Air Canada CEO Forced To Apologize For Bad French

Air Canada CEO Forced To Apologize For Bad French

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There’s some controversy surrounding Air Canada CEO Michael Rousseau’s ability to speak French, and boy is this awkward…

Air Canada CEO criticized for his French

Canada has the Official Languages Act, which makes both English and French the official languages of Canada, and requires businesses to serve customers in the language that they prefer. Sometimes this causes issues, since not everyone in Canada speaks French at all, let alone well. This is even something that Air Canada has been sued over in the past.

That brings us to Air Canada’s CEO. Air Canada is based in Montreal, and the company’s new CEO gave his first major speech on Wednesday since assuming his current role. The speech was 26 minutes long, and only about 20 seconds of it were in French.

After the speech he took questions from reporters. A French journalist asked him (in French) how he has been able to live in Montreal for 14 years while speaking so little French. In response to this, Rousseau said:

“Can you redo that in English? Because I want to make sure I understand your question before I respond to it.”

The journalist said he’d rather that Rousseau’s representative translate the question. She responded that Rousseau had already addressed that question in his speech. At that point the journalist repeated the question in English:

“How can you live in Montreal without speaking French? Is it easy?”

Rousseau responded with the following:

“I’ve been able to live in Montreal without speaking French, and I think that’s a testament to the city of Montreal.”

You can watch the interaction for yourself here:

What Air Canada’s CEO has to say

Rousseau is facing widespread criticism from those in Quebec, including:

  • Quebec Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette stating “the big boss of Air Canada expresses everything we rejected decades ago: contempt for our language and our culture at home in Quebec,” and also said that “these words are unworthy of the role he occupies”
  • Quebec Liberal Party Leader Dominique Anglade called the comments “appalling and disrespectful,” and stated that “Air Canada frankly does not understand the impact of its decisions” to appoint a CEO who doesn’t speak French
  • The President of the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada stated that Rousseau “must apologize for his insensitive attitude and his lack of respect for francophones”

Following this incident, and with the amount of backlash the airline has received, Rousseau has issued a statement. He apologized to those who were offended by his remarks, and pledged to improve his French. Here’s the statement:

“I want to make it clear that in no way did I mean to show disrespect for Quebecers and francophones across the country. I apologize to those who were offended by my remarks. I pledge today to improve my French, an official language of Canada and the common language of Québec, while tackling the serious commercial challenges facing Air Canada as we move from surviving the pandemic to rebuilding to normalcy. The fact that this iconic company is headquartered in Montreal is a source of pride for me and our entire executive team. I reiterate Air Canada’s commitment to show respect for French and, as a leader, I will set the tone.”

Bottom line

Air Canada’s new CEO faced backlash after not being able to answer basic questions in French following a speech in Montreal yesterday. Air Canada is based in Montreal, and Rousseau has lived there for 14 years. He has now apologized, and pledged to improve his French.

What do you make of this French controversy at Air Canada?

Conversations (99)
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  1. John Guest

    He should be applauded for NOT knowing how to speak that truly ghastly and fossilized dialect that passes for 'French' in Quebec. Even dogs will put their paws against their ears when they hear it!

  2. Alan3 Guest

    We may have many opinions about the language issue in Quebec but as the CEO of a company based in Quebec he should have known what he was getting into. It wasn't just that he doesn't know French but that he admitted that in 14 years in Quebec he has not even tried to learn it. That's a big oops when it comes to the language issue in Quebec.

  3. Ian Guest

    I think things have become too sensitive in the language issue. I have been in all parts of Quebec and have had issues not being spoken to in English when I asked a question. It goes both ways here. I wasn't offended with that and worked with the person with the limited amount of high school French I knew. My question is why is it a person who lives in a city chooses to speak...

    I think things have become too sensitive in the language issue. I have been in all parts of Quebec and have had issues not being spoken to in English when I asked a question. It goes both ways here. I wasn't offended with that and worked with the person with the limited amount of high school French I knew. My question is why is it a person who lives in a city chooses to speak the language they are more comfortable speaking as I experienced. This backlash against this executive can have financial implications. GM for example pulled out years ago over language issues amongst other things. Top notch NHL players have left the Canadians over backlash for not wanting to speak French. It is in the Constitution to speak English or French. His rights are actually been violated here.

