The Québec Experience of Language Planning
Conference on Democracy and Ethnopolitics
Riga, 9-11 March 1994
My paper will present the main features of our experience of language planning. "Language planning" is the usual English term; but in Québec a French equivalent which is not a litteral translation has been proposed and is now spreading throughout the French-speaking countries : "aménagement linguistique". It is used in the meaning of a middle- or long-term attempt at reaping advantage from a collective resource, language (or languages), while taking into account the needs and interests of a given group. It is implemented according to a flexible action plan directing societal evolution without rushing matters while demanding adhesion and participation from the general population (according to Corbeil, 1980 : 9). As can be gathered from the preceding definition, this French term does not have the connotations of social control the English term has : "aménagement linguistique" takes for granted a social consensus on language policy. Theoricians of language planning usually view it as being composed of two aspects : corpus planning (deliberate intervention on the linguistic fabric itself) and status planning(allotment of a socio-political status to a given language) (Kloss, 1969). This paper will focus on status planning; corpus planning will be touched on only briefly.
Language planning in Québec is characterised by an emphasis put on legal aspects. Since 1969, three major language laws have been enacted in Québec : the Act to promote the French language in Québec of 1969 (Bill 63) the Official Language Act of 1974 (Bill 22) and the Charter of the French language of 1977 (Bill 101). There has also been a number of other laws with linguistic impact (see Maurais, 1987).
These legal texts stemmed from the need to prevent language shift from French to English not only among native speakers of French but also among immigrants who upon their arrival do not speak English nor French but had acquired a tendency, especially after Word War II, to shift to English. If that trend had gone on, French would have become in Québec an ethnic language, that is the language of a particular ethnic group. The aim of our language planning project is to make French the common language (the common public language, the common language for public life) of the different ethnic groups making up the social fabric of the province. This has been made even clearer in a policy statement by the Ministry of Immigration. In its statement, Québec's Ministry of Immigration has introduced a new concept, that of a "moral contract" binding the immigrant and the host society. According to this moral contract, the immigrant must accept that French is the common language of public life in Québec. The policy statement adds that command of a common language is different from linguistic assimilation. It also explains that Québec, as a democratic society, does not interfere in the right of the individuals to use whatever language they want in their private life. Finally it is stated that ethnic languages are an economic, social and cultural asset for the whole population of Québec (Ministère des Communautés culturelles et de l'Immigration, 1990 : 15-16). I shall come back later on to the problem of a common language as I know that the concept of язык межнационального общения has been at the core of Soviet language policy.
Before I present with more details the aims of Québec's language planning policy, let me first sum up the background of the various language bills that were passed since 1969, that is over a quarter of a century.
Several factors, which emerged more conspicuously in the 1960's, were at the root of the various language laws. Among them are : the economic inferiority of Francophones, not only within the whole of Canada, but within Québec itself, the preponderance of English in the labour market and the apprehensions of French-speaking Canadians regarding their demographic situation. For a long time, the demographic aspect largely dominated the language debate. Québec is the only Canadian province with a French-speaking majority and, before the government intervened in the language field, certain demographic indicators were alarming. Immigrants were becoming assimilated into the English-speaking group, while Francophones, because of their declining birthrate, could not offset the number of immigrants that were swelling English-speaking ranks. Hence, a growing language shift towards English was noted, facilitated by the educational system. Allophones (immigrants whose mother tongue is neither French nor English) were more attracted to English schools than to French schools; French-speaking Québecers also felt that attraction. In 1971-1972, 85 % of Allophone youngsters attended English schools, while only 15 % attended French schools (see St-Germain, 1980, and Paillé, 1981). In 1973, 25 000 French-speaking youngsters were enrolled in English schools (Duchesne, 1973). By the late 1960's, it had become obvious that Allophones would only attend French schools if French were required on the job and if the urban environment, especially in Montréal, reflected the predominantly French character of Québec.
In this paper, I shall address the following points : the question of a common language for public life, language of education, language used in the workplace, corpus planning, language or languages used on public and commercial signs and before I conclude I will set forth some principles that can be drawn from our experience of language planning.
