Sweden proposes language requirement for would-be citizens

Pretty standard requirements elsewhere:

Justice and Migration Minister Morgan Johansson presented details of an inquiry into the proposals on Wednesday morning.

“Language is the key to work, but also the key to society,” said Johansson as he outlined why the government thought it needed to find “a better balance between rights and responsibilities” for would-be citizens.

Foreign nationals applying to become Swedish would need proof of Swedish skills at A2 level for speaking and writing, the second lowest out of six levels on the Common European Framework of Reference, and B1 for reading and listening.

To take the test, it would cost 500 kronor ($60) for the section relating to civil society and 2,000 kronor for the language component.

Citizenship applicants could alternatively provide proof of passing Grade 9 in a Swedish high school, or a course at upper secondary school, or the highest level of the Swedish For Immigrants (SFI) course.

The language requirements would apply to people aged between 16 and 66 who apply for Swedish citizenship, but certain exceptions are proposed, including for people with certain disabilities or those who are from a vulnerable background – for example being stateless or illiterate – who can prove they have tried to reach the required knowledge level but been unsuccessful.

Citizens of other Nordic countries who live in Sweden would also be exempted, as they are subject to a different process and are only required to notify authorities, rather than apply, in order to receive citizenship.

The proposals were put together based on reviewing the processes in place in other European countries, of which only three including Sweden do not currently require a language test.

But the details aren’t finalised yet. The next stage is to send the proposals out for consultation from relevant authorities, and they may be adapted depending on the responses received. Then a proposal would need to be passed by parliament and work to begin on putting together the tests.

“This is a reasonable proposal and we hope that it can be put into place as soon as possible, but of course this is a large organisational challenge,” said Johansson.

The government committed to investigating language tests for citizenship applicants in the cross-bloc deal struck with the Centre and Liberal parties, whose support the Social Democrat-Green coalition needed to form a government.

Separately, the government is looking into whether language skills should be required for permanent residence in Sweden.

Source: https://www.thelocal.se/20210113/sweden-proposes-language-requirement-for-would-be-citizens

Bloc to promote bill on French-language proficiency for new citizens

Virtue signalling, given that citizenship is exclusively under federal jurisdiction. Challenge for Liberal, CPC and NDP Quebec MPs and will see if any pander to this bill:

The Bloc Québécois will get to debate a bill Thursday that would require anyone applying for Canadian citizenship in Quebec to demonstrate functional proficiency in French.

Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet says that familiarity with the official language of Quebec is essential amid what he calls an ongoing threat to the mother tongue of most Quebecers.

Currently, most applicants must demonstrate a professional proficiency in either English or French to qualify for citizenship, but a private member’s bill Bloc MP Sylvie Bérubé introduced in February would change that to require French for immigrants who have settled in Quebec.

The chance to debate the legislation comes after Montreal Liberal MP Emmanuella Lambropoulos told the House of Commons official languages committee last week that the idea of a French-language decline is a “myth.”

She reversed her comments following a social media backlash, saying in a statement Saturday her remarks were “insensitive,” that French is in decline and that she hopes to find ways to protect it.

Blanchet said some Liberals threw Lambropoulos “under the bus” in calling her out for her initial remarks, and suggested the governing party was hypocritical in its professed concern for the state of the French language.

“What is insensitive actually is the reaction of the rest of her caucus,” Blanchet said Wednesday. “She probably said out loud what many of them do think.

“I strongly doubt that when they have private conversations in the corners of their caucus they say, ‘Oh, French is in a bad situation.'”

Meanwhile, reports of a recent tweet — since deleted — by Chelsea Craig, the Quebec director of the federal Liberal party, referring to the province’s 43-year-old language law as “oppressive” fanned the regional firestorm.

Craig posted a subsequent message to Twitter on Wednesday stressing that Bill 101 is important and stating in French that “French is declining in Quebec and it must be protected.”

But the damage was done. For the third day in a row, Bloc and Conservative MPs hammered the Trudeau government with questions about the state of the French language in Canada.

“It makes no sense,” Conservative MP Alain Rayes said in French during question period in the House of Commons Wednesday afternoon.

“Will the prime minister immediately condemn her disrespectful comments?”

Blanchet asked Trudeau whether he agreed with Craig.

“Does the prime minister of Canada believe that Bill 101 is ‘oppressive’ against the English in Quebec” Blanchet asked in French.

The prime minister replied that the government supports the law — known as the Charter of the French Language — and recognizes that in a bilingual Canada, Quebec “must be first and foremost French-speaking.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Wednesday he supports stronger laws to protect French, adding that the government needs to provide more educational tools to foster language development.

Source: Bloc to promote bill on French-language proficiency for new citizens

How does technology keep up with ever-evolving language on race and identity? We asked people who write dictionaries


The Rolodex of terms that can describe identity seems to expand and change on a steady basis. So, how do dictionaries both physical and online keep up? Sometimes they don’t.

