Perhaps because of their numbers, the French Canadians were always more politically assertive than either the Acadians or the Cajuns. Through political manoeuvres they forced the British authorities to keep certain French institutions, and even to grant Quebec its own parliament in 1791, which French Canadians have dominated ever since. By 1867 French Canadians made up only a third of Canada’s total population, but they still constituted a large majority in the province of Quebec. The Canadian constitution, the British North America Act, which was written that year, was the high-water mark of French-Canadian assertiveness. It united the five colonies of British North America and created an independent Canada. French Canadians had made sure that Canada became a federation of former colonies rather than a unitary state, so French speakers would have some clout in Canadian politics. Read more »
Where did Spanish come from?
Just how did a quirky, obscure dialect spoken by a remote tribe of cattle farmers in northern Spain grow to become the common tongue of 400 million people in 22 countries? And why do so many people in Canada, Brazil, France and the United States want to learn Spanish today?
The Story of Spanish, to be published by St. Martin’s Press, NY, in May 2013, will answer these questions and many more.
The Story of Spanish will be a veritable “biography” of the Spanish language. It will introduce readers to the people, places and events that shaped the destiny and forged the personality of the Spanish language.
In the accessible style they have honed in their writing over the last decade, the authors will transport their readers back in time to the Roman Empire, the Kings of Castile and the New World explorers. Along the way, readers will discover Don Quixote, the Spanish Golden Age, the Liberator Simón Bolívar and great contemporary creators like Gabriel García Márquez and Pedro Almodovar – all of whom have influenced the destiny of the Spanish language. Read more »
To resist assimilation, French Canadians and Acadians developed diverse, sometimes wacky forms of la vie associative, from language conferences and cultural associations to secret societies. The first association was created at a banquet held in Montreal on June 24, 1834, St. John the Baptist Day (and because the banquets continued to be organized on that day, John the Baptist went on to become the patron saint of French Canadians), and led to the founding of the Societé St-Jean Baptiste (St. John the Baptist Society), whose central mandate was to defend the rights of French Canadians. Dozens of other associations were formed in French-Canadian communities in Quebec and elsewhere in the decades that followed.
The movement spawned a wide array of symbols, some of which, such as the maple leaf and the beaver, went on to become Canadian emblems. The Societé St-Jean Baptiste even devised the anthem, “O Canada,” that eventually replaced “God Save the Queen” as Canada’s national anthem in 1980. Their flag–blue with a white cross and four fleurs-de-lys– became the flag of the province of Quebec in 1944 and the official symbol of all French Canadians.
Photo: Government of Argentina
On June 20th, Argentines commemorate the bicentennial of their sky-blue-and-white flag, which was designed by Manuel Belgrano, one of the liberators of Argentina during the long wars of independence. He first waved it on February 27th, 1812, but not everybody liked it at first and it would be long before it was accepted. When independence was declared in 1816, it became the flag of the new Republic. But it wasn’t until 1938 that June 20th, the date of Belgrano’s death, was made into a national holiday called Día de la bandera (Flag Day). Read more »
It was 62 years ago today that the general Charles De Gaulle initiated the French Resistance with his famous Appeal of June 18th, in 1940.
As the only government minister who refused defeat against Germany, de Gaulle sought refuge in Great Britain, where he made his famous call to resistance on the BBC.
Few people actually heard him that day and there is no recording of it. But he repeated it to a broader audience four days later on the day of the signature of the Franco-German armistice.
It is a particularly moving text. However, it was not in this call to resistance that he uttered the famous line, “France lost a battle! But France did not lose the war!” That quote actually appeared in August of 1940 on propaganda posters smuggled into France.
A polyglot is one who is able to speak or write several different languages.
The Polyglot Club is a place where one gets to practice those languages with native speakers from all over the world.
Vincent Scheidecker started this multilingual club in 2003. It all began with a simple ad he posted in a small Parisian magazine, seeking a French-Chinese language exchange. The response to the ad was overwhelming and soon after Scheidecker developed the Polyglot Club where others could also benefit from the online source which facilitates the development of language exchanges.
For some, learning languages in an academic setting can only go so far. Sure, they could learn all the verb tenses, grammar rules and the exception to those rules, but when it comes to practical usage of the language something is amiss. Language learning is different for everybody. Michael Erard, author of Babel No More, explained in an article from the CBC that “Hyperpolyglots are people who have learned how they learn. They know their cognitive style, they know the strategies that work better for them, they know their environment, and the resources they have access to.” Read more »
In this interesting article from the Times Literary Supplement, Tom Shippey reviews two books about the origins of the English language. The History of English Spelling looks at the history of the spelling of English words based on a substantial collection of data from Christopher Upward. Shippey also explores Richard J. Watts’ Language Myths and the History of English, a book that examines popular English myths and their origins.
The myth of English as a global language
English spelling is notoriously inconsistent, and some have gone further, calling it “the world’s most awesome mess” or “an insult to human intelligence” (both these from linguists, one American, one Austrian). Maybe this is just because our alphabet only has twenty-six letters to represent more than forty phonemes, or distinctive speech-sounds, and some of those – notably q and x – are not pulling their weight, while j is not allowed to (see “John” but also “George”). If we gave s and z a consistent value (“seazon”) and extended this to k and c (“klok” and “sertain”), we could free c up for other duties, such as maybe representing ch, as once it did. But then there are all the vowels . . . . Read more »
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The heritage of French colonialism is complex, and nowhere more so than where language is concerned. We met a young fundamentalist in Tlemcen who said he refused to speak the language of the colonizer and went as far as pretending he only spoke English (though he spoke it with a French accent). But the hostility towards France doesn’t translate neatly into a rejection of French. Among the former colonies, Algeria actually has the highest proportion of French speakers, to the point that French is hardly even a second language there. Half the population speaks French fluently, eighty percent of Algerian newspapers and most of the TV channels are French, and nearly everyone has some understanding of it.
The fact is, despite how painful Algeria’s colonial history was, the country is a striking example of how successful the French were in spreading their language during the second colonial push, which lasted roughly from 1830 to 1960. In many ways the second colonial era was the second great historical opportunity for French. Read more »