Plain Japanese key to inclusive, multicultural Japan

Interesting:

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

A Crying Need for Japanese-Language Instruction Among Immigrants

Coming to terms with immigration and related integration realities:

The number of foreign residents in Japan has been growing by about 150,000 annually since 2014, reaching an all-time high of 2.8 million in 2019. At a time of mounting concern over labor shortages and other consequences of demographic aging and population decline, these newcomers—most of whom are under 30—represent a vital resource. The crucial question is whether they can build rewarding lives as productive and accepted members of Japanese society. That will depend very much on their ability to communicate in Japanese, a notoriously difficult language for foreigners to learn.

Unfortunately, it is not at all unusual to encounter foreign residents who are functionally illiterate in Japanese even after living here a decade or more. Many are ill-equipped to cope in the event of an emergency.

The Japanese government must bear much of the blame for this state of affairs. While Germany, South Korea, and many other countries sponsor semi-mandatory orientation and social integration programs, including language instruction, the Japanese government has left it to local communities to respond as they see fit with the resources at their disposal. Fortunately, that is beginning to change.

Signs of Change

The impetus for change has come from the passage in December 2018 of the amended Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, which officially opened Japan’s doors to lower-skilled foreign workers. In conjunction with the new law, the government announced a package of “comprehensive measures for acceptance and coexistence of foreign nationals.” Although this policy document does not have the force of law, it articulates a commitment by the Japanese government to support the social integration of foreign nationals. This in itself is a major step forward.

With regard to the specific issue of language training for foreigners, the measures include budget allocations for improvement and expansion of the existing “community Japanese-language education” program, which relies on local volunteers, with the goal of  ensuring access to instruction in all communities nationwide. It also earmarks funds for the development of multilingual online language-training resources to meet the diverse needs of learners.

In the spring of 2019, the Commission on Japanese-Language Education (an advisory organ under the Agency for Cultural Affairs), of which I am a member, began deliberations on specific measures aimed at improving the level of Japanese-language education in Japan. One major agenda item is the development of a national system for the certification of qualified instructors. The goal is to boost the skills and expertise of Japanese-language teachers; to enhance the prestige of the profession; and to raise the level of Japanese-language education in Japan. We are also considering steps to standardize Japanese proficiency testing and align proficiency levels with those of the Common European Framework of References for Languages.

The Responsibility of the State

Meanwhile, an even more important step forward came in June 2019 with the enactment of a new law that recognizes the government’s responsibility to offer Japanese-language education to foreigners living in Japan. The bill was drafted and submitted by a cross-partisan group of lawmakers led by former Minister of Education Nakagawa Masaharu. While cognizant of the need for far-reaching, comprehensive legislative action to facilitate integration of foreign nationals into Japanese society, Nakagawa decided to place top priority on a Japanese-language education bill in the belief that it addressed an urgent need and was likely to win broad support in the Diet.

Article 1 of the law states that the government “shall carry out comprehensive and effective measures for the promotion of Japanese-language education and thereby contribute to the creation of a dynamic, inclusive society that respects cultural diversity.”

The law’s significance consists in its stipulation that providing Japanese-language education for foreign nationals in Japan is “a responsibility of the state.” It calls for a basic policy to be drawn up by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) and approved by a cabinet decision. It also calls on local governments to draw up policies consistent with that of the central government.

Notwithstanding the recent change in the Immigration Control Act, the government of Prime Minister Abe Shinzō continues to insist that it is not adopting “immigration policies” in the sense of measures to encourage or facilitate the permanent settlement of foreigners in Japan. Amid this denial, the explicit commitment to providing Japanese-language education to foreign nationals as a foundation for their acceptance and meaningful participation in an inclusive society is a major step in the right direction.

Challenges on the Ground

But to get a real sense of the task before us, we need to heed the actual voices of foreign residents and those attempting to serve them at the community level.

The Shinjuku Multicultural Community Building Committee was established by municipal ordinance in Shinjuku, Tokyo, where foreign nationals from more than 130 different countries account for 12% of the population. The committee, which I have the honor to chair, consists of more than 20 Japanese and foreign residents representing various demographic segments of the community. The members gather once every few months to discuss the challenges and issues confronting Shinjuku’s foreign residents. In the course of chairing these meetings, I have learned a great deal about the issues surrounding Japanese-language learning and teaching in this diverse community.

The first point to understand is that most foreign residents here are genuinely eager to study Japanese but find the obstacles daunting. While Shinjuku’s international community includes corporate executives with ample time to learn the language, many other foreign residents are juggling school and work, often holding multiple jobs. Mothers with small children, likewise, have very few options when it comes to attending language classes. We need to recognize and accommodate the increasingly diverse and complex circumstances of Japan’s foreign residents.

I also hear many complaints from the teaching side. In the absence of funding from either the central or local government, community-level Japanese-language education has had to rely on volunteers. Most are middle-aged or older married women who only want to teach during daytime hours on weekdays, and more and more are retiring from their volunteer jobs. As a result, Shinjuku’s community Japanese programs suffer from an acute shortage of personnel. Nor are they equipped with the resources and expertise to meet the diverse learning needs of this growing population. The question many people are asking is whether continued reliance on volunteers is a viable option.

Foreign residents also stress the need not just for Japanese instruction but also for direct “life guidance” to equip people from other cultures with the practical skills they need to function on a daily basis. A committee member representing the Nepalese community, for example, has made the point that an increasing portion of the young Nepalese who come to Japan to study or train have no previous experience with urban living. They come from rural areas and have never even been to Kathmandu. It is essential, he argues, that such people receive a basic orientation immediately after arriving if they are to avoid the pitfalls of navigating this alien environment. Providing such orientation could head off needless trouble.

Although Shinjuku’s municipal government has prepared living guides in multiple languages, which it issues to foreign students and trainees when they arrive, it offers no orientation classes, nor am I aware of any local governments that do so. As the foreign population of Japan diversifies, the central and local governments must work together to develop and institute an orientation program for new arrivals, along with Japanese-language instruction geared to foreign nationals who must learn local customs while living and working in Japan.

A Brewing Educational Crisis

Although adequate Japanese-language instruction for adults is critical, the educational needs of foreign children today are even more pressing.

