Tag Archives: French-Canadians

Wondering about bilingual signage

MEDICINE HAT, Alberta — It was somewhere east of Kamloops, British Columbia, when I noticed them: Highway signs began appearing with text written in English and French.

West of there it was all English.

I haven’t spent a lot of time in Canada. I went to British Columbia briefly in 1980 and made the acquaintance of some rough-and-tumble loggers who greeted me as I sought to learn about the circumstances of my father’s death in a boating accident.

I noticed then that the signage was in two languages. The loggers didn’t like it. Indeed, they didn’t think much of their countrymen and women of French ancestry … and they made their feelings clear.

But I digress.

On this journey through the western half of Canada, my wife and I took note of the appearance of the twin-language signage.

They don’t bother me in the least. Then again, I am just a visitor from the States. However, this linguistic oddity does make me wonder: When do you suppose some of our states are going to enact laws requiring twin-language highway signs. You know what I mean: signs in English and in Spanish.

Texas, where my family and I have lived for 35 years, contains a heavily Latino minority. Latinos comprise the second largest ethnic group in the state — and their percentage is overtaking the Anglo majority.

I don’t know when Texas will become a Latino-majority state. I do believe it will occur eventually, likely after I have checked out permanently.

Does this mean the state, along with other states around the country — particularly those that border Mexico — will be forced to follow the trail blazed in Canada, which decided some time back to accommodate its French-speaking minority?

It makes perfect sense to me.

I am aware that such a thing, were it to become a reality, likely won’t go over well with many Americans. Some of us think English should be the nation’s “official language.” I disagree with that notion.

However, as I have noted already, I likely won’t be around to engage in that brouhaha were it to erupt.

It could be worse, you know. A decade ago I spent a month in Israel, where I noticed that in the much of that country the highway signage was in English, Hebrew … and Arabic. 

That’s an eyeful, man!