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100th post – Some thoughts on common values (#100)

This is the 100th post.  I’m approaching this blog from the standpoint that each post is not just its own tid-bit of information, but rather the piece of an overall puzzle.   When we look at them together, we begin to see the portrait of a society, and themes begin to develop (things we cannot necessarily learn from textbooks, travel guides, one-off articles, nor a vacation).

In earlier posts, I mentioned that pop-culture (along with other aspects of our culture) is all around us.  We live it, or at the very least, even without realizing it, we are surrounded by it everywhere in our daily lives.  It provides a focal point for commonality and belonging and its references are instantly recognizable.

With each post, I’m trying to introduce you to a little more of our Francophone culture.  For many Anglophones, these references may not be as apparent as they would be for someone who, say, moves to Québec, or lives life with a strong footing in Canada’s several Francophone societies.

By writing this blog, I’m hope I can help to preclude you from having to physically live within Francophone areas of the country in order to begin to understand it better – and hopefully you can feel a bit more connected to it as you continue to take your own journey.  It’s an important component of our country, our identity and our lives; be it past, present, and future.  We live together, we make economic decisions together, we make political decisions together, and we make important societal decisions together which affect all of us – regardless of how visibly apparent those decisions may be.  But the sum of these joint decisions have shaped our collective psyche.  We would not be the same people, and we would not view the world and ourselves the way we do now had our country not had it’s bi-cultural roots.  Some people say we’re a country built on “compromise” for just those reasons (remember hearing that magic word from junior high school social studies and history classes?). They say it has shaped our culture and temperament, and makes us unique.  But actually, I don’t think it’s “compromise”, but rather “collaboration”.  I say this because compromise infers you have to give something up to to get something else that you want (yes, that is sometimes true).  But that’s not really how the country has been built, especially in more modern times.  Rather, we’re in a country which has been built, and continues to be built, from co-operation and working together – with each of our two linguistic groups adding something of value to the table with every decision being made.   We’re just not overtly conscious of it because each contribution becomes (for the most part) seamlessly integrated into our lives, and then just becomes part of our overall identity.

I can offer many examples of what I mean when I say our country has (and continues to be) built through Francophone & Anglophone cooperation and collaboration.  We would not have the same underlying Canadian values or be the same people today had it not been for this joint effort.  Off the top of my head, I can keep it down to three of examples of thing that affect our daily lives:

Example 1 – Québec’s indirect role in giving a bolted to Canada’s overall sense of community:

You may recall in the post “Our accents – Post 1” I discussed a little bit about how regions and towns in Québec remained in relative isolation from one other until the beginning of the Quiet Revolution – so isolated from one another, that whole regions, and in many cases, individual villages, developed completely different accents and ways of speaking.  However, elsewhere in English Canada, massive migration movements were taking place during the period of 90 to 150 years ago.  New railroad lines saw people move all around, and there was a great deal of back-and-forth movement between the Western Provinces, Southern Ontario and Anglophone Atlantic Canada.  There was so much movement over such a vast stretch of land (the world’s second largest stretch of land), that apart from the very strong regional in English accents in the Atlantic Provinces, other distinct regional English accents in Canada were greatly muted (we have accents – I can certainly hear the difference between Northern Alberta, Southern Saskatchewan, and Southern Ontario English for example).  But the differences in our accents in English were of a much lesser degree than in French, owing to the high level of inter-regional movement by Anglophones of the period.

Because Québec communities did not experience such a long history of interconnectedness, they came to value “local community” as being vitally important to an individuals’ identity : be it the church, be it extended family which often did not leave the town (hence whole communities having only a handful of family names), be it the local industry, or be it the local newspaper.