The term “BIPOC” meaning Black, Indigenous and people of colour, has become the topic of many explainers since June, when this year’s racial reckoning began after George Floyd’s death. According to the New York Times, BIPOC was first used on social media by a Toronto-based account in 2013. Yet the date stamp on Merriam-Webster’s entry for “BIPOC” is just Sept. 3, 2020, and Google has yet to generate its own dictionary landing at the top of search.

It took some time for the word “racialized” to move from academic papers to colloquial use. Even as it has become more common, it’s a toss up if it can be typed out free of a crimson spell check flag depending on the online browser or platform being used.

And according to Merriam Webster’s online time traveller tool, which shows the year words were first recorded, “genderqueer” first appeared in 1995, but when typed into the messaging app Slack, it generates a red underline.

Kory Stamper is a New Jersey-based lexicographer and author of the book “Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries.” Stamper said that the challenge is that many English-speaking countries have set up the dictionary as an authority on language, which is not the case.

“As a lexicographer, you’re always way behind. You’re basically behind (language), picking up the crumbs, so that you can follow where it’s heading,” she said. Dictionaries record a snapshot of language at a particular time, she adds.

Even for words that are age-old but in need of updating, it’s still a process. Stamper once had to update the definition for “god” which hadn’t been updated in 60 years when she was an associate editor at Merriam-Webster. It took her four months.

For a term like “BIPOC” to enter the dictionary, it has to come across a lexicographer’s desk, have a good amount of printed uses, and is ultimately a subjective decision of that worker and the dictionary, if it’s widely used enough to make the cut. And from there, a lot of thought consideration and research is required to make sure that the definition crafted is nuanced and does the word justice.

But just because a word hasn’t made it through this process, doesn’t mean it’s not a real word or accepted term.

“Just because a word is not in the dictionary, does not mean it is not a word,” Stamper said. “That just means that a lexicographer has not found enough evidence or the production cycle has not moved quickly enough (for it to be entered).” If two people are having a conversation, and they understand the meaning of the words they are using, they are using real words, she said.

Still Stamper thinks about what out-of-date tech and dictionaries can mean for people who aren’t native English speakers.

Once, she typed out “person of colour” and got a grammar suggestion which recommended “coloured person,” a phrase that has long gone out of fashion and leans more offensive, in North America today.

Stamper said that while she and a good amount of people are aware that “people of colour” isn’t grammatically incorrect, and is a fixed phrase, she still thinks of people who may be learning English as a foreign language and may be heavily reliant on these prompts. “Would I have enough knowledge of the nuances of the language to know?”

As for the spell check inconsistencies, Vancouver-based software engineer Dawn Chandler notes that tech companies don’t all refer to the same dictionaries or data sets to operate these tools. Nor do they publicly share exactly what those algorithms are.

There would always be a chance of a lag or bias depending on where the data is being collected from, Chandler said. “Dictionaries are written to record and reflect the language people use.” Still, she said, “they can’t capture languages in every region, in every subculture.”

Kola Tubosun is a linguist currently based in the U.K. who created an online dictionary of Yoruba names after noticing that computers often red-underlined common Yoruba names, and also disregarded tonal accents necessary to write them correctly. He advocates for Nigerian languages to be more accessible and recognized through tech. He’s noticed, for example, that in Nigeria, ATMs are usually only in English, which ends up discouraging Nigerians who only speak local dialects from using banks.

Tubosun does note that media in North America, whether publications or dictionaries, do pay attention to new words, new ways of speaking, the language, the interpretation.

One instance he’s noticed where there can be tech and dictionary gaps in English, are in cultural colloquialisms. A phrase like “see you next tomorrow” which is commonly used in Nigerian culture and means “the day after tomorrow” made it into the Oxford English Dictionary in 2020. But with or without the dictionary recognition, it is still a phrase with a fixed meaning.

“There are many levels in which words get adopted and accepted,” he said.

Angelyn Francis is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering inequity and inequality. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach her via email: afrancis@thestar.ca

Source: How does technology keep up with ever-evolving language on race and identity? We asked people who write dictionaries

Big gender gap in students attitudes and engagement in global and multicultural issues

New interesting element to the OECD’s PISA assessment. Detailed review on my to do list to see if interesting immigrant/non-immigrant comparisons:

Schools and education systems are failing to give boys and girls across the world the same opportunities to learn and apply their knowledge of global and multicultural issues, according to a new report on the first OECD PISA assessment of the knowledge, skills and attitudes of students to engage with other people and cultures.

Are Students Ready to Thrive in an Interconnected World? focused on students’ knowledge of issues of local and global significance, including public health, economic and environmental issues, as well as their intercultural knowledge, skills and attitudes. Students from 27 countries and economies took the test. Students, teachers, parents and school principals from around 66 countries and economies completed a questionnaire*.

The results reveal a gender gap in access to opportunities to learn global competence as well as in students’ global and intercultural skills and attitudes. On average across OECD countries, boys were more likely than girls to report taking part in activities where they are expected to express and discuss their views, while girls were more likely than boys to report taking part in activities related to intercultural understanding and communication.