The Common Language Question
This is a moot question. People making efforts to promote a common language in a bi- or multilingual community take a risk to be called linguistic Jacobinists. For instance, many nationalities in the former Soviet Union have been resentful at what was perceived as Russian chauvinism trying to impose Russian as a lingua franca (under the name язык межнационального общения); analogous reactions came from many Russian-speaking minorities when, starting with Estonia in 1989, various Soviet republics passed language laws declaring official the language of the titular nationality. This question will only be touched on here; owing to its sensitivity, such an issue should need a much more thorough discussion.
I want to introduce in the discussion the concept of "regional linguistic majorities" : "regional linguistic majorities", though a majority in their historic territory (where they may nevertheless be experiencing some form of assimilation), are minorities at the national level. By the phrase "regional linguistic majorities" are understood situations like that of French in Québec, Catalan in the Catalan Countries (Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, Valencia, Roussillon, Andorra), and of course Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian and other languages in the pre-1991 Soviet Union (by the way, Latvian is a clear instance of a receding majority since the Latvian ethnic component of the population of the Latvian SSR fell from 62 % in 1959 to 54 % in 1979; Estonian might serve as another example since, over the same period, it fell from 74.6 % to 64.7 %, see Rannut, 1989 : 16; situations like these ones should be dealt with before they became incorporated under the heading "aboriginal minorities").
In the case of what I term "regional linguistic majorities", the need is felt, for the language to survive, to have it as the common language of the various groups making up the population. At the same time, this has to be done in due respect to the linguistic minorities.
As for Québec, the Charter of the French Language, in its preamble, declares that French should become the common language in the following way :
[...] the National Assembly of Québec recognizes that Québecers wish to see the quality and influence of the French language assured, and is resolved therefore to make of [sic!] French the language of Government and the Law, as well as the normal and everyday language of work, instruction, communication, commerce and business;[...].
Having French as the common language of Québec could be best obtained, it was thought, through imposing it as the teaching medium of newcomers and as the normal language to be used on the job. Guarantees were given to the English-speaking historic community that it would retain its institutions and the right of the Amerinds and the Inuit (formerly, the Eskimos) was recognized to preserve and develop their original languages and cultures.
Immigrants are offered the opportunity to learn French through a network of special institutions called COFI's ("Centres d'orientation et de formation des immigrants"). The public school system also offers the opportunity for the children to learn their ethnic language (PELO, "Programme d'enseignement des langues d'origine").
It should also be added that in 1986 the Québec government passed Bill 142 which guarantees social and health services in English. Many health services, especially in the Greater Montreal area, have taken steps to provide their patients with services in many foreign languages. This is most important since illness is a circumstance when a human being is most vulnerable.
Language of Education
This part of my paper could also come under the heading "Freedom of Choice" as freedom of language is usually advocated in the educational context.
In Canada, the phrase "freedom of choice" usually refers to the freedom granted (or denied) to the parents to choose the language of schooling for their children (it also applies, on a much less controversial scale, to the freedom granted to individuals dealing with ministries and agencies of the federal government to receive services in one of Canada's both official languages, English or French).
First of all, it must be remembered that freedom of choice, especially when it relates to education, is often considered in the sociolinguistic literature as being detrimental to linguistic minorities. What could be called linguistic liberalism is in fact non-intervention in language matters but this non-intervention is not so neutral as it could seem from a superficial perspective; as a matter of fact, it is favourable to the dominant language in the existing language competition. In other words, "Le discours libéral n'est plus que la couverture d'interventions avantageant les couches ayant intérêt à la conservation d'une situation langagière qui leur est favorable" [Liberalism is a cover for interventions to the advantage of population strata whose interests rest in the perpetuation of a linguistic situation that is favourable to them] (Guespin & Marcellesi, 1986 : 17). Paradoxically, this liberal policy of freedom of choice for the language of schooling has perhaps been best exemplified in the totalitarian regime of the Soviet Union, especially on the occasion of the Education Reform of 1958-9 under Khrushchev (see Bilinsky, 1962 or Maurais, 1990). According to Hélène Carrère d'Encausse (1978 : chapter 5), this freedom of choice granted to Soviet parents to choose between Russian and their ethnic language as the medium of schooling was favourable to the Russian language. According to a Catalan sociolinguist, freedom of choice in education is the best system to perpetuate cultural and linguistic inequalities (Puig, 1983 : 37; for inequalities in the educational system on a more general level, see Bourdieu & Passeron, 1964). But it is actually more than that : seen from a historical perspective, freedom of choice paves the way to ethnolinguistic assimilation.
