Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"No Klingon in Quebec"

Imagine that scientists discover a 'wormhole' in space, one that allows humans unlimited access to the universe. The United Nations sends an exploratory team through this portal that finds thousands upon thousands of inhabited planets, most of them teeming with intelligent and sophisticated life.

As one would expect, each of these societies use their own unique and particular manner of communication. Some use telepathy, some speak orally and others use touch. All have their own unique language.
It's also discovered, that when planetary societies interact with each other across the universe, one common second language is employed.
That language is determined to be 'KLINGON.'

The explorers return to Earth and report their findings. Contact with the Universe promises unparallelled advancement. The world is moved to action.

If Earth is to communicate with the universe, Klingon needs to be adopted as the secondary common language of Earth.
The nations of the world react. Comprehensive programs in Klingon language instruction are initiated in all the nations of the world.

Everybody is excited to embrace the new language, nobody wants to be left behind..... well almost nobody....

In the obscure and sparsely populated province of Quebec, in Canada, the common consensus amongst intellectuals, educators and political leaders is that speaking Klingon is unnecessary. In fact, they hold that learning Klingon represents a threat to the preservation of the indigenous French language.

"While it's nice to speak other languages, it's certainly not necessary" they say.

'A Quebecker doesn't need to speak Klingon to work in Tim Hortons or to be mayor of Montreal, or even Premier of Quebec for that matter! We can live quite nicely in French alone!"

But there's a minority who object, they remind the French language zealots that the whole world has embraced Klingon.

The naysayers are dumbfounded."Doesn't it make sense to do the same?"

"Non! Non!" answer the zealots" Those who want to interact with us, can learn French as easily as we can learn Klingon."

"But that makes no sense! What if we want to travel around the universe? What if we want to sell our products to other planets? How will we communicate?" French is a small language and Klingon is universal, do you really believe that the onus is on them to learn French, rather than on us learning Klingon?"



Louis Prefontaine is a Quebec blogger who typifies Quebec French language radicalism, those who share a common and dangerous philosophy- "Better to be mediocre in French, than successful bilingually."

Mr. Prefontaine complains in his blog about the students of a French language university in Montreal, the Université du Québec à Montréal(UQAM), who created a video sensation on YouTube.
The students produced a humorous and catchy one-take tribute video that has recently gone viral. The video is a takeoff of the Black-Eyed Peas song "I Got a Feeling

I first became aware of the video when I saw it touted on CNN, where commentators raved. To date close to a million people have viewed it on YouTube. Not bad.

You'd think that Mr. Prefontaine would be happy for the Quebec students' international success, but if you thought that, you'd be wrong.
Here's what Mr. Prefontaine had to say about the video;
"Even our university bred elite of the future are infatuated with English, as proven by this video created by students of UQAM with it's bilingual presentation, English song and text in English. We need to restore a French complexion to the city."

"Même notre future élite universitaire s’entiche de l’anglais; à preuve cette vidéo de l’UQAM, avec présentation bilingue, chanson anglophone, textes anglophones… Il faut redonner un visage francophone à la ville."
Grrrrrr.!!!!......The students of UQAM appear to be more realistic and worldly than Mr. Prefontaine. They wanted to make an successful video and chose a catchy tune by a popular music group for maximum impact. Judging by the results, it seems that their decision was right, notwithstanding the annoying braying of French language militants.

The students understood intuitively what Mr Prefontaine and other French language militants fail to understand or accept, that artistic success on a word-wide level, means singing, dancing or writing in English.
That's the way it is. Tough luck.
Ask Celine Dion.

I imagine that Mr. Prefontaine would have preferred that the students sang 'Allouette, gentile Alloutte' I'm not sure that it would have gone over quite as big......

Should the mayor of Montreal speak English? Perhaps not, but Klingon, ah, that would be nice....


  1. no need to translate visage for complexion, people understand the guy is an idiot you know...

  2. Language issues aside, it is actually a cute video. It requires good planning and coordination and I applaud the students to successfully pull a stunt like that.

    If there is any criticism, is the flaunting of what appears to be consumption of alcohol in the campus premises during daylight...

  3. Your line of, "Better to be mediocre in French, than successful bilingually," really underlines the state of mind of the language zealots and/or separatists. Two cases in mind: BMO and RBC. The oldest bank and the biggest bank in Canada. Both relocated their actual headquarters (and hundreds of jobs) from Montreal to T.O. as a direct result of Bill 101. Yet the separatists just shrug the incidents off.

  4. Prefontaine is part of a small group of really noisy language zealots. I still read him, though, for sometimes his posts are insightful, especially when he broaches other topics. But this comment from him made me roll my eyes in exasperation. It's impossible to be more nitpicky...

  5. Especially since the students added french words at the end... What more could he want?

  6. Just discovered your blog and I've been reading for over an hour so far. Let me say I absolutely love it! As a French-Canadian (I don't say Quebecer as my country is Canada and not Quebec) I never understood why the Quebecers feel so threatened by the Anglophones. I, for one, would LOVE to be perfectly bilingual (or speak even more than 2 languages) as I think it does open doors. It makes me sad that I don't really have Anglophone friends to be able to talk to them so I can practice more often. Maybe the person I am is rare in this Province but then again I don't recognize myself in the other Quebecers either. I would like to thank you for your blog as it helps me to understand how anglophones live here... And believe me, I understand you more than I understand my fellow French speaking citizens.

  7. Speaking of Star Trek, Quebec should be proud to be the home of not just one, but two starship captains----William Shatner and Bruce Greenwood (Christopher Pike from the J.J. Abrams movie.) Both are fluent English speakers.

  8. @ Gen

    Just wanted to tell you that as a native Anglophone, I would not have known your native language was French because your English is excellent.