【Red Maple】Air Canada CEO’s Admission of French Language Deficiency
Air Canada CEO’s Admission of French Language Deficiency
Reprehensible or Understandable?
Though I am a passionate polyglot, I can also appreciate that monolinguists do not necessarily hold the same admiration for multilingualism that I do. Likewise, I cannot help but harbour feelings of empathy for Air Canada CEO Michael Rousseau’s recent language outrage debacle. It is undisputable that his lack discretion in stating that he could not … but more errantly need not learn to speak French despite having lived in Montreal for 14 years was clearly witless and tone-deaf. That being said, perhaps his underplaying of the importance of French competence was a feeble and bashful attempt at sweeping his linguistic shortcoming under the rug. Was his dismissiveness on the relevance of French proficiency reprehensible? I must simultaneously say: Yes and no. His downplaying of the importance of French was outright outrageous, but I find it at least conceivable that his own linguistic ineptitude – perhaps – could be forgiven.
Personally, as an enthusiast of language-learning, and as a Canadian who effectively carries on my business in French as well as in Chinese, I cannot contain my empathy for Michael Rousseau’s calamity. Speaking a second language in a professional environment can really lead to overwhelming anxiety akin to a paralyzing sense of ‘stage fright’. Over my 8 years living in China, I operated three English-learning schools, and I witnessed first-hand even the most “VIP” C-Suite executives in class become confused and terrified like a deer staring into headlights when called upon by a teacher to utter a simple phrase in English – for fear of loss of status. Unbelievably, on more than one occasion, I have seen such ‘bigshot bosses’ break down and tear up!
It is possible that Mr. Rousseau found himself on a similarly slippery slope when confronted on the subject of his glaring linguistic shortcoming, where he then attempted to perform a self-deprecating side-stepping stage-act that has now gone out of style: His pose of humble and gracious admission of his French inadequacy stating: “I've been able to live in Montreal without speaking French, and I think that's a testament to the city of Montreal” … is no longer well-received. In his past public interactions where he directly acknowledged his own French deficiency, his excuses were likely light-heartedly laughed off in good humour among local Montrealers who undoubtedly cooperated with his awkward prompt to inconspicuously go with the flow. The issue, however, is that with a current resurgence of French-language sensitivity in French Canada, Mr. Rousseau’s comment has facilitated the perfect storm. We are now living in a protest-ready society … and this was exactly the butterfly-effect trigger needed to create noise on French language regulation.
It is understandable that the province of Québec as well as much of citizens of French Canada have struggled to uphold local French-speaking priority – even to the point of diminishing or completely omitting English signage, administration etc. but in the case of Michael Rousseau’s fiasco, it seems to me that he was leveraged as a pawn in a French language hardliner-driven witch hunt. His case has been capitalised on fragile politics.
Written by Paul Kearns, journalist of Red Maple Journal.
红枫林新闻网 电话:5199131999 手机:2267007686