The preceding general considerations can be best understood if applied to a concrete case. In the Province of Québec, the majority of the population is French-speaking (some 83 % according to the latest census). Nevertheless, there was a marked tendency, especially after World War II, for the newly arrived immigrants to send their children to the English school, which according to some demographers writing in the late 60's could turn Montreal into an English city by the beginning of the third millennium as Francophones, because of their declining birth-rate, could not offset the number of immigrants that were swelling English-speaking ranks. Immigrants were more attracted to English schools than to French schools; even French-speaking Québecers were increaslingly sending their children to the English school. The need was felt to intervene as French, which is a majority language in the Province of Québec, is a minority language at the Canadian level; the aforementioned question of "regional majority languages" (often in a federation) is indeed a very acute one and requires special attention in language planning.
In order to reverse demographic trends unfavourable to French and taking into account the fact that Canada is a land of immigration, legislative action was taken. Laws were adopted by Québec's National Assembly : the Official Language Act ("Bill 22") in 1974 and the Charter of the French Language (also informally called "Bill 101") in 1977. These are two all-encompassing pieces of legislation. Their two main sectors of intervention are education and the workplace, which are the pivotal aspect of Québec's language legislation since it had already become obvious by the late 1960's that immigrants would only attend French schools if French were required on the job.
The Charter of the French Language is currently in force. In the area of fundamental rights the Charter sets forth the following principle : "Every person eligible for instruction in Québec has a right to receive that instruction in French" (section 6). The original (i.e. 1977) version of the Charter recognized the right to instruction in English of a child whose father or mother had received elementary instruction in English in Québec (section 73a), a child whose father or mother was domiciled in Québec when the Charter came into force and had received his or her elementary instruction in English outside Québec (section 73b), and a child, and his or her brothers and sisters, who, when the Charter was adopted, were already receiving instruction in English in Québec, in a kindergarten, elementary or secondary school (section 73c and d). These provisions were compatible with the Constitution of 1867 that guaranteed Protestant instruction in Québec (which at the time meant instruction in English, for all practical purposes).
These rules have had a number of repercussions on Québec's linguistic communities. Francophones (with the exception of those who attended an English elementary school) no longer have the freedom to choose the language in which their children receive their education : they must send them to a French school. Anglophones still have the right to choose between French and English schools. Immigrants can no longer attend English educational institutions.
It should also be mentioned that the chapter of the Charter of the French Language devoted to the language of instruction gives all categories of citizens (no matter their maternal language) complete freedom in choosing the language of instruction at the Cegep (pre-university) and university levels. Parents may also choose the language of instruction at the elementary and secondary levels if they enrol their children in non-subsidized private institutions.
At the time the Charter of the French Language was discussed at the National Assembly, the Québec government proposed reciprocity agreements with the governments of the English-speaking provinces : people coming from these provinces would be granted permission to send their children to English schools in Québec provided these provinces gave their French minorities the same education facilities as those granted to its English minority by the Québec government (this was section 86 of the Charter : "The Government may make regulations extending the scope of section 73 to include such persons as may be contemplated in any reciprocity agreement between the Gouvernement du Québec and another province"). The reciprocity agreements were supposed to redress the historic denial of access to French education in many English provinces, for "since Confederation until relatively recently, Francophones outside Quebec were systematically denied educational services that adequately reflected their linguistic needs and aspirations" (Mallea, 1984 : 229). No province has since accepted to sign such an agreement; but in the wake of the adoption of the Charter of the French Language the government of Québec decided to recognize that New Brunswick granted its French minority the same educational facilities as those enjoyed by the English-speaking minority in Québec and accordingly people migrating from New Brunswick were entitled to send their children to an English-medium school.
