French Language Law Ran Amok


Quebec has a French only sign law on its public and road signs. However, that law also extends to businesses. It is illegal in Quebec for a business to have an English sign, unless their name is part of the logo. So IKEA is still IKEA, but every other sign on the IKEA storefront is in French.

If a business wish to translate a notice or billboard, the French must be twice the size of the English notice. you can see an example in the above photo. This was taken in front of a drug store in Montreal. The left window is the English version. The right two windows is the same thing, but in French.

Since Quebec is majority French, I wonder why it even needs a French only sign law. Surely businesses would know how to cater to their customers. If they’re mostly French, then they would make their signs French. Why have a law to force it?

I guess the Quebec government is just scare of losing their unique status in Canada if they allow businesses to do signs as they please. While French maybe the majority, everyone I have met can speak English because English is the power language. And if the entire population can already speak and read English, why not just switch to English? Because Quebec has a law against it.

42 thoughts on “French Language Law Ran Amok”

  1. Shaun Carter says:

    Quebec is VERY protective of its French history and that is why they have laws to protect it. I have some family from there and I know it’s a very touchy subject with a lot of people there.

    1. Marc says:

      Exceptionally touchy… Also touchy when you bring up Quebec to other French Canadians like myself 😕

      1. Matt Jones says:

        It will always be touchy untill they switch to English and let time solve the ‘problem’…

  2. Paul. says:

    A lot of Canadians say there is Qubec and then their is Canada. Most of the Irish Canadians in Toronto didn’t seem to appreciate Qubec.

  3. thesilly1 says:

    Evil post John. 👿 Touchy subject equals lots of comments….

  4. Jeff Kee says:

    The Quebec French are even more French than the French French. Their French language is more closer to what it used to be hundreds of years ago, because of their protective nature especially when they are an ocean away from homeland, and that tradition continues.

    That’s a trend found in many satellite communities that I learned in sociology a long time ago.

    1. Marc says:

      “The Quebec French are even more French than the French French. Their French language is more closer to what it used to be hundreds of years ago”

      That’s just flat out wrong. The Acadien language is far older and we speak nearly identically to the French from France. I spoke to an elderly lady from Paris just the other day who was on a trip and we understood each other perfectly. I can’t make heads or tails of the Quebec language.

      Quebec is not a satellite community. In an effort to be as French as possible they’ve gone out of their way to create words that didn’t need creating. They’ve gone and tried to “modernize” French and as a result have significantly deviated from the French of old. I have many other points to this effect, but there’s no need to go too far 🙂

      I will add that if you want to hear the most beautiful French in the world, it can be found in Africa.

  5. interesting, i didn’t know that

  6. Moulinneuf says:

    John Chow for Prime Minsiter ! He will solve everything in is evil way !!! :mrgreen:

    Actually , about language laws , history as showed that when there is no law most stores will only serve people in English only and have english only signs and documentations , in Quebec , because there is a cost that most company don’t want to pay for translation ( that’s pre-computers 80’s – 90’s ).

    rent the movie Maurice Richards , if you want to know how far the grudge can go both ways.

    Quebec , Bill 101 was introduced in 1977 , because most commerce where completely english only.

    Now CANADA is officially a Bilingual country , but I am sure that if I went to any location in Vancouver and asked service in French , there would be no one to answer/serve me back.

    Now John , Quebec Bill 86 is a law in Quebec, Canada. Related to the Charter of the French Language, it allows the use of English on outdoor public signs in Quebec, as long as French is more prominent. Because what do you think the french did when they got hold of power they went on a revenge spree for hundred of years and made English illegal.

    Now about road signs , I think that the same applied there too , there was a revenge , but I would go further and say that the transport system is corrupt and rotten at the core , there are many reports that state that we pay 3 time the price other province pay for there roads , but we also have more km of roads then other provinces and more people and more trafic. Thankfully so far you haven’t noticed how bad they are , but just watch how they change at the border between Ontario and Quebec.

    So , I apologize for the road sign they should be bilingual , but since those panel cost more then 3 big plasma screen of the same size to make and that we aren’t a rich province we will have to wait for a change , sorry. ( unless you whant to make a contribution/donation 😉

    To help you learn French an explanation of the words shown on the French only road signs which can be found in Quebec is shown below :

  7. John John John,

    The bill 101 assures that french will not be diluded in the sea of english speaking of what is north america.

