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French-language stickers on Park Ex sidewalks miss the mark, locals say | CBC News


Strolling home in Montreal’s Parc-Extension neighbourhood, Amy German called out to her children when she saw them transfixed by something on the sidewalk.

Colourful, circular stickers at the intersection of Ogilvy and Wiseman avenues with the French words, “Lait,” (milk) “Poulet” (chicken) and “Navet” (turnip) above a QR code had caught their attention.

The stickers are part of a municipal and provincial awareness campaign to promote the use of French in light of Quebec language legislation, Bill 96, taking effect last month.

“We had to find ways to support anglophones or allophones or newcomers toward this change because they have six months to learn French,” said Dominique Ollivier, president of Montreal’s executive committee. “This is kind of a way to participate in that movement.”

But German and other residents of Parc-Extension say the French-language campaign misses the mark, especially since it features the names of foods like feta, gouda and tapioca that also apply in English.

A circular, yellow sticker with pink hexagon and white text is pasted on a sidewalk.
The sidewalk sticker campaigns draws attention to food-related terms in French. (Submitted by Amy German)

They worry a curbside language lesson on a busy stretch of road — where two daycares are located — could cause more danger for pedestrians.

“It scares me because I don’t want a driver, a cyclist or other people so distracted by these things that they step out onto the curb in the wrong line, at the wrong moment,” German said.

Montreal intends to install stickers in 50 locations throughout the Villeray-Saint-Michel-Parc-Extension borough to expose passersby to common French vocabulary and expressions. The sidewalk project costs about $9,100, Gonzalo Nunez, a spokesperson for the city of Montreal, said in an email.

He said 111 stickers were pasted in Parc-Extension on Monday.

But by Wednesday, German said some of the stickers — a few of which have been defaced — were no longer affixed to the street corner.

The city says it is considering potentially replacing the vandalized stickers.

Language campaign ‘not a priority,’ city councillor says

Historically, Parc-Extension, or Park Ex as it is often called, has been Montreal’s most culturally diverse neighbourhood and a home to many newcomers in the city.

Calling the campaign an example of “visual pollution,” Mary Deros, city councillor for the area, says money for the stickers could have been put to better use in the neighbourhood, which has been marred by evictions and a loss of affordable housing.

“It’s insulting,” Deros told CBC Montreal’s Daybreak. “It’s not a priority for the Park-Exers to learn French out on the sidewalk.”

“You’re a newcomer. When you arrive, you’re not going to have your cell phone with a QR code and right away try to find out what it is,” she said.

Immersion needed to learn language

But the city’s Ollivier says the campaign isn’t meant for residents with no knowledge of French. Rather, it aims to help reinforce words in the minds of people who are already starting to learn the language.

She said that looking at the words written down can highlight how a variety of spellings can indicate similar sounds.

“If you have a class and you learn some words in your French class and then suddenly you see it on a sidewalk, it’s going to catch your attention more and let you experience more levels of commitment,” Ollivier added.

“You have to be exposed to the language, to people who speak the language, to occasions to speak the language in order to get better at it.”


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