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Decline of French | Did the “really sick” falcon miss its target?



(Quebec) If the Legault government wants to make young people aware of the overabundance of Anglicisms with its advertising of a peregrine falcon “really sick ” to ” skills ” of hunting ” insane “, the target has probably not been reached, note French teachers.

The vice-president of the Quebec Association of French Teachers (AQPF), Alexandra Pharand, is in her third year of teaching. She is teaching this year to the students of the 2e high school in a school on the South Shore of Montreal. The English words that young people use when they talk to each other, she hears them every day in the hallways.

Once the bell rang and her students were very attentive, Pharand asked them earlier this week if they had seen the now famous government falcon.


Alexandra Pharand, French teacher in 2e secondary school at Charles-Lemoyne College

“Right away, they started laughing. They found it funny. These are many of the Anglicisms used by teenagers. There was a mix of students in the class who found it funny and others who found it uncomfortable, “says the young teacher to The Press.

During a class discussion, Pharand noticed that several students did not get the message that the government wants to convey. However, it is even written in white letters on a black background: “In Quebec, French is in decline. Let’s reverse the trend. »

“When I asked them what they understood from advertising, if they [décodaient] what the government wanted us to remember as a message, nothing was going towards the improvement of the French language. I asked them if they felt aware of the fact that they use a lot of Anglicisms and if they wanted to use less of them and their answer was unanimous: ‘No madam, it’s not going to change anything’”, explains- she.

Change angle

For months, Prime Minister François Legault and his ministers, starting with the person responsible for the French language, Jean-François Roberge, have been repeating that a “national awakening” is needed regarding the decline of French in Quebec. The most recent census shows that the proportion of people who reported having French as their mother tongue increased from 77.1% to 74.8% in the province between 2016 and 2021. The proportion of people whose first language is French spoken official also decreased from 83.7% to 82.2% over the same period.

Quebec has promised to table an action plan by next fall to “slow down, stop and reverse the decline of the French language”. The AQPF will meet this spring with the Minister of Education, Bernard Drainville, who wants to review the teaching of French in Quebec.


The Minister responsible for the French Language, Jean-François Roberge, last January

As a first step, explains Alexandra Pharand, we should start by promoting French in a positive approach, which insists less on Anglicisms than on the benefits associated with speaking the official language of Quebec well.

“You have to show the students how useful it is to speak French well. They always ask what is it for. If they don’t have an interest in speaking French better, they won’t be interested in it,” she says.

To promote French, it is much more conclusive to build on the positive and to tell the student how it will help him to speak French well. We must go there with concrete examples.

Alexandra Pharand, vice-president of the Quebec Association of French Teachers

In his class, several students are looking for part-time jobs, for example. Mme Pharand talks to them these days about the notion of registers of language: the current register, the sustained register and the familiar register. We do not speak in the same way as we address a future employer or his friend.

“Often the approach is to speak against English. But why do we always come back to English when we talk about our language? It would be more profitable to value French rather than devalue English and say that it is bad, ”says the teacher.

A question of generation

At 27, time has not yet begun to create a distance between Alexandra Pharand, at the start of her career, and the cultural references of the students she teaches. Personally, without involving the AQPF in her thinking, she wonders if the sense of urgency associated with the decline of French is something rooted in previous generations.

“The feeling of alarm, I hear it from my parents, from my grandparents and in the media. But when I speak with people of my age and with students, the decline of French, I don’t hear it,” she says.

Mme Pharand nuances, however, that she is deeply attached to French. “I don’t think our generation sees English as a threat. We see it as a tool. But do I want to protect French and for French to keep its place in Quebec? Absolutely,” she said.

But looking at this advertisement showing a “really sick which is known to be quite chill “, it is rather this second adjective which characterizes the attitude of the young generation vis-a-vis the decline of French, estimates it.

“Have the students seen in the advertising that they have to remove Anglicisms from their vocabulary? I do not think so. All they saw was a gentleman who spoke like them. They found it funny and they laughed. Have they been made aware? No”, concludes Alexandra Pharand.

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