When the GG tries to speak French

When the GG tries to speak French

You never know what’s going to set people off, except of course if you’re talking about language in Canada. 

Perhaps I should have known better. 

During the Speech from the Throne on Tuesday, I tweeted that the governor general’s French had gone from basically non-existent a few months ago to almost decent. That showed she had worked at it. That’s a good thing. 

And man. 

For those who don’t know, the Governor General, who represents the queen in Canada, is an Indigenous woman who speaks English and Inuktitut. 

Not French. That is a problem, insofar as French is one of Canada’s official languages. But there are other problems. 

For one thing, Inuktitut and many other Indigenous languages should also be official languages in this country. 

Here’s another one: Not everyone agrees we still need a Governor General. Or even a queen. I mean, it’s complicated. 

I didn’t intend to get into any of that. I just wanted to comment positively on the effort Mary Simon had evidently made to master enough French to get through an official speech in front of the nation. 

Because I figure if we make it so hard and unpleasant for people to learn French, nobody will bother. And that would be too bad. 

It’s a story I often tell. I taught myself English. I had to embarrass myself pretty heavily for many years before I really started getting the hang of it. And most of the time, nobody made fun of me. They helped me instead. That’s why I was able to persevere and learn and master it. I want to do the same for anyone who makes the commitment to learn French. 

I got a ton of negative comments about that tweet. Everything from well it’s easy to speak phonetically (it’s not) to why are we paying this woman to learn a useless language to how’s your Inuktitut, Pellerin? Oh, and someone demanded to know what made me feel I could speak on behalf of all Canadians on this subject. 

On the plus side, I don’t think anyone accused me of being racist. Count your blessings, right?

Obviously the GG’s French is not yet ready for prime time. Yes, I’m sure she rehearsed that speech until she went green in the face. That’s precisely the point I was making. Mary Simon is making a great deal of effort to learn as much French as she can, as quickly as she can. 

That’s a good thing. As simple as that.