According to data published by MEXT, as of May 1, 2018, there were 50,759 students in Japanese public schools identified as needing remedial Japanese-language instruction—an increase of 6,812 from the previous survey two years earlier. A recent MEXT survey found that, of the high school students identified as requiring remedial Japanese instruction as of 2017, a full 9.6% subsequently dropped out, as compared with a 1.3% dropout rate overall. Of the students requiring remediation who graduated in 2017, only 42.2% subsequently enrolled in a university, college of technology, or other postsecondary school, as compared with 71.1% of all 2017 high school graduates. A full 18.2% of them were unemployed, as compared with a 6.7% rate overall.

Learning to speak Japanese is not the biggest linguistic challenge facing foreign schoolchildren in Japan. The biggest challenge is kanji. During their six years in elementary school, Japanese children learn to read and write more than 1,000 kanji. Foreign children who transfer into the system after the beginning of third grade are already at a serious disadvantage. Poor reading skills tend to affect academic performance in almost every subject. By fifth or sixth grade, when many Japanese schoolchildren are already attending juku or enrichment programs, foreign students often find themselves socially isolated. Bullying is also a serious problem.

In places like Tokyo and Hamamatsu (Shizuoka Prefecture), where foreign students are no longer a rarity, many teachers work extra hours coaching them to improve their Japanese skills and help them catch up academically. A few schools have even hired additional faculty and staff in order to offer pull-out classes, with interpreters providing assistance. But only a fraction of the foreign children living in Japan have access to such support.

Foreign students face a major hurdle when it comes time to take the high school entrance examinations. The test results determine what kind of high school they can attend, which in turn determines their college and career prospects. And the vast majority of foreign students must take the written examination in Japanese in direct competition with their Japanese peers. In big cities like Tokyo and Osaka, there are a few schools that offer special admissions processes for foreign students, and there are also a growing number of nonprofits and other organizations dedicated to helping those students. But again, all too few have access to those services.

As the foregoing suggests, the academic and social pressures of school education in Japan can be overwhelming for young foreign nationals. When the stress builds up, students are apt to avoid school or simply stop attending altogether. In Japan, elementary and junior high school education is compulsory only for Japanese citizens, not for the children of foreign nationals. As a consequence, when a foreign student drops out, school authorities seldom intervene.

Leaving these children uneducated and unsupervised cannot possibly be a good thing, either for them or for the community as a whole. The government needs to address this brewing crisis by drawing up a robust policy for educational support, intervention, and accommodation and implementing it rigorously at the local level in collaboration with foreign residents, NPOs, Japanese-language instructors, and others.

Leaving No One Behind

Some progressive municipalities are leading the way with their own initiatives to support the adjustment and social integration of foreign nationals living in Japan. The city of Yokohama has established the Himawari Japanese-language support center to help recently arrived children adjust to Japanese schools. Hamamatsu has launched a program to ensure that all foreign children attend school. But for most municipalities, the education of non-Japanese children is still uncharted territory.

South Korea has established Rainbow Centers at 25 locations around the country to provide basic instruction in Korean language and customs to foreign children before they enter school. By comparison, Japan has only begun to develop dedicated facilities for such purposes, and it has a long way to go in terms of training and hiring the qualified professionals—including language teachers and interpreters—needed to staff them.

The number of foreigners living in Japan is now roughly equal to the entire population of Hiroshima Prefecture. They have much to contribute to Japanese society, both culturally and economically. But that potential will go untapped in the absence of a concerted effort to develop our language-education infrastructure. Through flexible partnerships with municipalities and nonprofits, the government must actively support language and social-integration programs tailored to the needs of individual communities and fulfill its responsibility to “leave no one behind.”

Source: A Crying Need for Japanese-Language Instruction Among Immigrants

Working knowledge: Quebec expands on-the-job French lessons for newcomers

Interesting approach and focus on individual training to small business owners:

Wang Weidong’s shop in Chinatown offers the typical bounty of the Montreal dépanneur − lottery tickets, toothpaste, fireworks, an entire wall of snacks and, of course, beer and wine. One recent morning, the store also featured novel fare: French lessons.

Huit dollars,” Mr. Wang said, struggling to pronounce “eight dollars” in French.

Est-ce que je peux avoir un reçu?” said his teacher, Félix Pigeon, asking for a receipt as he stood before Mr. Wang at the counter.

Mr. Wang was a willing pupil in the expanding frontier of French-language learning in Quebec. As the province seeks to ensure newcomers can work and function in French, it’s increasing funding by $450,000 for on-the-job lessons offered at neighbourhood businesses across Montreal.

In Mr. Wang’s case, that means turning the ubiquitous Montreal dépanneur into a classroom. For two hours a week, Mr. Pigeon, a master’s student in literature, exchanges with Mr. Wang at the counter or between store shelves, doling out French phrases as easily as Mr. Wang dispenses ramen soup and chocolate bars. Customers come and go as Mr. Wang works the cash and gamely tries to grasp the intricacies of French grammar and verb conjugation.

“French is important here. I know that if I want to make my business better, I have to speak French,” said Mr. Wang, 51, who came to Montreal from Beijing two years ago with his wife and now 8-year-old son.

“But I don’t have time to go to school. I have to work.”

Mr. Wang’s views underscore a fundamental reality for many immigrants to Quebec: Learning French is essential to building their new lives, but, like Mr. Wang, they’re unlikely to find time to visit a classroom after long hours on the job.

The on-the-job courses have become a success story within Quebec’s vast undertaking known as “la francisation” – the province’s multimillion-dollar efforts to turn immigrants into French speakers.

The new Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government announced funding this month to expand the workplace program in the city, which is run by the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal. The initiative began in 2016 with just 30 immigrant merchants; more than 500 are expected to take part this year.

The “students” include an Egyptian immigrant who owns a driving school, a Ukrainian-born waitress at a Greek restaurant, and a woman from Grenada who runs a beauty salon in Montreal’s multicultural Côte-des-Neiges neighbourhood.

“For an entrepreneur – someone operating a dépanneur or a travel agency – going to a French class means closing their business,” said Céline Huot, a vice-president at the chamber of commerce. “So we had the idea of bringing the French class to them.”

As part of the $1.5-million program, participants such as Mr. Wang sport a button saying “J’apprends le français, encouragez-moi,” (I’m learning French, encourage me). The message addresses a basic truth in Montreal: Most people are bilingual and tend to switch to English if they sense that a newcomer is struggling in French. It’s part of the daily interplay of language in a city that typically seeks common linguistic ground.

The message on Mr. Wang’s button turns his personal language effort into a shared goal with his customers.