  4. DG Guest

    I lived in Montreal for three and a half years and made a good effort to learn French. But, it seemed like every time I spoke French the other person responded to me in English. There was a really hostile vibe from Francophones demanding that you at least try, then mocking you, then switching to English. If you insisted on French, it was like telling them they were uneducated. Complex.

  5. Brian Harris Guest

    I have known Montreal for over 50 years, and this kind of argument has been going on all that time. He should have known what he was getting into and used a professional interpreter. Amazing how naive people can be about the social and psychological ramifications of language.

  6. Pita Pie Burrito Guest

    US dealing with serious social and political issues while in Canada bah humbug about bad French. What a contrast…

  7. Carl Guest

    It's a bit baffling that the CEO of a company based on Montreal and obviously in a bilingual country like Canada cannot speak French. Let alone it's an airline, which also does a lot of business with many French-speaking companies, starting with Airbus (Toulouse & Montreal) and many others, including Safran/GE (CFM). Air Canada also has the most international French-speaking destinations for a North American airline, serving 7 cities in France (the most destinations by...

    It's a bit baffling that the CEO of a company based on Montreal and obviously in a bilingual country like Canada cannot speak French. Let alone it's an airline, which also does a lot of business with many French-speaking companies, starting with Airbus (Toulouse & Montreal) and many others, including Safran/GE (CFM). Air Canada also has the most international French-speaking destinations for a North American airline, serving 7 cities in France (the most destinations by countries for AC after the US) + Brussels and Geneva. But hey, why would he speak French? I personally think most people in the Western Hemisphere should master English, Spanish and French to some degrees, but that's another story. The broader question here is probably about his intellectual ability to be the CEO of a large company if after spending 14 years in Quebec, he stil can't speak any French.

  8. Carl Guest

    It's a bit baffling that the CEO of a company based on Montreal and obviously in a bilingual country cannot speak French. Let alone it's an airline which (as many airlines) also does a lot of business with many French-speaking companies, starting with Airbus (Toulouse & Montreal) and many others, including GE/Safran (CFM). Air Canada also has the most international French-speaking destinations for a North American airline, serving 7 cities in France (the most destinations...

    It's a bit baffling that the CEO of a company based on Montreal and obviously in a bilingual country cannot speak French. Let alone it's an airline which (as many airlines) also does a lot of business with many French-speaking companies, starting with Airbus (Toulouse & Montreal) and many others, including GE/Safran (CFM). Air Canada also has the most international French-speaking destinations for a North American airline, serving 7 cities in France (the most destinations by countries for AC after the US) + Brussels and Geneva. But hey, why would he speak French? I personally think most people in the Western Hemisphere should master English, Spanish and French to some degrees, but that's another story and it's certainly not a memo American CEOs ever received...Perhaps he should move to the US?

  9. Valerie Guest

    ...and of course, in North America

  10. Valerie Guest

    Sean M and shoeguy show clear ignorance and disrespect claiming 'proper' French isn't spoken in Montreal/Quebec.
    It certainly is, and I speak it fluently, having been raised in both official languages.

    Of course many dialects and a wide range of accents, some more pleasant than others, can be found here. Just like you'll hear all kinds of "English" in the UK or Australia/NZ.

  11. azamaraal Guest

    As per usual Quebec is not a part of Canada and insists that it does not have to follow the Official Languages Act. Everyone else in Canada must follow it or Quebecois will sue.

    Air Canada is now owned partially by the Canadian Government so the President does not have to speak French in Canada because English is an official language. Although we seem to elect incompetent Quebecois Prime Ministers based on looks and language,...

    As per usual Quebec is not a part of Canada and insists that it does not have to follow the Official Languages Act. Everyone else in Canada must follow it or Quebecois will sue.

    Air Canada is now owned partially by the Canadian Government so the President does not have to speak French in Canada because English is an official language. Although we seem to elect incompetent Quebecois Prime Ministers based on looks and language, a company like Air Canada must choose on ability and not for political reasons.

    On ne parle Francais? Tough.

  12. Worldtraveller3 Guest

    If you want to get picky about languages, then the ones spoken in the US are definitely not English. Personally I think they are all variants. So the québécois spoken in Quebec is still French, as is those variants spoken in Africa and Tahiti. Creole is not a Canadian dialect

  13. Eskimo Guest

    So someone who lives in Canada who cannot speak French but only English it's ok blame that person.
    But someone who lives in America who cannot speak English but only Spanish it's racist to blame that person.

    Talk about equality.