Boys, for example, were more likely to learn about the interconnectedness of countries’ economies, look for news on the Internet or watch the news together during class. They were also more likely to be asked by teachers to give their opinion about international news, take part in classroom discussions about world events and analyse global issues with their classmates.

In contrast, girls were more likely than boys to report that they learn how to solve conflicts with their peers in the classroom, learn about different cultures and learn how people from different cultures can have different perspectives on some issues. These gender differences could reflect personal interests and self-efficacy but could also reflect how girls and boys are socialised at home and at school, according to the report.

“Education is key to helping young people navigate today’s increasingly complex and interconnected world,” said Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills. “The schools and education systems that are most successful in fostering global knowledge, skills and attitudes among young people are those that offer a curriculum that values openness to the world, provide a positive and inclusive learning environment and offer opportunities to relate to people from other cultures.”

The findings reveal the key role teachers play in promoting and integrating intercultural understanding into their classroom practices and lessons. Most teachers reported that they are confident in their ability to teach in multicultural settings. But the lack of adequate professional development opportunities in this field is a major challenge. Few teachers reported having received training on teaching in multicultural or multilingual settings.

More than 90% of students attended schools where principals reported positive multicultural beliefs among their teachers. Yet students who perceive discrimination by their teachers towards immigrants and people from other cultural backgrounds, for example, exhibited similar negative attitudes. This highlights the key role of teachers and school principals in countering or perpetuating discrimination by acting as role models.

The report found a strong link between students learning activities at school and having more positive intercultural attitudes. Also, speaking two or more languages was positively associated with awareness of global issues, interest in learning about other cultures, respect for people from other cultures and positive attitudes towards immigrants.

On average across OECD countries, 50% of students reported learning two or more languages at school, 38% reported learning one foreign language and only 12% reported not learning any foreign language at school. The largest share of students (more than 20%) who reported not learning any foreign language at school were observed in Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia and Scotland. By contrast, in 42 countries, more than 90% of students reported that they learn at least one foreign language at school.

Source: Big gender gap in students attitudes and engagement in global and multicultural issues

The Consequences Of Dehumanizing Language In Politics

Of note:

United States politicians are no strangers to using unkind language against their opponents. It’s a trend that dates back to at least 1800 when, during the presidential campaign, Thomas Jefferson hired James Callender to slime John Adams. But Alexander Theodoridis, who teaches political science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, says that today’s partisanship can lend itself to particularly dehumanizing language not only between political opponents, but also between regular Americans who belong to opposite political parties.

Theodoridis told NPR’s Weekend Edition that “dehumanizing language,” which includes people referring to others as animals, can lead to people believing that those who disagree with them don’t deserve the same treatment or respect as those who agree with them.

“That is often where things lead,” he said. “As either a justification post hoc for treating somebody differently or, in some cases, a precursor to treating a group differently.”

One fear is that this kind of dehumanization leads to violence. Another is that it leads people to believe in conspiracy theories that further demonize the people they disagree with. Theodoridis says while both Democrats and Republicans use this kind of language, Republicans tend to believe conspiracy theories like QAnon more easily.

“I think part of that is just the composition of the parties,” Theodoridis said. “One feature of the sorting that has happened in terms of who is a Democrat and who is a Republican, there is this sort of diploma divide, and I think that’s a factor.”

In an interview with NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro, Theodoridis reflects on the political polarization of this moment, the dehumanizing language that has risen up and where we go from here.

Interview Highlights

How do you capture how dehumanizing language has seeped down from politicians to the body politic in your studies?

One of the measures we use literally shows people a “ascent of man” picture, which is basically the image where you have where you go from sort of a stooped ape-like figure up to a standing human. And we ask them, how evolved do you think these groups are? And we ask them, Democrats and Republicans, how evolved?

And what we find is around 80% of people rate their own side higher than they rate the other side. And almost 70% of people rate their own side more than 10 points higher than the other side. And the average is in the 30s, like 35-point difference. So this is a pretty substantial gap.

And the fear is that our use of language, or how we talk, can lead to action, or in this case, violence.

I don’t want to be alarmist. I don’t think that we’re very close to widespread political violence, largely because I think most people in this country are still fairly happy and are not concerned enough with politics on a day-to-day basis to take to the streets and do awful things.

But we asked people to give a [prison] sentence to somebody who had attacked a senator from one party or the other, randomizing the party of the senator and those who dehumanize more give a more lenient sentence. Right. So they view it as less of an offense when you attack the other side than when you attack their own side.

Other social scientists we have spoken to wonder if the genie can actually be put back in the bottle. I will say, as someone who has covered countries where there is deep polarization outside of the United States, it is hard to roll that back.

My thoughts on this are actually somewhat pessimistic. We long for a period in our history in the latter part of the last century where polarization along party lines, not necessarily along other lines, but along partisan lines, was not very pronounced. Your race, religion, education level, didn’t necessarily predict your partisanship the way that it does today. And because all those identities are aligned, it becomes this sort of superordinate, super powerful identity.

