Le Magasin Walmart? French Language Laws Under Dispute In Quebec

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Image: Walmart
Walmart’s sign is easily recognizable and is a popular brand all over the world. Image: Walmart

In Quebec, Walmart could be known one day as Le Magasin Walmart (The Walmart Store).

French is the official language of the province of Quebec.

While other languages including English are, of course, spoken there, the Charter of the French Language says that “the name of an enterprise must be in French.” (By “enterprise” the charter is referring to “businesses.”)

The problem is that the word “Walmart” isn’t French.

Another language can be used on a store sign, according to the charter, but the French words must be predominant. So, adding the words “le magasin” would make the Walmart name more predominantly French.

An organization called the Office Québécois de la Langue Francaise monitors the usage of the French language in Quebec and upholds the province’s language charter.

Some big retailers in Quebec are disputing the regulations. Walmart, Costco, Old Navy, Guess and Best Buy are taking the matter to court.

They say they’ve been doing business in Quebec for years and their signage has not been an issue.

The language charter hasn’t changed, but the way the Office Québécois de la Langue Francaise interprets them, has. Now it says the companies need to change their signage or their names to comply with the law.

The new interpretation of the law isn’t due to the newly elected Parti Québécois government, according to a report in the National Post. The changes began under the old Liberal government.

Some English-language companies already use a French name in Quebec. For instance, in Quebec, KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) is PFK (Poulet Frit Kentucky), Starbucks is known as Café Starbucks Coffee and Second Cup locations have the words “les cafés” added to their signs.

A spokesperson for the Office Québécois de la Langue Francaise said that having French signage in Quebec is a sign of respect for its laws and culture.

The retailers disputing the language laws are expected to be in court on Thursday.

By Jonathan Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
Why would a company want to, or not want to, change their signage for their Quebec locations? What are the pros and cons?

Reading Prompt: Making Inferences / Interpreting Texts
Walmart and the Office Québécois de la Langue Francaise are going to court. Judging by the arguments presented in today’s article, who do you think will win the case? Explain why you think so.

Make inferences about texts using stated and implied ideas from the texts as evidence (OME, Reading: 1.5).

Use stated and implied ideas in texts to make inferences and construct meaning (OME, Reading: 1.5).

Develop and explain interpretations of increasingly complex or difficult texts using stated and implied ideas from the texts to support their interpretations (OME, Reading: 1.5).

Grammar Feature: Parentheses and periods
Parentheses are a pair of punctuation marks that are used to enclose extra information. Parentheses separate the extra information from the rest of the sentence so that it is easy to understand. But where does a period go when the sentence ends with a parenthesis? Look at the examples below from today’s story and see if you can figure out the rule.

In Quebec, Walmart could be known one day as Le MagasinWalmart (The Walmart Store).

(By “enterprise” the charter is referring to “businesses.”)

Hint: You needn’t look any further than the first word.