“Language Police”

Derisive name often given to the provincial organization mandated to safeguard the French language and culture in Quebec.  

The “Office québécois de la langue française,” established in 1961, fights for French language primacy in Quebec. And they do it with gusto. The OQLF, which came to be referred to as the “language police,” can name, shame, and fine businesses found to be insufficient in their French signage, for example. A sign can say “Stop” in France but, Arret, you can’t say that in Quebec.

Their mandate extends into the digital world. Countless restaurants have been warned to add more French to their Facebook posts when trying to attract customers during the pandemic. “In Quebec, when business will go bankrupt, we’ll make sure they do it in French,” Montreal comedian Sugar Sammy once tweeted.

We’re not just talking about warnings and fines. Pas de tout. The OQLF also encourages teachers to brainstorm with students to come up with neologisms – in French, of course – to use in everyday life. They even threw in $5,000 to help stir imaginations.

The language police have a huge fan in Premier Francois Legault. His government intends to bulk up the OCFL by way of Bill 96, his government’s reform to Bill 101, the landmark language law first enacted in 1977. The new bill, if passed, would significantly strengthen the OCFL’s resources and powers.

So, better get out your Robert dictionary next time you set up shop in Quebec. And don’t forget to start off with “bonjour-hi” when greeting someone.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons, Avramescu Marius

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