“It becomes a question of pride for the merchants,” Ms. Huot said. “It’s not, ‘I don’t speak French well, and so I feel a certain embarrassment.’ It becomes extremely positive. The whole campaign shows a positive image of immigrants who are making efforts to integrate.”

At a time when Quebec’s “francisation” programs have come under criticism as inefficient, these free courses have brought measurable results: 80 per cent of immigrants who took part progressed at least one level of French after their three-month session.

And for university students such as Mr. Pigeon, 28, the exchanges deliver their own rewards.

“I’ve travelled a lot and everywhere I go, I’m well-received. Canadians have the reputation to be a welcoming people, so I wanted to be part of that,” Mr. Pigeon said. “I wanted to give back.”

Ensuring newcomers speak French has long been a cornerstone of immigration policy in Quebec, where language is seen as central to the province’s identity and survival. The theme has been heavily promoted by the CAQ government of Premier François Legault, which argues that its 20-per-cent cut to immigration this year is necessary to better integrate immigrants and teach them French. The party has even raised the prospect of expelling immigrants after three years if they failed a French and values test.

Yet despite the “rhetoric” of immigrants posing a threat to the French majority, newcomers in fact overwhelmingly want to learn the language, and 95 per cent of all Quebeckers have a knowledge of French, says Richard Bourhis, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Quebec at Montreal who has studied immigrant integration.

Immigrants might not have time to study French while they’re struggling to pay the rent and put food on the table, he said, but the will is there. “They all want to give themselves as many tools as possible to make their immigration project successful,” Prof. Bourhis said. “If you’re just patient with them, either the first or second generation do learn French. They want to.”

That is certainly the case for Mr. Wang. When a francophone customer comes in asking for fortune cookies, Mr. Wang struggles to understand what she’s saying. Mr. Pigeon coaches him, then Mr. Wang rushes over to a shelf full of cookie bags.

Mr. Wang says he now wants to become proficient enough to go beyond what he calls “dépanneur French,” and has his sights set on a bigger goal: His son’s hockey games.

“When the kids play their games, we have to shout,” Mr. Wang says of his son’s matches with the Jeunes Sportifs d’Hochelaga in Montreal. “I can’t figure out what to say.”

He may not find the answer among the lychee jelly snacks and cans of pop in his dépanneur. But he feels the goal is within reach.

Source: Montreal program

Des cours de francisation jugés inefficaces

Basic level versus advanced level for professionals. Likely unrealistic to expect immigrant language training to cover the latter (just think of the mixed success of federal official language training for anglophones trying to learn French and the amount of time required).

Much better to address during selection process (as current Express Entry give weight to language):

Les programmes de francisation ne sont pas efficaces pour permettre aux immigrants de bien s’intégrer au marché du travail et à la société québécoise, déplore Nima Madani, immigrant d’origine iranienne installé au Québec depuis 2015.

En suivant les débats autour de l’accueil des nouveaux arrivants, cet ingénieur mécanique de 40 ans a l’impression, comme beaucoup d’autres immigrants, que les chefs politiques ne comprennent pas vraiment les enjeux et qu’ils proposent des solutions sans lien avec la réalité.

«Ils parlent du taux élevé d’échec aux cours de francisation, mais personne n’a comme priorité de les améliorer», souligne-t-il, se basant sur ce qu’il a vécu depuis son arrivée à Montréal.

La CAQ propose d’abord de réduire le nombre d’immigrants, tandis que le PQ veut exiger qu’ils connaissent mieux le français à leur arrivée.

«Mais on a tellement de choses à faire quand on se prépare à quitter notre pays, c’est très exigeant», témoigne Nima Madani.

«Les politiciens ne semblent pas savoir comment ça se passe pour un immigrant qui arrive. La majorité fait de gros efforts pour s’intégrer, mais on a l’impression d’être abandonnés, même en étant très motivé pour apprendre le français.»

Inquiétude

Ses observations sur les lacunes en francisation sont corroborées par plusieurs études, notamment celle du Conseil supérieur de la langue française (CSLF), publiée en février dernier, ainsi que par le dernier rapport de la Vérificatrice générale du Québec, dévoilé en novembre 2017. «L’offre de francisation de base ne permet pas aux immigrants d’atteindre un niveau de maîtrise de la langue suffisamment élevé pour réaliser une intégration socioprofessionnelle réussie», a démoncé le CSlF dans son rapport sur La francisation et l’intégration professionnelle des personnes immigrantes.

De nombreux immigrants sont inquiets de ce qu’ils entendent depuis le début de la campagne électorale, renchérit Stephan Reichhold, directeur de la Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes (TCRI).

«Ils se sentent dénigrés, alors que plusieurs font de gros efforts pour apprendre le français et que les inscriptions aux cours de francisation augmentent, dit-il. Certains se demandent s’ils devront quitter le Québec si la CAQ prend le pouvoir.»

Le test des valeurs proposé par François Legault cause aussi de l’irritation. «M. Legault ne semble pas réaliser qu’on fait déjà tout ce qu’il demande, note Nima Madani. Dans les entrevues de sélection, nous sommes interrogés sur les valeurs québécoises.»

Il rappelle aussi que la demande de certificat de sélection du Québec inclut la signature d’une Déclaration portant sur les valeurs communes de la société québécoise. «Si je n’étais pas d’accord, je ne serais pas venu au Québec», fait-il remarquer.

Les immigrants invisibles

Alors que le thème de l’accueil des immigrants occupe une place centrale dans la campagne électorale, on a peu entendu les nouveaux arrivants se prononcer eux-mêmes sur cet enjeu, alors qu’ils sont les premiers concernés.

Sollicités pour ce reportage, les représentants du Regroupement des organismes de francisation du Québec ont décliné notre demande d’entrevue, préférant «ne pas se mêler de politique», a expliqué un porte-parole.

Nima Madani veut contribuer au débat de façon constructive en témoignant de son expérience d’immigrant très motivé à apprendre le français: il a suivi plusieurs sessions de cours à Téhéran, en plus de deux séjours d’un mois à Paris dans des programmes d’immersion, pour se préparer à son arrivée au Québec.

«On m’a dit que mon français était assez bon, même si j’avais encore besoin de cours de francisation, raconte-t-il. Mais les cours ici ne sont pas efficaces, les progrès sont beaucoup trop lents pour atteindre un niveau suffisant pour travailler. Et quand on a terminé le programme de francisation, c’est très difficile de trouver des cours pour continuer de progresser.»

