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?
Photo Courtesy of Istockphoto.com
By Erika Oglesby