Rassemblement des retraités de Nortel

This may draw flack from a lot of folks, but here goes… Stop already with this painfully forced bilingualism!

Here, watch this example, and then we’ll pick up things after the clip.

Look, we get that you can pretend to speak French (kind of… rather awkwardly, it has to be said — much in the same way that Harper muddles through on this score), but please — for the love of God, stop interjecting it in your speeches at every opportunity.

This redundant, French-English nonsense is just deeply silly and immensely annoying. For those of us without that much facility in French (or especially your particular version of it), these pandering linguistic diversions simply come across as pretentious affectations that are, quite frankly, weirdly alienating and immensely offputting.

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27 Comments

Filed under Michael Ignatieff

27 responses to “Rassemblement des retraités de Nortel

  1. Ti-Guy

    This is taking place in Ottawa on Parliament Hill. He’s obliged to speak English and French here.

    His French is better than Harper’s, by the way. Not as good (as in natural) as Paul Martin’s though.

  2. counter-coulter

    Could this simply be viewed as nothing more than political pandering to French speakers? Being an outsider, I’d be curious to know.

  3. Ti-Guy

    This is downtown Ottawa…Parliament Hill. Half the people there could be francophone.

  4. takedeadaim

    have spoken to my french speaking friends about this. They find it off putting.

  5. C-C: I don’t know. As someone looking at it from the perspective of English Canada (“Rest 0f Canada” or “ROC” as it’s often termed), it seems like shameless pandering to me.

    If you look at the signs in that demonstration it seemed to be all in English… Ti-Guy says that it’s obligatory to speak in both languages when in Ottawa — well, perhaps, but when it comes to communicating to the country as a whole, this forced inter-splicing of French/English is just an annoying affectation.

    Imagine if President Obama started alternately interjecting his speeches willy-nilly with Spanish so that he could better reach Latinos… How do you think that would go over?

  6. counter-coulter

    redtory

    Imagine if President Obama started alternately interjecting his speeches willy-nilly with Spanish, so that he could better reach Latinos… How do you think that would go over?

    Depends on where he’s speaking. 🙂 If he was giving a speech here in Minnesota – odd; in Miami, Florida – brilliant. That’s kind of what I was wondering here: is there a dog-whistle element to speaking in French in Canada.

  7. Ti-Guy

    Ti-Guy says that it’s obligatory to speak in both languages when in Ottawa

    Not obligatory for everyone. But leaders of political parties, especially when they’re speaking at an event on Parliament Hill? Yes.

    Imagine if President Obama started alternately interjecting his speeches willy-nilly with Spanish, so that he could better reach Latinos… How do you think that would go over?

    Spanish is not an official language of the US.

  8. George Bush made a few attempts to speak Spanish when he was in Texas.

    Sorry, but I have to disagree. The National Capital Region is a bilingual area. The Liberal Party is a bilingual party. He has an obligation to address both groups of people. What’s wrong with listening to a few minutes of mangled French?

  9. No, Spanish isn’t an “official language” but it’s interesting to note that there are more Latinos in the U.S. than the entire population of Canada…

    My point however was more directed to how our current crop of politicians communicate to the majority of people and I happen to find that this painful form of equal-time bilingualism that’s so much in fashion these days is very hard to bear. I don’t recall it so much with Jean Chrétien or Paul Martin who were quite seamless in slipping back and forth because it came to them more naturally and they didn’t seem to work at it so hard…

  10. Ti-Guy

    That’s kind of what I was wondering here: is there a dog-whistle element to speaking in French in Canada.

    What’s the dog-whistle element to speaking Spanish in the US?

    I’ve spoken Spanish in Miami. I thought one did that to…y’know…communicate.

  11. Dan — Yes, I recognize that the NCR is a bilingual area and I’m perhaps being more than a parochial in my criticism, but I think the flaw in your argument lies in the expression “mangled French” — even to my tin unilingual ear, it just sounds awful.

  12. Ti-Guy

    I don’t recall it so much with Jean Chrétien or Paul Martin

    There wasn’t any YouTube back then. 😉

    …seriously, I just looked it up. We’ve only had YouTube since 2005. What did we ever do before that?

  13. Sorry… no “dog whistle” here — I just don’t enjoy being forced to listen to badly spoken French. It makes me cringe. If it’s fluid, melodious and eloquent, I’ve got no problem with it at all, but if it’s awkward and painful, it makes me shrivel up with a certain degree of horror.