Trop élevé d’élèves par classe, trop peu de temps consacré à la conversation, méthodes d’enseignement archaïques et inefficaces, groupes composés d’élèves aux objectifs disparates, peu adaptés aux besoins des travailleurs qualifiés, horaires qui ne conviennent pas à tous, faibles moyens financiers des élèves… La liste des observations de M. Madani est longue!

«Je ne veux pas avoir l’air de chiâler!», dit-il, dans un français teinté d’un très léger accent, en hésitant à peine sur certains mots. «Les professeurs étaient très gentils et accueillants, mais certains n’enseignaient simplement pas bien. C’était un monologue. C’est bien que les cours soient gratuits, mais il faut surtout qu’ils soient performants.»

Autre aberration, selon lui: les enseignants donnaient à l’avance aux élèves les questions des examens du ministère de l’Immigration visant à vérifier les acquis.

Pour continuer ses progrès en français, M. Madani s’est inscrit à un cours à HEC-Montréal et a trouvé des Québécois avec qui se pratiquer.

«Dans mon réseau, dans la communauté iranienne, la plupart des gens parlent anglais, alors je ne peux pas compter sur mon entourage pour pratiquer», souligne-t-il.

Il se désole aussi de voir que l’on ne parle pas de cinéma québécois, ni de littérature ou de chanson dans les cours de francisation, mais qu’on apprend aux élèves comment se débrouiller si leur lavabo coule.

«Tout est fait en fonction de survivre et non de vivre, dit M. Madani. On ne parle jamais de ce qui est agréable dans la culture québécoise. Je n’ai jamais eu de lavabo qui coule depuis que je suis arrivé ici, ça ne me sert à rien pour entrer en contact avec les Québécois!»

***

UN GUICHET UNIQUE QUI SE FAIT ATTENDRE

Un projet de guichet unique pour faciliter l’accès aux cours de francisation, dans les cartons du ministère de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion (MIDI) depuis plus de 15 ans, n’a toujours pas vu le jour, malgré des années de travaux. Un contrat de plus de 200 000$ a même été accordé en 2009 pour la mise en place de ce guichet unique, visant à simplifier l’inscription aux cours, qui peuvent être offerts dans les commissions scolaires, les cégeps ou les organismes communautaires. Le ministère promet maintenant que ce service sera implanté en 2019. «Depuis août 2017, le MIDI est devenu la porte d’entrée unique pour les personnes immigrantes admissibles à l’allocation de participation et aux cours à temps complet, qu’ils soient offerts par un partenaire du MIDI ou en commission scolaire», note cependant une porte-parole du ministère, soulignant que le dernier budget prévoyait 50 millions sur cinq ans pour bonifier les services.

MAUVAISE NOTE POUR LA FRANCISATION

Les principales lacunes des cours de français destinés aux immigrants:

«La capacité de communiquer en français ne garantit pas l’intégration professionnelle et sociale, certes, mais ce facteur constitue néanmoins le premier élément d’intégration à la société québécoise.»

«L’hétérogénéité de la composition des groupes de francisation est considérée comme un frein à l’apprentissage de la langue.»

«Même s’ils reçoivent une allocation, il n’est pas rare que des immigrants qui suivent le programme de francisation soient obligés de travailler en même temps.»

Source: Conseil supérieur de la langue française, La francisation et l’intégration professionnelle des personnes immigrantes, février 2018.

«La vaste majorité des participants aux cours de français du ministère n’ont pas atteint le seuil d’autonomie langagière, lequel facilite l’accès au marché du travail et permet d’entreprendre des études postsecondaires. Les personnes immigrantes qui ont commencé des cours de français offerts par le Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion (MIDI) en 2015 ont atteint ce seuil dans une proportion de 9,1% à l’oral et de 3,7 et 5,3% à l’écrit.»

«Le MIDI ne mesure pas le délai d’attente réel des personnes immigrantes entre leur demande d’inscription et le début d’un cours à temps complet. De plus, il ne collige pas de données sur les raisons des désistements et l’information qu’il collecte au sujet des motifs d’abandon de cours durant une session est incomplète.»

Source: Rapport du Vérificateur général du Québec sur la francisation des personnes immigrantes, novembre 2017.

Source: Des cours de francisation jugés inefficaces

Ignore the alarmists, there is no language crisis in Quebec, economists say

Interesting and pertinent analysis of Census language data, using the different measures, and the resulting complexities of mixed linguistic unions:

Quebec’s June 24 Fête nationale is a celebration rooted in an impulse for preservation. Behind the parades, concerts and bonfires across the province this weekend lays a reminder of the ever-present need to defend the French language.

It is a message regularly reinforced by the media and politicians, from reports highlighting a decline in the proportion of Quebecers with French as their mother tongue to dismay over Montreal merchants embracing English with a ‘Bonjour-Hi’ greeting.

In fact, it is hard to imagine a Quebec without a serious language issue. But according to the author of a new economic study for a Montreal think tank, that Quebec already exists.

Analyzing the supply and demand of English and French in Quebec over the 40 years since the language law known as Bill 101 was introduced, the study by Université de Montréal economics professor François Vaillancourt finds the law and other measures have done their job.

Knowledge of French has increased despite a drop in the share of French mother-tongue speakers. Francophone employers dominate the Quebec economy. And speaking only French is no longer a brake on earning power.

“Quebec language policy will always face challenges, since Quebec is surrounded by anglophones,” the study for the CIRANO research group concludes. “But considering the picture presented in this paper, we must set aside language policies that regard English as the language of conquest and not the language of international openness.”

He is an economist, but Vaillancourt is intimately familiar with Quebec language law. In 1977 he was recruited to work as a consultant to Parti Québécois cultural development minister Camille Laurin in the drafting of Bill 101.

Forty years later, he decided it was time to assess the impact, and his paper published last month is the result.

Quebec Premier Rene Levesque tries to hush supporters at a Parti Quebecois rally in Montreal, Nov.15, 1976, following his party’s victory in the provincial election. The PQ victory led to the landmark Charter of the French Language, more commonly known as Bill 101, which became law on Aug. 26, 1977.

“Essentially, we are told two things,” Vaillancourt says in an interview. “There are fewer Quebecers with French as a mother tongue, and at the same time Montreal is becoming more English. That is true, but it is not the whole story. There are other things going on.”

For one thing, the percentage of the Quebec population able to speak French rose to 94.5 per cent in 2016 from 88.5 per cent in 1971, before Bill 101 was adopted. Because of the province’s selection criteria, more than half of immigrants to Quebec today already speak French, and Bill 101’s requirement that their children attend French school has ensured future generations become fluent.