  14. Jo Guest

    To be fair, I didn't understand sxxt or mxxxe the first time I ever encountered a Quebecois. Well after speaking French like les francais due to living there. It's kind of a silly expectation though when so much of Canada is quite culturally distant from Quebec, but Quebec is surrounded by English speaking culture.

  15. Brad Guest

    Shoe Guy... I grew up bi-lingual (Francais/Anglise) in Ottawa in the 70's. I live in Florida and have spoken Fluent Spanish for decades. May I share with you how ugly many U.S. accents sound to Canadiens ? and Oui, I spelled that correctly. Merci

  16. GeoffSetter Guest

    Cheap shot, handled poorly by the CEO to make it worse. He should at least know a few phrases. That being said, the most successful leaders of the company have been unilingual English including Hollis Harris, Lamar Durrett and Robert Milton. The airline would have never become the global champion that it is today without Calin Rovenescu’s out of the box thinking, however, he was a very effective public speaker who knew enough French to...

    Cheap shot, handled poorly by the CEO to make it worse. He should at least know a few phrases. That being said, the most successful leaders of the company have been unilingual English including Hollis Harris, Lamar Durrett and Robert Milton. The airline would have never become the global champion that it is today without Calin Rovenescu’s out of the box thinking, however, he was a very effective public speaker who knew enough French to not piss people off. The fact that Calin chose him as his successor is testament that he will be a great leader and in a year or two restore and expand on the past successes of the company.

    1. Ksa63 Guest

      You lost me at global champion.

  17. Gary Guest

    Oops. What a faux pas! How can he not speak "Canadien" after living in Montreal for 14 years? Simple. He buried himself in anglophone community in Montreal. That was a big mistake. If he really wants to learn French there is only one method: No French, No Food.

    1. azamaraal Guest

      Historically the best way to learn French is to have a Francophone girlfriend.

    2. JonathanL New Member

      His mother AND his wife speak French... it's a lost cause.

  18. Janet Gold

    Clearly you don’t speak French. What an absurd comment!

  19. DJR Guest

    What do Europeans call someone who only speak one language ? An American.
    Mais dit c'est vraitment une dommage. Someone successful and educated enough to be a CEO of an airline and To live 14 years in Montreal without bothering to learn French is a disgrace. Ignorance is not something of which one should be proud,

    1. jorgje New Member

      We call that person French :) Seriously, if there's one country in Europe where people hardly speak any other than their own language, it's France (ok, Spain as well). Just checked: about 55% of the French speak a second language. In Sweden that number is around 98. Unsurprisingly, the UK is last on the list.

    2. Wilhelm Guest

      You are wrong. The country in Europe with the lowest proportion of people proficient in a second language is the U.K. I spent five years there, and except for people with an immigrant background I never met a single Brit who spoke anything but English. Don’t get me started on how sloppy many British speak their native tongue.

  20. Pierre Guest

    It could be worse and it's not new... Ben Smith, the present Canadian President of AIR FRANCE !!! and former President of Air Canada, didn't speak French at the beginning. He does now but, to tell the truth, he seems infinitely smarter than this one.

  21. JohnHam New Member

    Slightly commendable saying he will "pledge" to learn French. On the other hand, learning a new language at 61 (according to google) won't be the easiest

  22. Davey Guest

    The dirty little secret is that it’s no problem at all to live in Montreal without speaking French. There are hundreds of thousands of English-speaking Montrealers, with their own public school system, several TV and radio stations, a major daily newspaper, etc. If he lives in the West End of the city or the West Island, the usual language in shops, etc. is English. There’s very little opportunity, and no need, to speak French in...

    The dirty little secret is that it’s no problem at all to live in Montreal without speaking French. There are hundreds of thousands of English-speaking Montrealers, with their own public school system, several TV and radio stations, a major daily newspaper, etc. If he lives in the West End of the city or the West Island, the usual language in shops, etc. is English. There’s very little opportunity, and no need, to speak French in order to live a very full life in Montreal.

    1. Kiwi Gold

      I guess he’ll need to head further east than Rue St Denis

    2. Alan3 Guest

      That's true for everyday citizens. But if you're the CEO of a major national company based in Quebec, who's own services are required to be in both languages, it's not the smartest move to admit on TV that you haven't felt any need to learn French after living in Quebec for 14 years!

  23. guisun Platinum

    Demanding people to know a second language when it is not needed, sounds a lot like Soviet Union 1930's Russification period.