  14. Ti-Guy

    If it’s fluid, melodious and eloquent, I’ve got no problem with it at all…

    Well, that eliminates practically every anglophone in Canada. Except maybe Thomas Mulcair and David McGuinty. And the Queen. She speaks lovely French.

    It’s too bad our second official language isn’t Serbo-Croatian. Apparently, its phonology is one of the few English-speaking people have little difficulty with.

  15. counter-coulter

    Ti-Guy

    What’s the dog-whistle element to speaking Spanish in the US?

    I’ve spoken Spanish in Miami. I thought one did that to…y’know…communicate.

    I’m sure you could’ve gotten by just fine with only English within Miami.

    The dog-whistle element I’m refering to is when a politican (especially on the campaign trail) feels a need to “connect” with a certain audience by speaking their native language. Actually, it tends to be more of a dog whistle for those to whom they are not speaking. You’ll notice that Bush (43) spoke very poor spanish – that way his supporters knew he was pandering rather than really knowing some sort of sub-language. You know, those folks that make it a point to purposefully mispronounce Spanish.

  16. Don’t be silly, RT. “Le Canada sera bilingue ou il ne sera pas”, PET. There’s a reason Harper starts all his speeches in French. That all major Federal leaders try to use both, no matter what the setting. Chrétien & Martin did the same. Live with it – it’s not so awful, is it really? It’s not like most speeches are any more intelligible, coherent and meaningful in just one language, from my observation.

  17. counter-coulter

    redtory
    October 26, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    No, Spanish isn’t an “official language” but it’s interesting to note that there are more Latinos in the U.S. than the entire population of Canada…

    Technically, there’s no “official” language of the United States…not that there haven’t been many Republicans who’ve tried to make it English.

  18. counter-coulter

    D’oh, messed up on my blockquotes. Oh well, you get the point.

  19. Ti-Guy

    I’m sure you could’ve gotten by just fine with only English within Miami.

    Well, when the Miami Cuban is speaking to the anglophone in front of you like he’s/she’s two seconds away from spitting, you start thinking of alternatives.

    And since when does anyone in the US speak English? 😉

  20. Well, there’s one way of looking at it – you can’t improve your French unless you practise using it.

    We are a bilingual country and that’s the way it is.

    Besides, maybe some of those Nortel folks are French.

  21. EFL — Yeah, I get the point… It’s just awkward and forced and consequently bugs me, that’s all.

    Look, I don’t speak or read French terribly well, but even I can recognize badly contrived lines delivered poorly in another language — and unfortunately perhaps, thanks to several years of enforced instruction, I happen to know just enough to understand the gist of what they’re attempting to say, even without translation.

    It’s not quite as bad as Joe Clarke attempting to deliver a speech en français (which truly made the flesh crawl), but only marginally better…

  22. Preston Manning’s French made Joe Clark sound like Maurice Chevalier.

  23. Oh yes, I’d forgotten about him. Mercifully.

  24. The problem with Spanish in the States is that the various versions of them are almost unintelligible. One thing you often hear from Latinos in New York is Columbian Spanish is the most pure and Dominican Spanish grates against the ears. So a native speaker of one dialect can sound as bad to a native speaker of another dialect as an anglophone sounds speaking Spanish.

    I understand enough French to watch RDI but no one would want me to speak it.

  25. One thing I should add is that Stéphane Dion’s accented English turned out to be one of his greatest liabilities, but French Canadians seem to be much more tolerant of anglophones who attempt to speak French poorly.

  26. I’ve said this before, but when I had a casual conversation with Stéphane Dion a few years ago for 20 minutes or so on the phone (he was courting bloggers at the time…), he was perfectly intelligible and actually quite charming. But watching him on TV struggle with his English was incredibly painful to endure. I don’t know why… he just seemed so uncomfortable at times grasping for the right words and frequently getting his emPHASIS on the wrong SYLLable, etc.

    Accents and dialects are quite funny things. The English in particular can be very snobbish and madly picky about them… not sure if that works in other cultures, but I would suspect it’s a fairly universal trait. Always used to amaze me that some people with an ear for such things could actually track you back down to a specific county just by the way you spoke from the slightest inflection, mannerism, or even tone of your voice…

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