Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Myth of the Anglicization of Montreal

The Myth of the Anglicization of Montreal
"While we obsess over the legality of the language of  signage, Montreal English speakers  are taking the city, district by district, based on institutional  bilingualism imposed on us by our cowardly politicians.  They are laying the foundations of a future Anglophone metropolis in the heart of Quebec, dispossessed of it's native  language."  Louis Prefontaine, Quebec language zealot

According to Mr. Prefontaine and other language nationalists, the island of Montreal is in danger of becoming anglicized, in part because of the increased and unchecked expansion of English signage.

I must live in an alternate universe, a bizarro world, one in which the island of Montreal is living an opposite reality. It's a world where English signage, both outdoor and indoor is disappearing at an astonishing rate.

Last week I was idly waiting at the takeout counter in an Italian restaurant when my eyes were attracted to the occupancy sign issued by the City of Montreal. Every restaurant and bar has a similar sign denoting what the legal capacity of the premises is.

What surprised me was that the sign was bilingual. "Cette etablisment....This establisment..." I looked closer and saw that the date of issue was 1979. It figures, it's been at least twenty years that the City of Montreal abandoned English officially.  In fact stores, offices, buildings, government and public offices have all abandoned bilingual signage.
The law does provide for English on signs (as long as the font is 1/3 the size of the French) but most places don't bother.

If English was ever to make a comeback, it would likely be in the west island communities on the island of Montreal, where Anglos and allophones make up an outright majority.

 I happened to be in a shopping centre in just one such community, Dollard Des Ormeaux and decided to investigate the state of English signage. If there was to be a breakthrough, it would be here. 

Despite it's name (for a Francophone hero) the town boasts just 16% Francophones, the rest of the residents being Anglophones, with a smattering of Allophones (aligned with the English community.)
The shopping Centre in question was the Galeries des Sources, previously known as the "West Island Mall" a name that was changed after being declared politically incorrect.

A tour around the parking lot of didn't show much English. In fact it I didn't find a word!
To all intents and purposes the mall could have been located in Lac St. Jean!

Perhaps those English conspirators were hiding the English signs inside, far from the passing purview of language inspectors travelling down the adjacent Highway 40.

I took along my trusty IPhone camera, in the hope that the inside would offer an oasis of English, hopefully much to the chagrin of Mr. Prefontaine et als.

Alas it was not to be. 

I used the entrance that took me past "Bureau en Gros" and  the "Super  C" supermarket. 

Guess what? Not a word of English.

You'd think that with 85% of the clientèle preferring English, they'd make some effort to provide some signage. 
It was however, not the case. These are not mom and pop organizations, they must be aware of where the store is located. Can it be that they have made a province-wide decision not to post any signs in English?

Perhaps it's the other stores in the mall (as Mr. Prefontaine alleges,} that are flaunting the spirit and the letter of the sign law, Bill 101.

To be fair there were a couple of signs that were either bilingual or had English added in a decidedly inferior position, but not many.

Finally....Finally .....Finally...... A unlingual English sign!!!!

Yessir! An English sign, advertising an English book in an English Bookstore. Tut! Tut! Tut!.  Call in the language inspectors!

Hold on a second.....Aren't bookstores immune from the sign laws?

My tour of the mall confirmed to me the utter nonsense that is spouted by nationalists that there is a movement towards English signage in Montreal.  I defy you to take a tour anywhere in Quebec and show me where English signage is on the upswing.

As they say on the Discovery Channel---
"This Myth is Busted!!"

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