20 February 2010

Vancouver Winter Olympics - Frenchgate

The opening ceremony of the Vancouver Winter Olympics has sparked a national debate over the use of the French language amongst Canadians, with claims that there was not enough or that there was too much. Werner Patels was embarrassed and wrote in his blog

Turn to any news channel or open any newspaper, and one topic you’ll likely find discussed just about everywhere in Canada right now is the perceived slight of the French language at the Olympic Games in Vancouver. At the same time, letters pages in (Albertan and Western Canadian) newspapers are filling up with irate comments about how the “French should go home and shut up”.

I first became aware that there was an issue on the night of the opening ceremony, when my Twitter page started being inundated with angry comments about the use, not lack, of the French language. I decided then not to reply to or comment on any of them, because, frankly, they made me feel embarrassed and ashamed. Albertans tend to have a bad reputation in the rest of the country, and the last thing we need is to be known as French bashers (particularly in a province where, like in the rest of the country, the rate of functional illiteracy – in just one language! – now borders on fifty per cent).

Those who criticized the use of French at the Olympics proved only one thing: that they’re utterly uneducated and uninformed about what goes on in the world. The Olympics organization is an international organization, and its first and primary official language is French. Naturally, any official Olympics business is conducted in French first, and English second. So, when, for example, Canada’s Governor-General Michaëlle Jean spoke in French first and then switched to English, she merely adhered to the practices of the international organization. Now, though, many Canadians (in the West) appear to be calling for her head to roll over this “affront”.

Read more

The editors at La Presse (a daily published in Montreal) are not happy. I agree with them. In fact, I would go as far as suggesting that instead of the usual practice of alternating between French and English, they should have mangled it into Franglais.

Who said sport and politics don't mix?

No comments: