Language Policies, Intercultural Antagonisms and Dialogue
Edited By Kamal Salhi
Maeve Conrick - French in the Americas 237
MAEVE CoNRICK French in the Americas The history of French in the Americas may be traced back to the arrival of Jacques Cartier on the shores of the Saint Lawrence in 1534. It was not until a century later that the French language became established in Quebec and Acadia (the present day Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island). By far the greatest concentration of Francophones in the Americas is still to be found in Canada, where the Francophone population has reached 6.7 million (or 23.5% of the total population), according to the most recent census in 1996. 1 The number of people in Canada as a whole with French as mother tongue continues to increase: in 1996 it was up 2% from 1991 and 16% from 1971. However, Franco- phones are a minority in terms of the overall population of Canada, which numbers 17.1 million (or 59.8%) English-speakers. In addition to this, the fact that Canada's nearest neighbour is the United States, with its overwhelmingly Anglophone population, means that the Francophone population is geographically (and some would say ideologically) sur- rounded by an Anglophone culture. This situation has led to a marked defensiveness on the part of Francophones in Canada and especially in Quebec, where 86% of the country's Francophones are concentrated. Many Quebecers see themselves as the standard bearers of French tradi- tion, culture and identity in America, and language has become one of the linchpins of this identity, and often the defining feature. Consequent- ly, it...
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