Le français décline comme langue seconde de préférence

While the overall support for bilingualism is strong, the growing lack of interest in learning a second language, whether French or another language, is worrisome in an era of greater mobility and globalization:

Si le bilinguisme officiel continue à bénéficier d’un très fort appui au pays, la préférence pour l’apprentissage du français comme langue seconde a décliné, surtout chez les jeunes. En fait, la simple idée qu’il importe de maîtriser une deuxième langue, peu importe laquelle, chute en popularité, au grand étonnement de certains experts.

Ce sont là quelques-unes des conclusions d’un sondage réalisé par six instituts de recherche, qui ont voulu tâter le pouls des Canadiens sur le concept de dualité linguistique, alors que l’on souligne en 2019 le 50e anniversaire de l’adoption de la première Loi sur les langues officielles.

La nouvelle encourageante, selon l’auteur du rapport, c’est que 82 % des répondants se disent en faveur de la politique du bilinguisme officiel au pays – un pourcentage qui se maintient depuis le début des années 2000, au fil des diverses enquêtes menées sur la question.

« L’opposition n’est pas en croissance. J’étais un peu trop jeune pour sonder en 1969, mais j’imagine que l’opposition aurait été supérieure. Et il y a plein de partis politiques qui aimeraient avoir l’appui de quatre personnes sur cinq », relève Andrew Parkin, du Mowat Center, en entrevue avec La Presse.

L’enthousiasme face à la dualité linguistique et à son enchâssement dans la législation fédérale, sous le gouvernement de Pierre Elliott Trudeau, est nettement moins présent en Alberta, où 3 personnes sur 10 ont affirmé désapprouver le fait que le Canada ait deux langues officielles.

Il n’y a là rien de « surprenant », souligne Stéphanie Chouinard, professeure adjointe au département de science politique du Collège militaire royal du Canada, à Kingston. « On sait qu’historiquement, l’Alberta, ç’a été un terreau fertile pour des partis qui avaient des positions assez fortes contre le bilinguisme, dont le Parti réformiste », explique-t-elle dans un entretien téléphonique.

UN AUTRE BILINGUISME

Pas de quoi tirer la sonnette d’alarme, donc. En revanche, un aspect du sondage fait allumer un voyant rouge au tableau de cette spécialiste en langues officielles : le déclin de la préférence pour le français comme langue seconde.

« On voit que les Canadiens croient encore au bilinguisme, mais que ce bilinguisme-là, ce n’est pas nécessairement le bilinguisme français-anglais. »

– Stéphanie Chouinard, professeure adjointe au département de science politique du Collège militaire royal du Canada

La tendance est plus particulièrement marquée chez les 18 à 34 ans, d’après l’enquête que les instituts de recherche rendront publique aujourd’hui. En 2001, parmi les anglophones hors Québec de cette tranche d’âge qui disaient juger important que leurs enfants apprennent une autre langue, 75 % déclaraient que ce devait être la langue de Molière. En 2019, cette proportion est passée à 61 %.

L’apprentissage de l’une ou l’autre des deux langues officielles – l’anglais pour les francophones (88 %) et le français pour les anglophones (67 %) – reste le choix de prédilection des répondants. Mais des langues autres que les officielles ont maintenant la cote. Chez les allophones, 18 % préconisent l’apprentissage de langues chinoises pour leurs enfants. Chez les anglophones, 6 % miseraient sur l’espagnol.

UNE LANGUE SUFFIT

Mais la trouvaille la plus étonnante du sondage est ailleurs, soit dans la réponse à la question : « Dans quelle mesure est-il important pour vous que vos enfants (si vous en avez) apprennent à parler une deuxième langue ? » Dans toutes les tranches d’âge, partout au pays, on a constaté un déclin – plus ou moins marqué selon la province – du nombre de personnes qui jugeaient l’aptitude très ou assez importante.

« On aurait pensé [dans un contexte de mondialisation] que les Canadiens jugeraient encore plus pertinent d’apprendre une autre langue. Il faut faire attention en interprétant les résultats : une majorité le pense toujours, mais la tendance est à l’inverse de ce que l’on prévoyait », fait remarquer Andrew Parkin.