To an economist’s eye, this is an increase in the supply of French speakers, and it has coincided with an increased demand, as francophones took control of the Quebec economy and workplaces became more French.

Vaillancourt has found that French is more common in the workplace when the ownership is francophone, and he notes that between 1961 and 2003 — the last year for which data is available — francophone-owned companies went from employing 47 per cent of workers to 67 per cent.

Using census data, Vaillancourt documents a steady increase in the income of unilingual francophones in comparison to their unilingual anglophone counterparts. For example, in 1970, a unilingual anglophone man earned on average 10 per cent more than a unilingual francophone man with comparable education. By 2010, the advantage had flipped to the unilingual francophone, who was earning 10 per cent more than a unilingual anglophone — and eight per cent more than a bilingual anglophone.

Economists Vincent Geloso and Alex Arsenault Morin have also written a paper challenging the commonly held view that French is in decline in Quebec.

The reality, they say, is that language-usage patterns have become much more complex as a result of immigration and “inter-linguistic marriages.” Their 2016 paper says that while census data shows a slight decline between 2001 and 2011 in the proportion of people speaking French at home, it is compensated for by an increase in those using French at work.

“In other words, 88 per cent of the population of Quebec have French as their most often used language at home, at work or in both spaces. The apparent decline of French in Quebec is then a consequence of a rise in multilingualism,” they write.

Statisticians struggle to keep up with evolving behavior that muddies once reliable measures such as mother tongue and language spoken at home.

“Before, if you were a French speaker, you married a French speaker, you worked in a French job and that was it,” Geloso, an assistant professor at Bates College in Maine, says in an interview.

“Now you may be a French speaker who marries an English person and works a French job. … It’s not because somebody uses English 30 per cent of his life instead of zero per cent that French is in a crisis, especially if some English speakers in the process start speaking more French on a daily basis.”

Vaillancourt says language has practically become a matter of faith in Quebec, with people worshipping at the altar of Bill 101 instead of the Catholic Church. But he thinks it is time to challenge the language-law orthodoxy.

He notes that the majority of people affected by Bill 101’s schooling restrictions are francophones, because they are prevented from sending their children to English school.

“That’s fine, but I don’t think having a common language necessarily implies depriving ourselves of understanding another language,” he says.

In 2011, just 38 per cent of Quebec francophones were bilingual, according to census results, compared with 61 per cent of Quebec anglophones. Vaillancourt proposes a mandatory one-year English immersion program for all students in French schools. He acknowledges there could be an increased “risk of assimilation” but says Quebecers’ economic potential would grow.

In parallel, with a view to ensuring all employees are able to provide service in French, he recommends that anglophones should be obliged to have part of their schooling in French, either in an immersion program or in French schools.

Quebec should draw inspiration from the Netherlands, where 90 per cent of the population speaks English, 71 per cent speaks German, and no one worries about he disappearance of the Dutch language, Vaillancourt says.

And if ever a widespread knowledge of English in Quebec led to the disappearance of francophone Quebec hundreds of years from now, “it would have to be understood that this is the result of the choice of francophones themselves and not a forced assimilation,” he concludes.

Source: Ignore the alarmists, there is no language crisis in Quebec, economists say

Taking Back the Language | Noah Rothman

Nice reminder that language can but both ways by Rothman:

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stumbled into controversy this week, although it was perhaps unwarranted. Trudeau became the subject of derision and mockery when he interrupted a woman at a town hall to correct her use of the term “mankind,” suggesting that she replace this dated designation with the more inclusive “peoplekind.” He only offered his proposal after enduring several minutes of a rambling new-age monologueregarding the chemical composition of “maternal love.” Trudeau’s interjection was probably flippant, but neither his interlocutor nor his critics seemed to notice. It’s hard to blame them.

When it comes to subservience to the many demands that identity politics makes on language and behavior, Canada’s prime minister takes a back seat to no one. It’s only prudent to assume Trudeau’s mawkishness is earnest. What’s more, the fact that “gendered” nouns and pronouns, including “mankind,” find themselves in the censors’ crosshairs isn’t exactly news. The popular grammar-checking program Grammarly flags “mankind” for “possible gender-biased language” and suggests more neutral substitutes like “humankind” or “humanity.” Learning to love unidiomatic expressions and consigning gender-specific language to history is a fixation of political activists posing as academicians, even if legitimate etymological scholars cannot support these arguments by citing linguistic corpora. Those who resent an increasingly overbroad definition of what constitutes offensive language are primed for a fight.

Language policing has been the stock-in-trade of a particular type of activist for decades, much to the consternation of both conservatives and liberals interested more in clarity than conformity. Recently, though, the intramural debate on the left over the limited utility of scrutinizing potentially objectionable speech rather than the ideas conveyed by that speech has been relegated to the back burner. That’s for a good reason.

Donald Trump’s presidency, much like his candidacy, is a brusque counterattack against “PC culture.” Often, what Trump and his supporters call “politically incorrect” language is just plain rudeness. The value of the kind of speech they find delightfully provocative isn’t its concision but its capacity to offend the right people. Thus, some self-styled arbiters of linguistic enlightenment might be tempted to dismiss Trump’s campaign against ambiguous semantics as nothing more than a brutish primal scream. If so, they would have failed to properly appreciate the threat Trump and the presidential pulpit he commands represent to their capacity to shape the terms of the debate through language. Trump isn’t limited to displays of rhetorical brute force. Sometimes, he and his speechwriters are capable of compelling eloquence.

Amid a blizzard of FBI texts, dueling intelligence committee memos, and legalisms regarding the oversight of America’s necessarily secretive espionage courts, the State of the Union address has all but been forgotten in Washington. It’s less likely, though, that a well-received speech watched by at least 46 million Americans will be so quickly forgotten across the country. And that should concern liberals because if there was any single line in that speech that won’t be overlooked, it was one that cuts at the heart of the Democratic Party’s ability to lay claim to the moral high ground. “My duty and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber is to defend Americans, to protect their safety, their families, their communities and their right to the American dream,” Trump said. “Because Americans are dreamers, too.” This was a masterful line. Its potency has been underestimated, and not just by those who resent the restrictive immigration policies it was designed to advance.

