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Bilingualism Confronts Olympic Hurdles

Bilingualism Confronts Olympic Hurdles

It looks like English took home the Gold Medal after the opening ceremonies for the 2010 Winter Olympics…and Canadian officials are not pleased.

Federal Heritage Minister James Moore acknowledged the opening ceremonies were “brilliant,” but he was disappointed with the lack of French heard at the event. Similarly, Graham Fraser, Commissioner of Official Languages, said “the opening ceremonies was a concert which had been conceived, developed and presented in English, with a French song.”

Although all spoken dialogue was presented in both French and English, the lack of French in the creative portion of the opening ceremonies speaks louder than words (especially French ones). It brings a global spotlight to the struggles of bilingualism in Canada.

Canada has officially been bilingual on a federal level since the 1969 Official Languages Act, but only 22% of Canadians are native French speakers. C’est la vie, some Canadians would say, but the government refuses to practice laissez-faire regarding this issue. It has taken many steps to ensure that the country’s French-influenced heritage is not neglected.

As a potential bilingual role model to the United States (where language issues linked to immigration are the cause of great debate), Canada’s public struggles with bilingualism only serve to support the passionate belief many Americans–and, according to a poll, 60% of Care2 readers–share of “one country, one flag, one language.”

The Olympic Games are supposed to highlight global cooperation and understanding, but Canada’s displeasure at the opening ceremonies raises a question: if a country has multiple official languages, can only one be the winner?

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Photo Courtesy of Istockphoto.com
By Erika Oglesby

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89 comments

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8:53PM PST on Mar 11, 2010

We are all foreigners here. I thought they made the wise choice in paying homage to the true natives - and I don't believe that is the french.

1:01PM PST on Mar 6, 2010

Canada originally was a Country of a primary language and a second language. After Pierre Trudeau announced that we must have these two represented side by side to as great a degree as possibile, that is where some resentment festered. The USA regards Spanish as a second language, I'm sure, BUT does not attempt to foist this at all COST in government, industry, etc. It is not a requirement and so therefore people more readily embrace the language, if they wish ,OR feel no guilt if they concentrate on another! I feel empathy for certain politicians here who struggle with French who will not be accepted until they show fluency.

6:33AM PST on Mar 2, 2010

Oui, Patricia W, You are so right;)

8:54AM PST on Mar 1, 2010

Interesting article!

12:21PM PST on Feb 27, 2010

Bilingualism should be an asset, not a hindrance.

8:05AM PST on Feb 24, 2010

Anthony T. There is a lot of ignorance in your comments! Please go back to your history books. I feel hatred in your comments towards the French community in this country. It is people like you who makes communication between both communities impossible!

1:43PM PST on Feb 23, 2010

They need to do a better job with Bilingualism in America for non-Englis or non-French speakers. I'm more than Bilingual. I'm multilingual, polyglot.

1:41PM PST on Feb 23, 2010

Bilingual in North America-Canada, is bad.

1:33PM PST on Feb 22, 2010

Noted ???

12:12AM PST on Feb 20, 2010

Sûrement vous pouvez tous subsister ; pourquoi une telle amertume ? Il n'y a rien mal avec être bilingue. Qu'est perdu en apprenant plus d'une langue ?

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