OQLF says use of 'Bonjour-Hi' is on the rise

Despite efforts from some French-language purists to stamp it out, the use of the 'Bonjour-Hi' greeting by shopkeepers to greet their customers is on the rise.

That finding is part of a series of studies released on Friday by the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) on the state of French in Quebec.

The OQLF finds that in general, workplaces in the province are drifting away from being French-only environments, and becoming increasingly bilingual. the number of French-only speakers in the workplace has dropped from 60 to 56 per cent over the last five years.

And as for the 'Bonjour-Hi' greeting — or some variation thereof — its use has grown from 4 per cent to 8 per cent between 2010 and 2017.

The use of English-only greetings, on the other hand, increased from 12 to 17 per cent over that same period.

French-only greetings have dropped from 84 per cent to 75 per cent in that seven-year time frame — however, once inside the store, 96 per cent of customers report they are able to conduct their business in French.

OQLF president Ginette Galarneau says clearly, her agency has some work to do in promoting the use of French-only greetings.

"We must continue to make people aware of the importance of saying 'bonjour' when we greet customers in a store," Galarneau said at a Friday morning news conference. "I believe we need to continue to sensitize people and promote the practice."

Plante favors 'Bonjour'

The 'Bonjour-Hi' greeting became an issue for public debate in late 2017, when then-Parti Québécois leader Jean-François Lisée introduced a motion at the National Assembly discouraging the bilingual greeting, in favour of the unilingual 'Bonjour' one. It passed unanimously with the support of Liberal, CAQ and Québec Solidaire MNAs.

Back then, mayor Valérie Plante, fresh off her election victory, supported the motion, saying she was proud of being the mayor of a French-speaking metropolis, and that the French fact needed to be "showcased".

Speaking on Friday at City Hall, her position doesn't appear to have changed.

"What I encourage, of course, is that our shopkeepers use 'bonjour'. Period. Everyone understands 'bonjour', and everyone loves it. It's something that brings people together," Plante said, suggesting that she wouldn't be opposed to "sensitization" measures.