Canada: How does having two languages, French and English, affect neighbors, communities, government, work...
Might run out of memory
I am an English speaking Canadian that has lived in different parts of Canada and worked and travelled in Quebec so I feel somewhat qualified to voice my opinion but there are no simple answers to this question.
It helps to understand a little bit about the average French-Canadian that resides in the province of Quebec. First of all, they are often more emotional and passionate about their views on just about anything. They like their foods sweeter than the rest of the country. Just ask the beer manufacturers, for example. And maybe that's part of the explanation for why they are more energetic or maybe more wound up than the rest of the country.
The two language thing isn't really a problem other than it causes all kinds of problems for package designers. Saying the same thing in French as you would in English generally takes more words in French. Some labels just don't have enough room for all the required symbols, UPC codes, warnings, etc. that are required so a designer pretty much has to keep the design simple. So if you work in a retail store, you are constantly adjusting labels to read English everywhere but in Quebec, who are doing the opposite.
It has little effect on neighbours, communites and work because there is a dominant language there. It isn't mandatory to talk in both. It is mandatory to provide the ability to do business in either language. Most websites have a start page that allows you to choose a language preference much like a lot in California provide English and Spanish as options.
French is really only spoken mostly in Quebec and Ottawa (our capital) and not much elsewhere. If money changes hands, either language will find its way to make the deal go through.
As much as the government tries to legislate the use of two languages, it is the individuals that decide which language they use and since Canada has so many different cultures, English is the dominant language just like it is in the U.S.
Only when you travel to Quebec is it obvious that French is the language of choice because now it is legislated as the dominant language. I had the experience of working for a few companies that were based in the U.S. and tried to do business in Quebec without any success. Logic is not as heavily depended on as is emotional approaches to running a business or government.
In Ontario, there is more of a concern for how multi-culturism effects the communities because there are so many in and around Toronto. Tension and other problems result because they are at odds with different values while most will speak English first and only in their native tongue in their own groups.
Canadians are a pretty tolerant group. We seem to accept just about anybody and any language with ease. It may be one of the reasons why we don't seem to have a definitive characteristic that the rest of the world can tag us with like how Germans are perceived as stern and precise. It has a lot do with the fact that we are part of a lot of different people so how do you define a multiple personality with a few words.
English is the primary language despite what the press and the news media talk about because they would be breaking the rules if they didn't do so. It is really quite simple. The people who live in the community ultimately decide what language prevails. Sometimes it's not English or French, but most of the time it's English with a few hundred different ways to pronounce the same word. We still understand each other pretty well. We always seem to find ways to get along.
If you would like to read my take on more about what it is to be a Canadian please read the following which takes a more humourous approach to being a Canadian.