In Quebec, French faces the challenge of English as the global lingua franca and as the language of upward mobility in North America at large. Language choices in the home environment can play a crucial role in ensuring the maintenance of endangered languages – but in the Quebec context, there is a paucity of research dedicated to the factors that determine such language choices. This paper presents the first known sociolinguistic study to investigate the factors that determine the language choices Quebec-based parents make in communications with their children. A questionnaire was used to elicit quantitative and qualitative data from 275 participants of different mother tongues – namely French, French and English, English, and other(s) – throughout the province. The quantitative data were analysed statistically, the qualitative data thematically. The findings reveal that French-English bilingual parents and those who have mother tongues other than French or English display a particularly strong tendency to omit French when speaking to their children. This is the case in Montreal as well as in the rest of Quebec, for women and men, and among immigrants and non-immigrants alike. However, parents’ language choices are determined not only by their own mother tongue(s) but also by the strength of their social identity as a Quebecer and their attitudes towards French. The paper discusses the implications of these findings for language planning measures that aim to ensure the maintenance of French among the next generation of Quebecers. The focus is on measures that encourage French-English bilingual parents and those who have mother tongues other than French or English, to include French in communications with their children – so that these children are at least raised multilingually, with French as one of their languages, rather than monolingually in English, as they tend to be currently.
Ruth Kircher received a conference grant from the Association internationale des études québécoises (to cover travel, accommodation and conference fees).