    1. Pierre Guest

      Yes, but when it's needed?

      I speak eight. Two doesn't seem to be an insurmountable task...

    2. guisun Platinum

      Glad you speak eight, I only speak four languages fluently, and I wish more people would learn more. There is no need for him to learn French, it's not like when will be answering calls in French for French speaking customers.
      I learned languages by being born in bilingual household and also because I find languages interesting. I would never want to shame or force someone to learn a language though. Think about all...

      Glad you speak eight, I only speak four languages fluently, and I wish more people would learn more. There is no need for him to learn French, it's not like when will be answering calls in French for French speaking customers.
      I learned languages by being born in bilingual household and also because I find languages interesting. I would never want to shame or force someone to learn a language though. Think about all those Americans telling Latino immigrants to learn English...

    3. azamaraal Guest

      People who have an ability to learn languages typically do not stop at 1.

      People, like me, have a hard time struggling with high school French.

      I took a Gullet Cruise and there were 2 English speakers and 8 Parisienne Francophone guests. For 5 days they refused to help by speaking slowly (plus lentement sil vous plait). Then we got stranded on a rock. Instantly everyone spoke English and the word sue seems to be the same in both languages.

    4. Alan3 Guest

      Nobody is patrolling the streets of Quebec demanding everyday citizens be bilingual. But he's the CEO of a major national company BASED IN QUEBEC who's own services are required to be in both languages. We all know how sensitive the language issue is in Quebec. If he didn't know what he was getting into, he shouldn't have taken the job.

  24. Steven M Guest

    "Air Canada CEO Forced To Apologize For Bad French" but you'll never ever hear a prominent Quebecois apologize for mangling the English language. It's de rigeur to speak horrible English if growing up in Quebec, whereas our family members in Toronto all grew up speaking French in addition to English.

    Quebec relies on global francophone immigrant labor to keep itself populated, and we seldom hear stories about that.

    No different in Europe, either. Teaching and...

    "Air Canada CEO Forced To Apologize For Bad French" but you'll never ever hear a prominent Quebecois apologize for mangling the English language. It's de rigeur to speak horrible English if growing up in Quebec, whereas our family members in Toronto all grew up speaking French in addition to English.

    Quebec relies on global francophone immigrant labor to keep itself populated, and we seldom hear stories about that.

    No different in Europe, either. Teaching and promulgating poor English-language competency has long been an integral component of the French and Swiss-Romandie teaching systems. And again, never any apologies. How can kids in Zürich grow up learning excellent English but many of their counterparts in Lausanne and Geneva have far less fluency after graduation?

    1. Janet Guest

      I grew up In Montreal and many, many Québécois speak excellent English. Many of the students at McGill and Concordia are francophone. What an ignorant comment.

    2. Carl Guest

      The day Toronto and Vancouver residents speak French as well as Montreal residents speak English, we can debate this but I'm not sure what point you are trying to make here. As for your Swiss example, it's obviously easier for anglo-saxon & Nordic languages speakers (English, Danish etc.) to speak English since they share common roots. Latin languages are very different. Again I'm not sure what the point might be here, except that you seem...

      The day Toronto and Vancouver residents speak French as well as Montreal residents speak English, we can debate this but I'm not sure what point you are trying to make here. As for your Swiss example, it's obviously easier for anglo-saxon & Nordic languages speakers (English, Danish etc.) to speak English since they share common roots. Latin languages are very different. Again I'm not sure what the point might be here, except that you seem to really dislike French. An issue perhaps with an old French girlfriend or boyfriend? :)

    3. Ksa63 Guest

      Neither Toronto nor Vancouver had a french community similar in size or influence to Montreal’s anglo community. In addition, english is a considerably more dominant language in North America and globally. So i don't quite see the relevance of comparing french in those two cities to english in montreal.

  25. Dan Guest

    The same people who criticize people for being upset about his lack of French speaking in a French dominate region are the same people complaining Spanish is so widely spoken in USA. Look, it’s a global airline headquartered in a French speaking city. It’s just respectful to know conversational French after 15 years to show your hometown and French-speaking employees that you are part of them. Not only that, how do you even live in...