The name of the bipartisan 2001 “Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act” transgressed a little in order to achieve a lot for the children of illegal immigrants brought into the U.S. as minors. Referring to this demographic as “alien” is taboo, and an offense against modern sensibilities. But to describe them as “DREAMers” yields a windfall of sympathy for this already deserving group of largely naturalized non-citizens. Trump’s turn of phrase spreads the dreaming around, thus diluting the designation DREAMer of much of its unique sympathy.

Democrats might have missed the significance of this expression amid their irritation over another set phrase in that speech: “chain migration.” Trump’s use of this term during the State of the Union Address to describe the process by which legal immigrants sponsor members of their extended family to become American citizens elicited boos from Democrats. Many implied the phrase is a new invention with racist connotations, but the term has been used by policymakers (including some of these same Democrats) for decades. Maybe it was the self-evident hypocrisy, or maybe it was the contrived effort to move the goalposts. For whatever reason, the Democrats’ campaign to label “chain migration” a racist term landed with a thud. Time was that the left could dictate the terms of a debate by controlling the language of its participants, but their grip on the national dialogue may be slipping. The power of the presidency—you’ll forgive the expression—trumps the braying of the pedantic opposition.

The energy expended by political activists on policing speech is not wasted; dictating the boundaries of what constitutes acceptable discourse is a profitable and productive enterprise. If the right is getting into the game, they’re only following a course forged by their political adversaries.

via Taking Back the Language | commentary

Spanish use is steady or dropping in US despite high Latino immigration

Second generation effect:

Hidden just beneath the surface of the ongoing heated debate about immigration in the United States lurks an often unspoken concern: language. Specifically, whether immigration from Spanish-speaking countries threatens the English language’s dominance.

Language and immigration have long been politically linked in the U.S. When Farmers Branch, Texas, passed an English-only “requirement” in 2006, then-Mayor Tim O’Hare justified it by saying that “we need to address illegal immigration in our city and we need to do it now.”

The Farmers Branch city council voted unanimously to drop the controversial ordinance last November, but 31 states and hundreds of towns in the United States still have local English-only or “official English” laws.

The perception that Latino immigration has led Spanish to sideline or even overtake English in the U.S. is widespread. After all, Spanish is the second most dominant language in the country, after English. It is spoken by 48.6 million people: 34.8 million Spanish-speakers age 5 and older of various national-origin backgrounds, 11 million undocumented Latin American immigrants and an estimated 2.8 million non-Latinos who use Spanish in the home.

Census data on U.S. demographic changes project that by 2060 the Latino population in the U.S. – the group most likely to speak Spanish – will grow 115 percent, to 119 million.

But these figures don’t tell the whole story. As a linguist, I have studied Spanish-English bilingualism in Texas, California, Florida and beyond, and I can attest that Spanish is not taking over the United States. Far from it: Political fearmongering notwithstanding, Spanish actually holds a rather tenuous position in the country.

From bilingual to monolingual

How can the Latino population be growing rapidly while Spanish-speaking remains stable? The answer lies in oft-overlooked peculiarities of census data and in the particular linguistic history of the United States.

If one looks only at immigration patterns over the past half-century, it is true that the U.S. has been gaining Spanish-speakers. From 1965 to 2015, roughly half of all immigration has come from Latin American countries. This trend added some 30 million people, most of whom came speaking Spanish, to the American populace.

But this is only half the story. While new immigrants bring Spanish with them, research shows that their children tend to become bilinguals who overwhelmingly prefer English. As a result, the same immigrants’ grandchildren likely speak English only.

Linguists call this phenomenon “the three-generation pattern.” In essence, it means that non-English languages in the U.S. are lost by or during the third generation.

We can see this pattern playing out in data from the Pew Hispanic Center. Surveys show that in 2000, 48 percent of Latino adults aged 50 to 68 spoke “only English” or “English very well,” and that 73 percent of Latino children aged 5 to 17 did.

By 2014, those numbers had jumped to 52 percent and 88 percent, respectively. In other words, the shift from Spanish to English is happening nationwide, both over time and between generations.

Why English dominates

Language shift is not a naturally occurring phenomenon. Rather, it is a consequence of cultural forces that pressure speakers to give up one language to get another. These forces include restrictive language laws that formally prohibit the use of Spanish in educational or government settings, as Farmers Branch, Texas, did for 11 years.

Schools also drive the three-generation pattern. Even though Latin American parents often speak to their U.S.-born children in Spanish, those children almost invariably attend English-only schools.

There, they learn that academic success is achieved in English. As a result, first-generation children expand their vocabularies and literacy practices in English, not in Spanish.

They may also encounter negative attitudes toward Spanish from teachers and peers. For example, in October 2017, a New Jersey high school teacher was caught on video reprimanding three students for speaking Spanish, encouraging them, instead, to speak “American.” That no such language exists is beside the point – her message was clear.

Social pressure to speak English is so great that Latino immigrant parents may notice resistance to using Spanish at home as early as kindergarten. A generation later, though grandparents may continue to use Spanish in the home, grandchildren will often respond to them in English.

The numerous blogs, websites and guides dedicated to helping Latino parents navigate this bilingual terrain indicate just how common language shift is.

Indeed, when I ask my own Latino students about when they speak what to whom, the answer is almost always the same: Spanish with elders, English with everyone else.

This pattern seems to hold in small towns and big cities, on the East Coast and on the West, and in towns with large and small Latino populations. From Chicago to Southern California, children of Spanish-speaking immigrants become English-dominant.

The Spanish-to-English shift even occurs in Miami, where over 65 percent of the population is Latino and where speaking Spanish has clear economic benefits. That’s why Miami struggles to find enough Spanish-speaking teachers to staff its public schools.

English on the rise

Spanish isn’t the only immigrant language that has struggled to keep a foothold in the U.S. Germans, Italians, Poles and Swedes went through similar language shifts in the 19th and 20th centuries. These languages, too, were sometimes seen as a threat to American identity in their time.

Then as now, American anxiety about the role of English in U.S. society was totally unfounded. In the roughly 150,000-year history of human language, there has never been a more secure tongue than English.

More people worldwide do speak Mandarin and Spanish as their first language. But with some 400 million first language speakers and more than 500 million adoptive English speakers, English has a global standing enjoyed by none of the roughly 6,000 other languages spoken worldwide. It has been that way for about half a century.

