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Unexpected: Radio-Canada posts video about “Trudeau’s poor French skills”
Justin Trudeau
Politics And Policy

Unexpected: Radio-Canada posts video about “Trudeau’s poor French skills” 

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For Canadians who consider themselves less-than-bilingual, it might come as a surprise to learn that Justin Trudeau’s French is apparently not as good as it might sound to an untrained ear.

Here is the (untranslated) video.

It opens with an interview with Trudeau where he says (translated): “English is easy. A few words together make a sentence. In French, one must know a little bit about where the sentence is going.”

He continues later in the video (translated): “When I arrived at Brebeuf in Montreal at the beginning of secondary school, I had a lot of trouble at first. I had bad habits in French, I made obvious mistakes, and I sometimes sound like I spent my young years in an Anglophone town.”

One expert on “minority francophone literature” comments saying that Trudeau’s French is more rigid and less communicative. It was not clear from the video whether the expert was bilingual, so he was not necessarily able to make those comments as a comparison to Trudeau when he speaks in English.

Not meant as criticism

The intended framing of the video was not what you might expect.

An English translation of the video title might be “Justin Trudeau and insecurity in French”.

The video cuts to interviews of experts and Francophones from outside of Quebec, who compliment Trudeau’s French for being the ‘non-pretentious’ kind of French often spoken outside of Quebec.

It highlights the fact that minorities (which is taken to include franco-Ontarians and franco-Albertans) find Trudeau’s French more relatable than it would be if he spoke perfect Quebec French.

Minority francophones apparently feel pressure from what they perceive as increased grammatical scrutiny towards them. As an example, a franco-Albertan lady with a Quebecois husband says that it is discouraging when her in-laws excessively correct her French.

There is a clip of Trudeau saying (translated): “sometimes, we should give people the practice to practice their French without judgement and without an impatience towards the fact that their French might not be worthy enough for Molière (a famous 17th century playwright and poet)”.


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