蒙特利尔的历史和语言 Montreal Now and Then (1) – Its History and Its Language

by shirls on November 30, 2007 · 5 comments in 加拿大自助游记,有感而发,自助游记和提示,蒙特利尔自助游记

(Dear English readers, please scroll down to find the ‘click’ for English translation)

前两天去了蒙特利尔 (Montreal)一趟。这次只去了一个晚上,纯粹是去见一见一位朋友。我第一次去时,是约三个半月前。那时,还是夏天。可是,一直来懒得写一篇有关蒙特利尔的贴字。因为它的历史太悠久,和加拿大的关系太复杂,要写好一篇贴字,很花工夫。所以,一直拖延到今天。

蒙特利尔是魁北克 (Quebec)省的省市, 它有三百多年的历史。魁北克省和加拿大有一段奇特的历史关系。简短来说,魁北克省曾是法国的占领地。在一场法国和英国世界主权斗争的战争后,英国战胜因而得到了魁北克。后来,加拿大独立后,成为双语国也是因为魁北克省。

魁北克省内的主要语言是法文。记得,我们的车一驶进魁北克省境内,所有的指示牌等都变成法文。走在街上,听到的大多数是法文。进餐馆,商店等,侍应者都会先用法文招呼。我第一次去时,只会不好意思地微笑,才用英文和他们交谈。那时,我对法文还真是一窍不通。我学法文就是因为对在蒙特利尔满街满巷听到的法文产生莫名的好奇。这次去,我至少还会较自然地说bonjour, merci 或oui的。:)

蒙特利尔曾因为其得天独厚的地理环境,成了加拿大最重要的海港。所以,它也曾是加拿大最大和最富有的商业中心和城市。可是,它一直存在着自治自主或想争取独立的问题,而且此问题在70年代恶化。那时,也因为魁北克省通过一项新法律 (Bill 101) ,免去了双语制度,将法文立定为魁北克省的唯一法定语文,而引起轩然大波。许多以英文为主的人都离开蒙特利尔,商人们也将他们的商业根基迁到多伦多。正因此,蒙特利尔的经济开始走下坡了一段很长的时间,至最近才开始有点起色。

其实,这项为了保护法文的法律蛮复杂的, 也有牵涉到侵犯语言自由之嫌。例如,所有魁北克居民的必须送儿女到法文公众小学。只有到中学才可学其他语文。除非,父母要送儿女到私立学校。又或者,父母是加拿大公民,曾在加拿大受过英文教育,他们才可以送他们的儿女到英文公众学校。这也是为了要所有移民懂得法文,这样他们才可以溶入当地的法式文化。所以,我在街上看到很多外国移民,包括很多亚洲人和非洲人,讲的都是一口流利的法文。感觉蛮奇怪的。听说,除了法国外,世界上最多人说法文的地区就是魁北克省了。

法国人这种对自己语言文化的执著,常给人有点傲慢自我的感觉。可是,如果执着中,减少一点对其他语言不屑一顾的态度,我其实很佩服他们。试问,如果中国经济没起飞,又有多少华人真正担心自己的语言文化有没有正统地传承下来?当然有人很关心, 但不多。现在去学华文的人,或多或少也只是希望有朝一日去刮那一块中国经济的肥猪肉。


I just came back from Montreal two days ago. I was there for only one night, mainly was to catch up with a friend. The first time I went was about three and half month ago, it was still summer then. However, I never wrote a blog post about the previous trip because I find it difficult to write about it due to Montreal’s long and complicated history, especially its relationship with Canada.

Montreal is the provincial city of Quebec Province and it has more than 350 years of history. Quebec and Canada has a complicated historical relationship. Briefly, Quebec used to be one of the French colonies in North America but France lost Quebec to British Empire after a failure in a major battle. Since then, British Empire governed Quebec and Ontario under the name of United Province of Canada. When Canada became independent, Quebec was naturally included and hence Canada has become a bilingual country.

In Quebec, the main language used is French. When our car drove passed the boarder, I could clearly see the changes of language used in road signs and commercial signs. Walking on the streets in Montreal, I mostly heard French more than English. Wherever we went, be it restaurant or shop, we were greeted with French. At my first trip, I was a little not too used to it and would normally replied with a unnatural smile first, only then I would speak English in respond. At that time, I had completely no French experiences. I decided to learn French was solely because of my first trip to Montreal. I was simply thrilled by it. This time around, though I could not speak French either. I found myself can respond with simple greeting more confidently and naturally.

Historically, Montreal used to be the largest and richest economic hub and city in Canada because of its strategic location as a port. However, Quebec Province always has tension and sovereign issues with Canada. This tension had become worsen when Bill 101 passed into law in the 70s. This Bill made French the sole official language of Quebec. Prior to this Bill, Quebec was bilingual. Many anglophones left Quebec, including many businesses took their business headquarters to Toronto. Hence, since then, economic in Montreal experienced major setbacks and the slowest growth. Only until recently, its economic starts to recover.

Bill 101 is quite a complicated bill. It obviously aims to preserve the French language and culture, however, controversially, it also affects the freedom of speech of people. For example, children attending public schools must do so in French until the post-secondary level. It is however possible to attend non-subsidized private school in any language if the parents choose to. An exception allows for children to attend the English-language public schools if either one of the parents received his/her education in English in Canada. This is also to ensure all immigrants can integrate into the local culture of Quebec. Hence, when I was Montreal, I often saw many immigrants, especially many Asians and Africans, conversing in fluent French. To me, it was a little strange to listen to. There are some references mentioned that, France being the largest, Quebec is the second largest French-speaking place in the world.

French people might have always given the impression of arrogance and too much pride of their own language and culture. Nonetheless, if they could pay the same respect to other languages as much as their own language, their effort to preserve their language and culture is admirable. If we look at Chinese language. If it is not the emerging economic power of China, how many Chinese truly care about the preservation of their own language ? I am sure there are but not too many. Even though there are many people, including Chinese themselves, are very keen to learn Chinese. Unfortunately, one of main reasons of learning Chinese, possibly only to do with hoping one day can take advantage of the strong economic of China.

I wonder, as a Chinese, what can we learn from French…..

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