    The same people who criticize people for being upset about his lack of French speaking in a French dominate region are the same people complaining Spanish is so widely spoken in USA. Look, it’s a global airline headquartered in a French speaking city. It’s just respectful to know conversational French after 15 years to show your hometown and French-speaking employees that you are part of them. Not only that, how do you even live in Montreal for 15 years without even speaking basic French? It’s just arrogant. Even Spanish speakers in America learn enough conversational English after 15 years.

  26. Another Lump Guest

    Pardon my French, but F you if you want me to apologize for not speaking French.

  27. Franklin Guest

    I'm sure many followers of this blog are thinking it's not so bad that he didn't learn French after 14 years in a French-speakinr province. And I'm also sure that those very same people are of the opinion that everyone in America should "Speak English," and that we shouldn't be offering schools or government services in Spanish, etc.

    1. Another Lump Guest

      And on the flip side, there are those, presumably like you, who believe it's racist, colonialist, white supremacist, etc., to demand people in the US learn English, while at the same time applauding the French Canadians for protecting their culture by demanding people learn French.

    2. Janet Guest

      It is very different in Canada than the US. Canada was founded by both francophone and anglophone founding fathers. Both have been official languages since Confederation. The US was founded with one official language. You cannot compare the two.

    3. MetsNomad Guest

      The United States of America never had and does not have any official language.

  28. shoeguy Guest

    I'm not in the camp that says English should be the ONLY language of business, but the dialect spoken in Quebec is not French and quite unpleasant sounding.

    1. Kiwi Guest

      Hundreds of years of North American French settlers would disagree with you, yet they’re still more pleasant than you

    2. skedguy Guest

      Let me put it this way. Quebecois friends of mine have been told to shut up and speak English when they attempt to speak French in France.

    3. Janet Guest

      It is very different in Canada than the US. Canada was founded by both francophone and anglophone founding fathers. Both have been official languages since Confederation. The US was founded with one official language. You cannot compare the two. I speak French with a Québécois accent and I have never had problems in France or Switzerland. The difference is Samitto that if American and UK English.

    4. Kiwi Gold

      As a Quebeccer born overseas who lived in France and learned French in the banlieue for three years where upon moving to Montréal I can relate to the where everyone switched to English automatically in Montréal

  29. Sara J. Guest

    I learned something new today: rousseau refers to redheads. The man speaks French every time he says his surname.

    I heard a radio show this year about the people who live in Louisiana who were not allowed to speak French. There is a movement: "All French is Good French," which seems very positive. I wish there was a similar movement with the language of my ancestors. I have been mocked over my American accent...

    I learned something new today: rousseau refers to redheads. The man speaks French every time he says his surname.

    I heard a radio show this year about the people who live in Louisiana who were not allowed to speak French. There is a movement: "All French is Good French," which seems very positive. I wish there was a similar movement with the language of my ancestors. I have been mocked over my American accent since as long as I can remember (about age 4). I expect to he hassled until the day I die. I am fluent, just have an accent I can hear but cannot manage to sound "native."

  30. Jack Guest

    This entire situation was trumped up by radical francophones who want to criminalize English in Quebec. He shouldn't have apologized and shouldn't be forced to learn French in a bilingual country, just as French speakers are under no obligation to learn English.

    1. Kiwi Gold

      Except in runs a company Subject to the crown corporation act that is headquartered in Quebec where the language laws require that business be conducted in French

    2. azamaraal Guest

      Oi Vey! The Federal Government has been dumping money into Quebec since the 1800's.

      CD Howe created CN (Canadian National Railroad) with headquarters in Montreal.

      In 1937 he created a Crown Corporation called Trans Canada Airlines as a subsidiary of CN located in Montreal and funded 51% by the Government and 49% by the Treasury Board.

      So a National Airline funded by all Canadians but put in Montreal to appease the French.

      The Official...

      Oi Vey! The Federal Government has been dumping money into Quebec since the 1800's.

      CD Howe created CN (Canadian National Railroad) with headquarters in Montreal.

      In 1937 he created a Crown Corporation called Trans Canada Airlines as a subsidiary of CN located in Montreal and funded 51% by the Government and 49% by the Treasury Board.

      So a National Airline funded by all Canadians but put in Montreal to appease the French.

      The Official Languages act says that English is an OFFICIAL LANGUAGE - Quebec does not have the right to change the act unilaterally.

    3. Ksa63 Guest

      Air Canada, a federally chartered business, has not been subject to the language laws to which you refer. Moreover, AC is headquartered in Montreal because the terms of it’s privatisation require it to be. Had it been free to locate its HQ elsewhere it most likely would have.

