Why do I sometimes Feel like a Second Class Citizen?

by Lyne des Roberts alias La Dame dragon

My students and I often play a game we call Find the mistakes in actual documents written or translated in French. I do believe it is a good exercise because it allows me to talk about some rules I would probably not cover in class and… I can teach them about anglicisms and “faux-amis” (words that are almost the same in both English and French, but have different meanings).

Most of the time, we browse through the Public Service of Canada website and we discuss the texts. This week, we decided to compare posts for job positions within the Government. We picked one that was looking for people to work in Ottawa and another one that was looking for people to work in Shawinigan, Québec.

I could not believe what I read!

Obviously, the document for the position in Québec was written in French and, then, translated in English. Far from being perfect, it was quite acceptable… at least we could clearly understand what they wanted and the choice of words was accurate. I saw a few anglicisms but, in the whole, I thought it was satisfying.

On the other hand, the document for the position in Ottawa was anything, but clear! In French, we talk about compétences linguistiques but in the translated version they were referring to compétence dans les langues officielles (???)… useless to mention “official languages” since we all know they are talking about French and English (unless we now have a third official language I am not aware of!). Anyways I won’t dissect the 6 page document because it would never end! All I can say is that, after having read it a couple of times, I still had no clue what they were looking for… it is when any bilingual Francophone makes the decision to click on English!

My point is: I am a Canadian citizen now living outside Québec and, for some reason, I do feel like a second class citizen in my own country. I think I do know why… I feel this way everytime I come across translated documents. Do translators in the Public Service botch the job??? It looks like it… and the message I get is that I am not worth the effort of trying to communicate in my mother tongue in a way I can understand… it is like telling me (and all Francophones living outside Québec): “Stop complaining, I am addressing you in French although I know I’m doing a poor job at it!”. It looks like it is only about Politics!!! My Government is accommodating me and I should not say a word… because it could be worse… well, there is nothing worse than being insulted! Anyone murdering my language is attacking me personally… it is like telling me I am a second class citizen and I should not be here.

My Government seems to have double standards regarding French… when they are addressing the Québécois, they pay more attention because they know it would not play in favor of federalism in this province already too much distinct! Living in Ontario, I deserve the same respect I deserved when I was living in Montréal… If a Christmas tree is offending to some people, politicians will do anything to please them and they will quickly call it a Holiday tree… What if offending me (and millions of Francophones) with bad French?… Don’t we deserve that this issue be addressed and solutions be brought?…

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