French state | The people behind the statistics

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Behind Statistics Canada’s 2021 Census data, there are people. La Presse went to meet Quebecers who speak “another” language at home. The portraits show the complexity and fluidity of linguistic behavior. Note that the interviews were all conducted in French. Posted at 5:00 am Suzanne Colpron La Presse “In Montreal, everyone prefers English” Yasmine Hachemi, 23, was born in Algeria. He came here at the age of 6, he didn’t speak French. Even less English. At home, the language spoken was Arabic. “I learned French in a reception class at LaSalle,” says the young woman who, after finishing her bilingual high school in business administration, continued her education in English. “I could have done my certifications in French, but that would have closed a lot of doors for me. The job market, if you’re in finance, in Montreal, is 100% in English. At TD Bank, where he works, the language of work is “90%” English. “With my friends, it’s half, half,” adds Yasmine. My friends in Repentigny, it’s in French. But my friends in Montreal, it’s in English. A Montreal, everyone prefers English to French “The strongest language of children is French” PHOTO DAVID BOILY, PRESS ARCHIVES Nathalie Tufenkji Chemical engineer and professor at McGill University, Nathalie Tufenkji, 46, speaks Armenian, English and French at home. And sometimes Italian! “We often switch languages,” she says. Born in Quebec to parents born in Lebanon and Greece, Ms. Tufenkji lives in the Sainte-Dorothée district of Laval with her husband and two children.She learned French in elementary school in an immersion class and did her secondary, university and u university students in English. “We think it’s very important for children to be bilingual,” he says. They are 10 and 12 years old and go to school in French. I would say that the children’s strongest language is French. Bilingualism is a treasure for us, for our children and for future generations. I think it’s a big strength in Quebec. I have many friends who had the right to send their children to the English school, but decided to send them to the French system, like us. “At home, it’s a mixture” PHOTO MARTIN CHAMBERLAND, THE PRESS Kar Ho Tom At Kar Ho Tom, in Brossard, four languages ​​are spoken: Mandarin, Cantonese, French and English. “We want our 9- and 11-year-olds to be comfortable in all four languages,” she explains. We pay for private lessons so that they can improve their French. Born in Quebec to parents born in China, Mr. Tom speaks very good French although he works mainly in English, in the IT field. “Ninety percent of the time, we speak English in the office with people from all over the world. But with his colleagues, he is half English, half French”, he points out. Should we be worried? Divided Experts The complexity of immigrant backgrounds and language practices makes it difficult to address these “black or white” issues. While some experts are alarmists, others offer a more nuanced analysis of the situation revealed by the 2021 census data. have neither French nor English as their mother tongue and that, when they arrive here, they continue to speak their third language at home. , are we at all surprised that the demographic weight of French spoken most often at home is declining, as well as the weight of the French mother tongue? Probably not,” says Jean-Pierre Corbeil, an associate professor in the department of sociology at Université Laval. According to him, the data can be explained in part by the fact that the federal government has favored temporary immigration more in recent years, especially for meet the needs of the labor market. Quebec received only 15,000 non-temporary residents between 2011 and 2016, while this number has multiplied by 150,000 between 2016 and 2021, explains Mr. Corbeil, responsible for the program linguistic statistics for 15 years. “The linguistic characteristics of these non-permanent residents are different: they have a greater tendency to orient themselves towards English. More data are needed For his part, Charles Castonguay, retired professor of the University of “Ottawa and a specialist in demographic issues, he is not surprised by the Statistics Canada data. “I expected English to continue to grow and French to continue to decline,” he says. The only thing and what strikes me is the extent of the rise of English and the extent of the decline of French, especially in Montreal. Bill 96 does not go far enough “to reverse the trend”, believes Mr. Castonguay. “We need to extend Bill 101 to CEGEP and undergraduate studies and go back to French-only signage. Calvin Veltman, a sociolinguist at UQAM, is more optimistic. “I’m between ‘not at all’ and ‘a little’ worried” , he says. I need to see much more detailed data to know what this means. The most important data for me is the percentage of people who speak French at home. We’re told it dropped from 87.1% to 85.5%. I agree easily that less French is spoken at home today than in 2016. But this does not necessarily mean that French has been replaced by English. »
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