    4. Alan3 Guest

      Just because something is not the law doesn't mean it's not bad PR. He's the CEO of a company based in Quebec, who's own services are required to be in both languages. Going on TV in Quebec and admitting that in 14 years you've never felt the need to learn a bit of French isn't very smart. Yes, we know how radical some Francophones can be, but he's not some oridnary joe on the street. He should have known this would happen.

  31. AGrumpyOldMan_GA New Member

    He should not have apologized. People need to stop caving in to the perpetually offended. I recognize there are laws in Canada requiring that business be done in both English and French - supports my contention that Canada is not a country that truly supports free expression - but is there a law that a business person speak both languages? As to the quote about "contempt" give me a break. There was nothing contemptuous. Like...

    He should not have apologized. People need to stop caving in to the perpetually offended. I recognize there are laws in Canada requiring that business be done in both English and French - supports my contention that Canada is not a country that truly supports free expression - but is there a law that a business person speak both languages? As to the quote about "contempt" give me a break. There was nothing contemptuous. Like most of the perpetually offended, this person is just projecting their thin-skinned nature onto him.

    1. Kiwi Guest

      Actually there is a law in Quebec that business be done in French.

      The same law requires signs in public in English be no larger than half the size of the same words in French

    2. Klaus Guest

      Isn’t that unfair that the French portion of a sign is 66.7% of its size and the English only 33.3%?

    3. Kiwi Guest

      Yes but they are the laws of the francophone majority stemming from the heady days of separatism in Quebec. Some separatists (FLQ) also used to blow shit up and assassinate people so most Canadians can tolerate some BS political language laws from the PQ

    4. Ben Guest

      AC is a federally-regulated company (aviation) so that law doesn’t apply.

    5. Kiwi Guest

      @Ben I’m aware that the Provincial Language laws don’t apply to the company due to it being a federally regulated sector. However the question was is there a law that business person speak both languages.

      However as Air Canada was privatized as a former crown corporation you’re aware of its public service obligations to bilingualism Under the Air Canada Act since 1988

    6. Carl Guest

      After living in Montreal for 14 years (& most likely many more years of learning French in a Canadian high school prior), and not being able to speak French, one could really question his intellectual ability to be the CEO of any company.

  32. Anon Guest

    This charming attitude of francophone Quebeckers (and the related draconian Quebec language laws) has certainly contributed to numerous large businesses moving their corporate headquarters from Montreal to Toronto over the past four decades. English is the language of international business, and companies that want to attract top global talent won't succeed if they limit themselves only to folks who know French.

    In fact, the only reason Air Canada's headquarters remains in Montreal is that...

    This charming attitude of francophone Quebeckers (and the related draconian Quebec language laws) has certainly contributed to numerous large businesses moving their corporate headquarters from Montreal to Toronto over the past four decades. English is the language of international business, and companies that want to attract top global talent won't succeed if they limit themselves only to folks who know French.

    In fact, the only reason Air Canada's headquarters remains in Montreal is that in the 1980s, when Air Canada was being privatized, the federal government passed a law requiring that Air Canada's headquarters remain in Montreal. If it were not for this law, the airline surely would have moved its headquarters to Toronto like so many other large Canadian businesses have.

  33. Dan Guest

    Such a storm in a teacup. Judge the guy on his performance not his ability to speak French. People from Quebec are just as bad as those from France who think their language is more important than it actually is. Also French speakers are pretty rubbish at learning a second language as well.

  34. West Coast Flyer Guest

    The journalist was even speaking slowly to allow him an opportunity to comprehend and he still shrugged off the question without even bothering to try. Seems like he fits into Air Canada's culture extremely well.

  35. David Guest

    What a ridiculous storm in une tasse de the.

  36. Sean M. Diamond

    On a more serious note, multilingualism is pretty essential in the international airline business. My airline opened a route to a Francophone country last year (just pre-COVID) and one thing I insisted was that I did as much of the PR that I could manage in my high school/college level French.

    The set pieces like speeches and travel agency sales calls were easy enough to memorize and recite - by the end of it...

    On a more serious note, multilingualism is pretty essential in the international airline business. My airline opened a route to a Francophone country last year (just pre-COVID) and one thing I insisted was that I did as much of the PR that I could manage in my high school/college level French.

