Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

En français, s'il vous plait

For a little while now, I've been downloading the CPAC podcasts--including Question Period--and listening to them as I zip about town. And lately, I've been noticing some rather unusual uses of French among anglophone Members of Parliament. Scott Brison, for example, asked a question in French the other day of an anglophone cabinet minister. Several Conservative ministers, though their answers have been in English, have nonetheless been switching to French whenever they talk about Quebec. And perhaps most interestingly, on May 1st there was even an extended sequence between Layton and Harper in French.

In Brison's case, the explanation is probably simply that he's running for the Liberal leadership and wants to prove that he speaks better French than many people give him credit for. But the other examples clearly reflect a courting of la belle province that's kind of fascinating.


Anonymous said...

Oh, but Jack Layton's French is marvelous! Truly, for an anlgo, il perle un excellent français.

Stephen Harper, on the other hand, needs to spend 5 weeks at the CÉGEP in Jonquière, Québec, to beat the shit out of his largely anglo-accented French. For example, he cannot make a clear phonemic distinction between 'notre' /ɔ/ and 'nôtre' /o/. His syntax could use some work, too.

BTW, you forgot your little hat (ie. plaît)

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Regardless of the quality of Layton's French, it's still kind of fascinating to see two men who certainly speak English when they're alone in a room together posturing with the French language while in public, no? The reverse--two francophone MPs carrying out an exchange in English in the House--would be unheard of. It says an awful lot about both men's ambitions for the next election.

How on earth did you do those phonetic symbols in ASCII, by the way? I'm fascinated!

Anonymous said...

I think that just confirms what we can see in the last budget: Conservatives are targeting Quebec now instead of Ontario. The way I see it, they're giving us an important number of "gifts" the Liberal never dared talking about. And currently, Conservative support is at its highest in Quebec. And did anybody notice that Liberals and NPD are side by side in the latest Quebec pool results? I think that's enough justification for them to speek more in French.

What I find ironic is that all this happens as prime minister Jean Charest in Quebec is at its lowest public approbation rate ever and still sinking. He goes against public opinion on too many subjects. His policies aren't too far away from Harper's policies so it'll be interesting to see how and how long Harper will maintain his popularity in Quebec.

Steve Stinson said...

You can find most of the French characters in the Alt-130 to Alt-140 range.

For example, typing Alt-130 gives you é and Alt-135 gets ç. I used to have them printed on a piece of paper taped to my monitor, but now I just find them by trial and error.

Another way is to cut and paste from the Character Map accessory in Windows.

Anonymous said...

For a complete list of all the ALT-key codes that produce national characters, go to:

You know, in case you wanted to type something in German or Italian or Spanish instead of French.

(Note this is only a list of a few Latin encoded languages, although there are links to Polish and Slavic codes there too. For Norwegian, Czech, East Asian, Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, Hindi, etc, you're on your own ;P )

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Steve & Deanna,

I was actually asking AP about his International Phonetic Alphabet characters, not his French characters. I'm a Mac user, and making French characters is actually pretty easy with the Mac. :-) Thanks, though, anyway!

Anonymous said...

Well, if you're on a Mac it shouldn't be too difficult.

1. Select "Special Characters..." from the Edit menu in most applications.
2. From the popup menu at the top of the character palette select "All characters".
3. On the left, if you open the Symbols category, you'll find a Phonetic Symbol subcategory.

JG said...

Hmm, in XP you should be able to install different keyboard settings. (I have French, German, and Spanish.) The problem comes when you get used to, say, the French keyboard, and then go back to English.

Québécoise ambulante said...

On Radio-Canada this week (following the budget), all analysts mention how Harper is now trying to secure Quebec votes in order to become a majority government... Il courtise les Québecois plus que jamais!

To AP:

Ne sois pas plus catho que le pape! J'avoue que le Cégep de Jonquière est une EXCELLENTE école (cela dit en toute humilité), but Harper's French is quite alright! Of course, I know Anglos with better French skills (get the hint!!), but that is besides the point.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


"cela dit en toute humilité"