Bilingualism In Canada Hurt By Budget Cuts, Still Worth it?

Published November 5, 2013

According to an article by the Huffington Post, Canadian bilingualism is being hurt by budget cuts. Bilingualism is often times seen as a luxury instead of a necessity here in the western hemisphere which makes it a prime target to whack when extra funds are needed to allocate to more important things like scientific studies on whether or not a parrot could survive for 3 or 4 seconds on the planet Mars.

benefits of being bilingual

Photo credit here.

Regardless of your politics, parents of would-be bilingual children all over Canada are wondering whether or not it’s worth it to try to raise a bilingual child when the onus now falls more on them.

Raising bilingual children isn’t really easy; it is in fact difficult. In Canada, about 17% of people are bilingual according to the article. With French still an official language in Canada, government jobs and other more coveted jobs require an applicant to be fluent in both French and English. To some, this seems a bit unfair considering the government itself isn’t doing much to foster the bilingualism of it’s subjects. Regardless, this is the situation.

For parents looking to raise a bilingual child, the obvious choice is English and French. Outside of English, french is definitely the easiest language to learn for Canadian children or otherwise today. In the province of Quebec, French is still used daily in many areas and there are many people who’s English struggles as French is their native tongue; they are born-and-raised Canadians.

As the article mentions, the linguistic debate on bilingualism is starting to flare up as of late. Regardless of government jobs or other bureaucratic reasons, bilingualism is something many people advocate in and of itself. A lot of new research is coming out showing a whole host of benefits that come from being bilingual. Cited from LivingBilingual.com’s comprehensive post on the benefits of being bilingual, some of these benefits are:

  • Increased executive function of the brain improving decision-making abilities
  • Increased awareness of other cultures/people as well as fostering tolerance
  • Increased logical abilities
  • Increased ability in hearing and distinguishing sounds useful in learning additional languages

These are just a few of the many reasons that being bilingual is a win/win for children all over the world, not just in Canada. However, these benefits don’t come without a cost. From the same source comes another list on bilingualism… however this one includes the negatives. LivingBilingual.com’s list of┬ápros and cons of bilingual education highlights some of the negatives parents face when forced to choose whether or not they want to raise a bilingual child. Some of the cons are:

  • Raising bilingual children is time consuming.
  • Bilingualism can be expensive; language classes, private schools, materials, etc.
  • Monolinguals have a hard time because everything has to be outsourced.
  • In America (or whatever country) the main language is all you need.
  • Speaking more than one language is weird.

These “cons” are especially common in English-speaking places. Again, in many areas of the world, bilingualism is the norm (if not trilingualism/polyglots). The western hemisphere is the last frontier that thinkgs speaking more than one language is weird or unnecessary. Blame the dominace of the United States and it’s influence on the world or blame the surprising lack of tolerance in the west after it was settled to get away from persecution, but whatever the reason the west has turned it’s back a bit on bilingualism.

Whether due to confused priorities or simly lack of funding to go around, bilingualism seems to be getting thrown down on the chopping block disproportionately to other educational facets.

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