Friday, July 09, 2004

Language Chauvinism Gone Mad

Some Canadians finally took linguistic exclusivity to its logical limit and even well beyond, though they seem to have since retreated a bit from the precipice.

A blind Canadian student barred from English classes because his guide dog only responds to commands in French has now been allowed to attend the course.
Francophone Yvan Tessier said he was "thrilled" the University of New Brunswick decided to let him attend the course with his black Labrador, Pavot.
"I look forward to joining my classmates," Mr Tessier, 39, said.
He said earlier that it would be too confusing to retrain the dog to respond to "stay" instead of "reste".
The University of New Brunswick has always insisted English must be the only language spoken during its five-week summer programme.
But it had to reverse its previous ban on Mr Tessier's attendance after coming under strong public pressure over the extremely sensitive issue in the country which is officially bilingual.
Mr Tessier - who lives in Quebec - also warned earlier he would bring a claim for discrimination against the university.

Language minefield

He said he was entirely dependent on his dog and was worried that trying to teach him English commands could be confusing and even dangerous.
"My dog is my eyes, my autonomy, and my independence," he told the Globe and Mail newspaper.
"He represents everything to me. I knew that I'd have to speak English to people. But I thought I could speak French to my guide dog."
Commentators say Pavot's ability to understand just one language throws the spotlight on the minefield of Canada's linguistic legislation which aims to guarantee the status of both English and French.
Mr. Tessier has every right to be outraged by this nonsense: what concern of anyone else's is it what language he uses to communicate with his dog, for goodness sake? That said, this sort of linguistic madness likely wouldn't have been on the table to begin with had the Quebecois not made such a fetish of promoting French to the exclusion of English. That's what you get when you think in terms of collectives rather than individuals, laws mandating what languages people can use with each other and even their seeing-eye dogs.