Certain aspects of the provisions contained in the Charter of the French Language were modified rather substantially when the Supreme Court of Canada noted, in July of 1984, that new constitutional rules (adopted without Québec's consent) had changed Québec's capacity to enact or enforce its own conditions for access to instruction in English. The Supreme Court recognized that a part of the 1982 Constitutional Act of Canada (particularly section 23) was designed to establish a different system of access to instruction in English. The judgment handed down opened the door to English instruction to two new categories of children : a child whose father or mother had received elementary instruction in English anywhere in Canada, and the brothers and sisters of a child of a Canadian citizen, who had received or was receiving elementary or secondary instruction in English in Canada. It should also be noted that the children of Canadian citizens whose mother tongue was English (even if these citizens had not attended English school in Canada) would be eligible for English instruction in Québec if so authorized by the Québec government under the provisions of section 59 of the 1982 Constitutional Act.
On a practical plane, the net result of the Charter of the French Language is that some 75 % of Allophone children are now enrolled in French schools.
On a more theoretical plane, the decisions handed down by the Supreme Court of Canada seem to imply that, as far as linguistic rights are concerned (at least in so far as they relate to education), the rules applying to immigrants are different from the rules applying to citizens. In other words, it has been accepted that immigrants from outside Canada may have to send their children to French schools in Québec whereas migrants from other provinces still have the choice between French and English schools. It should also be noted that the federal government and the other provincial governments when devising amendments to the Canadian Constitution in 1982 (without the presence of representatives of the Québec government) along with the Supreme Court of Canada in its decisions based on the new Constitutional Act of 1982 have in fact accepted the criterium of eligibility to instruction in English as established by Québec's authorities : elegibility is now determined on the basis of the language in which at least one of the parents has received his or her elementary education in Canada; this criterium is a manageable and objective one (it can be proved by documents) whereas eligibility based on the maternal language has proven to be inapplicable and the source of many social tensions.
Language used in the workplace
The pre-eminence given of the question of the language of work was the pivotal aspect of both the 1974 and 1977 language laws, to the extent that, in this respect, there was only a difference in degree between Bill 101 and Bill 22, as a political economist of an Ontario university has noted : "What is particularly striking about the law as it applies to the private sector is its strong continuity with Bill 22, the Official Language Act of 1974" (Coleman, 1984 : 144). However, to better grasp the significance of the legislative provisions relating to the language of work, a brief historical overview should be provided.
The work of the commission of inquiry set up in 1969 by the Québec government to study the position of the French language in Québec (Gendron Commission) showed that the English language in fact dominated in the workplace. The Gendron Commission summarized the situation as follows :
French appears to be useful only to French-speaking persons. In the province of Québec itself, it remains basically a marginal language, since non-French-speaking persons have little need of it and many French-speaking people use English as much as and sometimes more than their mother tongue for important work (Gendron Report, 1972 : I, 108).
In short, French was the language of menial jobs and low incomes and not the language of access to the upper echelons and their attendant benefits.
To carry out its mandate, i.e. to "advise the government on any legislative or administrative measures which might be passed to see to it that French is the working language in public and private undertakings in Québec" (section 14b of Bill 63 of 1969), the Office de la langue française (hereafter French Language Bureau) had begun, even before the Gendron Report was published, to set up administrative mechanisms that were to be used in implementing the 1974 legislation and, later on, the Charter of the French language.
However, to determine the management processes to bring about a linguistic change in the workplace, the French Language Bureau had to conduct pilot experiments in a number of firms. These experiments demonstrated that a Francization programme could be managed in the same way as any other activity of a firm, such as a change in a manufacturing process, without halting or slowing down production, but that there would be socio-psychological effects (including resistance to change). These Francization experiments also showed that the largest firms would produce a spill-over effect that would extend to medium and small businesses. Both the 1974 and the 1977 laws took this into consideration by first compelling firms with more than 100 employees to use French in the workplace. The pilot experiments also showed that the incentives for companies to use French, proposed in Bill 63, were ineffective because the firms never got beyond the linguistic analysis stage and that, accordingly, ways of compelling companies to use French had to be determined.
Moreover, the experiments showed that a linguistic profile of the company first had to be drawn up. Hence, a linguistic analysis questionnaire was developed. The Charter of the French language stipulates that all companies with more than 50 employees must fill out the questionnaire. The main areas covered in the analysis are : written communication within the company, oral communication at meetings, written communication with firms outside Québec, forms, training and reference manuals, language used on internal signs, language used in advertising, the company's policy regarding the teaching of the second language to its management personnel and other employees, linguistic criteria for hiring, promoting and transferring employees, use of French terminology within the company, the volume of translation from English to French and from French to English, and so on.
