Sunday, April 11, 2010

Voodoo Math in French Language Debate

Last week Pierre Curzi, PQ language critic did his best impression of "Chicken Little" telling all who would listen, that the 'sky is falling" on the French language in Montreal and that by 2016, the city is to become anglicized. All week he alluded to a report that his 'researchers' had prepared supporting his claim.

I didn't think the ridiculous assertion would be taken seriously by anyone other than the committed hard-liners, but I guess when it comes to the French language even reasonable people can be taken in by the hysteria mounted by a cadre of bullshit artists who weave a phony narrative based on voodoo mathematics.

The report finally landed on Friday and as I suspect, the data proves exactly the opposite of what Mr. Curzi is saying. If you read French and are interested, you can view it HERE.

The 80 pages can actually be summarized in just one table included in the report. Everything else is pure rubbish ;

False Conclusion # 1-- Montreal will be Anglicized by 2016
There it is, in blue and white, between 1996 and 2006 English language usage went down from 25.6% to 25.2%, so how on God's green Earth can English possibly be primed for a takeover. There is as much chance that the Island of Montreal will become anglicized by 2016, as is the chance that the world will be destroyed in 2012.

False Conclusion # 2-- English is 5 times more attractive to immigrants as is French
 Only 37% of immigrants adopt either English or French as their new chosen language, while 63% keep on speaking their native tongue at home.
Of those who change, 60% choose English, while 40% choose French. English is hardly five times more attractive than French. This statistic is based on 2006 numbers, I recently read that in 2009, French is now being adopted by more than 50% of people in this category. The assertion that English is five times more popular is based on a totally contrived and statistically dishonest interpretation of the fact that Quebec Francophones outnumber Anglos and Allophones by five to one and therefore by virtue of that fact would be expected to choose French five times as much as English. It's nonsense.

False Conclusion # 3-- French no longer dominates Montreal
The fact that only 49% of Montrealers claim French as their mother tongue does not lead to the conclusion that the French language is in the minority. 54% of Montrealers use French as their first language, while English lags behind at 25%. In 1996 the numbers were just about the same- 55% French, versus 25% English. That's a 1% point change in ten years, hardly a game changer.  French remains more than twice as dominant as English.

Last Thursday the Quebec Minister in charge of the the language debate, Christine St-Pierre, was asked to comment on Mr. Curzi's assertions. She wisely demanded to see the report before saying anything and wondered out loud, why he was doing a media blitz while holding back the report.

It's now clear why. Had he done the media rounds with the report already published, journalists would have been able to criticise its contents. It's obvious that he didn't want that to happen.

This week the story is already old news and the media is on to the next story. The fallacy that French is in danger is successfully re-enforced by virtue of his dishonesty.

My compliments to Mr. Curzi for a well played bluff. He is another French language nationalist who twists facts and figures to suit his purpose, knowing that few will actually run down the numbers. It was a masterful move to do the interviews before allowing the report to be seen. It is also a naked confirmation, that he himself knew, how full of baloney he really was.

It repeats and re-enforces the nationalist movements long history of distortion.

The decline of the French language over the last ten years has been slight. It is directly attributed to the fifty thousand new immigrants that make Montreal their new home in each year.

The only way to stop this ever so modest decline of French in the city is to reduce immigration.
Sorry, Mr. Curzi, it has nothing to do with Anglos or the English language.


  1. I still think the Quebec Francophones are quite justified in being concerned about their language overall. Consider just one fact. At the time of Confederation Quebec was one province in FOUR. Now it is one province in TEN. Alberta and B.C. now have more people then Quebec. They weren't even part of Canada in 1867. This is why I advocate Swiss-style language laws as it would lead to a totally French-speaking Quebec and allay those fears. It would also allow the rest of the country to be done with Trudeaus' foolish and incredibly expensive bilingualism experiment and social engineering. On the down side the Anglo community in Montreal would be "thrown under the bus". Oh well. They can always come here to Toronto to live. We get 100,000 people a year from all over the world (except Europe it seems) so I don't see why Anglo-Montrealers couldn't be fit in too. It would also allow the rest of Canada to finish off the job of absorbing the scattered and fading away French communities in our midst. It cannot be denied that English holds a very powerful attraction for immigrants to Quebec (and anywhere else in North America too, for that matter). One HUGE factor working AGAINST Francophones is Canada's ridiculously high levels of immigration. Yet even here one must historically blame the federal Liberal party, which was historically the party of French-Canada. So go figure...

