Actualités By Lise Ravary 224 Views

Lise Ravary: I'm pessimistic about the state of French in Montreal

Remember Bonjour-Hi? How Simon Jolin-Barrette thought he could legislate the way shopkeepers greet their customers? François Legault killed that one right off the bat, but the challenge has since grown bigger: keeping downtown Montreal French.

Le Journal de Montréal reported last week that many customers are being greeted in English-only in downtown stores. A reporter with hidden cameras visited 31 stores and was greeted in English — never mind Bonjour-Hi — in 16 of them.

At Uniqlo, the new Japanese sensation fast fashion store, the sales assistant did not speak French at all. Same at Victoria’s Secret where an employee explained that her colleagues prefer to greet people in English. “Sometimes, when we greet people in French, some take it personally and we get yelled at.”

Say it ain’t so.

We’re not talking about a corner store owned by recent immigrants who are trying to learn French and whose children will be trilingual soon enough, thanks to Bill 101, but mega corporations who should know the laws of the lands where they operate.

Victoria Secret recently opened a mega store in Paris Les Halles. I doubt their staff there greet customers in English. This is an oddity reserved for Quebecers who are known to switch to English to be accommodating and because Quebec is part of Canada, where English is the predominant language.

Quebec has declared French to be its official language, while English and French are the official languages of Canada. Go figure.

A recent Léger opinion poll indicates that 63 per cent of Quebecers (of all linguistic groups together) are preoccupied or very preoccupied by the situation of the French language in Quebec. Some 59 per cent think it is getting worse compared to 10 years ago.

I agree. Too many people don’t care.