Dear Lord, stop whingeing!

French has become a collateral victim of the coronavirus pandemic in Canada, forcing the prime minister, Justin Trudeau, to defend failures to uphold laws requiring labels and services in both official languages.

Canada is officially bilingual, but the government has allowed the sale of imported disinfectants labelled only in English because of “the extreme situation in which we find ourselves”, Trudeau said on Tuesday.

Presumably the TV announcement of the end of the world would not be valid unless equal weight was given to the bloke phlegming it out as “le fini du mondial”*.

*Yes, my French teacher was** indeed Miles Kington. Why, wasn’t yours?

**Actually, not true. A rugby master***. He was too bright to teach geography but even so, the accent wasn’t quite there.

*** And Fifi, some years later, where I did actually learn something although not entirely language.

29 thoughts on “Dear Lord, stop whingeing!”

  1. yeah the english fluency % is high 90s so i’d expect the risk to francophone monoglots in the same risk category as the risk to the illiterate population which is what somewhere around 1-2%? (to say nothing about who actually reads it in the first place)

  2. Apparently the French for disinfectant is … désinfectant.

    I can see how that could be confusing.

  3. ‘imported disinfectants labelled only in English’

    He’s probably lying. Wait . . . Guardian? He’s probably just stupid.

    Where would these imports likely come from? That giant country just below Canada that makes 25% of the world’s products?

    Are American disinfectants labeled only in English? NO! They are also labeled in Spanish.

    Accuracy is secondary to the story. “Not labeled in French” doesn’t have the journalistic flair of “labeled only in English,” even though they aren’t labeled only in English.

  4. Given the permanently supine relationship with Beijing shouldn’t the president of Chinada be begging forgiveness they aren’t in Mandarin?

  5. ooh apparently i’m wrong about the high 90% fig.. nagging at me that i didn’t check. wiki – tells me only 36% of francophone quebecois speak english.
    Francophones who speak english.
    Quebec 36.6%
    Rest of Canada 85.1%

  6. only 36% of francophone quebecois speak english.

    Then maybe it’s time they joined the 20th century!

  7. @Hallowed Be:

    The 90%plus figure is right.. But like the belgian francophones, Quebeqois simply refuse to understand anything but “French” ( which is their local patois not resembling anything like proper french anyway…)

  8. @Hallowed Be, that speak English. I suspect the number that understand English is 100%. The survey probably asked if they regularly speak French or English or one or the other given a preference.

  9. Geography teachers can be very good. The trick is to throw in elements of history & politics too. Hannibal’s elephants crossing the Alps are more interesting than glaciers; a good geography teacher can connect the two. The curriculum alone is rather dry.

  10. Parisians speak English. After 10 minutes of pretending they don’t, making visitors uncomfortable.

    If half your economy is tourism, being nice to tourists is a good idea. N’est-ce pas?

  11. @Andrew M, I’m afraid that my Geography teacher did no physical geography at all, and there was no history – just left-wing political twaddle, which, incidentally, I also got from the turnip-headed History Teacher too. If we had a proper understanding of glaciers, then we would have appreciated, I suspect, that they advanced in the Little Ice Age eating up villages and alpine meadows, so it’s about time they retreated.

  12. “And Fifi, some years later, where I did actually learn something although not entirely language”

    Ah, you are proficient in the French tongue?

  13. I had a french canadian boss at one point. Very very heavy accent in english (more so than my pieds-noir colleague) but perfectly fluent.

  14. “Parisians speak English. After 10 minutes of pretending they don’t, making visitors uncomfortable”

    I didn’t have the patience to find that out. However, by comparison, the majority of Dutch speak English, or will quickly find someone who does. I was rather humbled when a friends neighbour apologised for his standard of English, even though it was better than the average British teenager…

  15. @excavator man
    I’m continually amused at the cognitive dissonance of media when articles complaining about retreating glaciers are often next to articles about all this stuff they have found since the glaciers retreated, something which indicates the glaciers didn’t always used to be there to any rational person

  16. Our French teacher had been in the Resistance. How did we know? Little boys know things.

    (Even if they are not necessarily true.)

  17. I wonder will they be insisting that tee military forces sent into to deal with the care homes all be able to speak French.
    I was at a school meeting once in Canada when the question of teaching in French and lack of French speaking teachers came up and it was suggested that why not just employ Quebec teachers. Apparently the problem with this was that all the provinces systems and reporting for schools was in English and on top of this French taught kids didn’t necessarily have French speaking parents so all the teachers needed to be proficient in English and most of the Quebec teachers weren’t.

  18. I was going to suggest “Quaffee pas l’eau horible” but realised that would stop their wine & beer exports too.
    Shouldn’t the Canadiasses regard this as a Darwin test?

  19. “I was rather humbled when a friends neighbour apologised for his standard of English, even though it was better than the average British teenager…”

    Same deal with me, Dave. Thirty years ago I was put at a table in Hofbrauhaus with a group of students over from Stuttgart. They spoke English as well as the queen, yet kept apologizing for it. I asked them why they kept apologizing when they spoke the language exceptionally well. They said that they had 10 years of English classes in school, but they rarely ever got to speak with someone who spoke English as a first language. They never got the real test. I congratulated them for passing with high honors.

  20. When I worked for a French company (late 90s) they held global management training weeks at their ‘université’*. Despite coming from a dozen different countries, we all learnt to at least say ‘hello’ in each other’s languages. The only exception to this were two Canucks – one from London, Ontario and the other from Trois-Rivières in deepest Quebec – who remained resolutely monoglot and didn’t exchange a word with each other.

    * Which took place in a Bordeaux chateau, just down the road from Margaux and Palmer, tough job etc.

  21. “Parisians speak English. After 10 minutes of pretending they don’t”

    A lot of French people assure me that Parisians don’t speak French.

  22. @JuliaM

    When I was a toddler/child all the ‘poisons’ stayed in cupboard under kitchen sink, neither my brother, friends or I ever consumed them

    The ‘protect children’ washing powder ads on TV intensely annoy me

    @Hallowed Be

    Claim to not speak English more accurate


    +1 Greenland being recent “Viking stuff found”

    I never mock, belittle or sneer at furins making mistakes in English, once we know each other I will politely correct. Any time I’m abroad I’m thankful I’m from UK and most natives want to speak & improve their English

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