So then where should we go from here? Because what I hear over and over again from voters is that they are tired of this partisanship and yet they are part of this partisanship.

That’s right. So I really do think the focus should be, first of all, on just trying to lower the temperature and I think that falls largely on elites, on elected officials. I think we should hold them to a higher standard and the media should hold them to a higher standard in terms of not stoking these fires in ways that can be dangerous.

But beyond that, I think we should really look for ways to make it so that our government can work effectively under polarization, because I think this is a much more natural state of affairs than the kind of odd period historically that we have recently emerged from where the parties weren’t really aligned with ideology and all sorts of characteristics.

Source: The Consequences Of Dehumanizing Language In Politics

Why the World Should Care About Language in Inner Mongolia

Yet another example of Chinese government repression and attempts at cultural genocide:

On August 26 China passed a law to sideline teaching in the Mongolian language in the region of Inner Mongolia (also referred to as Southern Mongolia). This measure, which sparked immediate protests, will create irreparable losses not just for ethnic Mongolians, but also for many cultures around the world.

What is at stake here is not just the spoken language, but an 800-year-old script with a multicultural lineage that emanated from the golden era of the Silk Route.

Mongolian, as a language, is still widely spoken in independent Mongolia, but the “Mongolian script” was largely lost after the Russians introduced Cyrillic in the 1940s, when Stalin sought to control the country as a buffer against China. This makes the Inner Mongolians, who are currently under Chinese rule, the last custodians of the script. For academics, historians, linguists, and cultural aficionados, the Mongolian script holds the key to historical links between cultures that were forged during the Silk Route era and earlier. Understanding this connection might help people realize that this is not Mongolia’s fight alone.

For decades, China’s ongoing efforts to assimilate its minorities had it cracking down harshly on the religions, and languages of Tibetans, Uyghurs, and Mongolians. These are all largely nomadic cultures that were propagators of multicultural exchanges at the height of the Silk Route era.

Like the Tibetans and the Uyghurs, who have been struggling against Chinese hegemony, Mongolians have been protesting since August, but punitive measures taken by the Chinese government leave Mongolians with little choice but to concede.

“This is the final blow to our culture,” said Enghebatu Togochog, director of the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center.  “The world should know that it is not simply a language issue. This strikes at the very heart and existence of our national identity. If we lose our language we lose everything. We’ve already lost political autonomy, our nomadic way of life, and our environment. This is cultural genocide.”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the border, in the independent state of the Mongolian People’s Republic (MPR), a democratic revolution in 1990 pushed for a switch from Russian Cyrillic to the old Mongolian script. That idea, however, received little interest and gained no traction. Parents saw it as a hindrance to their children’s future prospects at the time. But the recent protests in the Inner Mongolian region have made Mongolians in the MPR realize what they failed to in 1990. The significance and threat to their cultural, intellectual, and literary heritage is now being viewed through a new lens.

“Public opinion in MPR has changed drastically since China’s crackdown on Inner Mongolia,” said Otgonsuren Jargaliin, an outer Mongolian teacher, linguist, and environmental activist. “Mongolians now see the urgent need to preserve and protect this ancient script and not take it for granted. They now appreciate that 80 years of Cyrillic is not on par with 800 years of a writing that is our lineage and ancestry.”

She pointed out that as recently as last week MPR National Television was now carrying subtitles not only in Cyrillic, but also in the old Mongolian script, which was a new development.

The Mongolian Script

The story of the Mongolian script starts with Genghis Khan. In 1204 he appointed the Uyghur scholar Tatatunga to develop a unifying script after he established his empire. The new Mongolian script was adapted from an old Uyghur script.

The Uyghurs today are Turkic-speaking Muslims, descended from the Uyghur Khaganate, a nomadic kingdom in Mongolia, which was predominantly Manichaean and then later Buddhist. It lasted from 744 to 840 CE. It was while they were Manicheans that the Uyghurs adopted their script from the Sogdians. By the 16 century, however, the Uyghurs had transitioned to the Arabic script and were no longer using their own.

The Sogdians, meanwhile, were the remnant traders of the ancient Achaemenid Persian Empire, who capitalized on economic opportunities along the Silk Route from the fourth to ninth centuries. Like many Silk Route traders, they exported not just material goods but fashion, culture, religion, arts, and language. Their script had its roots in Aramaic.

The Uyghurs replaced the Sogdians as custodians of the script from the eighth to the beginning of the 13th century, when Genghis Khan introduced it to his new empire, the largest contiguous one the world had ever seen. As the lingua franca of the Mongolian Empire, the script was used widely connecting east with west, the Pacific to the Mediterranean.

The history of the script, therefore, offers a well documented evolution of a writing that originated from the ancient Mesopotamian civilization, and traveled across time and cultures through the Silk Route. The script’s history tells us how people from vast geographical backgrounds were connected, often not out of choice, but nevertheless linked through trade and travel. It shows us how our ancestries and heritages are all interlinked and interconnected.

