The reason I bore you on language is because I think communication is really important. It's who we are. We are social, co-operative animals. For all the downside to it, the remarkable achievement that is modern civilization, was only possibly because we can explain precisely what we mean to one another, and many generations have been able to make a jump start on knowledge using both the oral and written word. No creature could build a city if he had to spend his whole time learning everything his ancestors did from scratch.
I have a new policy in my business. I had to decide, as a small Ontario business, how I was going to deal with Quebec. It's not as simple as it sounds. If you are not familiar with the issue, I'll explain. For a long time the Quebec laws have included special provisions for the French language to be treated as superior to the English language. This has led to things like it being compulsory for signs in French being larger or in front of the English equivalent. There are also certain rules regarding documents within businesses, and so on. It's all petty and silly, but for the most part one can shrug it off and ignore it.
In France itself they have similar laws, some sillier than others, but France has one national language, and they are entitled to do this. Canada has two national languages, and the rules are lopsided. I won't go into the details, but suffice to say, just lately it has all become ridiculous.
Articles like this have caused much mirth:
But there's a far more sinister aspect to it, with children losing access to English language education, and a definite racist view towards English speakers in Quebec.
I would be shooting myself in the foot if I ignored the need for customer service in French, and I am able to offer it. I'm not fluent but with the aid of a dictionary I am fully capable of dealing with customers in French by e-mail. So I do.
I have stopped short of listing items with French subtitles (except for ONE item, just because I happen to like the French word so ner ner ner ner ner), or creating a French description. I could do it, I've done it before, and I would happily do it on request. I get a lot of business from Quebec, and it's possible I could increase it if I offered a fully bilingual site.
However, I also get a lot of business from Sweden, Poland, Kazakhstan (yep), Italy, and South America. How many languages should I translate my site into? Anyone online has the option to translate a web page into their own language through Google or Bing and I leave that up to them.
There's one area though, where I have been undecided. I have considered sending out my customary "Thank You" confirmation e-mail in French to Quebec customers, as a courtesy, unless their name is obviously not French. I've been thinking about this for a long time. Take the high road, sort of thing. Never mind the silly attitude of the Quebec government, individual people are quite different. Not their fault.
Yes. It is. If we are going to get some sanity back into this entire situation, the people of Quebec have to do it for themselves. If somebody cannot cope with written English, and contacts me in French, as a polite person, I will continue to respond in French.
But I will not be offering French as an alternative automatically. The people of Quebec must get a clue, and tell their goverment to stop it. Cut it out. This is stupid. This is harming Quebec children, harming relations between neighbours, between provinces, and making the people look dumb. We know the people aren't dumb, so it's time they demonstrated it. They vote and they lobby. They have to do it. I can't.