    That bill was necessary to ensure that french would not be overloaded by english signs in Montreal especially. 75%+ of the immigration coming to the province resides in Montreal. Now only 60% of Montreal residents speaks french at home.

    You tell me now John if it was necessary or not.

    1. John Chow says:

      Coming from a western Province that thinks Quebec has too much power already, I say Canada should be English only.

      1. dikiz says:

        In the name of what? Because it would make John Chow’s life easier 😀
        Then what about the cultural diversity of your country? Just learn French 😉

  8. satish says:

    hello john chow ,
    your blog belongs to making money online but you are describing about recipes and other stuff here.does users get turned off by this thing or it increase your site traffic?

    jaya – make money easily

    1. John’s versatility, open-mindedness, and “evilness” only attract readers more. 😎 So yeah, it would be accurate to say that it has only increased his traffic…he has tons, I tell you, TONS! 😆

      1. Matt Jones says:

        Yeah, he has gained lots of new readers and kept most of the old regulars, with the side effect of annoying a couple of them, who still keep coming back for more anyway.

  9. It’s to KEEP french as the main language :mrgreen: . Imagine people one by one changing to English, act-like an Englishman, talk like an Englishman, walk like an Englishman, get drunk like an Irishman…my bad…Just kidding. The point is to KEEP Quebec more frenchie =P.

  10. Arnold says:

    The problem is that they are incredibly backward in terms of accepting anything that is not officially listed as being French. I’m told that they are the only French speaking area in the world that don’t use “le weekend” but stick instead with “la fin de semaine” for instance.

    You might be OK, but if they think that you are Canadian, I found that they would, in some cases, refuse to serve you in English.

    What’s really odd is that their French is so different from “proper” French that their French is virtually incomprehensible to the French themselves. Funnily enough, they DO take terms from English or rather their ancestors did: the problem is that it’s from the English of the 1800s so if you know ye olde english then you can follow them a little better.

  11. Well, i live in Montreal, and i’m a frenchy, but i personally don’t mind at all if a commerce is french or english, since i speak both languages! 😉

    1. thesilly1 says:

      You think Quebec or Montreal would less French if there wasn’t this law?

      I personally don’t think so as a) Montreal is already very english and b) Quebec is very english and as John mentions you’d have to market to the frensh speaking people.

  12. lifesignx says:

    Great pictures John! Keep them coming please! 😯

  13. jason says:


  14. I had similar thoughts about the language law and the belle province when visited them a few years ago!
    Lately, when it comes about the never-ending separatist politics, I have only one answer: Let the Quebec nation go.

  15. Mark says:

    French is part of the history in Quebec and it is a nice language. Quebec being surrounded by both USA and Ontario, without that law it might be at risk. That law is actually a good thing.

  16. Marc says:

    As is throughout history, the ruling party shall do as they please. The English did it, the French are doing it now and someday the first nations will take over and take it out on their oppressors. Circle of life.

  17. Gdog says:

    Well, we do have two official languages in Canada, both French and English. Quebec is a “distinct society”…I hope they stay part of Canada forever.

    1. thesilly1 says:

      Word, Dog.

      (sorry, it was wayyyyy too tempting)

  18. MrCorey says:

    I don’t know if this situation will ever really change. I’m still convinced that its just a way for the government to divide the people so that they don’t fight the real enemy – their government. We have this same fight in New Brunswick, which flares up now and then. Its not over signs, but over the languages offered in the government offices. There are specific positions that are “bilingual only”, which is a bit narrow-minded, as every office now has to have someone who speaks both languages fluently, instead of one of each, doing different jobs (like on the South Shore of Nova Scotia).

    I wish that we could just get with whatever we do, instead of what we’re strongly told to do. While travelling through Quebec once, I stopped at a small convenience store in s small town (Riviere De Loupes, I think). The store clerk was French and I was English. We did not understand each other’s language but we got on okay. That’s what being tolerant humans is about.

