Are You a Phile or a Phobe?

Are You a Phile or a Phobe?

Regular contributor Peter Stuart, looks at Anglophones, Francophones, Anglophiles, Francophiles, Anglophobes and Francophobes.

Confused? You will be.

Having been born in this province and raised in Quebec City in particular, I’ve grown accustomed to having everything filtered through the lens of an ongoing and seemingly never-ending English-French matrix.

One thing I’ve noticed though is that amongst English and French-speaking people in this province, and this city in particular, there is a further dividing up of the English-French divide. There are Anglophones who are by nature Francophiles and have either grown up here, were born here, are of partial French ancestry, like myself, or who moved here because of the charm of the French provincial feel of the place, or who married a French-speaking person and decided to settle here.

Conversely, there are Francophobes. Many of these people are old-guard Anglos, who often are members of either the Catholic or Protestant communities, and who are often in their 60s, 70s, 80s and older. Many either never fully mastered the French language, or refused outright to learn it. There was a time when they could get by quite nicely without it, when the English-speaking community was numerous and powerful enough from a socio-economic perspective, to be able to thumb their nose at the French-speaking majority and get a way with it. Not so any longer.

Then on the French side there are Anglophiles and Anglophobes.

First the Anglophiles.

Having been involved in English as a Second Language (ESL) tutoring in one way, shape or form, off and on for the better part of going on twenty years now, I’ve been able to discern several patterns amongst these two groups. Regarding the Anglophiles, they’re a very endearing bunch. They very much love our language and our culture and should be commended for wanting to learn it and about it, regardless of the difficulties which they encounter along the way, and the entrenched barriers which often prevent them from progressing beyond a usually intermediate level of comprehension and oral and written expression.

These people usually, I’ve noticed are from the baby-boomer era and grew up during the very trenchant period of Québec nationalism in the 1960s and 70s, when the public agenda was all about the empowerment of the French language and putting French in the driver’s seat in areas such as the workplace, both private and public, and everywhere else for that matter. It wasn’t very ‘cool’, or at least there was quite a mixed message, depending on where these people grew up in the province, as to whether or not they should put much time and effort into learning English. And, it would seem, in the wake of all the hoopla surrounding Bill 101 and its subsequent implementation in 1977, many of them missed out on becoming fluent in this ‘other’ Offical Language of Canada, from the Québec perspective.

Many of these people, I’ve noticed, have spent the rest of their lives playing ‘catch-up’, by listening to English-language music, reading English-language books, watching movies, taking courses, going so far as even travelling all the way across the continent to be able to speak English. Some Anglophiles even have a slight pathological loathing of their own language and culture and sometimes let it be known in so many ways that if they’d been given the choice, they’d have preferred to have been an Anglophone, which is either somewhat flattering, or disconcerting, depending on who you talk to.

Then there are the Anglophobes. They’re a special breed. They’re not usually very pleasant to get along with. Usually they make no bones about advocating for secession from Canada, whereas most Anglophiles will usually express some sort of affection for Canada, the US and Britain. The Anglophobes, if they show up to an ESL course, usually make it quite clear that they’re there only because they have to be, that their employer is paying for their course, and that if they had their druthers, they’d conduct all of their affairs in Molière’s language. Usually they express a certain hostility to Canada, the US, Britain, the Catholic Church, and an admiration for French Republicanism, as well as for secularism and Social-Democracy.

All in all, Quebec City is quite a quirky place, never lacking in things to exercise your sense of intellectual gymnastics when it comes to language and culture. As the summer wears on, hopefully we’ll all get to take a break from the sweltering linguisto-cultural and political climate while we get blasted by some good old-fashioned sweltering Canadian climate, period!

God bless, and have a good one, folks.

About the author:

Peter Stuart is a freelance writer based in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. He has a degree in Canadian Studies from the University of Ottawa.
He has written Op-Ed pieces for the last ten years for publications including: Le Soleil, La Presse, Quebec Chronicle Telegraph and Impact Campus.
Peter writes in both French and English, and and has published his first book, entitled ‘The Catholic Faith and the Social Construction of Religion: With Particular Attention to the Québec Experience’.

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