Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: Saskatchewan

But they don’t speak the same French!

I don’t know how many times I have been told that there is no point in trying to learn French. You see, they say, the French spoken in Québec is so different from the French spoken in France that they cannot understand one another. If you study Parisian French in school, people in Québec won’t understand a word you say. For proof, they may recount some story from years ago of a group of students from Saskatchewan who had studied French in school and then visited Québec with their teacher. They couldn’t understand a word that was spoken by Quebeckers and the Quebeckers could not understand them.

There you have it, irrefutable proof that it is no use trying to learn French. A large number of English Canadians have been told this so often that they know it is true beyond the shadow of a doubt.

Permit me to introduce some doubts. If such a language barrier exists, why are there plane loads of people going back and forth between France and Québec every day? Entertainers, politicians, tourists, all kinds of people, they don’t seem to have any difficulty understanding or being understood. Why is it that immigrants from France, Belgium, Switzerland, Lebanon, Algeria, Morocco, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroun, Congo and many other Francophone countries, have no problem living and working with the French-speaking people of Canada?

I took French for five years, grades 8 to 12, in a small town school here in Saskatchewan. I did not learn to speak French, nor to read it. I could understand a few words of what was said on French language radio, but I was nowhere close to being able to speak it. That takes a lot more than a couple of hours a week studying the basics of French. Years later, when I became more serious about learning French, I found that some of those basics had stuck with me.

A teacher cannot just pour French into the brain of a student, that student has to be able to practice as he learns. That is why French immersion works. Students are taught all subjects in French, except English. They speak French in the lunch room and on the playground. When they graduate, they are able to communicate freely in French in any situation.

By the way, studies show that students who learn to be bilingual do better in English and all other subjects than those who speak only English. Learning a new language appears to wake up areas of the brain that we might not otherwise use.

Seeing French as a Bridge

Some languages are walls, some are artefacts, a few are bridges. A language used only by one tribe or ethnic group is useful for communication within that group, but it is also a wall that prevents communication with, and assimilation by, another group.

Some languages are no longer in daily use but are studied as artefacts for understanding and preserving a heritage. Examples are Gaelic in Nova Scotia and Michif in Saskatchewan. (Michif, a blend of French and Cree, was once widely spoken by the Métis people.)

A member of one tribe wishing to communicate with members of another must either learn their tribal language or yet another language which can serve as a bridge between many tribes. For example, Kiswahili, a blend of Bantu tribal languages and Arabic, is spoken in many East African countries.

There are two world-wide bridge languages, English and French, spoken on every continent and learned as a second language by people in almost every country of the world. I assume that readers of this blog know quite a bit about English, but perhaps not a lot about French as a bridge language.

A generation or two ago it appeared that French in Saskatchewan was on the verge of extinction. It was only in the 1980’s that it became possible to establish French language schools. French immersion schools began in the 1990’s. Today the Conseil des écoles fransaskoises operates 15 schools in communities across the province. These are open to children from homes where at least one parent speaks French. In addition, there are 85 French immersion schools, for children with no prior knowledge of French. Enrolment in these schools is increasing every year.

Non French-speaking parents see French as a bridge to new opportunities for their children. Among those parents are many of Hispanic and Asian descent. French-language radio and TV is available everywhere, the internet gives access to unlimited French-language resources.

The last census showed that there are 750,000 people in the four western provinces of Canada who consider themselves fluent in French. Not all are people of French ancestry. On several occasions a few years ago I dropped in on meetings of a French Toastmasters Club in Saskatoon while my wife was at medical appointments. The secretary of the club at that time was a young lady whose last name was Reddekopp.

The situation in Louisiana is much like Saskatchewan 25 years ago. After trying to suppress French for many years, the state has decided to celebrate its French heritage. There are now French-language schools and French immersion schools. The state has placed billboards at entry points proclaiming Bienveue en Louisiane, and joined the international Francophonie organisation. The state of Maine is making tentative steps to encourage the learning of French.

There are currently 300 million French-speaking people in the world and it is estimated that by 2050 there will be 500 million. The Church of God in Christ, Mennonite has congregations and/or missions in seven of the French-speaking countries of Africa.

Personally, I feel there are two reasons for Anabaptist/Mennonite Christians to be interested in French. We are accustomed to dating the history of our faith from the activities of Dutch and German speaking people in the 16th century. But for a millennium prior to that the heartland of Anabaptist Christianity was found in the south of France and among the French-speaking people in the Alpine valleys. Much of that history was obscured by intense persecution, but I feel it is worth investigating and attempting to sort out the true from the false that history books tell us of those times. The second reason is that there are so many French-speaking people throughout the world who need to hear the gospel in a purer form than what is being told by many evangelists today.

