Quebec’s Foreign Language Police

The attempts by Quebec to safeguard the French language has become rather ridiculous. This is not the first time that countries tried to “protect” their languages from “foreign infiltration.” Over a century ago, German extremists complained about the “excessive” use of foreign words that had crept into daily vocabulary, and during WWI the British grew so suspicious of German spies in England that they banned the use of German words on restaurant menus (no more Frankfurters!) and closed German language newspapers. Don’t you think Quebec’s demands are a bit excessive?

Here’s the article written by a Daily Mail reporter for The Daily Mail online, March 13, 2013:

Fierce laws brought in to protect the French language in Quebec are under the spotlight after a recent spate of rulings – including a restaurant that was condemned for using the word ‘pasta’.

The Office Quebecois de la Langue Francaise is the body responsible for ‘safeguarding’ the region’s French language, which is spoken by 94 per cent of people in the region.

But recent rulings have prompted ridicule from the English-speaking minority.
It follows a spate of draconian decisions, including:

A British themed restaurant being ordered to rename fish and chips as poisson frit et frites

Another restaurant being ordered to mask the word ‘redial’ on its telephones with tape

A third restaurant being ordered to remove the letters WC from the lavatory doors – despite the abbreviation’s popular use in France, and

A distribution company taken to court because it only provided English instructions for its Super Stretch Sleeve sex toy.

Many of the area’s French speakers are equally dismissive of the crackdown on foreign languages.

The backlash prompted OQLF president Louise Marchand to resign from her role, as Diane de Courcy, the Quebec minister for language, ordered a review of the latest incident where ‘pasta’ was deemed one of ‘too many’ foreign words used by an Italian restaurant.

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‘It was a big crisis,’ admitted De Courcy. ‘We had 60 countries report on this issue, and we weren’t all very proud about it. But at the same time, this was also an opportunity.’

Quit: Louise Marchand, pictured presenting an African peacekeeping certificate, has stepped down from her role

She promised that the language office will be ‘re-structured’ following the latest embarrassment, and the body will be conducting an internal review in the face of negative media coverage.

But the aim of the OQLF will still be to protect the French language, which is seen as being under constant assault by English speakers across the rest of Canada.

The recent evidence suggests that the pro-French campaign has stepped up a gear in recent years but there has been no shortage of ridicule over the years – and not always because of OQLF.

Many people do support the bid to protect French, and it is not unheard of for members of the public to threaten taking organisations to court for not respecting the language.

In the Nineties, a pet shop owner was threatened with legal action because it had a parrot named Peekaboo that only repeated English phrases.


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