Once the linguistic analysis is completed, the company must negotiate a Francization programme with the French Language Bureau. According to the Charter (section 141) :
The Francization programme is intended to generalize the use of French at all levels of the business firm. This implies : (a) the knowledge of the official language on the part of management, the members of the professional corporations and the other members of the staff; (b) an increase at all levels of the business firm, including the board of directors, in the number of persons having a good knowledge of the French language so as to generalize its use; (c) the use of French as the language of work and as the language of internal communication; (d) the use of French in the working documents of the business firm, especially in manuals and catalogues; (e) the use of French in communications with clients, suppliers and the public, (f) the use of French terminology; (g) the use of French in advertising; (h) appropriate policies for hiring, promotion and transfer.
An amendment to the Charter of the French Language passed in 1993 has added a new requirement to the preceding list : the availability of computer softwares in French.
As part of its Francization programme, the firm negotiates with the French Language Bureau the list of positions that require knowledge of another language with a view to ensuring communication among the departments of the firm or with other companies outside Québec. It has been proposed that these positions be known as linguistic bridges. They are only to be used for communications with firms outside Québec, not for communications within the firm itself (Corbeil, 1975  : 25).
In firms employing more than 100 people, a Francization committee devises a Francization programme and supervises its application (section 150); workers must make up at least one-third of the members of the Francization committee (section 146) which, according to a 1993 amendment, must meet at least every six months.
A 1993 amendment to the Charter of the French Language requires that business firms, even when they hold a Francization certificate, report every three years to the French Language Bureau. This amendment has been devised so that Francization may not step back.
The Francization process as described above may not apply to head offices and, since 1983, to research centres. The text of section 144 was amended by Bill 57, passed in 1983. It now reads as follows :
The manner of applying Francization programmes in head offices and in research centres may be decided by special agreements with the Office [de la langue française] to allow the use of a language other than French as the language of operations.
A regulation of the French Language Bureau defines the two criteria which entitle a company to a special agreement : if, on the one hand, 50 % or more of the revenue of the firm is derived from exports outside Québec and, on the other, it is impossible for the firm to meet the requirements of section 141 of the Charter (quoted above in full), given the frequency of its transactions abroad, the complexity of the techniques used, its specialized staffing needs or the effects that a Francization programme could have on its competitive position. One of the two criteria is sufficient to entitle the firm to a special agreement; the first criterium has been the most frequently invoked until now (see FTQ, 1985 : 24).
What headway has been made in the Francization of business firms?
As of 31st March 1992, 82.6 % of businesses with 50 to 99 employees hold a Francization certificate; progress has been somewhat slower in the case of firms with more than 100 employees : 66.4 % hold a Francization certificate (Conseil de la langue française, 1992 : 106). The certificates attest to the fact that the firms can operate in French, i.e. that they have translated their most important documents and that a sufficient number of their management staff can express themselves in French.
From 1971 to 1989, progress in the use of French throughout the labour force was noted : 66 % of the labour force worked mainly in French in 1971, 70 % in 1979, 73 % in 1989. Progress has been more noticeable in the Montréal area : 51 % in 1979, 56 % in 1989 whereas over a ten-year period there was no significant progress for French in the rest of the province (87 % in 1979, 88 % in 1989) (see Béland, 1991).
Industrialisation in Québec was brought about since the nineteenth century by English-speaking entrepreneurs (first from Britain and thereafter increasingly from America). From the beginning, Québec's economic development was based on extraction of raw materials which were transformed elsewhere; businesses established in the province were most often branches of British or American firms with manegerial personnel coming from the United Kingdom or America with the lower echelons filled by local manpower, thus creating a predominantly French-speaking proletariate in the cities. This historical fact explains why English has been since the beginning of industrialization the dominant language in the workplace; it is noteworthy that even in the countryside new machinery introduced since the nineteenth century was more often than not designated under English names while traditional agricultural machinery and activities usually kept their French names.
Language bills passed in the 1970's (on which see Maurais, 1987) commissioned a government agency, the French Language Bureau, with the mandate to make French the working language in business firms and in the Civil Service; this implied an emphasis on terminology, i.e. the Bureau had to provide correct French terms to replace traditionally English or `Franglais' terms.
