“Hello-hi!”, or leave the choice not to speak French

Photo: Jacques Nadeau Le Devoir
In his book, “Rhapsody in quebec – the Itinerary of a child of bill 101”, Akos Verboczy claims to have added a “hello” to “hi” with which he greeted his customers in a convenience store in the neighborhood of Côte-des-Neiges, in Montreal.

Journalist Akos Verboczy claims the authorship of the ” hello-hi ! “. He claims to have found this tip language at the beginning of the 1990s in order to allow the French to break through the wall language of a convenience store in the neighborhood of Côte-des-Neiges. It was ” the most important breakthrough of the commercial history of the chemin Queen-Mary since the dismantling of the streetcar “, joke-t-he in his work Rhapsody in quebec : the itinerary of a child of bill 101 (les Éditions du Boréal, 2016). Today, the” children of bill 101 ” sounds the charge against his own creation, which has become the symbol of the anglicization of Montreal. Back on the “hello-hi” ; a formula of greeting which has made a lot of noise this fall.


Akos Verboczy left Hungary with his mother and sister to settle in Quebec in 1986. As soon as he put his luggage, the 11-year old boy puts himself to the task of taming the “wildlife” of the land of his home. He is reaping the fruits, five years later, when he finds himself behind the counter of the corner store. “I was trying to guess the language of the client. When we know the local wildlife, it is a mistake rarely. The old lady with her little dog, it’s going to be in English. The couple is asian, it’s going to be in English. But the young student with a beanie, it might be in French “, says the author-a lecturer in an interview with Le Devoir.


In the face of uncertainty, he settled on a “hello-hi” feel. “Instinctively, I felt that it was not normal that we don’t say “hello” to you, ” he said. And hop, French goes behind the cash register of the trade, where the English were, up to this time, the language of small business.


“So it is my fault, he argues, was widespread this formula of greeting in the shops montreal, except that, in my case, if it allows me to be forgiven, it is the French part that was added. “


Bilinguisation Quebec


But the ” hi ” had not said its last word. Over the decades, quietly, it was grafted to the formula of greeting more and more traders francophones.


The word seemingly harmless sounds, according to Akos Verboczy, as the ” manifestation of the more audible of the bilinguisation of Quebec, to the advantage of the English.


“The “hello-hi !”, this is not just in the city centre of Montreal, it is at the Galeries d’anjou, it is in Laval… And this is not because there are tourists there that we greet people with “bonjour-hi”. It is symptomatic of the anglicization of Montreal. It is this that bothers people, ” argues Akos Verboczy. “The “hello-hi”, this is just the tip of the iceberg, ” he adds, pointing to the increase in the number of people working both in French and in English, especially in Montreal, as reported by Statistics Canada in November. “More people need English to earn a living in Montreal,” says the author.


A word that makes noise


The minister responsible for the protection and promotion of the French language, Marie Montpetit, called the “hello-hi “d'” irritating “. The manager of the multinational company Adidas, that was just on the eve of “say a word in French, to accommodate the City of Montreal and the French-language media” at the re-opening of its boutique is located in the city centre of the metropolis, could hold it for said.


Philippe Couillard has for its part refrained from attaching the label” irritant “to the” hello-hi “. The prime minister and all the elected liberals in his suite, however, rallied to a motion in which the national Assembly ” invites all merchants and all the employees who are in contact with the local customers and [customer] international welcomed warmly with the word “hello” “.


The monks of the English-speaking community have expressed their “anger” in the two official languages of Canada.


Akos Verboczy hope with all my heart that the motion for unanimous of the national Assembly will give the “courage” necessary to the young employees of the shops to put aside the ” hello-hi “.


Mistrust between the communities


The users of the “hi-hi” are animated by the best intentions in the world, should be the ex-political secretary of the minister of the parti québecois responsible for the Charter of the French language, Diane De Courcy (2012-2014). “There is something very welcoming in there, very respectful, very tolerant. We don’t see that in a lot of countries in the world. The living together, it begins with the knowledge of how to live, ” says the ex-president of the committee of cultural relations at the Commission scolaire de Montréal. “But, there’s a reciprocity that should be required also. It is also necessary to realize that, when you can all day, at work, in his life of the English-speaking people or people who do not speak French, at the beginning, it is politeness, but later on, it is to put yourself in a lower position and affect the future of the French language in Quebec, ” he continued.


The “hello-hi” reinforces the impression that French is a “language optional” in Quebec, then it should be the ” language of necessity “.


On this subject, Akos Verboczy reproach to the minister responsible for relations with the Quebec English-language, Kathleen Weil, continue to greet the artist, who has the address, and it ignores the language of the usual kind, with a good ” hello-hi “. “For me, I see it as a sign of respect […] me saying maybe this person would like to continue in English… or in French,” she justified. In short, Ms. Weil gives “choice” to his interlocutor, “you do not speak French,” says Akos Verboczy. “I can’t be okay with it. […] In a trade, when you address me in French, I feel that I am part of the tribe. When you address me in English because I am an immigrant, I am told in fact that I am a foreigner to the local culture. “


That said, it is necessary to increase the resources of the organizations supporting newcomers in their process of integration in Quebec, supports the graduate of the cégep de Rosemont and UQAM. “They are all very busy people, all of them. “


Less than 10 months before the next elections, the political class can not ignore the” uncertainty ” created by the rise of English. “This insecurity can only lead to mistrust among communities and damaging to our living together. What worries me is that we don’t see […] the French as the common language and the ideal of living together, to understand and to share a present and a future, ” says Akos Verboczy.