Sunday, June 28, 2020

"Official" languages foster conversation

 "Official" languages foster conversation

Update: Chinese-only signs erected across from Richmond City Hall ...

University of B.C. linguist Dr. Bonny Norton says multilingualism in Canada is alive but something that Canadians used to believe is a virtue.
New immigrants who cannot converse in either of Canada’s official languages are  rejecting community and national conversations.
Over the past five years, the number of people who speak neither English nor French has risen 12 per cent, from 19,740 to 22,110. In 2006, the overall share in population was 8.8 per cent. In Richmond, this concern is more pronounced than in any other city in Canada, as 11.2 per cent of all residents, according to the 2016 census, cannot speak English nor French.
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In the past 10 years, 6,757 new residents (28 per cent of the city’s population growth) cannot converse in English.
“I think it’s a loss for these new Canadians mostly Chinese. My concern is they’re rejecting so much that is rich in Canadian society,” said Norton. “We all need to be able to contribute and hear the conversation, so it works both ways. It is a loss if people are outside the dominant conversation,” said Norton.
Throughout her career researching identity and language learning, Norton has found that not understanding an official language is actually being unwilling.
“Most people do want to speak English [or French.] We have to distinguish between the opportunity to learn and the desire,” said Norton.
Furthermore, there may be “a critical mass of people in a community where people are able to function adequately without English [or French,]” resulting in the ability to live without engaging in Canada as a whole.
In Richmond, the concentration of Chinese-speaking businesses has been a point of contention. 
Many non-Chinese speaking residents feel excluded. Conversely, advocates in the Chinese community have also expressed concerns about new residents not branching out into the broader community.
Norton said “valuing diversity while maintaining the sense of our institutions,” which are “grounded by English” is the “lovely compromise” of Canadians, 20 per cent of whom speak more than one language at home.
In Canada, 1.8 per cent of people cannot speak English [and some in French.] In B.C. the rate jumps to 3.3 per cent.

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