Quebecers must learn English to play on international stageMichel Kelly-Gagnon, président du Conseil du patronat du Québec
The Gazette, 18 août 2008, p. A-17
A scientist from Denmark meets with government officials in China, and they converse in English. A conference of Eastern European and Turkish business people is conducted in English. The same at a meeting of Asian environmental activists in Tokyo.
The participants in these events were not born into the language of Shakespeare. They learned it from necessity, having acknowledged it as the linguistic currency of the global village.
This is not a new story but one with ever-increasing momentum, and it's leaving too many young French-speaking Quebecers in the "penalty box," as a friend of mine says. Here's the sad irony: In Quebec's educational system it seems that the world's current lingua franca remains a sort of bête noire.
Following revolutionary developments in technology, all peoples of the world are communicating, trading, and sharing knowledge with each other. Commerce knows few borders. With mobility a defining characteristic of the modern era, the international community has adopted a standard language. That language is English.
The mere fact that Quebec was "conquered" by the English in 1759 should not prevent Quebecers from learning English. Quebec francophones have an absolute right to preserve and better their own language, but it would be a huge mistake not to learn their second one. In the Netherlands, to take one example, an estimated 85 per cent of the people are said to know English well. To my knowledge this has not prevented the Dutch from protecting their national language.
The overwhelming majority of written international communication flows in English. More than three-quarters of all information running on the computers of the world is estimated to be in English; the world's Internet content is more English than that.
In our information age, knowledge increasingly represents wealth, and the ability to communicate knowledge has itself become a component of wealth. Consequently, the ability to speak the world's common language is a key to success. Nowadays, to choose to be unilingual in a language other than English is choosing to be illiterate in international relations.
I certainly understand Quebec's unique situation in respect of this issue. Some of our nationalists - some, I insist - wish to diverge from the Anglo-Saxon reality, for reasons which need no recapitulation here. The historical background triggers emotions that have played a major part in the political history of Quebec for two generations.
All of us must recognize, however, that the issue here is not the lingering French-vs-English drama. Rather it is about whether we are going to equip our children for the reality of today's environment. Francophone students should learn English for the sake of becoming winning and mobile players.
Happily, more and more people, including many enlightened nationalists, understand that this is not a debate of sovereignty vs Canadian unity. For example, earlier this year Parti Québecois leader Pauline Marois said one of Quebec's priorities must be to teach English to francophone students. She said that instruction should begin in Grade 1, that courses such as geography or history might well be taught in English, and that all children ought to be functionally bilingual by the time they graduate from high school. Crucially, she also pointed out that proficiency in English among francophones would not diminish the importance, position or use of French in Quebec - an observation also supported by numerous studies.
We have seen impressive success in the English-language school system in the teaching of French. Early instruction and immersion programs have produced bilingual anglophone teenagers. Whether or not our francophone school boards adopt similar pedagogical techniques is, in the end, a matter of detail. I am no education expert. Let the experts draw the instructional maps.
But there should be no question about the general destination: a system-wide adoption of measures that aim at functional bilingualism for every young Quebecer. The need to reach this goal should be treated as nothing less than an absolute emergency.
If I sound passionate about this issue it is solely because I believe we handicap the future of hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens by not providing the best possible instruction in English. If we want francophone Quebecers to make their way to the summits of the new world, we must provide them with fluency in the primary language of global commerce and science.
- Édition de mai 2013. Un Conseil du patronat fort de ses membres • Assemblée générale 2013 du Conseil du patronat - Un rendez-vous très couru par la communauté des affaires • Rapport D'Amours sur l'avenir des régimes de retraite - Une analyse rigoureuse et juste de la situation • Les interventions du Conseil du patronat génèrent des actions concrètes du gouvernement en matière de retraite...
- Taux de cotisation à la CSST pour 2014 - Une baisse significative, mais prudente, estime le Conseil du patronat du Québec, qui se réjouit de l'impact de son implication au nom des employeurs. Les employeurs du Québec se verront récompensés pour leurs efforts déployés au cours des dernières années en matière de prévention qui résultent d'une diminution de leur facture globale de près de 80 millions $ en 2014.
- Projet de loi no 36 - Loi sur la Banque de développement économique du Québec. Commentaires du Conseil dans le cadre des consultations particulières de la Commission de l'économie et du travail de l'Assemblée nationale.
- Le mardi 4 juin, le Conseil du patronat vous invite à un colloque où sera présenté et discuté le rapport D'Amours. Outre M. Alban D'Amours, F.Adm.A., président du comité d'experts sur l'avenir des régimes de retraite, plusieurs spécialistes des questions liées aux régimes de retraite se succéderont à la tribune pour analyser et commenter les différentes recommandations contenues dans le rapport. Pour en savoir plus...