Published by Senator Mobina Jaffer on 27 November 2009
Imagine a map of Canada without topographical features, cities, counties, provinces, highways or national parks: the only feature displayed on this map, are the symbols of Canada’s linguistic landscape.
In Canada today, there are over 200 languages spoken. From the speakers of Chinese languages in Vancouver, to Russian in the Prairies, and Gaelic speakers of Cape Breton, Canada is home to a diverse number of languages. In the same way that our Official Languages – French and English – and the Aboriginal languages have defined Canada as its founding mother tongues, languages from across the globe have found a place in Canada, continuing to cast new moulds of our multicultural footprints.
There is a growing importance and need to embrace a linguistic plurality, through the teaching and promotion of all languages spoken in Canada: including those once foreign to our shores.
Language education has a quintessential role to play in strengthening Canada’s identity as a multicultural nation, by providing an intercultural perspective on our country through language learning and appreciation.
However, the efforts of many language instructors are being hampered by inadequate teaching resources and outdated reference materials. We must work towards a viable, permanent solution in order to properly address these shortcomings.
In order to properly address the issues facing second-language teachers and learners alike, Canada must adopt a National Language Strategy that will call for the promotion and education of the four groups of Canadian languages: English, French, Aboriginal and International/Heritage languages.
As the Canadian Languages Association has suggested, the National Language Strategy will call for the promotion and education of the four groups of Canadian languages: English, French, Aboriginal and International/Heritage languages. The major objectives of this Strategy include: (a) to improve the teaching and learning of languages by making up-to-date reference and teaching materials available to teachers and students; (b) to increase the number of people studying languages; (c) to work with the provinces to provide effective and equitable funding for language programming at the school board and community levels; and (d) to raise awareness of the importance of multilingualism to all Canadians.
By embracing a National Language Strategy, we are making a serious commitment to maintain those languages now a part of Canada’s language economy. Through the promotion of language education, we are extending the limits of our understanding to include a global community, and we are increasing our capacity to play an important role in shaping the future at home and abroad.
At home, our concept of multiculturalism would be incomplete without French, English, Aboriginal and Heritage/International languages. Teaching these languages not only reinforces Canada’s multicultural identity, but serves the greater virtues of a tolerant society, of a society that regards peace-building, civic participation and cross-cultural understanding not only as watchwords of a new world order, but as a call to action.