  2. Attraction, etc - this is all nonsense. The reasons are much simpler. Two main ones:

    1) The Quebecois are an incredibly closed group. To be blunt, they won't allow outsiders in their pack. So, new immigrants will never be truly accepted socially - they'll be forced to make friends with anglos or with the members of their own ethnic/linguistic group. Some say it's similar to what happens in Europe, but I am not sure. Certainly it's not what you'd expect in North America.

    2) Secondly, there is no easy way to learn French in Montreal. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but Montreal doesn't even have a single language school offering advanced-level courses in French. The closest thing to advanced French courses are what UdM's and McGill's continuing education departments are offering. And it's not really all that advanced.

    Other language schools in the city only offer beginner and intermediate courses. If you press them why, they'll explain that there's not enough enrollment to justify advanced-level courses.

    So, how the hell do they want immigrants to learn French if they keep them out socially and won't offer any serious academic courses?

  3. @anonymous 1:36AM

    The problem is that it is not always possible to transplant a model that works for one country to another country and expect the same end result. Look at our export of “liberal democracy” to the Middle East. The more astute observers and Middle East experts warned the Bush administration that it will not be possible to instill democracy in that region, and they turned out to be right. Very smart and knowledgeable analysts in the CIA and State Department that were skeptical about Bush’s mission have been sidelined in 2003 and replaced with more complacent yes-men and hawkish “let’s kick some ass and bring these people freedom” deluded types. 7 years later, and the so called “operation Iraqi freedom” is a complete and utter failure. That was to be expected, and that’s what you get when you have indoctrinated ideologues in power.

    The chance of having the Swiss model succeed in Quebec is zero. Given Quebec’s geopolitical situation, it is and it will always be impossible to have a French-only province with a French-only metropolis. You can have an English-only Toronto, English-only Calgary, English-only Edmonton, but you can’t have a French-only Montreal. Unless Quebec’s landmass breaks away from North America and floats back to Europe to physically join France.

    If you were to get rid of all the Anglos and Allos from Montreal, they would have to be replaced with English-speaking Francos to keep the economy going. And I don’t mean crappy-English speakers like Mdms Harel and Marois, but fully bilingual people like Jean Charest or Roy Dupuis. Unless you’re a baker in St-Hycinthe or a steel worker in Trois Rivieres, you won’t easily get away from English. For every unlingual Franco there will have to be a bilingual one to keep this economy afloat, especially if you consider that half of Quebec’s population lives in and around Montreal. (Quebec’s population is only 7 million, that’s one third of the population of New York City – city, not state).

    @ Freddie

    Both your points are correct, but you shouldn’t rule out the attraction of English. Quebec nationalists talk about it a lot, and in this, they are right. English is the world’s global language and is very easy and simple to learn and speak. It is very popular amongst kids in French schools, and if you go to any French high school schoolyard, you will hear a lot of English spoken there, especially amongst immigrant kids.

    The Quebecois are a closed group, but that could be because many of them perceive a threat, so they rally around each other. This is somewhat natural. Threatening situations, whether real or perceived, naturally create cohesion. Also, there might be a subconscious defense mechanism involved – they reject you out of fear that you will reject them.

  4. Kudos for adski. A well written piece. I want to add my $.02 in the same vein.

    Even if Montreal is being anglicized, I say so what? What can be done to reverse that trend without self destructing the city of the province? Bill 101 is bad enough, Montreal lost its first, most populous, most important Canadian city it has been holding for centuries in a matter of years to Toronto. Even today, Vancouver and Calgary are fastly catching up. Any stricter the economy will collapse since there will be no one left to tend and companies will finally find that the region is not worth the headache.