The late Pierre Péladeau Sr., the founder of the media giant Québecor (and the father of Pierre Karl Péladeau) was very much was a Québec nationalist.  He believed whole heartedly in the values that Québec holds dearest.  In a broad sense, that means he very much valued a sense of local community.  It was something he culturally understood, and he built his business around it (as I’ve learned from my own experience in the business world, you stick with what you know).  His business style very much fit into those values and he was committed to local news.  It probably was a natural fit since he knew he could make money from it.   As he built his business empire, he founded a local newspaper empire across Canada; newpapers which gave citizens of dozens and dozens of small communities across Anglophone Canada a voice, an outlet for local citizens to express themselves, stay engaged, stay connected with one another, and to remain profoundly attached to (and involved in) their local towns.  Pierre Péladeau Sr. played a direct role in spreading Québec traditional values of local community right across Canada – forever changing how individual Anglophones view and relate to themselves, relate to their communities (especially newly founded ones), relate to their neighbours, and even to their country – much in the same light as Québec Francophones relate to the world.  In a sense, he imbued Québec values into Anglophone culture across Canada, and we, as Anglophones, have never been the same people since.  This is one area where we now share a strong sense of shared values with our Francophone compatriots.

An effective way to show you to what extent Péladeau “brought home” Québec’s sense of community values into Anglophone lives would be to actually list all the communities in which he owned a newspaper (the list is long, so just quickly skim them over… but the sheer number makes an impact):  The legacy of Péladeau Sr. can be found today in the likes of all the “Sun” papers (Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary) “Tribune” papers (Grand-Prairie, Welland), the “Times” papers (St. Thomas, Brockville, Orillia, Owen Sound), some of the “Examiners” (Barrie, Peterborough), many of the “Observers” (Pembroke, Sarnia), some of the local “Star” papers (Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury).  He also imbued Québec values of community into our lives through his papers in many others in places such as London, Simcoe, Stratford, Kenora, Portage La Prairie, Fort McMurray, Belleville, Brantford, Chatam, Cornwall, Kingston, Niagara Falls, North Bay, Northumberland, St. Catherines, Timmins, Brantford, Chatham.  His smaller chains of papers helped to keep community spirit alive in many smaller towns across Canada – often in places where the community was new and in need of a sense of local togetherness, or in some cases it may have been older and on the cusp of decline (which heightened the need for a sense of community).  These include papers in Alberta:  Airdrie, Camrose, Cochrane, Cold Lake, Devon, Drayton Valley, Edson, Fairview, Fort Saskatchewan, Hanna, High River, Hinton, Lacombe, Leduc, Mayerthorpe, Nanton, Peace River, Pincher Creek, Sherwood Park, Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Strathmore, Beaumont, Vermilion, Vulcan, Wetaskiwin, Whitecourt, in Manitoba:  Altona, Carman, Interlake, Morden, Selkirk, Stonewall, Winkler, in Saskatchewan: Melfort, Nipawin, in Ontario: Bancroft, Barry’s Bay, Bradford, Chatham, Clinton, Cochrane, Collingwood, Elliot Lake, Fort Erie, Frontenac, Gananoque, Goderich, Haliburton, Ingersoll, Innisfil, Kapuskasing, Kenora, Kincardine, Lakeshore, Leader, Lucknow, Minden, Mitchell, Norwich, Paris, Pelham, Petrolia, Stirling, Strathroy, Delhi, Napanee, Thorold, Tillsonburg, Timmins, Trenton, Wallaceburg, West Lorne, and Wiarton (you think Willy reads this last one?).

(Quick note: The newspaper branch of Québecor (at least the papers outside of Québec) are soon to be sold to another company in Canada).

Example 2 – Québec’s and other provinces’ roles as strong partner in maintaining values of universal healthcare:

Universal free healthcare (symbolic of a “Don’t worry neighbour, I’ve got your back!” society) was born at a provincial level in Saskatchewan.  Even though we’re not a socialist country (overall we value efficiently managed taxes at a reasonable rate, and the free-market), the notion of looking out for each other is highly valued, regardless if you’re NPD, Liberal or Conservative (all three parties of the spectrum value this — and it’s to be commended that all three parties overall defend the same values Canadians care deeply about – of course with some nuances in program execution).  Our values of mutual assistance has symbolically come to be embodied through the universal healthcare movement, spreading province-by-province until eventually all the provinces were working together (with the added participation of the Federal government) to ensure they could maintain mutually comparable standards and best-practices.  This makes it so we can all expect the same level of care across the country, regardless where we seek medical attention.  Because the program is provincial jurisdiction, it requires constant dialogue between the provinces to maintain consistency.  Otherwise the system would become fragmenting along provincial lines and would be at risk of collapsing.  I cannot under-emphasize just how much inter-provincial cooperation and collaboration at a government-to-government level is involved to make this program work – and for the most part, we pull it off very well.

