The New Face Ad? The End of Dion? Harper’s Last Stand?

The Internet is abuzz over a Dion interview flub. Almost every Maclean’s pundit gets in on it (just waiting for Wells).

See the video below. Dion speaks English as a second language and has hearing trouble. Dion doesn’t understand the grammar employed in a question, which is so contradictory that it leaves him asking questions of his interviewer about the timing of the hypothetical scenario. Big deal. If you’ve ever tried to speak in another language, you’d know what trouble it can be when someone asks you a poorly worded question.

Enter Harper. The Prime Minister of Canada – in the midst of an economic crisis, in the middle of a war that is costing us $18,100,000,000 and the lives of many brave soldiers, in the middle of the election campaign – The Prime Minister delays his flight so that he can play the video clip for reporters and make fun of Dion’s English. The Prime Minister has not yet done anything similar all campaign. This is the moment the Prime Minister chooses to act decisively. Does he expect that this will gain votes? That this will play well in Quebec?

Time will tell if this will be a defining moment. I think it will hurt Harper badly. Other may think this will sink Dion. I could be dead wrong.

For now, here’s the video:

UPDATE: Two good comments here, and here.

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8 responses to “The New Face Ad? The End of Dion? Harper’s Last Stand?

  1. Watched the video expecting to see something big and exciting, but all I saw was someone who asked to have a question clarified. I don’t think this has anything to do with second language or hearing problems. The question is awkward (it swtiches tenses half way through) and is never explained clearly even after Dion asks for clarification.

    Btw, I’m making this comment as someone who speaks english as a first language and someone who won’t be voting Liberal.

  2. Hi Phil,

    The hearing impairment and EAL trouble is hard to measure, but I think that it is present based on experience with similar students with similar exceptionalities and the pedagogical literature. A typical native speaker would ignore the contradictory tenses and assume her own tense. A typical non-native speaker assumes that the confusion between the tenses is a result of some language barrier. In other words, Dion should be expected to hear the contradiction and be confused by it because he should be expeted to assume that the interviewer speaks fluent, correct English. As for the hearing problem, this affects confidence in the event of confusion. When confused, a listener with such an exceptionality should be expected to blame themselves for the error.

    Further, the failure of the interviewer to clarify only re-enforced for Dion that the problem lied in his linguistic skills or listening ability and not in the interviewer’s question.

    That said, I agree that the interview is a non-event. The real event is that the Prime Minister of Canada changed his schedule, delayed his flight, and called in the media to make fun of this moment. That just makes Harper a prick.

  3. Correction — this makes Harper even more of a prick.

  4. The question is so poorly worded that I’m surprised a trained journalist asked it. “If you were prime minister NOW, what would you have done THEN?” Huh?
    CTV/that “journalist” should have at least copped to asking a bad question. Better yet, they shouldn’t have made a story out of this.

  5. I agree with both Phil and Run.

    When they made the breathtaking announcement that they would show the video I was expecting some hugely embarrassing moment or Dion making an ass out of himself. I kept waiting for the shoe to drop and it never did. If anything, the reporter looked sort of dumb for not being able to muster enough of his first language to be able to rephrase his question
    without tense splitting.

    As for the Tory reaction ….. having a little trouble remembering that the country isn’t made up of old, anglophone white guys from the prairie ? In a country where such a huge percentage of the population are immigrants and there are two official languages, it was a bad example to try to score points on.

  6. Really I thought Harper was a total retard for that one.

    Attacking the guy for not being able to understand and saying how someone like that could possibly lead the country is just being completely ignorant.

    Ask the dude the question in French. Just because he didn’t understand the question in his 2nd language doesn’t make him an idiot.

  7. Hi Graham,

    Thanks for stopping by.

    I agree with you partially with two caveats:
    (1) Asking the dude a poorly worded question in French is pointless. He (and all our leaders) should speak passably in each official language. But, when asking questions of and reviewing answers from persons who speak a language that isn’t their mother tongue, we shouldn’t be as silly as CTV and Harper.

    (2) In education, we don’t use the word retard. I prefer to say that Harper is a person with exceptionalities.

  8. Okay then, retard comment conceded 😛

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