Speak English, speak French or just speak



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Red alert!

There is an anglophone in Quebec.

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Call in the army. Resurrect the guillotine. The tar and the mother’s feather.

At the risk of my life, I will tell you a secret.

I don’t know French.

I’m like that CEO of Air Canada who had his wings cut off recently because he was sitting in a big office in Quebec and couldn’t speak French. (Confession: I searched on Google “how to say speaks French in French” to be able to write “speaks French”. This is how I also got the accent under “c”.)

The Air Canada guy was vilified for his lack of knowledge of the official language of Quebec. It is an official language in La Belle Province while the other provinces are obliged to have two. Remind me again who won this battle of the Plains of Abraham. It does not matter.

It’s not that I don’t want to speak French. I wish I could or for that matter, any other language with English so that I appear smarter than I really am.

But I don’t have the talent.

I took Latin in high school and hated it. Ditto for French. This may surprise some readers – I did quite well in English.

At Loyalist College in 1967, if you can believe it because I can’t, I wrote a creative writing article and was accused by the professor of plagiarism. Eat dirt, breathe the dog.

I was half listening to the theme music for the 1966 film ‘The Wild Angels’ when I wrote it. I couldn’t concentrate enough to plagiarize.

I was and remain Barry Ellsworth.

Although, frankly, I was born Lloyd Neely but I will die Barry Ellsworth.

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This is a good thing.

Not that there was anything wrong with being a Neely – my birth mother was Shirley Neely until she married Garn Peacock from Peacock Drywall.

But as Ellsworth, my father George and my mother Gertrude helped me become a writer.

Without their support, I wouldn’t have been able to return to college at age 30 and take print journalism classes at Loyalist College.

When I was hired as a sports reporter for the late Port Hope Evening Guide in the Cobourg Star building which is also now gone, as both newspapers had the same owner, I ended up working with two people who were fluent in French. .

The two eventually went to the Montreal Gazette and when I asked if I could follow, I was told you have to be perfectly bilingual.

I think business, academia, and politics reject some good people just because of this insistence on being able to speak French. If you don’t believe me, take a look at top federal politicians. Being bilingual makes them acceptable, but look beyond the tongue and it’s easy to see the rock formations behind the tongues.

Would this Air Canada CEO do his job better if he could speak French?

Can a pig fly?

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