Friday, March 11, 2016

The Importance of Language Preservation

As some of you may know, my first language is French, and I'm extremely proud of that. The first few years of my life were solely in French, I went to a French elementary and high school. That means every single class was in French (except English, of course). While in school, we were always reprimended for speaking English, and we all hated that. We just wanted to do whatever we wanted!
Though I learned English almost from birth alongside French, French is still the language I consider my first.
Franco-Manitoban Flag

You see, French is a minority where I'm from. To me, it never truly felt like a minority until about the age of 16, when I started spending more time with English-speakers, and working in an English-speaking environment. I never really had to struggle to find French. I lived in the French neighborhood, went to a French schools and both sides of my family speak French. There was an unlimited ressource of books, movies, TV shows, all in French, at my disposal.

Many English speakers in Canada don't see the importance of our second official language, and simply say "well, you can speak English, so why do you insist on getting French services too?" Which means many, many services offered in the French language have been cut. The latest example is the Radio-Canada (CBC) station in Winnipeg is being moved to the English headquarters of the city. Though the station still exists and will continue to function as normal, it's the idea behind the move that bothers many of us. The station has been there since 1946 and has never needed to move before, being right in the centre of its French community. Now, because of all the budget cuts, it will need to be relocated and therefore a little drowned in a sea of English-speakers. Though it's not the end of the world, I still find it a little sad...
This is just one of many cuts made throughout the country, making the French-speakers dwindle in numbers.

After my friend shared an article on Facebook about this, it sparked a lot of debates in the common section. It was really frustrating and quite frankly, completely insulting to read what some people had to say. Most of the comments were along the lines of:
"So what? It's not even closing so get over it."
"There aren't even that many French-speakers, so it's actually a waste of our tax-payers money to fund these services."
"If they can all speak English anyway, why are they being so dramatic about this? Just take the English services and move on with your lives."


Unless you speak another language, whichever language is may be, you will never truly be able to understand why we are so viciously trying to keep our language alive. You say "it's just a means of communication, and right now, English is the most common means of communication here." Maybe in your world, this is true, but it's not everyone's reality.

You are right. Language is a means of communication... like communicating our culture. Without it, our songs, literature, art, jokes, history wouldn't exist. It would all just be lost, just like ancient Greek or Latin, and we all know how important those languages ended up being! French-Canadians have been pushed around and often told they could not speak their languages... For a while it was even banned in schools, so of course we will fight to keep it alive! It's a part of who we are. Can you imagine if Latin still existed?

I think it's so important to preserve a language, no matter how "small" the population is. The more services and classes offered, the more people are willing to learn and keep it in their culture. If it's almost impossible to find, they will most likely give up and lose it. If I keep up with the Radio-Canada example, I know for a fact that if it didn't exist, a ton of us would lose our mother tongue. Many of us who now live abroad or among English-speakers wouldn't have a way of keeping up with the language or the community. Sometimes, listening to it is enough to be able to keep it.
Now that I live in Germany, where French is definitely not a popular language, especially not canadian French, I have to go out of my way to practice and find the information and news in my own language if I don't want to lose it. And trust me, I already am.
My Franco-Manitoban "flag" tattoo

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