In more recent times, Québec values played a key role in helping to keep the program on track and alive in its current form.  Since 1867, Canada has gone through a few major economic highs and lows.  There have been more than one occasion where the economic future of certain provinces has been in question and the healthcare system was under threat.  Since coverage became universal across Canada in 1961 (following Saskatchewan’s 1949 implemenation of the plan), Québec has since become, in many ways, the most ardent supporter of Saskatchewan’s universal heathcare dream.  Québec, Ontario, BC and other provinces have provided the moral support and encouragement which has helped provinces to decide to stay the course when they thought they may want to opt out of the current structure (sometimes this dialogue occurred behind closed doors, premier-to-premier, sometimes government-to-government, and sometimes wide-open in the media and in the streets).  In this respect, Québec has contributed immensely to keeping our values towards our fellow citizens alive and well.  I’ll give you an example:

I can vividly remember Alberta’s flirt with healthcare privatization back in the Ralph Klein years of the early 1990s.  Something many people across Canada, and particularly in Québec, may not realize is just how serious the economic situation was in Alberta in the early 1990s.  The resources industry collapsed, and Alberta was faced with so much debt that it threatened the viability of Alberta as a stand-alone province.  Austerity was seen as the only option.  Something had to be done, and fast.  Premier Klein had some very difficult decisions to make (and I very much admire him for having made some very tough calls in the face of enormous pressure).  I can still recall when I was in grade 10, the province’s financial situation was so bad that our school had to keep the lights turned off during the day.  The halls were lit only by emergency lights, and the classroom lights were turned on only if there was not enough light coming through the windows to read, write and see the blackboard.  Photocopying was banned because there was not enough money to buy paper or run the photocopiers.  Every penny was watched.  With mounting health-care costs, Klein had it on his agenda to try to privatize elements of the healthcare program.  It had the potential to become a very slippery slope.

Québec, at the time, was one of the most ardent supporters of Saskatchewan’s universal healthcare dream.  Despite the constitutional mayhem of that period, Québec politicians and those in Québec’s Ministry of Health were able to compartmentalize the constitutional rigmarole from the necessity of doing day-to-day business.  They provided the moral support, healthcare infrastructure assurances, additional perspectives, encouragement, sober second thought, and advocacy which helped to convince Alberta to make the difficult decision to stay in the fold of universal healthcare coverage at a time when Alberta was economically on its knees and seriously considering alternative options.

In a nutshell, our Québec compatriots, along with other provinces, basically sent continuous reminders that we’re all in this together, and it is an aspect of our society to maintain.  The signals were many: “This is something we value very much and we’re all in this together.  Saskatchewan came up with it, and we fully believe in it.  We’re going to continue to contribute to this national project of universal healthcare, and in that respect, you can count on our support come hell or high water.   Are you sure you want to take steps which could lead to its dismantlement.  Look at what we’ve built together – something which was so difficult to build, but which we actually managed to pull off… and it actually works — we did it.  Think about it – think very very hard.“  Klein eventually backed down on the health-care front.  There were a number of reasons, but it was also in part because of this type of sober-second thought and moral support offered by Québec, and other provinces.  It also helped to entrench Canada’s (including Albertan’s) overall reaffirmation in support of the program, and our values and commitments to our fellow countrymen and women.  There may be a time when Canada as a whole may once again examine reforms to the system, but if and when that happens, it will likely be when the country as a whole is ready to sit down and look at options which work best.  These are deeply profound values which we, as Anglophones and Francophones alike, share in no small degree.

I was listening to an interview Denise Bombardier gave the other day in which she discussed the death of her former spouse with whom she separated decades ago.  She was at his bedside at the moment of his passing.  It was the second time she was physically present for the death of a loved one, and her recount of the moment was quite emotional.  In a nutshell, he was in a palliative care centre (funded as part of our universal healthcare system).  She was especially moved by the tenderness of the care he receive, the consideration of the staff (her ex-spouse was in a coma, but every time they touched him, the staff gently told him there were going to do such things as turn him, or change his bedpan).  She said the discreetness and care with which the staff treated the family was almost like they themselves were close family members.  She said what struck her was that staff told her the majority of patients in the facility do not have family to visit them.   Yet Bombardier saw the staff stepping up to the plate, every single time, to become surrogate family.  They made every effort there were people around the dying, people who cared for them, and in many ways tenderly loved them (even though the staff were strangers).  She said nobody in the public facility dies alone.  Bombardier was terribly moved in the interview and she made an emotional point of saying these are Québec values, that this is the Québec she loves so much, that this is the Québec she has devoted her life to.

Denise Bombardier was so very right.  These are profoundly deep Québec values, and these are also values shared by us all across Canada.  When my grandmother passed away in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan a couple of years ago, this was the exact same treatment she received and which I saw too.  We have built something special together which has served as a base to build an entire value system.  I don’t think she could have said it better.

Example 3 – Mutual assistance through equalization values:

I’d like to give one more example of how our values, as a nation, are intricately tied across linguistic lines – and how we have together mutually influenced those values. Today, the economic situation in Alberta is completely different than the early 1990s.  Since the austerity days of the Klein years (which in my opinion, did save the province from economic collapse), Alberta has been blessed with the strongest economy, lowest unemployment, one of the fastest economic growth rates, and one of the most substantial population growth rates in all of North America (within the next three years, it is predicted to even overtake BC as the most populous province in Western Canada).  It also has the highest per-capita international immigration rates in Canada (due to immigration, Alberta now has one of the highest percentage of visible minorities in Canada, standing at almost 20% province-wide, and substantially higher in the major metropolitan areas of Calgary and Edmonton).  Alberta’s per-capita income of $78,000 a year is also the highest in all of North America (but having one of the highest incomes in the world comes with its own set of challenges such as an increasing cost of living and how to convince students to stop dropping out of high school for $100,000 jobs which are readily available for 17 year olds).

Despite this incredible situation, Albertans have never forgotten the support it received from Eastern Canada in its darkest days (not just the early 1990s, but dating back to the even darker depression days between the 1920s and 1940s).  Nor to Albertans ever take the oil boom for granted – fully aware that there are boom and bust cycles, and the winds can change on a dime.  Albertans and people from Saskatchewan still recall how the Atlantic provinces sent repeated shipments of salted fish, and Québec and Ontario sent trainload after trainload of free fresh fruit during the 1930s.  The “Relief Program” in which Québec and Ontario were the largest contributors, literally helped to save Alberta and Saskatchewan from starving, and helped to get the Prairies back on their feet as we went into WWII.  Even to this day, my grandfather from Saskatchewan still talks about the Relief Program.  I have a photos he took of Eastern Canada’s efforts from the late 1930s or more likely the early 1940s, when they airdropped supplies over the Moose Jaw area of  Saskatchewan to help families like my grandfathers’.  It’s a remarkable photo with tremendous symbolic value (an extremely rare photo because people back then did not just carry around cameras, and it as a complete fluke of nature that my grandfather’s family was carrying their camera at the time of an airdrop).   Airdrops such as this cemented Canadian values of not only helping your fellow countrymen and women in times of need, but also your fellow provinces.  This photo of supplies being parachuted to the Prairies, captures in essence the birth of the spirit of equalization.

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It’s for these reasons, and many many more that Alberta and other “have” provinces generally are content with contributing to Canada’s equalization programs.  (Wikipedia has a decent explanation on the equalization program here http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equalization_payments_in_Canada).  We (Albertans) were supported by Québec when times were tough and when we had difficulty making ends meet.  At various times in its history, Western Canada would have found things very difficult without the past support of Québec and other provinces in Eastern Canada.  And now it’s Alberta’s turn to help Québec.  Québec is faced with serious economic issues and is having a difficult time getting its own financial house in order – but they’re trying (these efforts of economic redress have been front-page news in Québec for the past few weeks).  For the moment, Québec is the greatest recipient of equalization payments (approximately $9 billion), into which Alberta (along with Saskatchewan, BC and Newfoundland) are the net contributors.  While Québec is going through this difficult period, Alberta is sticking with it and continues to pay into the equalization program, knowing full well it is the right thing to do.

There are groups in Alberta who are complaining, but they are mostly restricted to the Wild Rose Party – and the Wild Rose’s support seems to have  peaked in very low percentage ranges.   Although there are very vocal elements in their party, their views on equalization are not representative of the vast majority of Albertans, and they remain on the fringes in this sense.  That certainly doesn’t mean there are not things which couldn’t be done different or improved to become more effective.  But Albertans have repeatedly voiced their support for equalization as a civic duty, knowing it’s ethical for us to be there for others, and having the comfort of knowing others will be there for us – just as they have in the past.

Equalization has become one of the most valued aspect of our country, both economically and socially.  We’ve been there for each other, Québec, Alberta, Anglophones and Francophones.  Our shared values continue to compel us to stick with it.  It also serves as incentive to strive harder to increase our own provincial economic might (equalization is a temporary measure to lend a helping hand to provinces until they can become “have” provinces also).  There’s not much more Canadian than our provinces standing side-by-side through thick and thin.  It’s in our nature and values – and we’ve developed these values together.

I very much appreciated that you’ve taken the time to read through the past 100 posts, including those of you who have become regular followers.  I also appreciate the emails of support.  I look forward to continuing to bring you more posts with various cultural references to help you bridge the Two Solitudes in your own way.

INDEX (all posts / tous les billets)

If you’re curious, the second blog post, The poll that shocked, was actually supposed to be the first post.  The subject of this post gave me the idea and impetus to write this blog.

[Montreal Gazette] Dan Delmar: Why sovereignty withered under Stephen Harper (#381)

One week after the Federal election: The aftermath in Québec’s context (#380)

Qu’est ce qui est arrivé durant les quelques années suivant l’arrivée des Britanniques au Québec? (#379)

With so many languages out there, which one(s) to learn? (#378)

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SERIES:  Prime Minister Harper finally appeared on French-language variety TV (2 POSTS)

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More France / Québec dynamics, and plays on stereotypes (#375)

Thanksgiving in Canada & Québec (#374)

The party leaders’ final major interviews before the election (#373)

A very good election ad from Laval – which highlights Québec’s inclusive diversity (#372)

NOTA – None of the above (#371)

Enric Bellemare – Somewhat of a Québec fitness guru (#370)

Funny what gets dragged from the attic when politics get involved (#369)

How you know you’re doomed on election day (kidding… well, kinda) (#368)

Thierry Doucet, and his not so politically correct YouTube hit videos (#367)

Jean Leloup (#366)

Québec’s Squeegee Kids (#365)

A rare radio interview with Stephen Harper (#364)

A well-made BBC video questioning if Québec is able to integrate the Anglophone immigrants it “needs” (#363)

The Niqab debate is once again staying in English Canada’s headlines – With love from Québec (#362)

The Two Solitudes come to the fore after the French-language election debate (#361)

Our numerous Federal politicians’ French-language train wreck (#360)

CBC and the two solitudes (#359)

The Gémeaux’s reveals all shades of Québec’s cultural scene (#358)

Last night’s Gémeaux awards (#357)

Article of interest: French new wave: A cultural shift for Toronto as ‘invisible francophones’ settle in [Globe & Mail] (#356)

Article of interest: Finding a French connection: A week in an intense immersion program in rural Quebec [Globe & Mail] (#355)

Article of Interest: The Oxford Dictionary now shops at the dépanneur [Globe & Mail] (#354)

Un mot sur les opinions dans les réseaux sociaux (#353)

La radio de la CBC; un coffre au trésor pour les francophones qui désirent agrandir leurs horizons (#352)

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SERIES:  INTERESTING “RADIO” SHOW SUGGESTIONS ON RADIO-CANADA (3 POSTS)

These posts also include maps of Radio-Canada radio coverage across Canada.