The historical situation which has just been outlined has led to the fact that the variety of French used in Quebec, especially the technolects, presents a lexical deficit when compared to English and this has a special bearing on terminology as practised in Quebec. In other words, traditionally terminological activities in Quebec have had more to do with lexical modernization than with terminology, qua terminology; and even at that, lexical modernization has consisted more often than not in establishing bilingual lexica providing North-American French-speakers with terms already in use in France. Gapping a lexical deficit, catching up with English in technical domains, are the main characteristics of corpus planning in Quebec.
Among its many activities, the French Language Bureau had to adopt a definite position regarding loan-words. When technical domains are literally flooded with foreign borrowings, as was the case in some sectorial vocabularies in Quebec, the matter is of public concern since the law entitles every worker to work in French; in such a case one may ask whether a worker is actually working in French when he uses an overwhelming foreign (and considered by himself to be foreign) technical lexicon. A certain regulation of the flow of loan-words is therefore called for : the Language Bureau has issued a policy statement on that matter (Office de la langue française, 1980). In its policy statement, the Bureau declares that linguistic borrowing (more precisely loan-words, loan-translations and semantic loans) is a legitimate means to enrich a language but it should not prevail over internal modes of lexical creativity; the Language Bureau sets three tasks : a) to get rid of Anglicisms which are detrimental to Quebec's French integrity (essentially loans that uselessly compete with standard French words); b) to promote French lexical creativity as a means to designate new realities, usually imported from the United States, instead of perpetuating the habit of systematically resorting to borrowings from English as the regular source for neologisms; c) to establish guidelines regulating admission of foreign words when they are really needed to fill a gap in the lexicon and when internal linguistic resources are clearly at an end.
Language(s) of Signs
Language demands were often related to the fact that Québec did not have a French image, a French face ("visage français"). Signs were often bilingual, if not solely in English. The former premier, René Lévesque, once said :
In its own way, each bilingual sign says to the immigrant : there are two languages here, French and English, and you choose the one you want. To the Anglophone, it says : you don't need to learn French; everything is translated.
This statement faithfully reflects the attitude of the Nationalists towards the sign question in the late 1960's and early 1970's, when they called for government intervention in this area.
Here is one author's description of the sign situation in downtown Montréal in the 1960's :
Look at downtown Montréal, in the Sainte-Catherine-Peel area, for example : almost all the large signs are only in English... There is some French on small signs in shop windows and on menus, to promote sales! But, to assert our presence, come on! These shopkeepers advertise in English, their language, or that of the most powerful in Canada, the language they have chosen, turning up their noses at the French demographic reality of Québec and Montréal itself (Lorrain, 1966 : 80).
In 1969, the Act to promote the French language in Québec (better known as "Bill 63") timidly paved the way for intervention by entrusting the French Language Bureau with the mandate to "advise the government on any legislative or administrative measures which might be passed in regard to public posting to ensure the priority of the French language therein" (section 14d). The Official Language Act of 1974 made French mandatory on public signs, rejected English unilingualism in favour of French unilingualism or bilingualism, and no longer mentioned the "priority" of French : "Public signs must be drawn up in French or in both French and another language, except within certain limits provided by regulation" (section 35). In 1977, the Charter of the French language opted squarely for French unilingualism : "except as may be provided under this act or the regulations of the Office de la langue française, signs and posters and commercial advertising shall be solely in the official language" (section 58, 1977 version). Only as an exception could the wording in French on signs be accompanied by another language in cases of "cultural activities of a particular ethnic group" (section 61) and in "commercial establishments specializing in foreign national specialities or the specialities of a particular ethnic group" (section 62); French was not mandatory in "messages of a religious, political, ideological or humanitarian nature" from non-profit associations (section 59); and, finally, "firms employing not over four persons including the employer may erect signs and posters in both French and another language in their establishments" (not outside their establishments), but "French must be given at least as prominent display as ... the other language" (section 60). Only the official language may be used on traffic signs (section 29).
French unilingualism on signs was deemed necessary because it was to symbolize, in the eyes of the entire population, the real possibility of linguistic change. This is how it was justified :
We have therefore chosen a number of highly visible, concrete manifestations of language and we have made them the subject of provisions in the Charter of the French language. These manifestations are : company names, signs, advertising and terminology. The changes that are occurring and will occur in these areas are directly visible and actually modify what we perceive with our eyes and ears. This will be an obvious confirmation for everyone that the law is effective, that things are changing (Corbeil, 1977 : 12).