The indigenous nomadic tribes from different cultures, along with traders from different regions and countries, brought a broader understanding of a socio-cultural world through their free movement along the Silk Route. Unlike China’s nationalistic ideology, they were not confined to a specific religion, nationality, ethnicity, language, or geographical boundary. This was what promoted cultural connectivity and created an era of great cultural exchange.

Today China is trying to recreate its idea of a Silk Route through its “One Belt, One Road” foreign policy and economic strategy, also known as the Belt and Road Initiative. But what China fails to recognize is that the success of the original Silk Route was due to its recognition and acceptance of the many cultures it spanned and encountered. Cultural legacies were embraced and valued rather than wiped out along the way in the name of uniformity. The Belt and Road Initiative can’t replicate the success of the Silk Route if it persecutes the very people and cultures, like the Mongolians, that made the original routes last for centuries.

The irony is that, in trying to recreate the Silk Road through its nationalistic lens, China may once again end up with something that is just another “Made in China” imitation.

Source: Why the World Should Care About Language in Inner Mongolia

No English, no visa: Australia to block visa for partners if they don’t speak English


Australians who fall in love with non-English speaking foreigners will be barred from bringing their partners into the country to be married if they do not speak English.

In Tuesday’s federal budget the government said it would introduce an English language test for both the person being sponsored for a visa to move to Australia to marry their partner and their sponsor if they are non-English speaking permanent residents.

“These changes will help support English language acquisition and enhance social cohesion and economic participation outcomes,” the budget papers said.

The measure is estimated to save the government $4.9 million over the forward estimates.

Chelsea Sonkar, 30, from Canberra, has applied for a partner visa for her husband Sanjay Sonkar, 30, from Varanasi, India.

She has been raising their one-year-old son alone for the past year while working and studying because Sanjay was caught in India when the borders closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mrs Sonkar said the government was sending a clear but ugly message about the type of husband or wife that they deemed suitable for Australians.

“My instinctive reaction was that the government has a preference for the type of spouse that they want to include in the Australian community,” she said.

“It sends a very strong message that spouses coming from poorer backgrounds are not welcome.

Mrs Sonkar is confident Mr Sonkar would pass an oral language test because he works as a tourist guide and converses in several languages conversationally. But she is worried that if the test is written he will be at a disadvantage because he dropped out of school when he was 16 to support his family after his father became ill.

“To think that small instance could potentially cost him, he’s just doing the best he can and he’s a good man,” she said.

Mrs Sonkar said the new requirement was in addition to the minimum $8000 visa application fee, the more than two years it takes the department to process partner visas plus the extensive paperwork required to prove that a relationship is genuine.

“I felt angry because now there’s another hurdle that we have to jump through when we’re doing everything we can,” she said.

The changes were criticised by the Opposition’s spokesman for multicultural affairs, Andrew Giles.

“English proficiency isn’t a test of someone’s love,” Mr Giles said.

“These changes arrived without any warning, consultation or explanation and take us back to the 1950s. Why would Australia’s government seek to do something like this, instead of keeping partners together?”

Amelia Elliot, who runs an online support and lobbying group for Australians trying to obtain visas for their partners, said the change was “pure discrimination.”

“It dictates that we cannot love who we love, and that instead we must marry according to what is dictated by budget policy. This government treats multi-national couples as second-class citizens and it must stop.”

Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge did not respond to requests for comment.

Source: https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/no-english-no-visa-australia-to-block-visa-for-partners-if-they-don-t-speak-english-20201007-p562o3.html

Ethnie-fiction et indépendance

Reminder how some Quebec intellectuals remain mired in Québecois de souche as the benchmark rather than language, in this critique by Charles Castonguay:

Dans sa chronique intitulée « Blues souverainistes » du 8 août dernier, Louis Cornellier souligne que « le poids des Québécois d’ascendance canadienne-française diminue sans cesse. Le chercheur Charles Gaudreault a montré qu’il était passé de 79 %, en 1971, à 64,5 %, en 2014 ». Selon Cornellier, il conviendrait « de constater une réalité qui rend l’indépendance de plus en plus improbable ».

Dans la revue L’Inconvénient (no 81, été 2020), Ugo Gilbert Tremblay enfonce le clou. « Or qu’en est-il exactement ? Quelle est la réalité sur laquelle plusieurs parmi les souverainistes préfèrent fermer les yeux ? [Le] chercheur Charles Gaudreault a voulu jeter un regard froidement objectif sur la question. La conclusion de son étude est que, de 1971 à 2014, [le poids] des Canadiens français est passé de 79 % à 64,5 % […] En projetant sur les prochaines décennies un flux migratoire comparable à celui des années précédentes, Gaudreault prédit que les Canadiens français deviendront minoritaires en sol québécois dès 2042 et que leur poids ne sera plus que de 45 % en 2050 […] Il me semble qu’un souverainiste mature devrait être capable de réfléchir — sans hargne ni rancune — aux implications de ces changements démographiques. »

Tout cela repose, cependant, sur de l’ethnie-fiction. Les projections en question ne tiennent pas la route.

