Following the Léger poll about young anglophone Quebecers who are considering leaving Québec due to frustrations about speaking French and difficulties integrating the job market, members of Anglophones for Québec Independence (AQI) are reacting with surprise and sympathy.
First, we are surprised because at a time when 88% of anglophone Quebecers are supposedly bilingual, we associate the feelings of frustration they expressed with an older generation, not younger anglophones between the ages 18 and 35. Second, we offer our sympathy and support to these young people who are suffering from the failure of 15 years of Liberal governments to assure that all graduates of our schools and colleges master French at a job-ready level.
The educational system should prepare students for the realities of adult life. For that, anglophone students need to be able to speak French adequately, just as one would expect any employee to speak French well when seeking a job in Paris or German in Berlin. French is the official language of Quebec, and it is the language of employment.
If these young anglophones claim that they are afraid to speak French in public because of their accent, or that their CVs are being rejected by employers, the fault lies with successive Liberal governments for failing to provide them with adequate education in French and the language skills necessary to succeed in Québec’s job market.
Last year when he spoke at Dawson College, Jean-François Lisée addressed the problem of young anglophone students taking the 401 to Toronto at the end of their studies. He said he wanted to stop this from happening. The answer, Lisée proposed, was more French courses and a standardized French test at the end of their studies. With adequate language skills, they could stay here in Québec, work here in Québec, and start families here in Québec.
However, the response to this proposal was less than enthusiastic. On the one hand, students complain about not being able to speak French well enough to integrate Québec’s job market. On the other hand, they do not want to take more French courses or pass a French test that would qualify them for the demands of Québec’s job market.
Part of this contradiction might be attributed to young anglophones not having enough chances to work and socialize with other people in French. English dominates the rest of Canada and North America. In Québec, many francophones and immigrants are eager to practise their English when speaking with anglophones. Therefore, many young anglophones may fail to see themselves as part of a linguistic minority and take positive steps towards integration into the French majority.
AQI wishes to encourage our fellow anglophones to channel their frustrations into improving their French and embracing the challenge of integrating into the job market in French, which is the official language of Québec and the language of employment. We say to them: “As anglophones, we all speak French with an accent, but we don’t let it hold us back, and neither should you!”