The provisions of the Charter of the French Language relating to signs were challenged before the courts. In December 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada decided that freedom of expression could not be reduced to political expression and that it also applies to commerce. The Court added that requiring the predominance of French on commercial signs would be acceptable and would serve the goal of preserving and promoting a French face in the province. According to the Court's reasoning, it is legitimate to require a "marked predominance" of French on commercial signs for demographic reasons as more than 80 % of Québec's population is French : this means that the "linguistic face" should reflect the demolinguistic composition of the population. This interpretation is questionable. According to some legal experts (e.g. Woehrling, 1993), the Court has given a wrong interpretation and the objective of section 58 of the Charter of the French Language (pertaining to commercial signs) has been wrongly identified. The objective was to change non-Francophones' attitudes towards French, not to mirror the proportion of French-speakers in the population; this objective was based on the assumption that the "linguistic landscape" conditions to a great extent the psychological attitudes of non-Francophones towards French : inasmuch as people who do not speak French need the information transmitted through that language they will learn it but if commercial signs and advertisement are also available in English (or another language) they will not feel the need to learn French. As already mentioned, there were exceptions to the rule of French unilingualism, which had the effect of loosening that requirement, but these exceptions were not even taken into account by the Supreme Court in its 1988 decision.
Subsequently, the government of Québec amended the provision on commercial signs. As of 1993, bilingualism is again permitted on commercial signs. In some cases, the regulations provide for a one-to-one bilingualism but in other cases the regulations call for the "marked predominance" of the French language. This "marked predominance" has been defined by the two-to-one rule (that is, twice as big or twice as many). The rule of French unilingualism has nevertheless been maintained for advertisement-hoarding (signs and posters) of more than 16 square metres and for advertisement on vehicles used for public transport (including bus shelters and premises giving access to public transport). The maintenance of some domains of French unilingualism has been justified by the Conseil de la langue française on sociolinguistic grounds :
Only some domains of exclusive use of French on signs and in advertisement will guarantee the status of French as a creative language. Without those domains of exclusive use, there is a serious risk that French becomes again a translated language on signs and in advertisement whereas for the last 15 years lexical and semantical creativity has been increasingly manifested in those areas (Conseil de la langue française, 1993 : 14; translation mine).
Some Principles of Language Planning
Some basic sociolinguistic principles can be derived from the Québec experience of language planning. It remains to be seen whether they will hold true in every other circumstance. They will be presented here rather schematically.
(1) Need for a prior sociolinguistic description
A language planning project must be based on a thorough sociolinguistic description. On the basis of that description realistic goals must be set. Québec's language laws could build on two very important sociolinguistic surveys : the Canadian government's Royal Commission on bilingualism and biculturalism (Laurendeau-Dunton Commission, also called B & B Commission) and the Gendron Commission set up by the Québec government in 1969.
(2) Need for state intervention
When a language planning project aims at a massive switch-over (such as making French, instead of English, the usual language in the workplace), one must realize that the individual is helpless. An individual alone cannot bring about such a massive language change in a business firm, let alone in a whole society. In other words, one must do away with voluntarism. The state has to set the rules and to provide some sort of control (this, by the way, is in the opinion of the current author a major flaw in the 1989-1990 language laws of the Soviet republics as no state agency is entrusted with all the practical aspects of implementing the switch-over from Russian; see Maurais, 1991; this situation seems to have been rectified in Latvia by the creation of an "Official Language Commission", which includes an "Official Language Inspection Department" (Инпекция государственного языка), and in Estonia by the recent creation of a body of language inspectors; a language agency has also recently been established in Lithuania).
(3) Need for visible change
Language is an abstract reality and so is language change. In order for a language policy to succeed, some signs of progress have to be made visible so that the whole population is no longer under the spell of collective powerlessness and will realise that change is possible.