Par exemple, Gaudreault définit le « groupe ethnique canadien-français » comme étant formé des descendants des colons français arrivés entre 1608 et 1760. Pour estimer son effectif en 1971, il utilise toutefois la population qui, au recensement, s’est déclarée d’origine française. Or, cette population découle aussi de deux bons siècles d’assimilation par voie de métissage ou d’adoption de personnes d’origine allemande, amérindienne, irlandaise, etc. ainsi que d’un siècle de nouvelle immigration française depuis 1870.

Gaudreault soutient également qu’en 1971, les répondants au recensement ne pouvaient indiquer qu’une seule origine. C’est faux. Ils pouvaient parfaitement en déclarer deux, trois ou plus. Statistique Canada a tout simplement éliminé les déclarations multiples avant la publication des données, en assignant à chaque répondant en cause une seule de ses origines déclarées.

Gaudreault affirme en outre que les données de 1971 sont les dernières observations fiables sur l’origine ethnique depuis 50 ans du fait qu’elles se fondent sur des « choix fermes », alors que tous les recensements suivants ont procédé par autoénumération. Faux encore. L’autorecensement a débuté en 1971 même, et Statistique Canada a recueilli des données fiables sur l’origine française jusqu’en 1991 inclusivement.

Les projections de Gaudreault excluent ensuite tout nouvel apport — même celui de nouveaux immigrants français — à sa population de départ, soit la population d’origine française énumérée en 1971. Pas surprenant, alors, qu’à force de faire mourir une population fermée et foncièrement sous-féconde, Gaudreault aboutisse, sous l’hypothèse d’une immigration non française abondante et soutenue, à un moignon de « Canadiens français ». Semblable appareil de projection réduirait en peu de temps n’importe quelle majorité à un statut minoritaire.


Notons qu’après une répartition égale des déclarations d’origines multiples entre les origines déclarées, le poids de la population d’origine française recensée en 1991 s’élevait à 77,5 %, en baisse de seulement 1,5 point de pourcentage depuis 1971. Par comparaison, les « descendants de Canadiens français » de Gaudreault en perdent 5, plongeant en 1991 à 74 %. Les projections de Gaudreault dérapent sérieusement, donc, dès 1991, soit 20 ans seulement après leur point de départ.

L’étude de Gaudreault a été mise en ligne en 2019 par la revue Nations and Nationalism. L’Action nationale en a repris l’essentiel en mars dernier, bonifié de quelques pages additionnelles dans lesquelles Gaudreault accuse Statistique Canada de ne pas avoir recueilli de données valables sur la langue depuis 1971. Faux toujours. Il y gratifie même Navdeep Bains, ministre responsable de Statistique Canada, et Anil Arora, son statisticien en chef, tous deux d’ascendance indienne, de remarques gentiment racistes.

Bel exemple de « regard froidement objectif ».

C’est d’ailleurs en fonction de la langue, et non de l’origine ethnique, qu’on juge du caractère français du Québec ou de l’appui éventuel à l’indépendance. Le poids de la population québécoise parlant le français comme langue principale à la maison est d’abord passé de 80,8 % en 1971 à près de 83 % en 1991, puis est revenu à 80,6 % en 2016. Dans cette optique, tout ne serait pas encore perdu.

Source: Ethnie-fiction et indépendance

Parents Keep Children Home As China Limits Mongolian Language In The Classroom


Early this month, parents and students across the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia streamed back to school campuses, not to attend classes, but instead to protest.

They gathered by the hundreds outside dozens of schools in rare acts of civil disobedience, protesting a new policy that sharply reduces their hours of Mongolian-language instruction. For several days, schools across Inner Mongolia stood empty as parents pulled their children out of class, the largest demonstrations in Inner Mongolia in more than three decades.

Just as quickly came the crackdown.

In Tongliao, a city of 3 million where protests were among the fiercest, residents told NPR that cars were banned from the roads for four days to stop parents from congregating. Municipal notices seen by NPR required parents to sign official statements promising to send their children to school or face punishment. Security officials in Inner Mongolia have issued arrest warrants for hundreds of parents who attended protests — complete with mug shots grabbed from surveillance cameras.

The city of Xilinhot said Wednesday that parents who sent their children to school would receive preferential access to government aid programs, according to a municipal notice seen by NPR. Those who did not would have their children expelled and their livestock herds, which many ethnic Mongolians still depend on for supplementary income, would be inspected.

“Mongolian parents, the civil servants, party members and teachers of Mongolian descent are under tremendous pressure to send their children to school,” says Enghebatu Togochog, the director of the advocacy group Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center. “Threats of arrest, detention, imprisonment, even confiscation of property are the most common methods of intimidation being used.”

The policy that ethnic Mongolians are protesting mandates that schools previously allowed to teach nearly all subjects in Mongolian now teach two required classes — politics and history — in Mandarin Chinese and begin Chinese-language literature classes one year earlier. School textbooks and teaching materials for those classes must also now be in Mandarin Chinese — China’s national language — with authorities saying Chinese-language books are higher quality than Mongolian-language books.

