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Sorry, I Don't Speak French: Confronting the Canadian Crisis That Won't Go Away [Kindle Edition]

Graham Fraser
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

Print List Price: CDN$ 21.99
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Sold by: Random House Canada, Incorp.
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Product Description


“It’s hard to think of any writer better qualified to write about language than Mr. Fraser. . . . He is informed, balanced, judicious and experienced.”
— Jeffrey Simpson, Globe and Mail

“Those who want to know why and how French became an official language in Canada must read Mr. Fraser’s book. Those who just want to know more about Canada should read it too.”
— Lysiane Gagnon, Globe and Mail

Product Description

As the threat of another Quebec referendum on independence looms, this book becomes important for every Canadian — especially as language remains both a barrier and a bridge in our divided country
Canada’s language policy is the only connection between two largely unilingual societies — English-speaking Canada and French-speaking Quebec. The country’s success in staying together depends on making it work.

How well is it working? Graham Fraser, an English-speaking Canadian who became bilingual, decided to take a clear-eyed look at the situation. The results are startling — a blend of good news and bad. The Official Languages Act was passed with the support of every party in the House way back in 1969 — yet Canada’s language policy is still a controversial, red-hot topic; jobs, ideals, and ultimately the country are at stake. And the myth that the whole thing was always a plot to get francophones top jobs continues to live.

Graham Fraser looks at the intentions, the hopes, the fears, the record, the myths, and the unexpected reality of a country that is still grappling with the language challenge that has shaped its history. He finds a paradox: after letting Quebec lawyers run the country for three decades, Canadians keep hoping the next generation will be bilingual — but forty years after learning that the country faced a language crisis, Canada’s universities still treat French as a foreign language. He describes the impact of language on politics and government (not to mention social life in Montreal and Ottawa) in a hard-hitting book that will be discussed everywhere, including the headlines in both languages.

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1226 KB
  • Print Length: 341 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0771047665
  • Publisher: Douglas Gibson Books (Feb. 24 2009)
  • Sold by: Random House Canada, Incorp.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00395ZZ1C
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #391,978 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good at what it does, but could have done more Nov. 16 2010
What Graham Fraser tries to do, he does well. But it is what is absent from this book that is glaring.

Fraser sets out to explain to English Canada why bilingualism is desirable, how policies to establish bilingualism in Canada have succeeded and failed in different contexts, and what can be done to improve the status quo. In this, Fraser has done an admirable job. "Sorry, I Don't Speak French" contains valuable lessons for anyone who thinks that French Canadians are a bunch of cry babies who demand and gert special treatment from Ottawa. His history of the politics surrounding bilingualism is excellent. And his prescription to make the federal government's bilingualism consisted with its stated goals is hard to argue with.

However, where Fraser fails is that he leaves many of the tough questions unanswered and, indeed, unasked. While Fraser wrote this book to make an argument, he fails to understand that the strongest arguments are those which give the alternative a fair hearing. The condition of Quebec anglophones goes untouched except through the voices of some of the historical figures Fraser chooses to follow. While one can argue (and I would agree) that Bill 101, and the diminished status and population of English Quebecers is a necessary sacrifice in order to save French Quebec, that is a question that needs to be examined in depth. When Fraser tells the story of a friend in 1960s Montreal who shook with rage when a cab driver did not speak French or how unilingual anglophones have largely been chased from Quebec, the counterpoints needs to be explored. Most books on language I have read fall into two camps. English writers denouncing bilingualism and French writers ignoring the plight of Anglophone Quebec. WIth Fraser I was hoping that I would finally find a writer who both supported French in Canada and understood that
Quebec Anglophones are more than just Ontarioans living to the east. I was dissapointed.
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By Surdas
This is a very well-written, enjoyable read and it's extremely informative if you're interested in the history of language policy in Canada. I was surprised (naively, I suppose) that almost the entire federal public service didn't speak French prior to the bilingualism policy. Because the book was so readable, I also bought his other book on Rene Levesque and the Parti Quebecois, also a very enjoyable read. If you read those two, you'll have a pretty good idea of the causes and consequences of the independence movement in Quebec. No guarantees, he he. It's quite interesting to trace the history of the co-existence of English and French in Canada over the years. The Canada that we live in today seems like a harmonious Utopia compared to earlier days...
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A quick and excellent read Dec 2 2008
By W. Ma
I couldn't put this book down! It gives a fairly balanced representation of Canada's history of bilingualism, and both versions were excellently written. It ends a bit pessimistically, but otherwise I learned a lot, as it was educational yet concise; I would recommend it to anyone.
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12 of 30 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A little propaganda, please March 14 2007
By Drinse
This book has turned out to be exactly what I expected from another Francophile. Years ago many said that establishing two official languages would result in more and more favoritism for the French language and therefore Francophones. It has come to pass. Bias towards French is evident in all branches of the federal government, resulting in an over-representation of Quebec natives in most branches, and an unequal number of senior civil servants from Quebec running the country for their own ends. The Liberal party put this law in for their own benefit, and the results are easy to see for anyone not blinded by political correctness. Fraser is another commentator who refuses to see the truth behind the actions, and becomes an apologist for the continuation of a policy that has become more and more divisive for Canadians over the years, in spite of all the propaganda and brainwashing that has been done by the government and the media. It is too bad that he didn't go into the truth of the results of the program, rather than just trying to whitewash it. For those who love the "bilingual" fact (another lie) of Canada, this book will reinforce their beliefs. For those who know what has actually happened, this book will insult them.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fraser delivers. May 19 2006
By A. Winternitz - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Sorry, I Don't Speak French tackles this sensitive issue with enthusiasm and humour. Fraser uses anecdotes and interviews to describe through the lives of Canadians of past and present the way that this political and cultural struggle has played out. Statistics Canada and other Canadian government sources provide annual updates on assimilation, language use... but Fraser gives his readers an invitation to hear what those most closely involved are saying about where we are now.
2.0 out of 5 stars This book comletely neglects indigenous language rights... Aug. 1 2012
By Machjo - Published on
I'm a native speaker of both French and English, and so can certainly sympathise with both communities. However, especially after having read many works of Louis-Jean Calvet, Robert Phillipson, François Grin, Helmar Frank, Elizabetta Formaggio, and other works published by Mark Fettes and other professional linguists, econmists, and other scholars specializing in the field of language and economics, pedagogy, and language rights, this book comes across as worse than amateurish.

It even presents certain misleading conclusions based on scientific evidence. For instance, when making reference to the propaedeutic benefits of French and English as a reason to promote both languages, while it is true that learning any language helps with the learning of following languages, he ignores the fact that some languages, especially planned languages, are of far greater propaedeutic value. As for the economic advantages of English and French, while this may be true on an individual level, François Grin tears that assumption apart in his economic research regarding language policy alternatives, showing that English in the EU is actually costing the EU tens of billions of Euros annually in part due to difficulty inherent in learning the language compared to a planned auxiliary language. While the facts are true, the conclusions in this book show an ignorance of far more efficient ways of achieving the same results.

In fact, the Rapport Grin (available for free online in French on the website of the Haut Conseil de l'Éducation) exceeds this book by far in terms of scholarship, so why pay money for what is essentially someone's opinion?
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting book about the current language situation in Canada. Sept. 10 2014
By Ronald J. Simpson - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I thought this book was very well-written and highly informative about the current English vs. French language situation in Canada. I also thought it was very fair and balanced, treating both sides of the debate fairly. It also included a lot of recent history of this topic, making reader aware of how things have developed to where they are today. A good read, both for Canadians and outsiders, who want to know more about this topic. I recommend this book!
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