July–August 2019

Contents Related Letters

Re: “White Noise,” by John Allemang

I recently purchased the July/August issue, and I  stopped reading John Allemang’s “White Noise” after the fourth paragraph:

Race-baiting populists haven’t been able to gain the traction achieved by politicians in the United States and Europe (poor Quebec, as always, excepted). Immigration, far from being seen as an existential threat to some ancient sense of who we really are (Je me souviens and all that), is an essential part of our cultural identity and traditions, white and otherwise.

Could you explain why your editorial policy makes it acceptable for authors to express open contempt toward Québécois?

Louis Corriveau
Location Withheld

Re: “Bilingualism at Fifty,” by David Breault

My experience of being “bilingualized” in the 1970s, in Ottawa, might afford your readers another perspective. As a child of refugees, I managed to get through school without learning a word of French, but after taking a master’s in history at Trent University, I was convinced that I had to become bilingual to become fully Canadian. My initial job with the public service was uni­lingual, and I jumped at the chance to take French language training when they needed to bilingualize public servants. My initial proficiency tests were not promising, but I was accepted for a year’s full-time language study.

This was immersion as I never had experienced or heard of — as we never heard nor saw a word of English once we entered the doors of a nondescript facility in Ottawa’s east end. We also never saw a textbook or blackboard — and never knew whether our instructors could actually speak English. I loved every minute of it, except when our instructors wanted to tape us speaking French. I knew that if I ever watched myself speaking French, I would become self-conscious. Admittedly, we did not learn to read or even write in French, but we could hold conversations on any topic under the sun. I never did learn much about tenses — but I learned how to order beer, play squash, and do many other things that I made daily use of for the next thirty years.

My profession as archivist, first at the National Archives of Canada and then with the CBC, meant that my colleagues and I had to work in both languages. No one questioned or challenged the obvious necessity of that. Anyone fully proficient in both languages was highly valued.

Personally, I also appreciated being able to think in French, even if I could never disguise my “Anglo-cisms.” And while my bilingualism has eroded over the past twenty years, now that I live in a unilingual environment, I never pass up an opportunity to try out my French — just to see if it still works.

Ernest J. Dick
Granville Ferry, NS

Ernest J. Dick
Granville Ferry, NS

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