Le politologue Rémi Léger ne peut malgré tout s’empêcher d’y voir quelque chose de préoccupant. « Sur la durée, sur 20, 30, 40 ans, est-ce que cette tendance va se maintenir ? », soulève en entrevue celui qui enseigne la science politique à l’Université Simon Fraser, en Colombie-Britannique.

D’autant plus que la tendance s’est inversée chez les répondants de 18 à 34 ans. « Alors que les Canadiens plus jeunes étaient auparavant plus susceptibles que les plus âgés à dire qu’il était important que leurs enfants apprennent une autre langue, ce n’est plus le cas », note-t-on dans le rapport. Ils étaient 86 % d’anglophones hors Québec à le penser en 2001, et voici qu’en 2019, ils ne sont plus que 69 %.

C’est un mystère qu’espère élucider Andrew Parkin dans une prochaine enquête.

Méthodologie et crédit

Le sondage a été réalisé en ligne dans les provinces et par téléphone dans les territoires auprès d’un échantillon représentatif de 5732 Canadiens âgés de 18 ans et plus entre le 14 décembre 2018 et le 16 janvier 2019. Le projet est une collaboration du Centre Mowat, de la Canada West Foundation, du Centre d’analyse politique – Constitution et fédéralisme, de l’Institut de recherche en politiques publiques, de l’Environics Institute for Survey Research et du Brian Mulroney Institute of Government.

Source: Le français décline comme langue seconde de préférence

Technology will make today’s government obsolete and that’s good

Sunil Johal of the Mowat Centre on the challenges to government with the coming IT/AI/Automation transformation.

With the government’s poor record in recent large scale IT projects (e.g., Shared Services Canada, Phoenix pay system), hard to be optimistic:

A 2016 study by Deloitte and Oxford University found that up to 850,000 jobs in the United Kingdom’s public sector could be lost as a result of automation by 2030, in administrative roles as well as jobs for teachers and police officers.

Merely applying these same projections to the Canadian public sector would mean over 500,000 jobs at risk out of 3.6 million public sector roles. But collective agreements could impede any attempts to pivot away from employees performing routine administrative tasks and towards workers with digital skills.

If the economy at large continues to wring efficiencies out of human labour and substitute technological approaches where possible, it becomes hard to imagine the public sector trundling along as it always has.

Quite simply, the public sector will need to develop a more efficient workforce and adopt more agile structures and strategies in order to maintain relevance in a digital world.

So, what’s the right path forward? While it’s promising to see governments and other public sector organizations move forward with digital service agendas, we can’t expect them to simply overlay digital solutions onto existing processes and reap the real benefits of technology.

Blockchain, AI, virtual government

The public sector, ranging from the core civil service to health care to education, must fundamentally transform how it operates.

Do we need countless contribution agreements, contracts and reimbursements to be physically vetted by clerks in multiple offices when blockchain technology could instantly verify all of those same transactions?

Do policy units need 30 advisers to prepare advice for government ministers, or can much of their work be done automatically with a select few adding high-value insights? Can we employ telepresence to reach students in remote communities with high-quality teachers? Will medical diagnostics be transformed by neural networks that can more accurately detect cancers and other diseases?

Countries like Estonia, widely regarded as the most advanced digital society in the world, demonstrate that it’s possible to rethink government as a digital platform.

Whether and how quickly Canada’s public sector can leverage technological advancements to radically increase the efficiency and effectiveness of programs and services will be perhaps its greatest challenge in the years to come.

Delays and missteps will only continue to put the public service further behind mainstream business and consumer trends, and risk a continued decline in relevance for our public institutions.

via Technology will make today’s government obsolete and that’s good

We’re speaking more languages, but is our landscape more diverse? – Andrew Parkin

Thoughtful questions by Parkin of the Mowat Centre regarding the apparent lack of interest in foreign language learning:

For those who see linguistic diversity as contributing to the vibrancy of society, there are several census results that stand out as positive developments. The first is that the number of Canadians who are bilingual in terms of English and French reached a record in 2016, at 18 per cent. The other is that a number of Indigenous youth are picking up an Indigenous language as a second language, even if they did not learn it as infants in the home. This is a promising sign for the preservation of Indigenous languages in Canada.

It is also encouraging that the proliferation of languages other than English and French has not come at the expense of an ability to communicate in one of Canada’s official languages. More than 98 per cent of Canadians say they can converse in either English or French.

