This post is to be taken with a grain of salt. Just go with it and smile (don’t take it too seriously).
This post deals with many “language” prejudices (among others).
PREFACE – First, some context:
Before going further into this post, readers should be aware that there are many styles of French both in Canada and in Europe. Stereotypes are generally gross overgeneralizations and misconceptions. One such overgeneralizations is not being aware of our true linguistic realities.
Québec’s French is only one component of a greater family of Canadian styles of French. Within Québec French, there can often be large variations. Even Canada’s overall French situation can be quite diverse, from coast to coast.
Click on the maps below for a bit more context:
Likewise, just as there can be a large degree of variation in Canadian styles of French, so too can there be in Europe.
Click below for some European differences;
EXAMPLE 1 –
The unbelievable spat between Marie-France Bazzo (Québec) & Sophie Aram (France) on the airwaves of Radio-Canada/CBC
Here is an example of how this topic can be very touchy for those few people who take the topic of stereotyping waaaaay too serious.
CBC/Radio-Canada, as Canada’s public broadcaster, shouldn’t be used as an opinion-piece forum for radio-hosts who get their shorts in a knot and use the broadcast button to seek egoistic revenge if they don’t agree with something.
(Before going further, as an aside, right about the time that this less-than-classy spat to air on Radio-Canada, it was announced that Marie-France Bazzo and Radio-Canada’s management had a “difference of opinions”, and that Bazzo would no longer be an employee at Radio-Canada. I don’t know if this is connected to this event. Bazzo has continued to host her own long-time opinion-piece show on Télé-Québec, as well as producing works for other networks).
If you don’t speak French, no worries, the section after this one has a different example for you, complete with English translations.
But for those who do speak French, I’m starting this post with an example of a childish outburst when a (former) Radio-Canada radio host (Marie-France Bazzo) took a French comedian to task for imitating a Québec accent.
Here is the video of Sophie Aram (comedian in France) imitating a Québec accent. This is the video which drew the ire of Marie-France Bazzo in Québec. I searched the web, and Bazzo appears to be the only person in Québec’s media who took it this serious (at least that I heard).
For me the best part of the video is the look on Danny Laferrière’s face when he’s trying to figure out how to react (priceless — Love it!!).
BELOW is the ON-AIR FIGHT (ON RADIO-CANADA of all places!!!!) between Mario-France Bazzo and Sophie Aram: CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW
(All I have to add is HOLY CRAP !! LIGHTEN UP !! Good grief.)
With the above in context, now let us continue with a different, much friendlier example
(for those who don’t necessarily speak French, the following may be easier to follow):
Below is another conversation between two celebrities; one from Québec, and one from France.
I thought this would be a light-hearted, interesting conversation to present to you, precisely because I have heard this sort of discussion on numerous occasions between those of us from Canada and from France. 🙂 It’s the type of conversation which usually makes us smile on both sides of the ocean.
For the readers of this blog who don’t speak French, I’ll paraphrase and summarize the below conversation between Monqiue Giroux (from Québec), and André Manoukian (from France).
In this conversation, Giroux responds to Manoukian after he made public statements on the radio in France which could be considered stereotypes people in France have about Québec; most notably, how they speak. The conversation (and it is just that, a well-articulated, friendly and humourous conversation) was arranged by, and aired on the France television program “64’ Grand angle”.
Monique Giroux is a Québec music journalist, music program producer / host, and considered one of the French-speaking world’s most authoritative and engaged “activist” for the promotion of French music. She promotes Francophone music of all types, from Québec, the rest of Canada, Europe and elsewhere in the world. She has hosted numerous radio music shows from the Montréal studios of Radio-Canada Première, and travels so extensively and so often to places such as France and elsewhere, on a mission to promote Francophone music from a journalistic point of view, that she has become quite well known in European media circles. In addition, she has befriended some of the largest names in Francophone music (both past and present). As a testament to her efforts to raise the profile and appreciation for Francophone music, Giroux has been awarded some of the highest civic honours of state of Canada (the Order of Canada / l’Ordre du Canada), of Québec (l’Ordre du Québec), and France (Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres).
André Manoukian is a very famous songwriter from France and he has a radio music program on France Inter. What I find quite intriguing is that he was educated in Boston – so presumably, because Boston is only a 5 hour drive from Montréal, and because he has travelled many times to Québec, he likely knows Québec quite well. Manoukian has written songs not only for some of the biggest names in French music, but also for big Anglophone singers such as Janet Jackson. Of the Francophones he has written songs for, some are also among Québec’s biggest names, such as Diane Dufresne. Because of his stature, he was one of the judges on the French equivalent of “Pop Idol” in France.
So lets get into the conversation (take it with a light heart and a smile… the tone of it was all in good fun). I’m going to paraphrase, and skip much of the small talk.
—- The YouTube video for the conversation is here with TRANSLATIONS FOLLOWING:
- Starts by asking why the French have so many stereotypes about Québec.
- Says Manoukian stated on an earlier on-air program that Québécois speak with an embellished and outdated/archaic, form of language (une langue archaic fleurie) which makes for laughs (se bien marrer). The presumption is that he made the statements in a pejorative sense, as something to be laughed at.
- Says wasn’t his intention to make fun. That he was referring to the “naivity” of the language used in Québec music (ooops… he caught himself using the word “naivity” 😉 )
- He then covers his tracks, and sincerely states that in Québec, people have become vigilant gate-keepers of the French language, in a way which no longer exists in France.
- Says he likes how older French words are conserved in Québec French, accompanied by a very modern edge.
- Says people are very attached to their language in Québec because they form a small population in the middle of a very large North American Anglophone population.
- He says he enjoys hearing authentic French words in Québec, as well as in Cajun communities — words which are no longer used in France (words which sometimes need to be explained to him), and that he misspoke when he made his earlier on-air comments.
- Asks Giroux what enticed her to write a public rebuttal to Manoukian’s on-air statements regarding Québec French.
- She says she, like many other people from Québec, heard Manoukian’s on-air comments (his show from France is also broadcast in Québec), and her personal reaction was the same as many others. But what was so surprising to her was the scale of reaction (or backlash) against Manoukian’s comments from Québécois.
- She believes there is a misunderstanding on the part of France towards Québec’s current (linguistic) situation. She says whereas Manoukian may believe Québécois speak “Old French” (“le vieux françoié”, which she pronounced with an overemphasized slangish twang), that it is not so much the case anymore. (In this context, she’s speaking of the Québec slang and Joual, as well as other informal ways of speaking).
- She says Québécois do not use dog-sleds as a mode of transport (the timing for this one was perfect, because I incidentally joked about the same thing a few days ago in my earlier post “Comparisons can be a good thing”)
- Giroux emphasized that Québécois live in (North) America, and just like in France and other French nations, we have a ton of different French accents here. She also said when the French visit Québec, it is no longer Québécois who have an accent, but rather the French who have an accent – which is the beauty of the whole thing.
- She’s happy to see that, as two journalists, they’re sitting and talking about stereotypes, because it is a good way for the public to hear the discussion, and to not focus on it so heavily in the future (especially when it comes to artistic circles, in which French artists will sometimes tease Québec artists on the air about how they speak or their choice of musical genre, such as playing “hick accordions”).
- Says he has made several trips to Québec for music events, but then was taken by Québécois themselves to a “sugar shack” (cabane à sucre), which plays into stereotypes.
- Asks if Québec has become the new ardent defender of the French language, rather than France, because Québec is in North America, which makes people feel they must fight harder to protect their language against the weight of US culture. He cites the example of movie titles; In France, movie titles are known by their English names (cites Twelve Years a Slave in France, whereas it’s known as Esclave pendant douze ans in Québec).
- The local version of the show “The Voice”, is called “La Voix” in the local Québec version (Québec produces its own version, as does France), but it has retained the English name “The Voice” in France.
- She said that when Manoukian alledged that Québéc speaks with an embellished archaic language, that Québec’s choice of words of course would sound archaic to France if France does not cease anglicizing words and does not cultivate their vocabulary correctly.
- (Question to Giroux): Do you say “Où as tu parké ton char?” (which is a very slang, joual-like Québécois and Canadian French way of asking “Where did you park your car?” – in a literal sense, in English it would almost be as if to ask someone “Where did you halt your wagon?”). This is one well-known slang expression from Québec and Canada that French from France usually cite when teasing Québécois about the way they speak.
- Says, there may be people who say this in Québec, but even in France, there are people who speak le verlan (which is the word for slang in France). But she said it is not everyone in Québec who says “Où ce que t’as parké ton char?”
(A personal side comment: Something quite interesting I had not thought about: probably 8 times out of 10, I myself say “voiture” (car) instead of “char” (wagon)… but there are those 2 times out of 10 where I will say “char”… It completely depends one who I am talking to, the informality of the discussion and the situation, the language being used by the person I am speaking with, and the mood of the discussion. For example, I had a business meeting in Québec City not long ago. There would have been zero chance I would have entertained the thought of calling my car a “char” when speaking in a business context. But later, when I went for a beer with people not related to anything business, the environment was much more relaxed, and I probably slipped in the word char when I was talking about a drive I did on the outskirts of town earlier that day. When I was younger, in my teen years, I was more apt to say “char”, but I grew up, just like everyone else. 😉 . You may recall from the Joual recording, which I made in an earlier post, that I did use the word “char” in the dialogue, but I also used “voiture” in the International French dialogue I recorded. It goes to show that what Giroux says does hold merit, and that stereotypes the French have of how Québécois speak, on the whole, are not necessarily correct, but there are exceptions — just as someone may say “an old beater” or “old clunker” in English instead of a “used car”, or refer to their car as their “wheels”).
- Says the Belgians make fun of how the French speak, and the French make fun of how the Belgians speak. He asks Giroux if the Québécois make fun of how the French speak.
- After pondering the question, she says “Not really, but perhaps a bit”.
- She says she has noticed, surprisingly, that the old expression “les maudits français” (“the damned French”) is making a come-back in Québec society. It is a Québec expression which means “Oh, it’s just the snobbish French and their usual nose-in-the-air habits”).
(Giroux’s last comment is interesting. When I think of it, I’m also hearing this expression more and more often in the media, at least more often than when I was young — but it’s usually said in an endearing, light-teasing kind of way).
- Referring to particular topic, she said she heard a reporter recently state, on a major Québec TV network, that “This [subject] is too ‘France!’ ”, as if the subject at hand was not a good thing because it has too much of an aura of France. She says this last narrow-viewed statement got to her when she heard it in Québec. Particularly didn’t like hearing this statement because imagine if someone described a situation as being “too ‘Amermenian’ ”, or “too ‘Arabic’.”. But she said in Québec, people will tolerate hearing “This is too –French-.”. She said this is how stereotypes take on a life of their own, and she’s recognizing the phenomena exists on both sides.
- He goes on to talks about how the mouth, lips, and tongue are physically positioned when Québecois speak French versus people from France, and how that influences accents and ways of singing (kind of unrelated stuff)
It’s always interesting to hear these types of discussions – as simple distractions if for nothing else.