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Most Montrealers believe they live in a bilingual city: survey

Quebec backtracks on plans to ban ‘Bonjour-Hi’
WATCH: The Quebec government is re-thinking plans to legislate the popular "bonjour-hi" greeting, saying that it will encourage the use of a unilingual French greeting instead. As Global's Gloria Henriquez explains, the change of heart comes on the heels of a new poll which suggests the majority of Quebecers think of Montreal as a bilingual city.

The majority of Montrealers — as well as Quebecers living in other parts of the province — believe Montreal is a bilingual city, according to a survey by the Association for Canadian Studies.

In the entire province, 76.6 per cent of respondents agreed that Montreal is a bilingual city, with 34.1 per cent of people strongly agreeing and 42.5 somewhat agreeing.

“I appreciate that the charter of the City of Montreal says Montreal is a French city, but the people say Montreal is a bilingual city,” noted Jack Jedwab, with the association.

“Being a French city does not mean that it is not diverse and has other dual linguistic dimensions, including English and its historic presence in Montreal, which is also acknowledged on the flag of the very same city that has a charter that says it’s French.”

READ MORE: Café Bonjour/Hi to open as Quebec government mulls ways to ban greeting

In Montreal, 81.6 per cent of people agreed with the statement, with 37.7 per cent strongly agreeing and 43.9 somewhat agreeing.

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Only 6.1 per cent of Quebecers and 5.3 per cent of Montrealers strongly disagreed.

Quebec considers ban on popular “Bonjour-Hi” greeting
Quebec considers ban on popular “Bonjour-Hi” greeting

Among the survey respondents, 80.3 per cent of francophones agreed Montreal is bilingual compared to 83.2 per cent of English speakers.

READ MORE: Quebec mulls banning ‘Bonjour-Hi’ greeting for stores, government services

The survey found age plays a small factor, with 88.1 per cent of 35- to 44-year-olds agreeing with the statement — the highest percentage for all age groups. People ages 25 to 34 had the lowest percentage, with 79.9 per cent saying they believe Montreal is bilingual.

A total of 76.6 per cent of Quebecers believe Montreal is a bilingual city.
A total of 76.6 per cent of Quebecers believe Montreal is a bilingual city. Association for Canadian Studies/Léger Marketing

The survey was conducted via web panel by Léger Marketing between Aug. 29 and Sept. 4 with a sample of 1,937 Quebecers — including 1,019 English speakers, 773 francophones and 144 people whose first language is neither French nor English.

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Bonjour-Hi

The release of the survey comes after the Quebec government revealed it was looking at ways to ban the popular greeting “Bonjour-hi.”

Re-opening the “Bonjour-Hi” debate
Re-opening the “Bonjour-Hi” debate

The bilingual phrase has been widely adopted by retail workers in an effort to welcome a diverse clientele, but it has also been a source of controversy among those who fear the French language is in danger.

READ MORE: French language use in the workplace is on the decline — OQLF report

Last Friday, Quebec’s minister responsible for the French language, Simon Jolin-Barrette, said the province was looking for a way to ban the greeting to build on two unanimous motions passed in the legislature asking store clerks to stick with a simple “bonjour” when greeting customers.

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Jolin-Barrette did not specify how he planned to accomplish the task but insisted to reporters that “people want to be welcomed in French.”

While he did not exclude legislation, he said he was not looking at any solutions that would require an army of inspectors to act as “language police.”

READ MORE: Quebec language watchdog tells Lachute hospital its English signs must go

He cited a recent study by Quebec’s language watchdog that suggested the use of bilingual greetings was increasing, saying that’s why language laws need to be strengthened.

‘Bonjour-Hi’ gaining ground in Montreal
‘Bonjour-Hi’ gaining ground in Montreal

The Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) found that between 2010 and 2017, use of “bonjour-hi” in Montreal doubled, representing eight per cent of all greetings in 2017. Exclusively English greetings also increased, occurring 17 per cent of the time in 2017, up from 12 per cent in 2010, according to the OQLF.

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READ MORE: Couillard defends position in ‘Bonjour-Hi’ kerfuffle

French greetings remained the norm, but they were down to 75 per cent from 84 per cent over the same period.

rachel.lau@globalnews.ca

— With files from the Canadian Press