Posted by: forfreedomalone | 27/10/2010

Freedom of Speech

For the past month I have been in the Province of Quebec, Canada. Quebec is known as the heartland of French Canada where French is the predominant language and the French culture of the early white settlers had remained strong. The Québécois, as the people of the Province are known, are regarded as difficult, obstreperous and uncooperative by many “English” Canadians. Their reputation is so negative and strong within the rest of Canada that I was expecting to meet some rather unpleasant people in this Province.  I did not fined one. Well, there was a waitress………….but that is another story.

It is quite remarkable that a people could be defeated in war, ruled by a ‘foreign’ power and surrounded by a ‘foreign’ culture yet retain such a strong sense of who they are. They have kept their language, architecture, culture, food, you name it, they have kept it, alive and very French. Quebec city was founded in 1608, but Cartier discovered what is today the Province of Quebec in the early 16th Century. For 500 years there have been Frenchman here; for 250 of those years they have been ruled by “English” Canada. But what form has that rule taken? “English” Canada may have dictated from many legal stances but they have had very little influence on the heart and soul of the people of Quebec.

I was musing on how wonderful it is to see a culture survive and indeed thrive in the face of the Americanisation of the world; how the French have dug in their heels and refused to be assimilated, Borg like, into the great melting pot of a homogenous cultureless society, into which the rest of the Western world seems in a state of desperate anxiety to be admitted, when I turned on the t.v. to watch the BBC. Here, in front of me, in the course of three programmes I heard Englishmen speak of ‘space’ for ‘rooms’, ‘livable’ for ‘habitable’, ‘doable’ for ‘manageable’ or possibly ‘achievable’, ‘get go’ for ‘the word go’, ‘par-ent’ for ‘pair-ent’ and several other Americanisms which they seemed to regard as English. Recently, I heard a British commentator enunciate ‘noorish’ instead of ‘nourish’. I remember the day that word changed. It was an advert on American t.v. for hair conditioner. One day the product ‘nourished’ your hair and, quite literally the next day, it ‘noorished’ it. Within the week ‘flourish’ had become ‘flooorish’.

Now, I am constantly being told that “language evolves” and indeed it does. When the internet was invented it had no name, there was no word in any language which described this new phenomenon, we needed a new word and so language evolved and we added ‘internet’ to our lexicon. This evolution gives everyone who speaks our language greater freedom, because we can now express a concept in words which we all understand. But I am at loss to see the advantage of taking a language which has flourished for millenia and altering it simply for the sake of altering it. To me this is not an increase in freedom but a decrease. When a culture loses its language it will very quickly thereafter lose everything else which makes it unique. The Quebecers knew this when they supported the Act of Parliament protecting their language in the Province of Quebec. English is rapidly becoming a corrupted language, which is only a step away from dead. Today we hear teenagers peppering their sentences with the word ‘like’. The over and mis-use of this word has rendered many of them unintelligible. They had exercised their freedom to behave like American teens and, in so doing, have lost the freedom to communicate in a meaningful way with people around them. They have lost the freedom to be non-American. Our language is one of the most overlooked freedoms we have.

So what, you may ask? We are all the same anyway, it doesn’t matter if we speak English or American, you are making a mountain out of a mole hill. You may well be right, but the French of Quebec fought long and hard to keep their language because they knew that if they lost that, they would ultimately lose everything which made them French, which made them different, which made them unique; they would be assimilated. To remain free they needed to retain their mother tongue. Whatever language you speak, be it English, French, Scots, Welsh, Chinese or any other language on the face of the earth cherish and guard it, it is the gateway to your culture and, in turn, to your freedom to be unique and different. The next time you thoughtlessly utter verbal corruptions consider what you may be losing.

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