The census numbers, however, also raise a couple of questions about how evenly our linguistic diversity is distributed across our society. In the first instance, our “increasingly diverse linguistic landscape” is mostly driven by immigration – by the arrival in Canada of adults who speak languages other than English or French, and the passing on of these languages in the home to their Canadian-born children. It is less clear that Canadians born to English-speaking parents are learning additional languages, whether out of personal interest or to gain an advantage in the global economy.

The bar for this internationally is set pretty high. In the European Union, for instance, two-thirds of working-age adults can speak a language other than the one they learned from their parents in the home. This means, in most cases, acquiring a second (if not a third) language at school. It helps, of course, that this second language is often English, the learning of which is made easier by its ubiquity in popular culture. The point remains that the focus on foreign languages in school pays off. European societies by and large are less ethnically diverse than Canada’s, but more multilingual in terms of the ability of most adults to speak more than one language.

The other cautionary note concerns official bilingualism. The proportion of Ontarians who can speak both English and French rose between 2011 and 2016, to just more than 11 per cent. The fact remains that among Ontarians who grew up in English-speaking households, only one in 12 can speak French. In an era where anyone aspiring to hold a position of national (and, increasingly, provincial) leadership must be bilingual, too many Ontarians are selecting themselves out of contention. It is not only math or coding skills that will open doors for young people – language skills will, too.

By all means, then, let’s celebrate our growing linguistic diversity. But in an officially bilingual country nestled in a globalized world, it is important to ensure that this diversity does not end up as a thick layer of multilingual icing on top of a unilingual cake. The ability to communicate in more than one language is something that can benefit everyone, and not just those with immigrant or French-speaking parents.

Source: We’re speaking more languages, but is our landscape more diverse? – The Globe and Mail

Canadian research study hits snag over lousy population data – The Globe and Mail

Good piece on some of the limitations of the National Household Survey, particularly at the Census Tract level.

Nice comment on the irony between more corporate big data, with all the related privacy implications, and less effective government big data (although linking the NHS to CRA income information will improve quality and is appropriate use of big data):

The project, produced with the financial backing of the Maytree Foundation, used 2010 to 2013 data from the Canadian Community Health Survey, a voluntary annual survey with a sample size of 65,000. The project didn’t use the last voluntary national household survey due to difficulties in comparability and in assessing data quality for smaller communities.

The researchers want to see the mandatory long-form census not only reinstated, but expanded to include more questions on wealth and health. They recommend more sharing of information between federal government departments and more tools, such as online searchable databases, to make data more accessible and useable.

The irony is that the lack of data on the public side comes as Big Data is giving private firms unprecedented access to rich details about customers’ lives.

“The trend in the private sector, for companies like Google and Uber, they’re making brilliant decisions, strategically, because they’re collecting more and more information, mining it and refining their services and products,” said Mr. Johal.

“And what we’re seeing in Canada is governments stepping away actively from getting that information – so that makes it really hard for us to make those smart decisions and invest in our future.”

Canadian research study hits snag over lousy population data – The Globe and Mail.

Diasporas and Canada

Mowat Centre report “Diaspora Nation” on the impact and potential of the various diaspora communities:

http://mowatcentre.ca/diaspora-nation/

Canada needs to take advantage of being ‘Diaspora Nation’ | Toronto Star

An opinion piece by Matthew Mendelsohn of the Mowat Centre, arguing that we should benefit more from the diaspora networks created by immigration. Not too much new here but bears repeating:

Diasporas provide linkages. They help information circulate. They provide cultural knowledge where it didn’t exist before. They can help establish trust and deepen social capital.

Their knowledge can lower transaction costs and reduce the time it takes to enter new markets and form new partnerships. They connect people, ideas and understanding….

We are failing immigrants and Canada when we fail to recognize the cultural knowledge, international experience and global networks of our people. We can do better.

The private sector could deepen its connections with ethnocultural chambers of commerce, professional immigrant networks, alumni networks and immigrant resource groups within firms. All these networks can help businesses better understand opportunities in emerging markets. Successful firms are already doing this.

But capitalizing on our potential requires more than the private sector. It requires governments to ensure that rules and regulations from a half century ago are not undermining our capacity to fulfil our potential as a diaspora nation.

Canada needs to take advantage of being ‘Diaspora Nation’ | Toronto Star.