By Raul Jaime
According to University of Calgary Sociology Professor Robert A. Stebbins, lack of understanding of francophone societies is depriving Canada of different cultural and economical advantages both nationally and internationally.
The French Enigma, written by Stebbins, focuses on the survival and development of French communities across Canada and their interaction with the larger anglophone groups.
Stebbins researched this phenomenon for more than 15 years, and said that most people in anglophone cities ignore the existence of French communities within their city.
"We assume that most people who speak French live in Quebec, when there are francophones all over the country," said Stebbins. "There are 15,000 francophones in Calgary."
In his book, Stebbins recognized three languages that have the character of global languages: English, French and Spanish. He added Canada should take advantage of the fact there are many French and English speakers in the country.
"Canada should consider itself lucky for having two of these global languages as its official ones," said Stebbins.
Although the government of Canada knows the importance of the two languages is important when competing internationally, there is little interest from the public to learn them. Anglophone teenagers in particular seem to think that learning French is not important, as they can get all they want with English alone.
"[Anglophone teenagers] think the world doesn’t seem to offer them anything in any other language," said Stebbins.
For those who know English and French, it will open doors in the business community, both nationally and in the rest of the world. French immersion schools as well as radio and television shows are the most common examples.
"[French] is there for those who want to learn it, so it becomes an occupational tool," said Stebbins, a second-language francophone himself.
The French Enigma states that one of the main barriers for the interaction of anglo and francophone societies is the idiom difference–the loss of meaning in translation. So, in order to better understand a different culture, one should learn its language.
"When you learn a language you learn how people think," said Stebbins.
Stebbins describes in his book the manner in which francophone societies contribute to the cultural, economic and scientific growth of Canada, and how, contrary to common belief, these societies are actually growing.
"The proportion of francophones is shrinking, but the numbers are going up," said Stebbins. "So the French societies are growing, but at a slower rate than the anglophone ones."