Saturday, May 13, 2006
Ah-ha!!!!!!!! Bilingual my EYE...
Too many people running for the leadership of the federal Liberal party already. I actually respect Belinda Stronarch for NOT putting her highly fashionable, twice-divorced hat in the ring. Hopefully this will help to cut some fat. Dr. Bennett, you're my MP and I love you but WHAT are you thinking???
Ok, headed to Leonard Cohen tribute @ Indigo on Bay...details to follow!!!
Six Liberal contenders don't pass as bilingual
From Saturday's Globe and Mail
Ottawa — By objective standards, more than half of the candidates for the leadership of the Liberal Party are not bilingual. By the candidates' own admissions, the winner must be.
Language has become an issue in the Liberal leadership campaign, a race with 10 anglophones and one francophone vying to lead a party that badly needs to rebuild in Quebec and views itself as the national-unity party that claims bilingualism as its brand.
Will the party of Wilfrid Laurier and official bilingualism, an institution whose own self-image rests partly on being a bridge between francophones and anglophones, concede the language terrain?
Only five of the 11 candidates now running for the Liberal leadership were given passing grades when rated by University of Ottawa professor Hélène Knoerr. Bob Rae topped the list, followed closely by Michael Ignatieff, but Stéphane Dion (who was tested on his English fluency), Joe Volpe and Martha Hall Findlay also made the grade.
“The others were varying degrees of catastrophes,” Prof. Knoerr said.
“I've got news for her,” Prof. Knoerr said. Ms. Bennett's second-language skills rated last of the 10 who felt able to complete the interview, because her errors in vocabulary, grammar and syntax were enough that a francophone listener would have a hard time following.
Still, all 10 agreed that bilingualism is important. Those who are less proficient argued that perfection is not necessary — just being able to get a point across — and most argued they will be good enough to beat Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe in a French-language debate when the time comes.
Ken Dryden, whose French was rated as weak, argued that speaking the language is important, but that understanding Quebec and its culture is more crucial: “The language is only an instrument,” he said.
Only Vancouver MP Hedy Fry, who did not complete the French interview, said it's not necessary for the next leader to be bilingual. Although she insisted on switching to English after struggling to answer two French questions, she insisted that she has a foundation in the language, and will be bilingual by the Dec. 2 leadership vote.
Mr. Bevilacqua was not terrible, rated at 2–, but made mistakes in grammar, vocabulary and language structure. “You have to make an effort to follow him,” Prof. Knoerr said.
Mr. Kennedy, who garnered the same rating, made fewer grammatical and syntax errors, but had a “very limited” vocabulary, and spoke in a halting manner. The good news is that he has a base to build on, and vocabulary can be learned more quickly than language structure, so Prof. Knoerr judged him most likely to be able to improve.
Mr. Brison, meanwhile, has already improved — so much so that former MP Françoise Boivin said she counted him out of the race only a month or two ago and now thinks he might be able to improve enough. But Prof. Knoerr expressed doubt, rated him a 1+ because, even though he understands French well and displays confidence when he speaks, he made a lot of vocabulary and grammatical mistakes.
“He has an accent that really could be cut with a knife,” she said.
Mr. Dryden, meanwhile, rated only a 1, despite his nine famous years in Montreal as goaltender for the Canadiens hockey team. His hesitating style in English is amplified in French, making it hard to follow. “He eventually succeeds in getting his message across, but only because he uses such simple structure that a two-year-old child could do the same,” Prof. Knoerr said. “He's constantly searching for words.”
Ms. Bennett, meanwhile, rates the lowest — not counting Ms. Fry — because even though she understands the language, her vocabulary, structure and grammar are all very flawed.
“She requires the most effort to follow,” Prof. Knoerr said. “A francophone would last about 15 seconds listening to her.”