People must perceive that change has been made or is under way, otherwise the situation will be seen as hopeless. Speakers chronically suffering from linguistic insecurity must be driven out of their vicious circle. Three domains were selected in Québec in that respect : 1. Public commercial signs; 2. Terminology in the workplace (i.e. doing away with English and Franglais [Frenglish] terms); 3. School enrolment (easily checked through official statistics). As Corbeil (1977 : 12; translation) wrote :
We have therefore chosen a number of highly visible, concrete manifestations of language and we have made them the subject of provisions in the Charter of the French Language. These manifestations are : company names, signs, advertising and terminology. The changes that are occurring and will occur in these areas are directly visible and actually modify what we perceive with our eyes and ears. This will be an obvious confirmation for everyone that the law is effective, that things are changing.
(4) Domains of non-intervention
The law must define the domains where the official language is to be used, alone or with another language. All the other domains, and especially all private domains (including religion), are to remain untouched.
(5) Special status of bilingualism
Everyone agrees that bilingualism is an asset for the individual. But when it comes to social bilingualism (which more often than not is synonymous with diglossia, that is a relationship between a dominant language and a dominated one), the situation is no longer so clear as bilingualism is usually an intermediary step to later unilingualism in the dominant language. In Québec, social bilingualism has been deemed to be detrimental to French : systematic bilingualism as used to be the rule before the language laws of the 1970's meant that immigrants, when offered the choice between French and English, usually opted for the second. Québec's language laws therefore provide for a certain regulation of bilingualism : for instance, business firms have to negotiate with a specially commissioned government agency (Office de la langue française) the list of positions that require the knowledge of a language other than French; these positions are indeed necessary in order to ensure communication with the departments of the firm situated outside Québec and with firms from outside Québec. The provisions in the Charter of the French Language relating to bilingualism are based on a distinction that has been made between individual bilingualism (which must be fostered) and institutional bilingualism (which must be controlled) (on this, see Corbeil, 1977 and 1980).
In other language planning projects, bilingualism plays a very different part. This is so in cases where the decline of the language is more acute than it was in Québec. In such instances requirements of generalized bilingualism may be the first step to restore the language. This is clearly the case in the Spanish Basque Country where slightly more than 25 % of the population have reportedly a sufficient knowledge of the language. Latvia offers another example of a language planning project fostering bilingualism (where the titular nationality is on the verge to loose its status of majority). Section 22 of the Latvian Law on languages stipulates that citizens shall be reimbursed for any losses due to a failure of employees to speak Latvian or Russian and that this reimbursement may even be demanded from the guilty employee; according to section 23, infringement on a citizen's freedom of language choice shall bring the guilty party before court. These bilingual requirements must of course be evaluated in reference to the demolinguistic composition of the population. As ethnic Russians tend to be unilingual, such requirements are clearly set out in order to increase their knowledge of the majority language.
The preceding examples clearly show that the role of bilingualism can be very different from one language planning project to another.
(6) Need to build consensuses
In order for a language planning project to develop some sort of support in the population, large consensuses must be built. Here are some consensuses which still hold in Québec : the immigrants must be enrolled in French schools; French must be obligatory and prominent on public commercial signs; and there is a need for state support for French, since this is clearly a minority language in the North American context.
(7) The role of the time factor in language planning
Language planning is a middle-term or a long-term undertaking. It is generally estimated that language change, i.e. more precisely phonological change, takes about one generation. I think it could also be assumed that planned change – and I mean real, deep change, not only changing the names of the streets from one language to another – would also probably take one generation, if not more. A switch-over from one language to another cannot be done overnight. In order words, in language planning there is no short cut – or, in any case, resorting to short cuts could be dangerous. This observation entails two consequences :
1- The need for visible change in some domains (which has been already mentioned) in order to reduce uncertainty about the future of the language;
2- The need for monitoring : as most of the linguistic change will go unnoticed by the individual speaker in his life span, a team of experts must monitor the change. If this is not done, then the language planning project might well be a short-lived endeavour.
The Québec experience in language planning is of course broader in scope than what has been discussed in this paper. What is most striking about our experience and has been perhaps only hinted at in some passages of this paper is the pragmatic character of our language planning project. This character is best exemplified by the fact that this project, embodied in an act of parliament, has been periodically modified in order to meet new needs and/or demands arising either from some group (e.g. the Anglophones pressing in 1983 and 1993 for a better recognition of English) or from the evolution of the economy (e.g. the massive introduction of personal computers in the workplace necessitated in 1993 that the requirements on the Francization of business firms be readjusted).
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