Defining ‘Official’ Bilingualism


Frequent Bulldog contributor The Voter responds to A Solution The Bilingualism Controversy by Bob Hurter.

To read this very well-received comment and post, click here.

Thanks, Bob, for that well-explained position.

One of the things that people don’t seem to understand is that the city is already “bilingual” after a fashion. Many services, as you note, are delivered in both languages and a lot of written material is available in both languages. This means that we are not talking about adding $24 million to the city’s costs. I’m sorry – I can’t tell you what the actual number is that’s being spent now or what it covers.

The issue is that this is not mandated and could disappear at the stroke of a pen, whether as a budget measure or a philosophical decision. It is, in fact, a favour that’s being extended to the francophone community. That’s what the difference is between “official” and non-official bilingualism.

Some city materials are translated and provided in other prominent languages such as Chinese and Arabic for the benefit of residents using those languages. Again, this is done by the city with no official requirement to do it.

What I and many others see is that we have no guarantee that services or information will continue to be available in the French language. It seems that in one generation, your family has lost the ability to function in French. That’s not what we want for our children. It’s important for us to continue to live in French from childhood into old age in the city where many of us were born.

My father also came to this country as a multilingual immigrant although none of the five languages he was fluent in was French. It was, I think, the fourth language I learned which I then perfected within the franco-ontarian family into which I married. I have relatives born and raised in this area who, while they can get along in day-to-day conversations, can’t read legal documents or understand a medical diagnosis in English.

Children who attend French schools don’t learn English until about Grade 4 which allows them to be well-grounded in their first language before starting another. I raised in an earlier post the issue of finding recreation and other activities that are delivered in French and provided out of my tax dollars just as an anglophone family looks for city programs in their own language. I’m not asking for French programs everywhere but to have them continue to be available on a proportional basis.

I’m not asking the city to hugely expand their expenditures on French services of all kinds but just to make it official that we are entitled to rely on those services being provided now and into the future.


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3 thoughts on “Defining ‘Official’ Bilingualism

  1. The City of Ottawa has always had a practical functional approach to bilingualism and the cost is very moderate. Designating the City as officially bilingual will not change the approach in how bilingualism is managed. It’s unfortunate that the City has not moved forward on this issue.

  2. Didn’t know there was a bilingualism “controversy” until Ken brought it up. And continues to bring it up.


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