Campbellton – New Brunswick officially identifies as Canada’s only bilingual province, giving equal status to both English and French. A recent study conducted by PhD students at UNBSJ, however, shows that southern New Brunswickers speak mainly English, while the northern regions of the province speak a mishmash of words and sounds that make sense only to other residents of the cities in question.
Bathurst resident Jacques Fiat, 60, heard about the study when his 21-year-old son Georges returned to Bathurst for Christmas from UNBSJ. “Bain, donc, that’s dumb, ca,” Fiat said. “Where’s UNB anyways? Down south? Voyons, we don’t need them up here.”
The Manatee interviewed several Campbellton residents in an effort to glean which languages they were using in day-to-day conversation, and our reporter was shocked to learn that, indeed, no single language is spoken with any real proficiency. Brian Krandall, 33, was gassing up his snowmobile at the Pik Quik (the store’s name is presumably a sorry attempt at spelling “Pick Quick”) on Water Street. “I heard down there in Frederictown or Saint Johns or whatever they don’t even speak French,” he scoffed, then yelled at the station attendant, “Eh buddy, something’s wrong with le fuel pump, là.”
“Tabernac,” he added vehemently, shaking gasoline droplets from the faulty pump.
The study interviewed a substantial chunk of the population from each city in New Brunswick, asking individuals to first check off a box indicating their native language, and another indicating the language they use most frequently of English or French. While nearly all citizens of the southern cities checked “English” for both, approximately 88 percent of northerners left both boxes unchecked, claiming not to understand the survey’s wording.
Premier Brian Gallant’s Liberal government is looking into the possibility of making “Chiac,” an incomprehensible non-language claimed by some illiterate northerners, an official third language, rather than wasting time and resources to effectively teach French and English in schools. Our reporter asked Gallant what language he feels the majority of New Brunswickers truly identify with and claim as their own.
“Quossé tu parle about?” he asked, a perplexed look on his face.