    The set pieces like speeches and travel agency sales calls were easy enough to memorize and recite - by the end of it I even had some catch phrases and jokes thrown in - but the Q&A with journalists was extremely daunting. In the end though, I acquitted myself well enough that I could manage interviews (skillfully edited by them thankfully to remove the lengthy pauses while I translated everything in my head!) with RFI and TV5 in French.

    Bottom line is that with a little bit of effort, anybody can learn enough of any language to at least make a token effort in prepared remarks. A self deprecating introduction where he made fun of his poor grammar and offered to spare them twenty minutes of him massacring the language would have gone down much better than his seemingly tone deaf approach here.

    Live and learn.

  37. stogieguy7 Gold

    Quebec is so obnoxious about this issue of French. Nobody else in Canada cares to speak it and their insistence on being language and culture nazis has caused anglophones to flee the province.

    They are idiots and their language is a relic.

    1. YYZ1 Guest

      What an idiotic, divisive and stupid comment.....are you a relic of the past stogieguy7?.....

    2. stogieguy7 Gold

      The truth hurts, snowflake.

    3. Kiwi Gold

      Sounds like you’re unable to keep up with your bilingual colleagues

    4. Janet Gold

      Yet thousands of students across Canada are enrolled in French immersion programs! Speaking multiple languages can only be a positive. One’s life is richer when you can communicate with others in their mother tongue.

  38. YANNICK LANIEL Guest

    I’m not sure the Adidas comparison holds; this is the national airline, which benefits from implied taxpayer support. What if the CEO of Lufthansa who had lived for 14 years in Germany didn’t speak a word of German?

    1. Eskimo Guest

      Ich bin ein Berliner.

    2. MarkyMark-321 New Member

      und immer sehr lecker!!

    3. Kiwi Guest

      It’s a former national airline aka a crown corporation required by law to provide service in both languages as part of its privatization

    4. Klaus Guest

      Maybe you prefer SWISS as comparison: their CEO Dieter Vranckx is from the Flemish part of Belgium

    5. andre Guest

      Fair enough Klaus, but he does speak french and german !

  39. Tom Guest

    Bilingualism in Canada tends to have a real class bias - generally its higher class folks who are bilingual, and lower class ones who are monolingual, so effectively the requirement for officials to cater to the French and English populations has created a pressure toward folks who had the resources to learn French. We see this class bias manifest in Canadian politics, in business and elsewhere.

    1. YANNICK LANIEL Guest

      I’m not sure the Adidas comparison holds; this is the national airline, which benefits from implied taxpayer support. What if the CEO of Lufthansa who had lived for 14 years in Germany didn’t speak a word of German?

  40. Klaus Guest

    Take Adidas as an example, a German company with HQ in rural Bavaria. The majority of the board members are not German speaking foreigners…so what?

    But okay…

  41. Klaus Guest

    Funny. International Business Language is English and not French. I work at a German company in Germany and our business languages are German and English.

    Even some big companies in Germany have foreign CEOs that do not speak German. Because performance is more important than language.

  42. jfhscott Guest

    Wow.

    Tone deaf. I cannot imagine how dude has lived in Montreal for 14 years without finding life easier developing some facility with French. It is on signs all over the place, often with helpful English translations from which one might learn vocabulary and grammar rules simply through 14 years of osmosis.

    Has this dude consciously avoided the opportunity to learn?

    1. Klaus Guest

      Shouldn’t he be judged based on his performance rather than his language skills?

    2. jfhscott Guest

      He runs a company in a highly regulated industry . . . . one which looks to governments for favors. He does not get to choose what curious cultural nuances exist in Canada - they are imposed on him as much as they are imposed on everyone else. Giving a healthy dump about PR is part of his performance.

    3. askmrlee Guest

      One could say a similar parallel that you could live in Florida, Texas, Arizona, California, etc for 15 years and not know English and speak only Spanish. But what really gaulles (haha) me is that with a last name like Rousseau, il parle pas francais.

  43. Andy 11235 Guest

    He has to be living under a rock not to understand the importance of language to the quebecois. There have been recent pieces in the news about how many job postings (especially in MTL) require english language skills when the job itself does not actually require interacting with tourists or non-quebecois. It would be bad enough for the CEO of a flagship Canadian company not to be bilingual (or at least working on it), but...

