Parlez-vous français? Qapla’! More Grade 11 boys proficient in Klingon than French: local survey

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Thursday, July 6, 2006

Toronto — More Grade 11 males at Don Mills Collegiate Institute are proficient in Klingon than French, suggests a survey conducted by this reporter.

Of 35 students who completed the survey and indicated that they were male and in Grade 11, only two indicated that they would be able to carry on a conversation, read newspapers and write personal letters in French. Three indicated they could do so in Klingon. (A fourth Klingon-speaker did not indicate gender or grade. No females, or males in other grades, checked off the language.)

The Klingon language was constructed by American language professor Marc Okrand for the namesake militaristic race of aliens in the Star Trek TV series. Its vocabulary, like the Klingon culture, focuses on fighting and space travel, and is often found lacking when other topics are discussed. Some devoted fans of the series learn the language using books written by Okrand, and use it in conversation with other fans, particularly at science fiction conventions (which they often attend in costume). Unlike French, however, it is not a language of business, government or scholarly writing anywhere on Earth.

In Ontario, students educated primarily in English must take French classes from Grades 4 through 9 to receive their Ontario Secondary School Diplomas. However, transfer students from outside Canada may take only the Grade 9 class. No other languages besides English and French are mandatory.

The sample of Grade 11 males was small and possibly non-representative. Also, students only had to claim, but not demonstrate, their knowledge of a particular language.[1] Therefore, the more‑Klingon‑than‑French result is tentative at best. (Klingon ranks several places behind French if the entire survey group is considered.) However, it underscores a real problem: a dearth of French proficiency in TDSB students and graduates. Only 30% of senior students surveyed say they can speak a basic level of French, and only 30% can read and write French at a basic level.

Footnotes

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  1. Two surveys were excluded on the grounds that each respondent claimed to speak all the 18 languages listed.

References

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