Monday, May 11, 2009

Luc Plamandon's Sad Refrain

Most anglophones are more familiar with Plamondon avenue, then they are with Luc Plamondon, but in the Francophone community he's an artistic saint. The playwright was awarded an honourary medal in the National Assembly (Quebec's Parliament), last week and took the opportunity to bitch and moan about the French language 'issue', while throwing a few barbs at the English language.
"the French language is plummeting." "Here everyday, the French language is in danger, more and more"
"la langue française dégringole un peu»: «La langue française, ici, est en danger tous les jours, de plus en plus"

Speaking of English in Quebec he spoke of "invasion" and "aggression"
En parlant de l'anglais au Québec, il a parlé d'"invasion" et d'"agression".

Mr. Plamondon parrots the mantra that French is in mortal danger in Quebec. It's a popular myth repeated ad nauseum by sovereignists, nationalist groups and most francophone artists.

The trouble is, that there isn't an ounce of truth in it!

The idea that French is "falling back," is so ridiculous that it begs rebuttal.

Those who continue to spout this nonsense are masters of the classic propaganda technique, invented by the Nazis, known as "THE BIG LIE". It can best be explained by American comedian Richard Belzer, who describes it this way;
"If you tell a lie that's big enough, and you tell it often enough, people will believe you are telling the truth, even when what you are saying is total crap."
Last week, the LCN television animator Pierre Mongrain ran a story (in the spirit of French persecution) about a patient who was told to bring an interpreter with her to the hospital, because the specialist doctor, an allophone, spoke no French. The story was meant to show how badly in peril the French language is, but actually served to highlight the amazing strides that the language has actually made over the years.
Back in the day (thirty years ago), this story could never have made the news, simply because it was an everyday occurrence.
Today it's news, because it's a novelty.

As any anglophone born and raised in Quebec can attest, the anglophone community and the English language is in sharp decline.
For language zealots to claim that English is somehow on the upswing and a threat the French language is pure fantasy and self-serving propaganda.

Who can deny that Montreal, a bilingual city a generation ago has evolved into a francophone city.
Traffic signs, billboards, the Metro and just about everything is now uniformly French. Major stores, that by law are allowed to post English signs (with restrictions) don't even bother.
The odd smattering of English that remains is a sad reminder of what once was and serves only to fuel the ire and rage of language fanatics who are bent on eradicating any vestige or trace of the hated language of the 'oppressors'.

French is stronger today, than ever before. PERIOD!!

In 1851 anglophones made up 25% of the Quebec population. Today that number stands at about 8% and since 1971 the absolute number of anglophones has continued to shrink.

On the other side of the coin, there are more French speakers and people who's mother tongue is French living in Quebec today, than ever in the history of province!

It's an inconvenient fact for those claiming that French is on the decline.

So how can militants make that claim that French is threatened, when almost every statistic says differently?
How?.....Tell the "Big Lie'.
Find the one nugget, the one statistic that you can wrap an argument around and spin it wildly...and here it is..

It seems that the percentage (not the absolute number) of those who's mother tongue is French, has declined by two or three percentage points over the last years.

Voila!- There it is, the French language is on the road to extinction and to make the story better, it's also the fault of the English!

Now in crafting every 'Big Lie', certain liberties have to be taken with the truth and unfortunate facts have to be shaped or omitted. In this case, militants are loath to mention that the number of people who's mother tongue is English has also declined and much more drastically than on the French side.
You don't have to be a statistician to see which direction English is going according to the chart below.

The assertion that the decline in people claiming French as their mother tongue is proof positive of the decline of the French language is ridiculous enough, but that this supposed decline is in some way related to the influence of the English language is so outrageous that it can only be understood in the context of a the 'Big Lie.'

Because of a plummeting birthrate, immigrantion has been increased to shore up Quebec's sagging population. Without new blood, Quebec's population would fall by half, in less then sixty years.

Of course these immigrants don't all have French as a mother tongue and ergo the decline in those who claim French as their mother tongue.
But as these immigrant families settle into life in Quebec, their children are forced to attend French schools which ultimately leads the next generation to adopt French as a mother tongue.
Statistically speaking, the numbers balance out quite neatly. While new immigrants arrive without French as a mother tongue, their offspring ultimately adopt French as a mother tongue, in a process that repeats itself with each new generation of immigrants. The loss of two or three statistical percentage points is caused by this process. It is however, a one time loss and does not reflect any downward trend.

There was a time in the sovereignty movement when things like 'mother tongue' didn't count.
Rene Levesque and his colleagues went to great lengths to assure everyone that the movement was inclusive and based on language only.
That no longer seems to be the case. It appears that speaking French is no longer good enough for today's language crusaders, for whom, you have to be born French, to be counted among them.

At any rate, whatever the situation, it has nothing to do with anglophones or the English language, which itself is in rapid decline.

Mr Plamondon and his cohorts should get their facts straight before undertaking these vitriolic attacks on our language. How is using words like 'aggression' and 'invasion' to describe English not a racist act.

Stop blaming the English for a decline that doesn't exist and take heed in the famous credo of that great cartoon character 'POGO.'

We have seen the enemy and they is us"


  1. Plamondon is NOT a saint to french-canadians. He is seen an egostistic diva. Period.

    As for the situation of the french (and english) languages in Quebec, I don't have the numbers, but please refrain from comparing us to nazis. This is getting tiresome, and does not help the debate.

  2. Response to Enkidu;
    I appreciate your comment and will let the readers pass judgement.
    I assure you that no cruel Nazi insult was meant.
    so sorry if offence was taken....
    I have begun following your blog with interest..

  3. The odd smattering of English that remains is a sad reminder of what once was.. lol. Est bonne, celle-là.

    % of allophones born in Canada and living in Québec who had assimilated to French as of 2006: 30 approx

    avg income of a Québec allophone male who speaks french and not english, in 1990: 18 503$

    avg income of a Québec allophone male who speaks english and not french, in 1990: 20 609$

    pct advantage to english: 11


    avg income of a Québec allophone male who speaks french and not english, in 2000: 21 233$

    avg income of a Québec allophone male who speaks english and not french, in 2000: 27 216$

    pct advantage to english: 28

    % widening of income gap between Québec male english-only allophones and french-only allophones over period 1990-2000:


    net transfers to english in Québec in period 1971-2001 : 75 000

    net transfers to french in Québec in period 1971-2001 : 30 000

    net anglicisation of francophones in metro Montreal, 2001-2006 census periods comp'd: 20 000

    advantage factor of english over french in choice of allophone language transfer in metro Montreal, 2006 census: 6 to 1

    % of pop. with english as lang of pricipal use, metro Montreal - 2001: 17,3 2006: 17,4

    % of pop. with french as lang of pricipal use, metro Montreal - 2001: 70,9 2006: 69,1