chill”, it is rather this second adjective that characterizes the attitude of the younger generation towards the decline of French, she believes.
“Have the students seen in the advertisement that they have to remove Anglicisms from their vocabulary? I do not think so. All they saw was a gentleman who spoke like them. They found it funny and they laughed. Have they been made aware? No,” concludes Alexandra Pharand.