“Quebecers don’t speak real French.”
Since I have settled down in Montreal, moving from a French-speaking township in Quebec, I have heard this quite often. As a French-Quebecois, that bothers me very much.
What upsets me the most about this little sentence is that it mostly comes from people born in other colonized countries. I do not aim to criticize any community in this letter; I rather aim to denounce an unconscious (but harmful) colonialist vision that shapes how French is perceived in Québec.
According to this logic, the real French language is spoken only in France. Obviously. But it also means that no one on the continent of America speaks a real language.
Real French is in France, real English is in England and real Spanish is in Spain.
Folks, we’re all just phonies!
Because what distinguishes Quebecois French from France French is the accent and the words used—exactly the same as what distinguishes British English with the language of its former colonies.
Canadians, Americans and Australians, just to name a few, do not speak “real” English, and Mexicans do not speak “real” Spanish, if I understand correctly.
But why don’t we consider this, in Quebec, before saying such a thing? Before criticizing a language for not being different than it is?
Simply because of the double conquest and the British conquerors’ failure to assimilate French-Quebecois. If Canada were entirely made up of French or English immigrants, nobody would give a damn about how we speak.
But we are so small in North America that people necessarily have to connect us linguistically to our ancestors. It is just as unfair as doing so with any other nation!
Quebec speaks its own French. And it’s real.
The danger here is to bring back an inferiority complex we’re trying to leave in the past. To be compared with France hurts just as much as it did hurt when people couldn’t find work without speaking English. “Speak white,” they said.
So if ever you feel like saying something akin to “Quebecers don’t speak real French,” just ask yourself if you speak a real language.
Quebecois don’t want to be told how they should speak, whether it’s “white” or “real.”
Published by The Link on March 7, 2016.