    He has to be living under a rock not to understand the importance of language to the quebecois. There have been recent pieces in the news about how many job postings (especially in MTL) require english language skills when the job itself does not actually require interacting with tourists or non-quebecois. It would be bad enough for the CEO of a flagship Canadian company not to be bilingual (or at least working on it), but the HQ is in the french-speaking part of the country and he can't even answer a simple question like that after living there for 14 years?

  44. JJ Guest

    So if you don't speak French, it means you have a contempt for the Quebec culture??

    Give me a break.

    1. Franklin Guest

      Thought experiement: If a Mexican immigrant lived in Boise for 14 years and didn't learn any English, would you say the same thing? Would you not expect or hope for them to speak some English? If not, you may be holding contradictory opinions.

      English is not the official language of Idaho, but it is the language of the people. Perhaps you feel it would be nice for Mexican immigrants to learn it?

    2. Ryan Guest

      I hate to say it, but Quebec as a whole plays the victim card excessively.

      His job and mandate is to operate the business. Whether he could only speak French, or only speak Enlgish, it's a non-issue. If it's not a requirement for the job and his duties, it's moot. Nice to have, but not required.

      But of course, anyone and everyone in Quebec is offended. It's a blessing to not speak that atrocious accent,...

      I hate to say it, but Quebec as a whole plays the victim card excessively.

      His job and mandate is to operate the business. Whether he could only speak French, or only speak Enlgish, it's a non-issue. If it's not a requirement for the job and his duties, it's moot. Nice to have, but not required.

      But of course, anyone and everyone in Quebec is offended. It's a blessing to not speak that atrocious accent, with mixing of antiquated French and bastardized English...they simply need to relax.

  45. Nelson Guest

    They should try Belgium. When you go to the French part and you ask a coffee in Flemish in most cases you will have nothing. On the other hand whenever a guy from the French part asks for a coffee in Flanders in French he will have one.

    1. Klaus Guest

      Or the French part or Italian part of Switzerland. Same same.

  46. Jeff Guest

    What a load of nonsense. He should be free to communicate how he wishes.

    1. jfhscott Guest

      He cannot speak the first language of most of the headquarters' staff. Sure, he is the boss and all, but in 14 years in Montreal, he has surely been surrounded with French. Even without taking a formal class, my inference from his continued inability to converse in French is that he has avoided developing an important skill for living in Quebec.

    2. AGrumpyOldMan_GA New Member

      He made CEO of a major airline. Maybe he was developing those skills. Seems like he did a pretty good job of it.

    3. Kiwi Guest

      I’m not sure I’d agree on the assessment that it’s the first language of most AC HQ staff based on those that I’ve met, however he runs a former crown corp subject to all the federal regulation that comes along with that it seems short sighted politically to not have learned French no matter how much time you spend in Westmount

    4. Ryan Guest

      It's not a requirement for the job.

      So long as he can do his job right, whether he can only speak French or English, it does not matter.

  47. Corrado Guest

    J’ai parlé avec ton pamplemousse!

    Maintentant j’avais besoin de prendre un merde tout de suite!

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Sean M. Diamond

On a more serious note, multilingualism is pretty essential in the international airline business. My airline opened a route to a Francophone country last year (just pre-COVID) and one thing I insisted was that I did as much of the PR that I could manage in my high school/college level French. The set pieces like speeches and travel agency sales calls were easy enough to memorize and recite - by the end of it I even had some catch phrases and jokes thrown in - but the Q&A with journalists was extremely daunting. In the end though, I acquitted myself well enough that I could manage interviews (skillfully edited by them thankfully to remove the lengthy pauses while I translated everything in my head!) with RFI and TV5 in French. Bottom line is that with a little bit of effort, anybody can learn enough of any language to at least make a token effort in prepared remarks. A self deprecating introduction where he made fun of his poor grammar and offered to spare them twenty minutes of him massacring the language would have gone down much better than his seemingly tone deaf approach here. Live and learn.

5
West Coast Flyer Guest

The journalist was even speaking slowly to allow him an opportunity to comprehend and he still shrugged off the question without even bothering to try. Seems like he fits into Air Canada's culture extremely well.

3
Andy 11235 Guest

He has to be living under a rock not to understand the importance of language to the quebecois. There have been recent pieces in the news about how many job postings (especially in MTL) require english language skills when the job itself does not actually require interacting with tourists or non-quebecois. It would be bad enough for the CEO of a flagship Canadian company not to be bilingual (or at least working on it), but the HQ is in the french-speaking part of the country and he can't even answer a simple question like that after living there for 14 years?

3
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