If Latino immigration declines markedly in the U.S., language shift may actually lead Spanish to disappear across America. English, on the other hand, isn’t going anywhere fast.

via Spanish use is steady or dropping in US despite high Latino immigration

Why Indigenous Languages Should Be Taught Alongside French and English

Chelsea Vowel makes the case (the practicalities will be a challenge):

There are constitutional protections and billions of dollars of funding for Canada’s two official languages, but what of the languages of the original peoples on these lands? I’m not suggesting that all 70 Indigenous languages be made mandatory and offered in every corner of this country. Instead, we need to be looking at supporting these languages where they exist, on the lands whence they originate. In Iqaluit, that would be Inuktitut, while in Halifax it would be Mi’kmaq. Each province and territory should pass an Official Languages Act recognizing the Indigenous languages that originate in those areas, and bolster this recognition with funding to ensure language transmission continues in schools, workplaces, and government. Incentivizing second-language learning in an Indigenous language could be done by hiring speakers in daycares, schools, and public service positions.

It often feels as though we are being asked to justify the continuing existence of our languages to a Canadian audience who may not value them. I believe we need to remind Canada that Indigenous languages are an Aboriginal right, enshrined in section 35 of the Constitution, as well as an inherent right — to speak and pass on our languages — that is recognized internationally by the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which Canada has officially adopted. What we need now is an implementation of those rights, supported with adequate funding.

Everyone stands to gain. Embedded within our languages are cultural concepts that have the potential to give all Canadians a deeper understanding of our place in relation to the world around us. Our languages have been systematically devalued for generations out of a misplaced sense of their inferiority. Yet many of the concepts currently being explored by Western medicine, environmentalism, and the humanities are foundational within Indigenous cultures and languages. Holistic health and teachings, understandings of interconnectedness with human and non-human beings, and ways of being in good relation with one another are all described in our various Indigenous languages.

Public perception has a powerful impact on policy, and when Canadians are told that Indigenous languages are on the rise, this obscures just how desperate the situation is. Twenty-four of the Indigenous languages listed in the census have less than 200 speakers each, and if what we truly need are highly fluent speakers, then even these numbers are likely inflated. Even among the so-called robust languages — Cree, Inuktitut, and Ojibway — language loss is speeding up.

We can and must start planning to offer these languages alongside English and French throughout the country. Don’t let a rosy reading of the statistics lull you into a false sense of security. In 10 years, we will once again count the number of speakers of Indigenous languages in Canada. Without immediate, robust, and heartfelt intervention, language decline will be irreversible. As someone who has fought hard to access and reclaim her own Cree language, I am asking Canadians to recognize that we are at a tipping point. Please, support us, and come learn with us.

via Why Indigenous Languages Should Be Taught Alongside French and English – Chatelaine

Erreur dans le recensement linguistique: Statistique Canada s’explique

Not an easy time before parliamentarians:

Statistique Canada avait «détecté certains changements» dans les données sur la langue à l’étape de la validation, mais «n’a pas, à ce moment-là, capté» qu’il aurait fallu procéder à une révision avant de diffuser les données linguistiques qui ont provoqué un tollé au Québec.

«Je sais ce qui s’est produit. Mais comment on a manqué cette erreur-là, c’est cette partie que je ne sais pas encore», a lâché devant les députés du comité permanent sur les langues officielles Marc Hamel, directeur général du programme du recensement.

L’agence fédérale avait déjà fait son mea culpa en août dernier, expliquant que l’erreur avait été causée par le logiciel de compilation de données. Celui-ci a inversé les réponses dans des formulaires en français d’environ 61 000 personnes, dont environ 57 000 au Québec.

La bourde avait eu pour conséquence de surestimer la croissance de l’anglais dans la province et dans certaines de ses régions, tant pour la langue maternelle que pour la langue parlée à la maison, ce qui avait inquiété politiciens et défenseurs de la langue française.

«Ce n’est pas le système qui n’a pas détecté (l’erreur). Ce sont les gens qui ont testé le système qui n’ont pas détecté que le système ne lisait pas le questionnaire de façon conforme», a spécifié Marc Hamel aux élus.

Le député conservateur Alupa Clarke lui a demandé si des têtes allaient rouler chez Statistique Canada, déplorant que «de plus en plus, aujourd’hui, on vit dans une société où on ne met jamais au banc des accusés les responsables».

«Dans un cas comme celui-là, on ne parle pas des individus, on parle des processus. Si à chaque fois que quelqu’un faisait une erreur, il était congédié, on en congédierait peut-être plusieurs. Les erreurs sont rares», lui a répondu M. Hamel.

«On a fait les correctifs appropriés pour éviter que ce genre de situation comme ça se reproduise encore. Est-ce que je peux vous dire aujourd’hui que dans les 100 prochaines années, ça n’arrivera pas encore? Absolument pas. L’erreur est humaine», a-t-il ajouté.

Au haut fonctionnaire, qui s’est défendu de «prêcher par nonchalance», Alupe Clarke a suggéré d’envoyer une «lettre diplomate» aux 5000 employés de l’agence pour leur dire de faire gaffe à l’avenir, établissant un parallèle avec son expérience dans les Forces armées.

«Moi, j’ai fait l’armée, puis nous, ça ne niaise pas, là. Il y a une discipline (…) puis quand on fait la guerre, ça marche», a-t-il lâché.

Un peu plus tôt, son collègue néo-démocrate François Choquette s’était étonné que l’agence ait diffusé les données linguistiques alors que certaines d’entre elles, en particulier dans certaines villes à forte majorité francophone, étaient clairement suspectes.

«Attendez que je comprenne comme il faut: 164 pour cent d’augmentation de la population anglophone à Rimouski, 115 à Saguenay, 110 à Drummondville. Vous avez eu ces chiffres-là, qui n’étaient pas normaux, et vous avez quand même décidé de les sortir?», a-t-il questionné.

Le directeur adjoint de la division de la statistique sociale, Jean-Pierre Corbeil, a répondu que ce n’était «pas aussi simple» et qu’il «fallait être prudent quand on faisait des comparaisons historiques», surtout compte tenu des changements survenus sous les conservateurs en 2011.

Ces données contenues dans la livraison initiale de données du 2 août dernier étaient passées sous le radar jusqu’à ce que le président de l’Association d’études canadiennes, Jack Jedwab, lève un drapeau rouge après avoir passé les chiffres au peigne fin.

Les données revues et corrigées publiées quelques jours après ont confirmé que le français avait effectivement perdu du terrain au Québec, mais moins qu’annoncé initialement, et que l’anglais n’avait pas progressé, mais plutôt reculé, dans la province.

