US to teach Canadians French

Americans are to teach Canadian soldiers to speak French -- one of Canada's two official languages -- after the military's own lessons received a failing grade, local media said Wednesday.

The department of national defense awarded a 285,000-dollar contract to Globelink Foreign Language Center in Colorado Springs to tutor Canadians at the North American Aerospace Defence Command headquarters, said the Ottawa Citizen.

However, they are unlikely to have many opportunities to practice their new language skills outside of the base, as a mere 0.3 percent of Colorado residents speak French, according to the last US census.

In May, Canada's language commissioner Graham Fraser issued a scathing review of the Canadian military's bilingualism training program.

He said also: "Despite four decades of work and some undeniable successes, Canada has not taken full advantage of its bilingualism."

French and English have been spoken in Canada since its colonization by the French and British starting in 1608. But for many years English occupied a de facto privileged position.

Ottawa passed the first Official Languages Act in 1969 to support the development of linguistic minority communities -- anglophones in mostly French-speaking Quebec province, and francophones in the rest of Canada.

The term official bilingualism refers to the policies, constitutional provisions, and laws which give English and French a special legal status over other languages in Canada?s courts, parliament and administration.

A member of the special warfare command poses for photographs as he parachutes from a helicopter near Seoul. REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak