Home » Uncategorized » “Our 32 accents” Series: PRAIRIE & Western Canada French accents – Post 7 of 7 – (#92)

“Our 32 accents” Series: PRAIRIE & Western Canada French accents – Post 7 of 7 – (#92)

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The Western Provinces

This post is divided into the following sections:

1.  Overview
2.  Characteristics of Prairie French
3.  Examples of the “Eastern Central Alberta / Northern Saskatchewan sub-accent
3.A  Chauvin, Alberta: A unique (and endangered) French sub-accent isolate
4.  Central Albertan sub-Accent
5.  Alberta’s Northwestern French sub-accent
6.  Southern Saskatchewan sub-accent
7.  Manitoba’s French Accent
8.  A brief word on the current status of French in Western Canada
9.  More Changes are occuring / Des changements supplémentaires arrivent
9.A  Statistics
10.  British Columbia’s (and the three Territory’s) unique situation
10.A  British Colombia & Maillardville
10.B  Yukon
10.C  Northwest Territories / Nunavut
11.  Last Thoughts

1. Overview of Prairie and Western Canada French Accents

In this last post in our accent series, we’re going to look at the French accents in Western Canada.  For me personally, these accents are a little closer to my heart because I was surrounded with them when I was growing up, during my education and work. They were also the accents of friends I had when I was younger when I still lived in Alberta.

French can be heard in all the provinces and territories of Western Canada.  However, as a settler’s language where entire Francophone towns and villages were established (including a local accent), settler communities only reached as far as Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

NsAcnts2

nuances accents français de l'ouest du Canada 1

Nuances légende

Click to enlarge
Nuances legend

For me, Prairie accents are also highly symbolic of years of struggle of a Francophone community which was trying to preserve what was, for many decades, a dying heritage in Western Canada.   They fought hard, and now after many years of blood, sweat and tears, French has gained more legal protections, rights and institutions over the past several years in Western Canada than it had in the previous 100 years combined.  Relatively speaking, there are a number of very recent events which gives rise to encouraging news regarding the situation of French in Western Canada (more of that further down in this post).

Despite an increase in bilingualism in Western Canada among Anglophones, the previous 60 or 70 years took a major toll on the Francophone community in Western Canada, including a major dent in its accent.

The Francophone community is once again on the upswing in Alberta with a new wave of immigration to new parts of the province – primarily from Québec, and to a lesser extent from France, Africa, and other Francophone countries.  Things are now looking more positive for French in Western Canada – and it is bound to have an effect on the overall French accent spoken in the West (and with the new Francophone immigration trends, perhaps we’re also at the initial stages of seeing new accents being formed – something which may be of great interest to linguists).

There is certainly a distinct Western Canadian French accent.   But the question as to how many accents may exist is a question of some debate.   I’ve been fortunate to have lived in or around four Francophone regions of the Prairie Provinces, and to have had a number of interactions in an additional two regions.

I have lived in the Francophone regions of

  • (i) Rivière-la-Paix (Alberta), (which speaks the Northwest French Alberta sub-accent)
  • (ii) Lac La Biche / Bonnyville / St-Paul (Alberta), (which speaks the East-Central Alberta / Northern Saskatchewan French Sub Accent)
  • (iii) Bonnie Doon (Alberta),  (Which speaks the Central Alberta French sub-accent)
  • (iv) St-Jean-Baptiste in the Vallée de la rivière rouge (Manitoba south of Winnipeg),  (which speaks the Manitoba French accent)

I’ve had a good number of interactions with the Francophone regions of

  • (v) Gravelbourg in Saskatchwan (my grandmother grew up close to Gravelbourg), (Which speaks the Southern Saskatchewan French sub-accentand
  • (vi) one of my former employers was Francophone from the Francophone town of St-Lazare, Northwest of Brandon, in the Southwest corner of Manitoba. (Which speaks the Manitoba French accent).

I can pretty much say with certainty that there seems to be a difference in accents between Manitoba and Alberta/Sasktachewan.

  • I listed Manitoba as accent region 33 on the map.
  • I listed Alberta & Saskatchewan as accent region 32 on the map.
  • I drew a line on the map, number 31, demarcating the approximate area where I believe the accent shift occurs between French on either side of it.

I would go further to say that there are even subtle accent differences between the various regions within zones 32 and 33.  But those nuances are subtle (ie: people I played hockey with in Falher, Alberta seemed to speak a bit different from people in the Edmonton region, and again different from Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan) – but overall, for simplicity, I’ll simply state that there seems to be two main accent “groupings” (to left and right of the accent line),

Although I can recognize the Prairie accents, It’s more difficult for me to describe them since I’ve been around them so much (can you describe the accent of your own day-to-day peers?  It’s tougher to describe the accent of your own region than it is of another region).

encadré1

AB R-L-P4

AB-SK7

So Sk 4

MB-Vls 3

When I speak Prairie joual, some people in Eastern Canada believe it has similarities with Québec’s North-Coast, sometimes of Gaspésie, and sometimes of other regions of Québec, including some trace aspects of Montréal Joual.

A number of expressions and words in the recording below are from rural (very rural) Prairie French Joual.   You can hear my recording (yup… this is me!) which I made here in the post of Joual:

Joual = Informal French – an Audio Post with Explanations (click for the post)

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(Only French CC available for this audio track.  You’ll have to go to the post on JOUAL to get the English transcript)

Here are a few of the Western Canadian rural joual phrases I used in the first few sentences of the recording:

  • Canté –
    • “J’canté ben de bonne heure l’autre soir…”
    • “Je me suis couché de bonne heure l’autre soir… “
    • “I went to bed early the other night…” 
  • Forcaille; mettre tôt les pates à terre –
    • au forcaille de mettre tôt les pates à terre … ”
    • Il fallait me lever tôt le matin …”
    • “I had to wake up early in the morning…”
  • Afin d’être –
    • “D’abord, afin d’être, pas loin à deux coins… ”
    • “D’abord, pour expliquer un peu… pas loin de chez moi…”
    • “First, to explain the situation, not far from where I live…”
  •  Cotteur; crier 
    • “… su l’cotteur quand k’y crient d’lait ou aute…
    • “… au bord de la rue, quand ils achètent du lait ou autre…
    • “… on the curb (or shoulder of the road), when they buy milk or other things…”

(The Peace-River district has many settlers who came from Lac-St-Jean in the 1930s and 40s… I think the word “cotteur” may have come with them from Lac-St-Jean in Québec, and has now made its way into Western Canadian French).

  •  Boutte prime (or said as “gros bout le premier“ in Montréal joual); tourniquetter –
    • … quelqu’un à fait de moé un gros buotte prime en’m forçant tourniquetter … ”
    • “… quelqu’un m’a fait lever du pied gauche en me faisant sauter du lit…”
    • “… someone woke me up on the wrong side of things, making me jump from my bed…”
  • Criard; mou à guenille; d’accoutumance
    • “… pas un criard mou à guenille d’accoutumance, mon tabarwatte! … ”
    • “… et ce n’était pas un klaxon tranquil comme d’habitude, je vous jure!…
    • “… and, boy, let me tell you!… it was not a soft honking noise like you’re used to hearing…”

The above video is an example of Alberta French joual which is spoken in the East-Central Alberta (the East-Central Alberta & Northern Saskatchewan Sub-Accent Zone).  It’s an accent region which begins North of Végreville (what I consider to be my home region), and stretches up through Lac Santé, Duvernay-Brosseau, Plamondon, Lafond and St-Brides, into the larger Albertan towns of Lac La Biche, St-Paul and Bonnyville.  The accent zone then crosses the Saskatchewan border to encompass the Saskatchewan towns of Batoche, St-Isadore-de-Bellevue, Lepine, St-Benedict, Raynaud, St-Brieux and St-Louis which are situated between Saskatoon and Prince-Albert.

There is another form of similar Joual in the Northwestern Alberta Sub-Accent Zone, but with a different accent (in the Rivière-la-Paix region).

The Joual spoken in the Central Alberta sub-accent zone (the region around Edmonton) can actually be quite different.  That spoke in Southern Saskatchewan and Southern Manitoba is also very different.

To this I would add that the difference in Joual between the regions can be so great, that when I used to make the one-hour, 100km trip from Vegreville to Edmonton (where I also lived for a few years), I would have to avoid speaking the rural style of East-Central Joual, and speak with much more standardized French (albeit with an East-Central Alberta French accent).   Otherwise I would risk not being fully understood by urban Franco-Albertans in Edmonton.

I have always found it fascinating how a short distance of 100 to 200kms can make such a large difference in accents and language characteristics.  

The following example is a more standardized style of French, but with an East-Central Albertan sub-accent.

This is my day-to-day accent which I most naturally speak with.

For my 300th blog post on July 1, 2015 (coincidentally Canada Day), I made the following audio/visual post.   In the video, you can hear my rural-based East-Central Alberta French sub-accent.

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It is especially interesting (and sometimes even comical) when I travel in Québec and speak with my normal East-Central Alberta accent (the second videos above).

People in Québec are not quite sure what to make of me when they hear my East-Central Alberta French accent.

In Montréal people often have a tendency to think I come from Québec’s far East (the North Coast, Gaspésie), or even Acadia.

When I travel to the North Coast or Québec City, people are simply confused to no end.   Someone in the North Coast even asked me once if I was from Iles-de-la-Madeleine.

But yet, I do not think that Prairie French accents sound anything like Eastern Québec or Acadian accents.

Example:  A few weeks ago I was in Montréal.  A waitress took my order and said “You’re from Sept-Iles, right?”  (Sept-Iles is a city on Québec’s North-Coast).  I said “No, I’m from the West”, to which she responded “Oh! You’re from Baie-Commeau!! I knew you were from the North-Coast!!!”  (Baie-Commeau is a North-Coast city which is a 2 hour drive WEST of Sept-Iles).   I half laughed.  At least it makes for amusing stories!  🙂

It becomes even funnier in Québec when I speak with Alberta Joual (the first video above).   I actually avoid doing so in Québec because many Québécois are not used to it and have a difficult time understanding it (or sometimes cannot understand it at all).


2.  Characteristics of Prairie French

Vowels

In general terms, the Western Canadian French accent (or Prairie French accent, as I call it;  “prairien” in French) is more nasalized than other types of French.  Verbs are kept short and high, and are formed with a smaller opening of the tongue — much as the “u” is shortened in the word “tu”.  But in Prairie French, this same type of verb shortening can occur with other verbs, such as “e”, “i”, and “o”.  These latter verbs are formed with the tongue held roughly in the same place when pronouncing “tu”.

“R’s”

The ways which “R’s” are pronounced in the West are hit-and-miss (here is one area where there can be differences even between towns and villages…).

They are sometimes “uvular” (rolled) like several older accents in Eastern Canada.

But other times the “R’s” are “alveolar” (palatal or flat).   However, when “flat”, they’re not the same type of palatal “R” pronunciation as other parts of Canada or Québec.   Rather, the “R’s” are almost a “neutral” palatal (not an “anglicized” R, but just a different way of pronouncing them).

The “R’s” can be very community specific (for example, my own pronunciation of “R’s” from Végreville/Brosseau-Duvernay/Lac-Santé are rolled, but just down the road in Edmonton or even St-Paul, youth now pronounce flattened R’s).


3. East Central Alberta & Northern Saskatchwan sub-accent examples:

I can offer some addtitional videos as examples:

As a point of comparison, here are two more videos I made for the 302nd post.  You can view the post by clicking here:  “Hard-core French” learning exercise (#302)

You can hear examples of two of Alberta’s own home grown accents from BOTH of Canada’s “official languages”:  both my Alberta ENGLISH accent, and my East-Central Albertan rural FRENCH accent.

NOTE:  The second video is supposed to be humorous (read the full post #302 to get the full context — I say this because I do NOT usually go around swearing like this).

My Northern Alberta ENGLISH Accent:

Versus My EAST-CENTRAL Alberta FRENCH accent

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(Again, this last video was supposed to be FUNNY (in the context of another post).  So do NOT go thinking I usually walk around like some frustrated psycho with a potty-mouth).  I hope my mom didn’t hear that!   😮    😉

Quickly moving on (after that traumatic experience I just put you through)… … 

As I showed you in the maps above, East-Central Alberta and Northern Saskatchewan together form one accent region.   I am from the extreme end of that accent region (from Végreville, Alberta in the westernmost part of the region), and the tiny village of Zenon Park is at the other extreme end of the accent region (in easternmost part of the region in Eastern Saskatchewan).

Yet, despite a HUGE distance — a 7 hour drive, or 700 kilometres of separation between Zénon Park and Végreville — the French accent in this accent sub-zone remains constant.

Case in point; compare my accent from Végreville (above) with the accent with Zenon Park (below).  [I guess there’s truth to the saying that Alberta and Saskatchewan look at each other very much as one people, joined at the hip — but in this case, by accents].

znpk.2

Veg-Zen1

znpk.1
A cultural sidenote from this particular accent zone (East-Central Alberta & Northern Saskatchewan):

Traditional French Canadian music remains alive an well in this particular accent zone.

Here is a video with traditional music from the Francophone town of Debden, Saskatchewan (North of Prince Albert).

deb.1

In the video below, this is (yes, admittedly) some sort of weird French pole dance for kids (but not the kind you’re thinking).   Same accent zone – this time from the town of St-Paul, Alberta (Personnally, I was never a pole dancer or the pole dancing type).

Again, listen very carefully to the accent spoken by the man in yellow suit… You’ll notice it is the same as mine (St-Paul is a 1:10 hour, or 110km drive North of Végreville, still the same sub-accent zone).

One of the Alberta French-music artists I grew up listening to was Franco-Albertaine singer Crystal Plamondon.  She is from the Francophone town of Plamondon (still in the Alberta East-Central & Northern Saskatchewan French accent zone).

I can even remember going to a couple of her concerts in Edmonton when I was younger (for a couple of years when I was in my early teens, I lived only a short drive from the town where she grew up).

Here is a video about her, followed with a sample of her French Alberta country music (yup, when you grow up in rural Alberta, you listen to country, and I still think I have one of her CD’s kicking around somewhere 😉 ):

The funny thing about the towns of Plamondon and Lac La-Biche is that they almost have a hybrid sub-accent.  They are sort of half-way between a Central Albertan French sub-accent (the area in and around Edmonton), and an East-Central Alberta/Northern Saskatchewan French sub-accent.   (This is a PERFECT CASE when I have mentioned on numerous occasions that there can be individual town & village accents).  Yet, I feel it has more in common with East-Central sub-accent than the central sub-accent.   Thus I’m grouping it with the same sub-accent as my own.

Here is Plamondon’s & Lac La Biche’s unique accent.:  

🙂  Home   🙂  

Duv.Br

Above: the area I grew up in.

Below: Lac Santé, where I’d spend my summers with friends and family when growing up (with our summer lake cabin)


3A.  Chauvin, Alberta – a sub-accent isolate

You will notice a small orange dot in the middle of the Central Alberta/Central Saskatchewan map.  Chauvin is perhaps one of the very few accent isolates in Western Canada.  I consider it to be more of an isolate and much more unique of an accent than the Plamondon / Lac La-Biche accent.

Chavin’s French accent is unlike any I have heard elsewhere in Western Canada.  Yet it is so rare and isolated, that I am unable to find any recordings of it.  I don’t even know how to describe it (I can clearly hear it in my head — but I can’t describe it as being anything but different… very different).

Chauvin is a small town with a large Francophone population.  However, the youth have mostly left, and Francophones in the community are generally older.

I was lucky in that I was exposed to Chauvin’s unique (and very charming) accent for the better part of four years when I worked side-by-side with a lady from Chauvin.  She moved to my home region of Vegreville 20 years before I met her (I also went to high school with her daughter for three years).

Because most of the youth have left the remote town of Chauvin, I believe their unique accent could be considered endangered.  I had been to Chauvin, and there appears to be very few Francophone youth left between 18 and 50 years old.  Once children graduate from high school, they generally leave to pursue post-secondary education in Edmonton or Saskatoon, and little entices them to remain in Chauvin (the negative side of the attraction of the city’s big lights).

Sadly, owing to the demographic youth-drain from Chauvin, I would hazard to guess that Chauvin’s unique French accent may be the very first French accent in Western Canada to become extinct (possibly the next French accent to become extinct not only in Canada, but also in the world).  It truly is sad – but I feel very fortunate that I was exposed to the Chauvin accent while the opportunity still existed.

Chauvin


4.  Central Albertan sub-accent

The Franco-Albertan Senator in Parliament (in Ottawa), Claudette Tardif, used to be the Dean of the Francophone university I attended in Edmonton, Alberta (when I was a student, she even hired me for a one-term student job to promote our Francophone university to Anglophone immersion and Francophone high school students around Northern Alberta).

Her accent is an Alberta / Saskatchewan standard accent (region 32 on the map) from the Central Alberta sub-accent zone – (much more in line with what we hear in Edmonton’s Francophone Bonnie Doon district, and towns surrounding Edmonton such as Legal, Morinville, Beaumont, Bon Accord, etc.).

A video of her speaking with an Central Alberta and  Alberta/Saskatchewan standard accent can be viewed here:

See if you can notice what I was saying about the vowels when she speaks.

Here is another example of an accent from the  the Central Alberta sub-accent zone, this time from the small town of Legal (again the same accent as Claudette Tardiff’s). :

About the Prairie (and Canada’s) R’s:  

Here is an interesting point and one which shows how a short distance can make a big difference in accents.

Listen very carefully to her “R’s”.   She speaks with what is technically called a “alveolar – palatal” (flattened) R, a type which is characteristic of the Alberta / Saskatchewan flattening.  Yet, my own accent is different than hers.  Unless I forcibly change my own accent to “standardize-internationalize” it for when I speak to people who are not used to our accents or who are just learning French, I generally speak with “uvular” (rolled) R’s.  This is because the communities in my sub-accent zone have kept the traditionally older rolled R’s rather than flat R’s like you saw in the video.

French R’s used to always be rolled, even in France.  But French in France went through a flattening period perhaps 200 years ago.  Canada’s flattening trend was much later, perhaps only 60 years ago or so in Canada.  Yet some regions, such as Eastern Montréal and some areas outside Québec (Northern Ontario, parts of Acadia and some parts of Western Canada) were the last to stop rolling their R’s.   To this day some regions still do roll their R’s.

It is becoming rare that young people continue to roll their R’s.  But they do exist (such as myself) if they grew up in certain sub-accent zones.  Nowadays, you will mostly find it is older people who roll their R’s (in Québec, you may have heard older people in Montréal’s East-End who have retained rolled R’s).

Central Alberta accents French français

The video below is a Central Alberta sub-accent from St-Albert (a suburb of Edmonton).

This next video below again is a Central Alberta sub-accent from Beaumont (a suburb of Edmonton).

 (Click to enlarge).  Note the Bonnie Doon Francophone Quarter of Edmonton with the Francophone University Campus-St-Jean, schools and services (shopping, health, business, government, etc.).

Bonnie Doon francophone French quarterB.Doon m.Fest1


5.  Alberta’s Northwestern French sub-accent

Moving further a few hours drive North is Northwestern Alberta’s Peace River / Rivière-la-paix district sub-accent zone (a 5 to 6 hours drive NW of Edmonton).

Pr.D.

The following video is an accent from St-Isadore, one of the most Francophone towns in all of Western Canada.  Note the Northwest Alberta French sub-accent (the video is about a political difference of opinions between husband and wife, of all things):

St-Is1

Below is a sample video from Falher, in the Rivière-la-Paix district (on the map, this region is the blue circle the furthest to the Northwest in Alberta):

I also lived in this area of Alberta for a couple of years when I was younger and in elementary school.

Falher, in NW Alberta's Francophone region; close to where I lived for a few years as a child and where I used to play hockey.

Falher, in NW Alberta’s Francophone region; close to where I lived for a few years as a child and where I used to play hockey.

Flag of Francophone Alberta

Flag of Francophone Alberta (the flag I grew up seeing the most)

I’ve always found it interesting that there is a somewhat noticeable difference in accents between the Central / East-Central areas of Alberta within a couple hours’ drive of Edmonton (and including Edmonton), and those of Northwestern Alberta’s Rivière-la-paix district.  It’s a subtle accent difference, but I can hear it each time I travel between these two regions.

Here is an anecdote on these subtle differences:  Just the other day, I turned on the television to the station UNIS here at home in Toronto (UNIS is a pan-Canadian French language station with covers French Canada, coast-to-coast, mostly outside Québec).

As soon as I turned on the television, I heard a man speaking French with a very familiar accent (he was on a program which featured him building homes for seniors).

The instant I heard him speak (no more than perhaps the first five or six words), I said to myself “I know that accent… and I know exactly where he is from!”.  I only had the television on for 10 seconds, so I didn’t know what the program was, nor did they mention where the man was from.

But I instantly recognized it as a Central Alberta accent, reminiscent of Edmonton or the Legal area.   Sure enough… after about 3 minutes in to the show, the program mentioned he was from Legal, Alberta.   Got it bang on!!

If Alberta’s Francophone History is a point of interest to you, the Association Canadienne française de l’Alberta came up with this informative info-graphic to explain some of Alberta’s history (CLICK TO ENLARGE AND ZOOM).

AB-His1


6.  Moving South into the

Southern Saskatchewan sub-accent zone…

And now listen for the “vowel shift” as we head into the Southern Saskatchewan French sub-accent zone (which is still an accent I classify within the greater Alberta/Saskatchewan Accent Zone…)

Flag of Francophone Saskatchewan

Flag of Francophone Saskatchewan

Here is a short video from the area around the town of Robsart, in the far Southwest corner of Saskatchewan (the point the furthest West in the Southern-Saskatchewan accent zone).   It also gives you an idea of how rural / small-town life is a big part of the Southern Saskatchewan culture, heritage, and experience  🙂

Below is another video from the Southern Saskatchewan sub-accent zone, from the town of Gravelbourg (Saskatchewan).  Don’t listen to “what” they are saying, but rather to “how” they are saying it. 

You will notice numerous similar traits to my accent (the East-Central Alberta & Northern Saskatchewan sub-accent zone), especially the “R’s” and the rhythm.   BUT you will hear a slight vowel shift (ie: the vowels are pronounced slightly different… different enough that I can hear it – placing them in a sub-accent zone, but not so different as to classify Southern Saskatchewan outside of the overall Alberta/Saskatchewan Accent Zone).  I still classify Northern Alberta/Saskatchewan’s sub-accents the same overall accent grouping with Southern Saskatchewan (the video below).

But later you will hear that Manitoba’s overall accent becomes quite different (big enough that I group it as a different accent grouping alltogether)..

Gravelbourg is a small town in Southern Saskatchewan, not far from where my parents grew up in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan (my extended family is still there – aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents).

glbg1

Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan, where a large part of my mother’s family comes from, and where I used to visit as a child.

If you’d like to hear more of Gravelbourg’s and Southern Sasktachewan’s accent (the same accent spoken in numerous towns across Southern Saskatchewan, including the city of Regina), you can tune into

  • Gravelbourg’s private French radio station at :  http://www.cfrg.ca/.
  • Regina’s private French radio station at :  (I can’t find their website… maybe you can.  Regina has a French hit-music radio station I listen to each time I head back to Moose Jaw to see family).

R.ga

s.toon1

Pr1

Pr2

Let’s move East…


7.  The Manitoba Accent Zone

My previous career coincidentally transferred me to work in a Francophone region of Manitoba for several months, South of Winnipeg.  Manitoba was a Francophone province before it was Anglophone, and so it has had more time to develop a more distinct accent, and strong institutions (such as Université St-Boniface, a Francophone university in Winnipeg, bilingual hospitals, bilingual government institutions in designated regions of the province, etc.).

I labelled the Manitoba French Accent as #33 on the accent map.

The Francophone village of St-Jean-Baptiste in SE Manitoba where I lived and worked for a short while

The Francophone village of St-Jean-Baptiste in SE Manitoba where I lived and worked for a short while

The vowels in the Manitoban accent are still short, like Alberta / Saskatchewan French, but they tend to be deeper and not as high.    The “R’s” are not flattened like Alberta / Saskatchewan “R’s”, and often are uvular (rolled) – but like Alberta / Saskatchewan, it’s hit-and-miss who rolls their R’s… likely dependent on the town where one grew up.

Flag of Francophone Manitoba

Flag of Francophone Manitoba

St-Boniface carte map

Here is a video a speech delivered in a Manitoban accent:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_krywlLJwY, delivered by the Dean of Université St-Boniface.

Here is an interesting video highlighting the history of the infrastructure surrounding French in Manitoba starting from the 1960s.

Here I can definately hear a pronounced Manitoban difference in vowel accents and rhythm compared to the Alberta/Saskatchewan accent grouping.

As an FYI, the man to the far left in the above is Raymond Hébert, a Francophone political commentator in Manitoba.

Could you hear the Manitoba accent?  It is an accent which remains fairly consistent throughout Southern Manitoba.

Mb wg sig

wg1 Wg2 wp3

I have been to at least a dozen francophone towns across Manitoba from the time when I lived & worked there.  The accent remains relatively unchanged across the province.

The Manitoba government’s official website is officially Bilingual, French/English.   You can access it here:  http://www.gov.mb.ca/

The following is a map of provincially designated bilingual regions of Manitoba.  It is within these regions which you will hear the typical Manitoba French accent.  (you can download a PDF version of the map here:  http://www.gov.mb.ca/fls-slf/pdf/map.pdf).   Click to enlarge.

Manitoba regions désignées bilingues bilingual designated regions


8.  A brief word on the current status of French in Western Canada

I don’t want to sugar-coat the challenges French has faced in Western Canada.  There are still major challenges to the survival of French as an everyday first language in Western Canada.

These challenges cannot be understated (thus, when the very very odd person in downtown Montréal complains about having been offered service with a Hi, Bonjour”, I tend to think they’ve lost context of what acually constitutes a threat to French as a way of life, and “Hi, Bonjour” is not necessarily one of those threats).

This however are changing — for the better and on an upward swing.

If I could chart the history of the challenge of preserving French in Western Canada, and the turn it is currently taking, it would probably look something like this (click to enlarge):

WCnHis

Here is an example of what I mean…

Unfortunately many people in Québec still view the challenges faced by Francophones in Western Canada through the lens of 1950, rather than 2015 – and thus have become disengaged with the realities of the situation (I’m not sure how this hurdle can be overcome — it’s unfortunate because it has political consequences; such as a feeling of detachment from Canada, which then be capitalized upon to score political points in certain political camps.

The media in Québec tends to be very Québec-Centric – sometimes to an extreme extent).   This disconnectedness from reality also holds true in many unlingual Anglophone circles and certain political circles (“Sun News” is a good example of this).

But things are changing, and more Anglophone parents are having their children educated in French.   With the establishment of institutions for Francophones in Western Canada (government, education, health, etc.), their ability to overcome assimilation is greater than in the past.  Grassroots movements are not only gaining momentum, but are encouraged at all levels of society.

The internet and free flow of information has been somewhat of a godsend as well – people are no longer language prisoners of their immediate city, town or village.  If you want to preserve, improve, expand and work in your language, it’s all available at the click of a button; anywhere, anytime (one is no longer dependant solely upon having to interact with a room-full of people sitting around a card-table).

The Francophone university

My former francophone university in Edmonton (Alberta): The university “Le Campus St-Jean”, which is attached to the University of Alberta, but operates as its own francophone university with its own campus — open to Francophones and Anglophones alike (with students from all over Alberta, Canada, and the world).

I’m very proud of the challenges our Francophones in Western Canada have overcome, and overall, I’m equally proud of Anglophones in Western Canada for having taken up many a torch to bridge the two solitudes over the last couple of decades.

A perfect example: Even in the most “conservative” and the most “Anglophone” regions of the Prairies (in rural Alberta’s deep South, such as the small town of Brooks — one of the most “conservative” and “anglophone” regions in all of Canada), we see that the country continues to move in the right direction.  I’m not sure we would have seen anything like this in 1995.  It shows just how much and how quickly things are changing.

These sorts of gestures are points of pride for both Francophones and Anglophones across the country — otherwise they would not be occurring.

Going back to Prairie French accents, what is the future direction of accents in the Western Provinces?  I’m not too sure what will happen to the evolution of accents in Western Canada.   The assimilation period of the 1940s to 1970s took a hard toll on local accents.


9.  More Changes are occuring / Des changements supplémentaires arrivent

Something very new and completely unexpected is just beginning to happen – a trend which perhaps began only five to eight years ago;  we’re starting to see a large inflow of Francophone immigration to Western Canada, particularly to Alberta.

The government of Alberta has been investing large amounts of money to build new Francophone schools and to enlarge the French immersion programs.  In addition, the Francophone secretariats of the governments of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are offering more and more programs and services to the public.

The fact that Alberta’s and Saskatchewan’s governments continue to evolve regarding Canada’s French fact (with more evolution seemingly in the pipeline with Alberta’s new government) shows that things are changing in Western Canada.

This is why I repeatedly say that it is so important that Western Canada’s Francophone societies be viewed through the lens of 2015, and not 1950 (nor 1995).

Public support of Francophones on the part of Anglophones in Western Canada has also been evolving and breaking new ground.   You can read about it in the posts I wrote on French Immersion, and in the post I wrote on new advertisements to promote French on Anglophone prime-time television in Western Canada.

Furthermore, many people from Québec are moving to Alberta, and introducing French-as-a-first-language to a few areas where it previously did not exist (the Rocky Mountains, Calgary, Airdrie, and Fort McMurray for example).  French accents from Africa and France can also be heard on the streets in Alberta for the very first time.

As the children of these new arrivals mix together in schools (in Western Canada) and go through the Francophone education system, the population will continue to grow, and the new accents may begin to meld together to morph into something new.

STATISTICS:

  • Alberta’s Francophone population grew by 14.5% between 2001 and 2011 (Statistics Canada)
  • Alberta’s bilingual population (encompassing Anglophones) grew by 21% between 2001 and 2011 (Statistics Canada).
  • BC’s bilingual population grew by 30.2% between 2001 and 2011 (Statistics Canada).

Why then does the “national” percentage of growth in bilingualism show that Canada’s overall bilingual numbers have held constant from 2001 to 2011?   There is a two-part answer:

1.    Québec’s Francophone population is perhaps already as bilingual as it will get.  The growth in Québec’s bilingualism began to slow in the 1990s, which had the effect of slowing the overall Canadian rate of growth in bilingualism (Québec’s current situation is perhaps as bilingual as they can become).

2.    Toronto’s and Vancouver’s immigration rates (the largest immigrant receiving areas) greatly skew the national bilingual growth statistics.  There are more immigrants arriving to Toronto and Vancouver than there are new bilingual Canadians who are graduating from our schools.  If you were to take Toronto and Vancouver out of the equation, overall you would see a noticeable increase in annual bilingualism rates for Canada.

      However, the long-term effects of such immigration to Toronto and Vancouver (say in 30 or 40 years) may actually benefit Canada’s overall bilingual rates.  Second and third generation immigrants are just as apt to attend French immersion schools in Vancouver and Toronto.  With massive immigration rates to Toronto and Vancouver, there will be no shortage of second and third generation immigrants in those two cities immersion schools over the next 20, 30 and 40 years.

I cannot say with definitive certainty where all of this will lead – but I have a feeling it could be good if things continue in the right direction.

Here’s a video on this new and very interesting trend of a very new Francophone influx to Alberta and Alberta’s growing and changing Francophonie (I believe the younger teacher in the video was a fellow student attending the same school as me at the same time, way back when in Northern Alberta) :

Canmore, the city in the above video, is located in middle of the Rocky Mountains (about a 45 – 50 minute drive to Calgary).  It is an example of the new wave of francisation taking place in Southern Alberta (the Rockies, Calgary, Airdrie, etc.), as well as other areas (such as Ft. McMurray in the North).   Out of a population of 12,000, it is estimated there are 3500 – 5000 Francophones now living in Canmore (many who have relocated from Northern Alberta, or from Québec.).

Canmore, dans la vidéo ci-dessus, se trouve en plein milieu des Rocheuses (45 à 50 minutes de route de Calgary).  C’est un exemple de la nouvelle vague de “francisation” dans le sud de l’Alberta (les Rocheuses, Calgary, Airdrie), ainsi que dans d’autres régions (telle Fort-McMurray dans le Nord).  Sur une population de 12 000 à Canmore, on estime que 3500 à 4000 sont des francophones (beaucoup qui sont d’origines du nord de l’Alberta ou du Québec).

Cnmr

Canmore

C.mr Mn.st

Des photos que j’ai prises dans le coin de Canmore quand j’y ai amené des amis avec moi de l’est du Canada Noël passé 
Some pics I took in the Canmore area when I took some friends with me from Eastern Canada there last Christmas 🙂

Canmore1 canmore2

The following is an hour long special documentary on Alberta’s growing Francophonie on Radio-Canada:  http://franco-faune.radio-canada.ca/

Here is another video in the same theme… this time about the number of immigrants from France to Manitoba tripling in the last three years:  http://ici.radio-canada.ca/regions/manitoba/2014/02/18/003-manitoba-immigration-francais.shtml

Here is a video regarding the influx of international Francophone immigration to Edmonton (from Africa, the Middle East, etc.):  http://ici.radio-canada.ca/regions/alberta/2014/11/04/008-immigration-francophonie-organisme-integration-alberta.shtml.  As you can see from this video, this movement is changing the essence of Western Canada’s Francophonie.

Here is a video regarding a recent immigration movement from France to CALGARY:  http://ici.radio-canada.ca/regions/alberta/2014/11/01/004-alberta-attire-francais.shtml.   It’s breathing new life into the vitality of French in the city, and like I said earlier… things are looking positive.

Cly

Here are a couple of videos of a French-language interview program on a private television station in Calgary (Southern Alberta).  With a growing Francophone population, it is a response to a growing demand in Calgary for a greater Francophone presence in Alberta’s media (part of the changes which are happening in Alberta).


10.  British Columbia’s (and the three Territory’s) unique situation:

Owing to the above (“settler communities/towns generally only reached as far as Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta”), B.C.’s (and the three Territories) are a sort of the “odd-ones-out”.  With respect to B.C., there are a few small Francophone pocket communities in British Columbia, such as Maillardville east of Vancouver.

Even prior to Confederation, during the time that Vancouver Island was its own separate colony, there were French missionaries in the Victoria area, who founded small Francophone communities around a covenal lifestyle.  But the numbers of “settler” Francophones in B.C. (ie: those who founded towns with a critical mass for the development of a unique accent) were significantly smaller than in the Prairie Provinces.

Flag of Francophone British Columbia

Flag of Francophone British Columbia

B.C. Francophones are more apt to be 1st or 2nd generation Francophones, spread throughout the province rather than in concentrated towns, which therefore doesn’t give rise to a predominantly “B.C.” style of accent.  BC French accents would vary from individual-to-individual, depending on where their parents were originally from or how/where they were educated.

B.C. Francophone Day

The Franco-Colombien flag flying in front of the B.C legislature in Victoria, alongside the provincial standard flag.

If anything, for B.C. Francophones whose families have been in B.C. for anything more than two or three generations, I would venture to say the accent could be more of a style which is similar to Alberta’ style than anything else — at least that’s my observation as a guy who is originally from the BC Northwest, and who also lived and worked in Kelowna for a chunk of time, and who knew multi-generation B.C. Francophones in this context (a girl I went to university with was Francophone from Terrace, B.C., where I was born and did my first few years of education in French (there are approximately 1000 people who speak French in Terrace, out of a population of 13,000).  Her grandparents moved to B.C., but her accent was similar to an Albertan accent.

B.C’s Francophones are spread throughout the province, which makes it difficult to say that BC has any one particular Francophone “region” per se.

BC 1

However, with that said, there are two places which come readily to mind with higher concentrations of Francophones, and poles for Francophone culture and language:

1.  Maillardville

Maillardville is one of only two communities in BC which have even been predominantly francophone (with the other being Telegraph Creek in the far North by Alaska, but which became a ghost town when the mines closed years ago).  Although Maillardville has been annexed by the greater Vancouver urban area, it is still a district in which French-language services and cultural activities are still heavily concentrated.

It is located within the Coquitlam region, 24 kilometres from downtown Vancouver.

Francophone schools, francophone owned shops, and francophone government services & francophone community organizations have a strong presence in Maillardville.  Many of the streets in Maillardville retain their French names (see map below).

It is in Maillardville that you will be most likely to hear BC’s authentic accent, dating back generations.  It is quite similar to Alberta’s French accent (most similar to Edmonton’s Central Alberta French accent).

Maillardville’s website has an excellent list of constantly updated Francophone cultural events and other daily-living activities going on within the district.   Francophones and Francophiles throughout the Vancouver and BC lower mainland converge within Maillardville for their dose of Francophone culture.

http://www.maillardville.com/

Maill 1.1

Click on the maps to ENLARGE

Map of Maillardville below.  Note all the French street names.

Maill 2.2

Maill 3.2

2.  Downtown Vancouver

Downtown Vancouver tends to be BC’s second pole for Francophone culture.

Whereas Maillardville’s Francophone base are families who have been in BC for several generation, downtown Vancouver’s Francophones tend to be transplated from across Canada and across the world.  Thus, when you do hear French in downtown Vancouver, you can hear dozens of different accents.

Maill 4.1

Moving on to the Yukon..

Flag of Francophone Yukon

Flag of Francophone Yukon

Yk

I would describe the situation of Yukon accents, as well as those of the NWT and Nunavut (with the inhabitants known as Franco-Yukon(n)ais, Franco-Ténois, Franco-Nunavois) pretty much in the same way as I would describe B.C.’s accent situation.  Most Francophones who use French as their main language in all walks of live are mostly 1st or 2nd generation, and thus they would be more apt to have the accent of their parents, wherever their parents came from).

In terms of a percentage of total population, Yukon has one of the highest Francophone population rates in Western Canada after certain regions of Manitoba and the Northwest Peace District of Alberta.

This is owing to two reasons:

  1. A very recent influx of immigration from Québec over the last few years which added 14% to Whitehorse’s population, and over 13% to Yukon’s total population,
  2. One of the strongest acceptance rates in English Canada of new students by the Francophone school system (in addition to one of the strongest attendance rates in Canada within Immersion schools).  This has made it so that over 20% of Whitehorse’ and the Yukon’s population is now bilingual.

Of the above Francophone and Francophone populations, they are most concentrated in Whitehorse, followed by Dawson City and Watson lake.

YU1

With reference to the second reason above, the Yukon has recently be front-and-centre in a little language-funding controversy — precisely because of the cost of educating Anglophone students in the Francophone school system versus the public French Immersion school system:

In this controversy involving Yukon’s school systems, we recently saw an example in which Alberta and Saskatchewan were ahead of the ball on the French education and Francophone rights front.  It was a case which pitted Alberta’s and Sasktchewan’s public stances against those of the Yukon (and ironically, of Québec).

