When Bilingualism in Canada is taken to the extreme: multilingual keyboard
Before I start, I want to make clear that I am generally positive towards bilingualism and multilingualism. I myself am a bilingual Korean and English speaker with Japanese in the process of becoming my third language. Speaking different languages not only offers more channels of communication but also richness in thought patterns because what may be expressed in a certain way in one language may be expressed in a totally different way in another. I know official bilingualism is costing Canadians quite a bit financially, but it is also a part of what founded Canada's linguistic and cultural diversity and I do not mind paying my tax dollars to maintain it.
That said, I'd also like to bring something to attention. I've only noticed it after I brought home a new laptop a few weeks ago from Future Shop. I never saw it coming. It was the last thing on my mind when I was browsing for laptops. I did not waste any time in Future Shop: I knew exactly which laptop I wanted so I went straight up to the first Future Shop staff I could spot and got my laptop. I drove home in eager anticipation of getting my hands on the sleek Acer Timeline 4810t.
I got home and carefully unboxed the laptop. Only when I turned it on for the first time and started typing I noticed something wasn't quite right. I kept getting a backslash whenever I pressed the enter key. I took a careful look at the keyboard for the first time and... WT(*sensored)?? what's with this keyboard? The backslash key was occupying where the enter key should have been, and the left shift key was cut in half and the other half was unjustly taken by another backslash key.
(picture of the multilingual keyboard)
I called Future Shop the very next day to see if I could get the laptop replaced with the one with the standard US keyboard. "Hi, I bought a laptop from your store yesterday and the keyboard is... well, French. I was wondering if you have ones with the US standard keyboard." The guy on the phone, in a clearly annoyed tone with a tint of arrogance, said something about how Canada is a multicultural country and we have to use them by law. Um, you probably meant multilingual and not multicultural, but I get your point.
I hung up the phone and was absolutely furious. So now every laptop user in Canada is forced to use this keyboard instead of the standard US layout most computer users are familiar with. This makes sense in Quebec and perhaps in Ottawa where French is widely used, but in (the name of town)? Almost no one in this suburban town of 131,000 uses French and yet they all have to be inconvenienced by this 'French' keyboard? I really see no logic in this. I'm sure the same story goes for many other parts of Canada where French is just another 'foreign' language, regardless of its status as one of the official languages in Canada.
Only after a bit of googling had I realized this was the infamous Canadian Multilingual Standard keyboard. My annoyance with the keyboard increased day by day. I kept pressing the backslash keys when I meant to press either the enter or the shift key, which greatly affected my typing. My first solution was to use a free program called SharpKeys to remap the backslash keys. It helped, but it wasn't quite the same as using the standard US keyboard. Besides, I was out of luck when I actually wanted a backslash because backslash keys were remapped into shift and enter keys.
So I ended up ordering a replacement keyboard from a Chinese vendor through eBay. They charged me US$16 + $2.50 for shipping. I received it this week, nearly a month after having placed the order. After spending a whole day figuring out how, I finally managed to sub out the multilingual keyboard with the new one. I couldn't be happier with the new keyboard.
(picture of the laptop with the keyboard pried out)
I'm not even again the multilingual keyboard. There are clearly those who need it. However, the keyboard should not be forced onto the majority of people who have been using the standard US keyboard all their lives. It's like the government forcing its people to use another language, a kind of absurdity that takes place only in colonized countries with the linguistic freedom taken away. If anything, Canadian consumers should have both choices available. I had enough expertise to pry open my laptop and replace the keyboard, but even this downright voids any warranty I had on the laptop. I should never have to go this extent to get a rather popular keyboard. Bilingualism is good, but this is taken to the extreme and would make some people understandably harbor hostility towards bilingualism.
I'm going to send an invoice for my keyboard and labour to Stephen Harper in the next few days to see if he gives a foot.