Politics of French in Canada: Reminiscence of Past European History with a New Twist

Author Information

Sylvie Roy,
University of Calgary, Canada

DOI: 10.47298/comela22.6-2
The GLOCAL Proceedings:  The GLOCAL Conference in the Mediterranean and Europe 2022


Languages in Canada, especially French, continue to reflect the history and power domination of its European origins. French is one of the official languages of Canada, but is also a minority language for some of its communities outside of the province of Québec, which is situated in Eastern Canada. It is protected by strong ideological and political influence, and by law. In this paper, I would like to reflect on how historical, cultural, and social aspects of French are reproduced and also on how transnational fluidity and multilingual practices are deconstructing or unbounding the idea of how French is seen in one Canadian province: Alberta. This Western Province has a strong conservative base and still has issue with French being an official language, a reminiscence of the past.

Drawing on my work (Roy 2020), I take a sociolinguistic for change perspective, where historical and social understandings allow for critical view of ideologies and social change. I also examine and investigate social processes (e.g., social categorization, marginalization, etc.), and how ideologies can impact as well as impede processes of social identity construction and socialization into language pedagogies. In addition, I employ Pennycook and Makoni’s (2020) idea that, as researchers, we will self-reflect and be open to adopt a dialectic and multiple perspectives on the data collected. My data arises from longitudinal and sociolinguistic ethnographic studies in Alberta over a period of 15 years. Here, I interviewed participants (students, parents, administrators, teachers) in schools, particularly French immersion schools, as well as outside schools, in order to locate discourses related to French, where those discourses come from, and the long-term effects of those discourses, particularly for those learning French. I also include new data collected with multilingual students learning French. By looking at new discourses from multilingual youth learning French, and by observing their repertoires, I can demonstrate how the ‘old’ can be unbounded by youth’s everyday practices.

Keywords: Canada, French, discourse, linguistic anthropology, language education


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