In Yukon, the territorial government in Whitehorse did not want to provide public funding for Anglophone students who were admitted to francophone schools (schools designated to provide French education to the children of Francophone parents) because the cost of doing so can be several thousand dollars more, per student, than funding for Anglophone schools.

(Note:  I am not talking about French Immersion schools, which are FOR Anglophones.  Rather, I am talking about Francophone schools, which are for the children of Francophones.  Yukon took no issue with Immersion schools, and actually is building more Immersion schools for Anglophones).

However, against the territorial government’s wishes, the Yukon’s Francophone school board wanted to admit (and had been admitting) Anglophone students to help grow the Francophone community in Yukon (Anglophone students who graduate from “Francophone” schools tend to become much more culturally and linguistically Francophone than Anglophone students who graduate from modern Immersion schools – a sort of francisation of willing Anglophones).

Yukon’s Francophone school commission thus took its own Yukon government to court to secure funding for Anglophone students in Francophone schools.  In fact, the case went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada (the affair is still ongoing as of the writing of this text).

The Supreme Court sent the case to mediation and the Yukon government may yet back down (we’ll perhaps see a final decision in 2016).

Ironically, the government of Québec actually intervened at the level of the supreme court to side with the government of Yukon, and against Yukon’s Francophones (out of concern that the Supreme’s court decision in favour of Yukon’s Francophones may have an affect on Law 101 in Québec).

Yet, in Alberta and Saskatchewan, the provincial governments have whole-heartedly allowed and consented to their own Francophone school commissions to admit Anglophone students so as to help Francophone populations grow.  Alberta’s and Saskatchewan’s provincial governments publicly disagree with the Yukon government.

Did you know… ?

Notwithstanding the above hiccup, the Yukon still stands out as being one of only two Provincial-Territorial level governments which functions as a bilingual state, with all services offered in both French and English on the entirety of its territory (the other being New Brunswick).

That in itself shows that Yukon i one of the most avant-garde jurisdictions on this front in North America.

This is presumably one of the reasons why so many Québécois are relocating to Yukon.  Combined with Yukon’s strong economy, high salaries, low unemployment and amazing outdoor lifestyle, the territory also makes it possible to live in French if one chooses.

YU2 YU3 YU4 YU5

The Northwest Territories and Nunavut

Flag of Francophone Northwest Territories

Flag of Francophone Northwest Territories

However, I say this while fully recognizing a rather large Francophone community in the Yukon, and interesting numbers of Francophones in BC and the NWT (sufficient numbers to warrant the existence of an independent Francophone radio station in the Northwest Territories, CIVR Radio Taïga in Yellowknife, not to mention a continuously growing community and evolving network of Francophone resources and services in BC).

Flag of Francophone Nunavut

Flag of Francophone Nunavut


A short note to Francophones about some of the videos and accents mentioned above

Pour ceux au Québec… la première vidéo ci-dessus (celle que j’ai faite) est un exemple du joual franco-albertain, un qui est parlé dans les régions rurales du centre-est de l’Alberta (qui commence au nord de Végreville (ma ville), en passant par Lac Santé, jusqu’aux villes de Lac La Biche, Plamondon, Bonnyville et St-Paul, et qui ensuite traverse la frontière en Saskatchewan pour enfin terminer dans le coin des villes Saskatchewanaises de Batoche, St-Isadore-de-Bellevue, Lepine, St-Benedict, Raynaud, St-Brieux et St-Louis).  

Il y existe une autre forme de joual assez semblable dans le nord-ouest de l’Alberta, mais avec un accent un peu différent (dans la région de Rivière-la-Paix).   Le joual qui est parlé dans le centre de l’Alberta (le coin des environs d’Edmonton), le sud de la Saskatchewan, et au Manitoba est très différent du mien.

Sur ce point, afin d’être compris à 100% par les Franco-Albertains urbains d’Edmonton, chaque fois que je faisais le voyage à Edmonton de la campagne (du coin de Végreville), il fallait que je parle plus avec un genre de français “adouci”, voire plus standardisé et international — comme celui de la première trame sonore dans le billet qui porte sur le JOUAL (cliquer ce lien pour y accéder).    

Je l’ai toujours trouvé fort intéressant comment une courte distance de 100 à 200kms peut faire une si grande différence entre les accents et le style de joual que l’on emploie.  Intéressant, non?  

C’est de valeur qu’on n’en parle pas plus souvent, dans les médias au Québec, de ces couleurs culturelles de notre français au Canada.  

C‘est un exemple en or des “deux solitudes”;  mais cette fois de celles qui existent entre les francophones du pays eux mêmes… ceux qui vivent au Québec, et ceux qui vivent dans les autres provinces (un fait que je trouve très frustrant).

Mais comme j’ai dit à mainte et maintes reprises, à mon avis les Québécois sont parmi les gens les plus ouverts sur le planète.  Plus souvent qu’autrement, mes expériences me dictent que lorsqu’ils apprenent plus sur ces réalités dans les autres provinces, ils les respectent et ils démontrent une solidarité à bras ouverts (tout comme le font les Anglophones du Canada lorsqu’ils s’informent davantage sur les mêmes enjeux).  

En tout cas… j’avais déjà écrit pas mal de billets qui traitent sur des sujets semblables.  Trois qui me viennent à l’esprit, et dont je vous invite à explorer: 

(1) la série sur l’immersion qui parle de la manière dont les anglophones ordinaires ont pris le relève de solidarité avec leurs frères et soeurs francophones dans chacune des provinces, 

(2) le billet sur le pouvoir de l’internet qui accroit la visibilité, viabilité, et manière de vivre des francophones hors Québec.  

(3) la section politique et de société qui renforce l’idée que les apparences peuvent être trompeuses. 

À mon avis, d’apprendre d’avantage sur les réalités un peu plus éloignées des frontières du Québec ouvre une porte qui démontre bien les couleurs et la vitalité de nos langues au pays (qui nous appartiennent à nous tous), d’un océan à l’autre.  

J’espère tout simplement faire de ma part dans ce sens  🙂   


11.  Last Thoughts

One last point regarding Prairie French

Adding another piece to the language mix:  “Toning-down my Prairie accent

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, there are sometimes circumstances in which people in other regions of Canada (and often abroad) may not be able to understand or catch every word when I speak with my Prairie accent (and especially Prairie Joual).

Acnts.no

This is sometimes the “hidden message” you feel you’re getting when Prairie French meets speakers of other styles of French.

Do not misinterpret the sign.  There is no ban, nor any movement against the more hard-core forms of Prairie French.

For me personally, the real “problem” is that I regularly travel and conduct business in various provinces in Canada and other countries in Europe.

