January 13, 2007

Canada is different from the US

News of what US politicians think about language seems almost always to be about their efforts to make English the official language and discriminate against other languages. In Canada, things are a bit different, as shown by this story [subscription required] in the Vancouver Sun about two British Columbia MLAs (the equivalent of state legislators), Sue Hammel and Bruce Ralston, who are learning to speak Panjabi, the first language of about 30% of their constituents.

Interestingly, in light of complaints by English First-ers in the US that immigrants seek to impose their languages on Americans:

Ralston said constituents who come to his community office don't expect him to speak Punjabi. Those who are not fluent in English usually bring along a relative or friend who is. Learning basic Punjabi "is really something I've decided to do, rather than something people have demanded of me," he said.

Addendum 2007-01-14: It has been brought to my attention that you can't read the article I linked too without a subscription to the Vancouver Sun, which I have, but most of you probably don't. I don't think that reproducing the entire article would constitute fair use, but here's a little bit more:

Hammell and fellow New Democrat Bruce Ralston, the MLA for Surrey-Whalley, have both enrolled in beginner's level Punjabi classes at the Surrey campus of Simon Fraser University -- a fact the university disclosed in a release advertising the Jan. 20 start of a new semester of Punjabi classes.
Hammell, meanwhile, says she is "past beginners" -- an accomplishment acknowledged by the SFU release, which said Hammell "can now read the language with some confidence."

Judging from the attempt to conceal John Kerry's ability to speak French, that would probably ensure her defeat in the US.

Posted by Bill Poser at January 13, 2007 06:44 PM