Montreal used to be a bilingual city. It now has a unilingual-French “face” which is better for its majority-French-speaking citizens, I suppose, but not so wonderful for all the speakers of English, Italian, Greek, Chinese, and so on, who still live here.
Over 100,000 mostly anglophone residents have left Montreal since 1976, when an avowed separatist government took over the reins of Quebec and passed laws declaring the supremacy of French. A kind of frenzied affirmative-action phase followed, as a spate of laws were passed (e.g. Law 101), which decreed that French would now take precedence in the province, and in fact Quebec would now be unilingual French – regardless of the fact that it was (and is) still a province of officially bilingual Canada.
For us anglo Montrealers who were schooled here during the 50s, 60s and prior, this “French First” decree has made things particularly difficult. In our educational era, French language lessons consisted of “la porte” and “la fenêtre.” Not too useful. Yes, many of us took additional classes later on, but let’s face it, it’s virtually impossible to acquire fluency in a language unless you are completely immersed in it.
Immersion classes didn’t gain traction until the ′70s. You really need to live in the language, or at least work in it, speaking, hearing and reading it all the time. My lack of French skills hampered my various job-hunts throughout my working years, since perfect bilingualism was almost always a prerequisite.
In 2016, the “face” of Montreal is still very French, in spite of the incredible linguistic diversity of its inhabitants. I don’t see this changing anytime soon. I guess I’ve become used to it.
I’m newly retired now, and since I live in a suburb with a very high proportion of anglophones, I get along fine with my rudimentary French. I exchange a “Bonjour!” and “Merci” with bus drivers and other francophones I encounter. It is, after all, still my Montréal!