    How about this: if a sign is in French and you, as an Anglophone, don’t understand it, ask someone to tell you what it means! The same goes for the opposite situation. Is it really the signs that is keeping the culture alive? I really don’t think so. I think that the people can keep culture alive. Nobody will lose their culture unless they choose to. There’s something to be said for hand gestures and sign language.

    1. Joshua says:

      Stupid Quebec! You’re right, it’s all about the power they can wield by playing that game.

      Signage will not keep or break the spirit or culture of any French Canadian.

  19. soundofgold says:

    Ok I know I am taking bite here but anyways:

    The laws are there to protect the minor culture being overrun by the majority popular powerhouses. Same way other nations protect their culture/language/literature everywhere around the world.

    Once the world become one big undistinguishable globalised english speaking country it will be a very boring place indeed.


  20. I guess English is the inevitable language, since it’s virtually everywhere. People speak/learn English whether they plan to or not. It’s up to nations, governments and what not to enforce local language laws to preserve their heritage.

  21. Arnold says:

    It’s NOT inevitable that English will end up as the world language. Had we had this discussion 150 years or so ago, we’d have been talking about the inevitability of French becoming the world language.

    Even if everyone were speaking English, that doesn’t mean that it would be one culture. After English is the language of India and you could hardly call that an “English” culture by any stretch of the imagination.

    Moreover, there is no single “English”. Not only is the spelling of American English different in a number of ways (eg colour vs color), the phrases and concepts that they use can be quite different (eg there is no such thing as a “rain check” in the UK).

    I’ve picked up on some of these at

    1. See, I didn’t say it will end up as the world language. All I said was, people pick up on it even when they aren’t trying — that’s the inevitability, not complete world domination. I only wanted to clear that up so there is no confusion. 😎

  22. lee says:

    Just a comment about French French and Canadian French. I’m an American, but I speak French fluently. The only difference between French French and Canadian French is accent. It’s the same language–words are the same, grammar’s the same. Going from Paris to Quebec would be the same thing linguistically as going from Los Angeles to South Alabama or the mountains of Tennessee. Great post! I love Quebec. I’ve spent a fair amount of time there. I hope you enjoyed yourself!

    1. Different French accents…that actually makes a lot of sense.

      1. Kiltak says:

        Actually, we do have a different french accent, but if you go to certain part of France, where mostly “peasants” live, you sometime have trouble finding out if a certain person is from France or Quebec.

  23. Derrich says:

    That reminds me of the stuff going on down here in San Antonio…or in Texas, I should say. Some educators are trying to make Spanish a mondatory part of the currculum in some schools. Ridiculous. English is the language. However, I do believe that because of the heavy Hispanic population, our commercial ties with Mexico, as well as our proximity that we ought to learn Spanish…as a second language.

  24. Angela says:

    The only part of Canada I have ever visited was Quebec and it made me thankful of the basic french classes I took in junior high school or else we would’ve gotten horribly lost.

  25. Arnold says:

    I live in France. The words aren’t the same. There are significant differences between French and French-Canadian (more so than between British English and American English). There are also differences in grammar though, to a large extent, you could consider those as dialectic type differences ie not that significant. The accent too is different.

    Interestingly, it is also very difficult to understand Canadians who speak French even if they are not from French Canada (eg Alberta etc.), presumably as they are taught French Canadian rather than French French. This is quite unusual in that it’s almost always easy to understand a non-native speaker of a language because they use simpler sentence constructions etc.

    To my mind, making Spanish a part of the curriculum in Texas, California, Arizona and Florida is only recognising the reality of the situation ie that Spanish is, to a large extent, the second language of those states already. I was very surprised to see adverts and the like in Spanish when I visited those states.

    Ironically, Spanish is becoming less widely spoken in Spain these days as they’re taking up the various regional languages (Catalan, Basque, etc.).

  26. James says:

    Blame it on Canada. 🙂
    I have been to another bilingual country and while everyone knows English and plenty of signs (not all) are in English (along with laws) everyone speaks and reads the native language.
    I really do not have any problem with a country wanting a specific language by law (I think this would be good for the US). Of course, I think Quebec is a province?
    I guess that is something for you Canadians to argue about.

  27. Armen says:

    Surely this makes Quebec very anti-tourist?

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