For China’s some 6 million ethnic Mongolians, this policy feels like a betrayal.

“One very strong sense in Inner Mongolia on the part of Mongols is how much they’ve given up,” explains Christopher Atwood, a professor of Mongolian language and history at the University of Pennsylvania.

Mongolians were the first ethnic group to declare their support for the now-ruling Chinese Communist Party in the 1940s. In doing so, they lost their opportunity for political autonomy but were granted a certain amount of cultural autonomy.

For the last seven decades, China’s ethnic Mongolians have been allowed to attend school and take university classes in the Mongolian language — which has no relation to Mandarin Chinese — officially offered in six provinces and regions.

Mongolian-language education had already been diminishing in scope before the new policy. In recent years, more and more parents were voluntarily choosing to send their children to Mandarin Chinese-only schools, which afford better economic outcomes.

Official statistics from 2017 show that about 30% of ethnic Mongolian students attend a school with some form of Mongolian-language education, down from an estimated 60% in 1990.

Now China is moving toward what it calls “second generation” ethnic policy — an approach that has emerged in the last decade that demands China’s minority ethnic groups become more “Chinese” by reducing or outright eliminating their limited cultural autonomy.

In the past decade, similar policy changes first targeted Tibetan– and Uighur- language education, drastically reducing the numbers of language teachers and resources available for students in those languages. The new language policy “is not a special requirement only asked of ethnic Mongolians, because regions such as Tibet and Xinjiang have already undergone the same transition,” Inner Mongolia’s education bureau wrote on its website.

But experts say stricter regulation of ethnic Mongolians is especially counterproductive.

“Many more Mongols were already studying Chinese,” says Morris Rossabi, an academic who studies Central Asian history at Columbia University and Queens College.

He explains that ethnic Mongolians are an assimilation success story from the eyes of Beijing, with high rates of intermarriage with Han, the majority ethnic group in China, and high levels of Mandarin Chinese fluency. “There was a kind of peace that had prevailed for 25 years. It just seems very odd that the government would create conditions that would arouse dissent,” says Rossabi.

Empty classrooms as the school year begins

Dissent was widespread this September. Ethnic Mongolian television anchors and language advocates posted videos encouraging parents to withdraw their students. On Sept. 1, the first day of the fall semester in Inner Mongolia, many schools stood empty as parents kept their children home.

Within days, China’s police state mobilized to contain the demonstrations.

In Bairin Right Banner, a region next to the Inner Mongolian city of Chifeng, and Sonid Right Banner, to the west, authorities said elementary and middle school students who did not return to class by this week would be expelled. In Kangmian Banner, parents were asked to sign a statement pledging to return their children to school or face punishment, according to a notice seen by NPR.

Two parents in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia’s capital city, told NPR that they had received nonstop calls from teachers and the school’s principal pressuring them to return their children to school.

Waves of ethnic Mongolian civil servants have quit their posts rather than implement the policy. In the town of Wudan, two village Communist Party officials were fired for “creating a negative influence in the village” and “failing to follow orders,” according to a notice posted by the local government and seen by NPR.

Four Communist Party members and a Mongolian-language teacher were expelled from the party and fired from their jobs this week in Bairin Right Banner for failing to carry out the new policy.

As a result, many parents have begun sending their children back to school.

In mid-September, about a dozen parents lined up outside Tongliao’s Shebotu Middle School to pick up their children. One parent quietly explained why he finally sent his daughter to school only this week: “If you do not send your child back, the government threatens to fire those with state jobs or to cut your social benefits.” He asked to remain anonymous because of the threat of punishment.

The intimidation extends to journalists. A black car with no license plates followed NPR in Tongliao. Shortly after speaking to parents outside Shebotu Middle School, a group of 12 plainclothes and uniformed police officers, some claiming to be parents, prevented NPR from interviewing more people in the city.

Source: Parents Keep Children Home As China Limits Mongolian Language In The Classroom

Plain Japanese key to inclusive, multicultural Japan


With Japan hosting increasing numbers of foreign visitors and residents, plain Japanese is spreading as a means of more inclusive communication in various situations, from disasters to tourism.

“Every language must be respected, and when we communicate with people who don’t speak Japanese, responding in their native language should be a priority,” said Akira Yoshikai, head of Yasashii Nihongo Tourism Kenkyukai, a group which promotes plain Japanese and its potential in tourism.

“But when it’s not practical to do so at an individual level, plain Japanese could be another option,” he said.

Plain Japanese targets those who can use the language to navigate things like shopping and making plans with their friends, according to a plain Japanese research group at Hirosaki University in northeastern Japan’s Aomori Prefecture.

It uses all three components of the Japan writing system — hiragana, katakana and kanji Chinese characters — but at a level of second- or third-grade elementary school students.

Also, for ease of understanding, sentences can be written completely in hiragana. Hiragana can also appear above Chinese characters, called furigana, to indicate its pronunciation.