Here is a perfect example of what I mean:

The other day I was talking to a Franco-Ontarien here in Toronto (in French).  He was telling me how he badly injured his shoulder in a bicycle accident.  I jokingly said D’à prochaine tournure, y faut que tu te ouates de cocon!”

Oooops!!  He had no idea what I said.  All I got in return was a blank stare — like a deer caught in the headlights. 😯

I had to turn off the rural Alberta joual and rephrase:  La prochaine fois, il va falloir que tu portes ton équipement protecteur d’hockey (comme des épaulières, des coudières, et un protège-dents)”.   

Then he understood!!

For me, in rural Alberta & Saskatchewan French, des ouattes” are hockey pads.  For someone in Ontario or Québec, “des ouates” is cotton wadding in blankets — or something like that.

Picking up from the last example…

Ouatte has a second meaning in Prairien French (again, a meaning which does not exist in Eastern Canadian French).   It can mean “pour faire X” (or “produire”) in certain circumstances regarding “animate” figures. 

Example:  

  • Ça prend une poule pour faire un oeuf. 
  • Ça prend une poule pour ouatter un oeuf. 
  • Ils se sont mariés pour fonder une famille.
  • Ils se sont mariés pour ouatter une famille.

This one I think came from Métis French, and could possibly have links to Cree or the voyageurs.  Unfortunately, this one has died out among the youth, but you will still occasionally hear older people say it.   (Boy, I sometimes wish someone would come to the rescue with hard and fast research to record this sort of vocabulary before it standardizes with other forms of International French – and fast!).

Here are a couple of other examples:

A word (as slang) which I had to avoid using in Eastern Canada. was “Soyeu“.  Take a guess what you think it means… Go ahead, guess.   Think really really hard.  Hmmmm… Can’t get it?  K, I’ll let you in on the secret.

I believe it was from the New France era that the word “Soyeu” became part of Prairie French in Western Canada, and particularly Albertan/Saskatchewan French.   If I have my story correct, it’s an old word from Old Picard and old Wallon French which literally means to saw something in half… ie: “Wednesday” (which saws the week in half).

In Québec and Ontario, the closest might be the French expression “nombil de la semaine”, but “soyeu” is more of a direct translation for “Wednesday” than it is an expression.

When I moved to Gatineau at the beginning of the 2000s, I told a friend that I would call her on “Soyeu”.  It was only when I saw the look her face that I realized that nobody outside of Western Canada knew what “soyeu” meant… Lundi, mardi, “soyeu“, jeudi, vendredi, samedi, dimanche — NOPE… just blank stares in both Québec and Ontario.  

Here is a another one (which I think is unique to the East-Central & Northern Saskatchewan Accent Zone)…

What does “Carreau” mean?   Again, think really hard (actually, this one is a bit easier than the last one).  I’ll give you another second.  

Its a “field” (like a farm field).  Actually, I first realized this word may be quite “localized” was when I moved to the Francophone region of Manitoba.    I think it’s origin came with New France voyageurs.  It seems to be more used by Métis than non-Métis, but it’s part of Western Canada’s French vocabulary nonetheless.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it also found its roots in old Europe.

Therefore, how do I ensure there are no issues for others to understand me in such circumstances?

1.  I turn “off” the rural Prairie Joual – period.

2.  I have to significantly “tone-down” my East-Central Alberta French accent, and speak with much more “standardized” Canadian French accent.

The following video is an example of toned-down French which is much more reminiscent of a general standardized Canadian French.  Spoken this way, the accent could be from almost anywhere in Canada since it has traces of accents you would find across all of Canada’s accent zones;  be it someone from Edmonton, Sudbury, Montréal, or Moncton.  Someone would not necessarily be able to pin-down where in Canada I come from when I speak with the accent in the next video below.

Here’s the toned-down version…

(NOTE, the text is the same as the first Joual video above).

  • I simply
    • substituted international / standard French vocabulary in place of the Alberta Joual.
    • softened the vowels,
    • changed certain intonations,
    • and flattened my “R’s” (I completely drop my rolled “R” from the Brosseau-Durvernay region of the AB/Sask East-Central accent zone).

Is it easy for me to speak with a “toned-down” or “neutralized” accent?

Not always.

If I speak like I just did in the audio-tract above, I sometimes have to speak a bit slower to give my brain time to keep up with how I’m pronouncing my words (otherwise the Prairie French comes out).  In that sense, it feels kind of like an Anglophone from North America or Australia/NZ who is trying to speak with a British Accent, or vice-versa.

I actually find it much easier to speak like this when I am reading out loud as opposed to thinking on the spot (I read the text I just recited, which is much easier for me than if I were to think of it “on the go”).

Interestingly, when I used to work abroad for the Canadian foreign service in a few Canadian embassies (particularly in one embassy in a semi-Francophone country in the Middle-East for a couple of years), I had to regularly speak with this toned-down, more neutral Canadian accent.  It was NOT a government requirement (Canada does NOT have “standardization” regulations like what France used to have).  But for the sake of making my own life easier, I “chose” to tone-down my accent to ensure that the general francophone public in my host country could understand me (they had difficulty understanding a Prairie French accent).

During that period abroad, I became quite used to speaking with the toned-down accent, but I have not spoken with a “toned-down” accent for a long time.

Today, such a toned-down accent feels awkward for me to speak with.  Thus when I speak now, I naturally speak with my Prairie French accent in day-to-day interactions (but I do tone it down when the situation calls for it).

On a related note:  The Francophone youth in Western Canada are replacing many “regional” characteristics of Prairie French with “standardized” international / Canadian French (especially in cities such as Edmonton, Regina, and Winnipeg).  “Standardization” stemming from a newly beefed-up Francophone school system in Western Canada is perhaps one of the biggest reasons (a side-effect which is similar to Québec’s own language standardization trends in the 1960s and 1970s).   The French school system in Western Canada perhaps did not have such a strong influence 20 or 30 years ago, but the last 20 years has seen major provincial government investments which has brought Prairie French closer in line with International French.

I personally am NOT in favour of this standardization towards international French in day-to-day interactions at a local level.  I perfectly understand that languages evolve and there is always a natural transition.  But as languages do gradually evolve, we should nonetheless celebrate the regional differences which do exist.

Our regional French accents and regional French vocabulary are an extremely unique and precious part of Canada’s heritage, culture, and identity — something which all Francophones and Anglophones in Canada should be very proud of.   To kill them is to commit accent genocide.  So long as individuals are able to slip in-and-out of International French and regional French when the situation calls for it (ie: they are able to communicate in both), then what harm is there in continuing to promote our regionalizations?


This is the end of the series of Canadian French accents.  I hope you enjoyed it.


SERIES INDEX

OUR 32 ACCENTS (7 POSTS)

OTHER RELATED (2 POSTS)

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