Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

July 06, 2016 10:00 ET

Commissioner Looks at Why Front-Line Government Employees Struggle to Greet the Public With "Hello! Bonjour!"

GATINEAU, QUÉBEC--(Marketwired - July 6, 2016) - Commissioner of Official Languages Graham Fraser released a study that examined why staff in federal institutions still have problems greeting the public in both official languages (also known as active offer of service). The study looked at the human and workplace factors that influence employees' decisions on whether to make an active offer.

"We found that front-line employees' misperceptions about clients influence their decision to provide a bilingual greeting," said the Commissioner. "Some employees we talked to said that they make on-the-spot assumptions about clients' language preferences. Others think that the public knows that services are available in both official languages, and so they assume that active offer is not necessary."

The study found that employees may neglect to provide a bilingual greeting in offices where there is not enough bilingual staff, where there is a high volume of clients or where there are few requests for service in the minority language.

It also found that federal institutions need to broaden their approach by focusing on the client experience and on service standards. "Managers have a leadership role to play in making active offer a priority and in explaining why it is so important," explained Mr. Fraser. "Clients often feel awkward about asking for service in the official language of their choice, or they fear that it may cause delays or embarrassment. Failing to provide a bilingual offer of service erodes Canadians' language rights."

Greeting clients with "Hello! Bonjour!" or "Bonjour! Hello!" or another similar greeting is a legal obligation in government offices or facilities that are designated as bilingual. The Commissioner, who will be leaving office in October, said that over the past decade he has found that, despite their efforts to improve bilingual service, federal institutions are still struggling to greet the public in both official languages.

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Contact Information

  • Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages
    Nelson Kalil
    Manager, Strategic Communications and Media Relations
    819-420-4714 or Toll-free: 1-877-996-6368
    Cellular: 613-324-0999
    nelson.kalil@clo-ocol.gc.ca