Changes in the weather

Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay 

It is mid-winter in the great white north country, but yesterday morning the temperature shot up to 6°C and it rained. The rain stopped by dinner time, then the wind came up. It started snowing in the afternoon and the wind came up higher – gusts up to 100 km/hour.

We were cosy and warm in our home, even with the wind howling around us. Then the electricity went off at 9 pm. I started a fire in the wood stove, then bundled up and went out to the wood pile in our back yard to get more. I made it to where the wood pile should be. I am sure it is still there, but now it is buried under thick, hard-packed snow. I came back inside and decided there wasn’t anything else to do but go to bed.

The electricity came back on at 10:30. That means there was a SaskPower crew out there in miserable weather, working hard to take care of us. Thank you folks.

In texting with our daughter this morning I mentioned that we couldn’t open our front door. The storm door opens out and the snow was packed tight against us. It didn’t take long until our oldest grandson was here shoveling the snow away and shoveling the front walk. I could have done it myself, maybe I need to be careful what I say to his Mom. Thank you Nathan.

I’m feeling kind of pampered this morning.

The first car my mother saw

My mother, who was born in January of 1908, told me that the first automobile that she ever saw was a Gray-Dort. Her uncle bought it when Mom was still a little girl and it was a sensation in their little community in south-western Saskatchewan.. I don’t know what colour or model her uncle’s car was, but it would have looked something like the picture below.

Gray-Dort Motors of Chatham, Ontario produced 20,000 automobiles from 1915 to 1925. The company was a successor to the William Gray & Sons carriage company which was founded in 1855.

Dreams and happiness

Let me ask you a question — if you achieve the thing you are dreaming of, will you be happy?

Tom Sukanen came to Saskatchewan from Finland as a young man with immense strength and talent. He was a friend to all. He helped neighbours build their homes, work their land, repair their machinery, thresh their crops.

Through tragic circumstances he lost his family. He withdrew from his neighbours and began building a small ship that he would float up the Saskatchewan River to Hudson Bay and return to Finland. He built every part of the ship himself. He knew his business, he had charts of the river system, he knew the seas – it would have worked.

Tom Sukanen’s ship, now in a museum south of Moose Jaw

The drought of the 1930’s intervened. Tom Sukanen almost starved to death, and died a broken man in 1943 at the age of 65.

Would he have been happy if he had managed to return to Finland and receive a hero’s welcome for his accomplishment?

Or did he experience true happiness when he was helping his neighbours, only to turn his back on that to follow his dream?

We all need to follow a dream. But if it is a selfish dream, we will not find happiness at the end. Let our dream rather be of helping others find happiness. Then genuine happiness will sneak up and surprise us.

He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he. Proverbs 14:21.

Good news, somewhat disguised

1918, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. People began dying from the Spanish Flu in the first week of October. Sick soldiers returning from the European front were housed at the Moose Jaw Armoury and the disease spread from there.

The Moose Jaw and District Medical Officer, Dr. Turnbull, ordered all gathering places closed until further notice. That included schools, places of worship, pool halls and so on. He asked for volunteers to work with the sick and for people to wear masks and not gather. The military district sent soldiers home directly and stopped housing them at the armoury. Their discharge papers would be mailed to them. Dr. Turnbull converted Prince Arthur School and the hotel on the South Hill into hospitals.

When the war ended in the second week of November, thousands of people thronged the streets in celebration. Dr. Turnbull feared a renewed outbreak of Flu , but it didn’t happen. The five weeks of closure got Moose Jaw through the worst of the outbreak. It wasn’t over, but the rapid spread had been stopped, infection and death numbers were lower. Dr. Turnbull re-opened schools, pool halls, places of worship, gathering places and closed one ‘relief’ hospital.

2020, France. A month ago, in the face of an exponential rise in COVID-19 cases, the government decreed a strict shutdown. At first the number of cases and deaths continued to increase. But during the past week the number of infections and deaths have decreased every day. President Macron has now announced a gradual relaxation of the confinement rules, beginning this week.

Meanwhile, back here in Saskatchewan, COVID cases continue to rise and the government says that new restrictions will be announced today. That should be good news, shouldn’t it?

Image by Please support me! Thank you! from Pixabay 

Shelley didn’t live in Saskatchewan

Image by Richard Duijnstee from Pixabay 

If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

That line comes from Ode to the West Wind by Percy Bysshe Shelley. This morning, here in Saskatchewan, spring seems far away. It’ll be five months until this snow is gone.

STATISTICS DON’T LIE

BUT HARDLY ANYONE UNDERSTANDS WHAT THEY SAY

Public opinion polls are not infallible. At best they give a snapshot of what people are thinking at the moment the polling agency spoke to them. At worst, the snapshot is poorly focussed and the results unreliable. Polling results are presented as being accurate within a certain range (±1.5% is about as good as it gets), 19 times our of 20. It is always possible that this poll is the one time out of twenty the sample was not representative and therefore the results are not to be trusted.

A provincial election took place here in Saskatchewan on Monday. A month ago, shortly after the election was called, a public opinion poll reported that support for the incumbent party was 27% higher than support for the main opposition party. Shortly before the election two other polls showed a difference of 18%, leading the opposition party to rejoice that it was on the verge of major gains. Now that the votes are in and counted we see that the incumbent party received 31% more votes than the opposition party (62% for the party in power, 31% for the main opposition party, the remainder split between an assortment of small parties).

What happened? I can’t answer for this particular case, but a lot of things can go wrong in gathering and interpreting statistics. For the results to be trustworthy one needs a sample that is representative and random and questions carefully designed to obtain a clear answer. The results need to be intelligently explained, something most media outlets don’t have the expertise to do.

There is a group of major polling companies in Canada whose results are generally reliable. They are Ipsos-Reid, Léger, Environics, EKOS and perhaps one or two others. The first Saskatchewan poll was produced by one of these companies. The two later polls were produced by smaller companies that do not have a history of producing remarkably reliable results. The stated confidence levels for these polls was ±3.9% and ±4.4%. Even with that generous margin of error, their predictions were far off the mark.

During a Saskatchewan election campaign 20 years ago, results of an opinion poll weree widely reported in the media shortly before the election. It was a poorly executed and poorly interpreted poll, but I believe it influenced the election results. One major flaw was that the results showed something like 35% of voters were undecided. This was compounded when those interpreting the results ignored that number, assuming that those people weren’t going to vote. This resulted in a definite edge for one party. But when you subtract a vary large group of respondents from the results, the margin of error balloons from ±1.5% to some stratospheric number.

That poll was an amateur effort by a small consulting company and should never have been published. In publishing those results the newspapers were showing that either they didn’t have a clue what they were doing, or they were deliberately interpreting the results to favour one party. Take your choice, I don’t know which it was.

Seldom Seen Saskatchewan fauna

canada-porcupine-1554951_640

Image by Bernell MacDonald from Pixabay

I have hardly ever seen a live porcupine. They are nocturnal, reclusive and prefer wooded areas. We know they are around by the steady stream of dogs brought to veterinary clinics with their snouts full of quills. We occasionally see a porcupine lying by the side of the road, a result of trying to cross the road in the dark. They move slowly and wear no reflective gear. They never run from predators, their quills being an effective deterrent. Automobiles, however, do not know that and dogs appear to be slow learners.

The northern pocket gopher spends most of its life underground in its network of tunnels. We do not have moles in Saskatchewan, the mounds of soil that appear in fields, gardens and lawns are the work of this little guy. The underground activity of the northern pocket gopher provides ecological benefits to the soil, but at great inconvenience to farmers and homeowners. We only know of their presence by seeing fresh mounds of soil appear in our fields, gardens and lawns. And by the occasional one that falls victim to our nocturnal cats.

It took twelve years

shutterstock_1200843406

The photo is from Shutterstock, not from our garden, but we finally have a rhubarb plant worthy of the name.

We moved onto this yard in the fall of 2007. The house had been placed here a few years earlier and trees planted around it — poplar, caragana, lilac, Manitoba maple — the kind of trees that grow quickly and survive in our cold winters and dry summers. But there was no rhubarb, and a place can’t be called a home without a rhubarb plant or two in the backyard.

The next spring I bought a rhubarb plant at the Canadian Tire garden centre. I planted it in a back corner of the garden. It grew — but so did the trees. That poor rhubarb plant did it’s best, coming up every spring and trying to survive, but never amounted to much.  The trees shaded it and their roots sucked up the available moisture.

Last fall we prepared a new spot for it, in an open area far from the trees. I dug deep so as to get all the root and we transplanted it. This spring it rewarded us with prolific growth. This is what it had been waiting for all along.

Today we had rhubarb crisp for dinner dessert, and was it ever good! I’m not sure what variety this plant is, but it is the least astringent-tasting rhubarb that I have ever eaten. I wonder if I can find a second plant, so we can eat rhubarb all summer long in coming years?

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