Difficult terms are often rephrased. For example, evacuation shelter would be stated as ‘a place where everyone can stay for safety.’

In Yanagawa in southwestern Japan’s Fukuoka Prefecture, the city government created in 2016 badges indicating tourists and locals who prefer to speak in plain Japanese.

The badges carry messages written in Japanese — “Plain Japanese please” for tourists and “Hosting in plain Japanese” for locals.

Yoshikai, who was involved in making the badges in Yanagawa, his hometown, said he first got the idea of utilizing plain Japanese in tourism from a conversation with his mother.

“She said she wasn’t able to talk to foreign tourists because she can’t speak English. But many of the tourists to Yanagawa were from Asia, including Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea,” Yoshikai said.

Ad agency Dentsu Inc. estimated in 2016 a total of 8 million people from the three Asian neighbors were learning Japanese, either at school or as a hobby, and over 60 percent of Japanese learners in those areas wanted to speak the language when they visit the country.

“Not many people are aware that there are so many tourists who want to speak Japanese,” he said.

Municipalities including Hamamatsu in Shizuoka Prefecture, Kagoshima Prefecture and Tokyo’s Kodaira city and Setagaya Ward have held lectures for citizens to learn about plain Japanese and how to use it in tourism.

In 2018, the number of foreign tourists to Japan surpassed 30 million for the first time, with the government aiming to welcome 40 million in 2020 when Tokyo hosts the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

In the first 11 months of 2019, about 29 million tourists visited Japan, according to the Japan National Tourism Agency. The top three places tourists came from were China, South Korea and Taiwan.

As a reference for municipalities, the Olympic and Paralympic Games preparation bureau has set up a portal site that offers information and case studies of how to provide multilingual assistance, including plain Japanese.

But many Japanese people still have a stereotype that foreigners speak English, Yoshikai said.

“The problem is not that Japanese people are not good at speaking English,” he said. “Rather, it’s that daily Japanese used by native speakers is difficult for beginners to understand.”

Some of the factors making Japanese difficult are its honorific expressions as well as its importance of context, often abbreviating constituents of sentences, according to Yoshikai, who has a teaching license for Japanese as a second language.

“Daily Japanese is difficult to deal with just by learning from textbooks,” he said. “While the government is beefing up Japanese language education, shouldn’t we, the hosting side, be doing something too?”

The number of foreign residents in Japan reached 2.73 million in 2018, up 6.6 percent from a year earlier, according to the Justice Ministry. Chinese accounted for 28.0 percent of the total, followed by South Korean at 16.5 percent and Vietnamese at 12.1 percent.

According to a survey by the National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics, 62.6 percent of the foreign residents in Japan said they understand Japanese, while 44 percent said they understand English.

With the government introducing a new skilled worker visa in April 2019 to bring in more foreign labor, “Japanese society will be more multicultural at a pace we have never experienced,” Yoshikai said. “Being able to use plain Japanese will be a must for native Japanese speakers.”

Plain Japanese was originally developed to provide emergency information in case of disasters, after many foreigners were troubled by a lack of information during the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake that devastated Kobe and its vicinity, killing more than 6,400.

Among foreigners in the area, for every 100 people, 2.12 were injured, while the ratio for Japanese was 0.89, according to a survey by the Urban Disaster Research Institute in Tokyo. The data suggested a lack of information increased risks for foreigners.

Usage of plain Japanese has been evolving in this area as well with the help of new technologies such as social media.

In October 2019, when Typhoon Hagibis made landfall on Japan’s main island of Honshu, a plain Japanese tweet written all in hiragana by the Nagano prefectural government went viral. The powerful typhoon left more than 90 people dead and flooded tens of thousands of homes.

The tweet, which carried the official phone number offering disaster information in 15 languages, were not only retweeted more than 40,000 times but received a number of thank-you comments, with some Twitter users even voluntarily translating the post in various languages.

“We didn’t expect this much impact,” said an official in charge of disaster response at Nagano Prefecture, one of the areas hardest hit by the typhoon. “We didn’t think it would be translated into multiple languages and we can’t be more grateful for the support.”

He said tweeting in plain Japanese was decided amid the disaster, responding to requests from followers of the prefecture’s twitter account to offer information in plain Japanese as well.

“With more people using different languages in Japan, it’s definitely necessary to give consideration to them when offering disaster information,” the official said.

Plain Japanese is not only helpful for foreigners, their children raised in Japan or Japanese returnees who spent years overseas, but also for Japanese who have a hearing disability, Yoshikai said.

Those who grew up using sign language as a major communication tool could face challenges similar to foreigners in trying to understand Japanese, whose grammar is different from that for signing, Yoshikai said.

“(Using plain Japanese) will be an opportunity for the majority of Japanese people to rethink what their language and society is like,” he said.

“When you become aware of one minority group, it makes you realize other minority groups around you,” Yoshikai said. “I hope the idea of plain Japanese leads to a society where a diverse group of people can live as they are.”

Source: Plain Japanese key to inclusive, multicultural Japan