Rob Nicholson was named to the post by Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Monday following the abrupt resignation of John Baird.
"We have a country, Canada, where there are two official languages," Couillard said Tuesday at the provincial legislature. "It's a senior government post and I would have expected at least that the minister of foreign affairs could be able to say a few words in French."
He said the choice of the unilingual Nicholson was "far from desirable."
Couillard noted that Nicholson's predecessor was not fluently bilingual, but Baird was able to hold a conversation — or at least the beginnings of a conversation — in French.
The premier invited the new federal minister to take French lessons to improve his skills in the language of diplomacy.
"It's not too late to take courses, there are others who have already done that," Couillard said.
International Relations Minister Christine St-Pierre said Harper should have made bilingualism a priority in naming a new minister.
"He represents Canada, he represents a bilingual country, he represents francophones and for us Quebecers, it's very important that the minister of foreign affairs speaks French," she said as the national assembly returned to work after a holiday break.
St-Pierre suggested Nicholson's nomination may only be temporary, since a federal election is scheduled to be held this fall.
"If Harper takes power, there will be a new cabinet and, at that point we'll tell him how important it is for us," St-Pierre said.
Nicholson listens to translations in an earpiece when he is questioned in French by the opposition in the House of Commons.
The responses by the Conservative cabinet minister are in English.
Nicholson, 62, was born in Niagara Falls, Ont., and represents that federal riding in Parliament.
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