En présentant les nouveaux chiffres, l’agence fédérale avait fait acte de contrition et reconnu que cette erreur était d’autant plus regrettable qu’elle concernait un enjeu fort délicat au Québec.

«Nous sommes très conscients de l’aspect très sensible de cette question, de ces enjeux, et Statistique Canada va corriger le tir, simplement», affirmait Jean-Pierre Corbeil, directeur adjoint de la division de la statistique sociale et autochtone, qui était aussi au comité, mardi.

Source: Erreur dans le recensement linguistique: Statistique Canada s’explique | Mélanie Marquis | National

New figures show just how big Canada’s immigrant wage gap is

One of the first deeper looks at Census data, looking at immigrant status, language and income by Arvind Magesan of U of Calgary. The November release of language at work, education etc will further enrich this analysis:

The first thing that surprised me is the gap has not changed much over the past 10 years. Census data from 2006 showed, at a national level, first-generation immigrants earned wages 12.6 per cent less than the average wage of native Canadians. In 2011, the gap dropped slightly to 10 per cent, but the new census data shows it’s climbed significantly to 16 per cent.

wagegap1

Importantly, the gap is a countrywide phenomenon. Looking at the three of the most popular destinations for immigrants in the past decade — Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary — the gap in 2016 sits at 25, 17 and 23 per cent respectively.

Interestingly, the gap doesn’t only exist for first-generation immigrants, but also for the children of immigrants (second generation, i.e. Canadians born to immigrant parents). The new data shows at the national level, second-generation immigrants earn 5.4 per cent less than natives.

Understanding the wage gap

The obvious question that follows then is: What is the source of these gaps?

Canada is an especially interesting case given the “points” system used to screen potential immigrants, where language, education and job skills are key determinants. And for the first time, the census has reported that about six out 10 new immigrants came here under the so-called economic admission category, meaning they have the skills “to enhance and promote economic development.”

Given the way immigrants are screened before entry, one would expect relatively quick integration into the Canadian economy and a convergence in wages. But this is clearly not the case.

The reasons put forward to explain the wage gap range from employer difficulty in assessing immigrant education credentials to outright discrimination. Economists refer to two types of “discrimination” in the labour market context, “statistical discrimination” and “taste-based discrimination.”

In the former, employers use observable traits (such as race) to make inferences about something like productivity. For example, an employer sees a job applicant with brown skin. The employer isn’t prejudiced towards brown people, but is worried (stereotypically) the employee is going to want to take trips “home” to Sri Lanka and would need a lot of vacation time. So the employer hires someone else equally qualified. Taste-based discrimination is more what we think of as prejudice — not wanting to hire someone purely because of skin colour.

Identifying causal factors that explain the wage gap is a difficult task – individuals who immigrate to Canada do so by choice. These choices are a function of a host of factors that could potentially jointly explain the decision to immigrate and labour market outcomes, including personal characteristics, job experience and education, to name just a few. Identifying discrimination in the labour market, and separating between taste-based and statistical discrimination, is even harder.

However, a 2011 study by University of Toronto economist Phil Oreopolous takes an important step in this direction.

In the study, thousands of computer-generated resumes were mailed out to companies that had posted ads searching for employees. The resumes were randomly assigned either a foreign or a “white” sounding last name, and were otherwise identical. The result: The resumes where the applicant had a foreign-sounding last name were less likely to receive a call back than identical looking resumes with a “white” last name.

When the author followed up with some of the recruiters, the overwhelming reason given for overlooking resumes with a foreign-sounding name was that they anticipated difficulty with language. Specifically, recruiters expected a lack of fluency in English, problems with communicating at work and difficulty for customers and co-workers in understanding a foreign accent. In other words, recruiters were statistically discriminating between job candidates based on their names.

Can language proficiency close the gap?

The census presents an opportunity to study the importance of English proficiency for the gap in labour market earnings between immigrants and native Canadians in 2016. The census provides information on wages, immigrant (and generation) status, as well as the language most commonly spoken at home.

Specifically, guided by the findings in Oreopolous’s study, I looked at how the gap in average wages changes when English is spoken at home. (For the purpose of this study, I looked at communities outside of Quebec, where French is the dominant language.) In 2016, 63 per cent of new immigrants living outside of Quebec most often spoke a language other than English or French while at home.

The latest census data says the native-first generation immigrant wage gap is 16 per cent at the national level. Once we examine whether immigrants speak English at home, things change — the wage difference is just 5.8 per cent. But for first-generation immigrants who don’t speak English at home, the gap jumps to 27.3 per cent.

For second-generation immigrants, there is barely any gap for those who speak English at home (0.7 per cent) but it’s still a significant gap for those who don’t speak English at home (a whopping 45.7 per cent).

This pattern also holds in the major metropolitan centres in the English-speaking parts of the country, which attract the most immigrants.

Interestingly, at almost 25 per cent, Toronto has one of the largest city level wage gaps in the country, explained at least in part by the fact that new immigrants tend to land in Toronto first and are more likely to be unemployed for a period of time. The three largest cities in English-speaking Canada, which also attract the most immigrants, also have gaps larger than the national average.

In Ottawa, immigrants of either generation who speak English at home actually earn more than natives on average. While it may be tempting to attribute the major differences across the cities to differences in culture, they are more likely due to regional differences in industrial composition and attendant labour demand.

The wage gap for immigrants who don’t speak English at home is very large. In Toronto and Calgary, first-generation immigrants who don’t speak English at home can expect to earn 37 per cent less than natives. Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that the gap across all cities for is larger for second generation immigrants who don’t speak English at home.

wagegap2

Though these patterns are striking, they should not be interpreted as causal – immigrants can’t necessarily start speaking English at home and expect to see their future earnings increase. There are unobserved qualities of individuals that may correlate both with the tendency to speak English at home as well as with labour market earnings potential. Without holding these fixed in some way, we can’t say whether there is a causal relationship between English skills and the gap in labour market outcomes.

But supposing that the findings here are suggestive of a causal relationship, why does speaking English at home matter so much?

One obvious answer is that individuals who speak English at home speak better English in general — and this would mean better communication at work. This would be consistent with the worries that the recruiters in Oreopolous’s study had when deciding who to call back. Or perhaps individuals of foreign descent that speak English at home tend to have other important skills on average.

The ConversationBut another possibility is the labour market discriminates against individuals with weaker English skills even when English is not important for productivity. Sorting between these different explanations (and others) will require more data and a deeper look.

Source: New figures show just how big Canada’s immigrant wage gap is – Macleans.ca