    I believe in the power of market. It is just natural that more and more people speak English nowadays since it is truly the langua franca of the world (English is a langua franca. How ironic!). Call it americanization, call it pop culture, but the fact remains that English is by far the most understood language on the planet. Add that to the fact that the province of Quebec is surrounded by the highest concentration of English speakers, there is no escaping it. The province may regulate the usage of language, but nobody can force what the population speaks privately. It is simply an impossibility.

    Now some people say that independence is the answer and some others say that Canadian bilingualism does not work. I disagree. Quebec is 7 million while ROC is 27 million. Canada has the economy of scale to force companies to be bilingual. Once Canadian bilingualism is abolished (through Swiss model or independence), ROC will be English while Quebec will be French. In that case, companies need to frenchify their products to serve 7 million while they have 350 million in English. Either companies will abandon Quebec market or prices in Quebec will be significantly higher than elsewhere in North America.

  5. Reply to Adski;

    "You can have an English-only Toronto,,"

    That is a big part of my point. You COULD HAVE an English-only Toronto if we had different language laws. The rest of Canada is currently stuck with Trudeau's stupid, ill-conceived and terribly expensive "bilingualism" nonsense. Canada - outside Quebec - certainly doesn't need the French language. Nor is the average Canadian particularly fond of French, written or spoken. Most Canadians don't think much about bilingualism, but the costs and consequences of this policy are immense and very damaging. Canada's language laws simply don't make any sense. Statistics Canada boasts about a million Francophones who live outside Quebec but 95% of them can speak English anyways. This million figure nonsense is a smoke and mirror illusion to try to convince the Quebecois that French-CANADA is alive and kicking. This is not so. I say let Canada outside Quebec be English-speaking and let Quebec be as French as they can manage to make it. If that means English maintains itself in Montreal, FINE, but that would be more incidental then anything else. I don't see why so many Canadians have to make sacrifices for the benefit of so very few.

  6. Has Curzi pulled the link?

    Page non trouvée
    La page demandée n'a pu être trouvée.

  7. Here is a new link to obtain the PDF file by Pierre Curzi. I also made the change in the body of my piece.

    Best Regards

  8. "This million figure nonsense is a smoke and mirror illusion to try to convince the Quebecois that French-CANADA is alive and kicking. "


    "I say let Canada outside Quebec be English-speaking and let Quebec be as French as they can manage to make it."

    I agree. Each language should be able to stand on its feet. Language laws are an aberration in the modern world. Recently, Slovakia tried to institute language laws to target its Hungarian minority, and the EU nipped it in the bud.

    " If that means English maintains itself in Montreal, FINE, but that would be more incidental then anything else. "

    English has maintained itself for 30 years despite draconian laws that were aimed at its heart. Because there is no other way, given Quebec's location. There is nothing that Quebec nationalists can do. They know it themselves, to the point that they will sneak their own children into English schools while cynically preaching something else in public.

  9. "It is directly attributable to the 50,000 new immigrants that make Montreal their home every year....the only way to stop the decline..of French is to reduce immigration.."

    Immigration has always worked aginst French-Canada's best interests since almost all of them eventually become English-speakers. Yet Francophone P.M.'s like Laurier and Truduea and Chreiten flooded the country with them. Historically high levels of immigration to Canada were only possible because of the Liberal party support for it. And the Liberals were always heavily supported by Quebec. Its strange that the Quebecois gave their loyalty for so long to a party that (knowingly or unknowingly) so worked against their basic interests.

  10. "so worked against their basic interests"

    In reality it should be 'worked against their racial prejudice'

  11. To Anon at 6:45 AM;

    I disagree. I don't see how making Quebec and/or Canada less Francophone is a good thing for the Francophones. And in any case,the Liberals were never honest about their intentions in the area of changing immigration. There is a DIFFERENCE between prejudice and preference.

  12. "There is a DIFFERENCE between prejudice and preference."

    Not in the present context. The Quebecois 'preference' stems from archaic cultural struggles with other colonianlist powers and is based exclusively on the racial fatherland syndrome that was an integral part of European existence well into the twentieth century.