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Let’s play ball: Who lives on the street? (#348)

The push from Montréal to found the West (#347)

Article: The Molsons, builders of our heritage (#346)

Another way to practice your French – Gov’t call centres (#345)

Some Metro (subway) & train videos from Montréal (#344)

You’re trying to learn French, you can read a bit, but it still sounds like one big garble. What to do? (#343)

Immigration et certaines prises de position des associations francophones hors Québec (#342)

A small insight into Québec’s unique “culture for children” (#341)

Portrait of a village: Debden, SK (#340)

Maritime population / community distribution based on language (#339)

Legendary loggers of a by-gone era – an online documentary from 1962 (#338)

The Quebec Board of the French Language (#337)

How summer vacation accentuates the “Two Solitudes” (#336)

Québec’s “surprise” album (and singer) of the summer (#335)

Philippe Couillard’s “premptive” damage control positioning and constitutional preps (#334)

Too funny !! Makes you love election season (#333)

Poll: How certain celebrities may vote (#332)

The most amateur, tacky video in the world about Gatineau, Québec (#331)

Two “mystery forts” tied to Québec’s role in founding Alberta and Western Canada (#330)

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SERIES:  COLLOQUIAL (SPOKEN) FRENCH – HARD-CORE LEARNING EXERCISE (6 POSTS)

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Quiz: Accents & Eagles (#326)

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SERIES:  QUÉBEC’S OWN B-DAY SONG & ANTHEM (4 POSTS)

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SERIES:  FRANCO-FÊTE DE TORONTO (5 POSTS)

2 weeks in Dundas Square / 2 semaines dans la place Dundas (Toronto), 
700,000 – 1,000,000 attendees / spectacteurs
100 concerts, 350 performers / chanteurs

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SERIES:  WEB-USERS’ VARIOUS QUÉBEC CULTURAL RANKINGS (11 POSTS)

Culturally, you are going to know a lot more about Québec after this series of posts

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“Hard-core French” learning exercise (#302)

300e billet / 300th post — Mon premier billet vidéo / My first video post

  • My first audio/visual video post (Combining thank-you to my blog followers, recognizing the 300th post, and wishing a happy Canada day all into one!).

Julie Snyder : « Je ne peux plus produire des émissions de télé » (#299)

Julie Snyder’s statement today stating she can no longer run her production company (#298)

Chantal Hébert (#297)

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SERIES:  THE ART OF “LA BISE” (KISSING ON THE CHEEK) (2 POSTS)

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Québec’s most trending YouTube video of the last couple of weeks (#294)

24 June: La Fête nationale du Québec / La Fête St-Jean Baptiste (#293)

Sometimes you just have to laugh… (#292)

Is there a “personality difference” between Francophones and Anglophones? (#291)

200e anniversaire de la bataille de Waterloo : Comment elle a pu façonner à jamais le Québec et le Canada (#290)

200th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo:  How it shaped Québec and Canada (#289)

A different website which throws a different light on things:  Antagonist.net … (#288)

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SERIES:  EVENTS IN MODERN HISTORY WHICH HAVE CONDITIONED US ALL (13 POSTS)

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Texto Lingo, and the debate about dedicated cycling lanes (#274)

Texto Lingo : C-tu c kwa? (#273)

The first poll & interviews since PKP became head of the PQ (#272)

A widely read opinion article on PKP and the question of his shares in Québecor (#271) — written by Sébastien St-François (and features in the Huffington Post Québec)

A very interesting French-language experience in Anglophone regions of Canada (#270)

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SERIES:  “TU” VERSUS “VOUS” (2 POSTS)

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RadioEGO – Québec’s audio equivalent of a “Talk-radio YouTube” (#267)

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SERIES:  QUÉBEC’S 20 MOST TRUSTED INDIVIDUALS (11 POSTS)

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The French signage issue is back — with a twist (#255)

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(French / Français) SERIE:  LES PRÉJUGÉS À L’ÉGARD DE L’ALBERTA (6 billets)

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Ville d’Ottawa: Mouvement pour le bilinguisme official (drive to make the city of Ottawa officially bilingual) (#248)

Roy Dupuis (#247)

Another Movie:  Ceci n’est pas un polar (#246)

Movie: Les Maîtres du suspense (#245)

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SERIES:  QUÉBEC AND CANADIAN FRENCH SWEAR WORDS (6 POSTS)

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Today’s Top Hit French Music Countdown (#238)

Odds ‘n Ends post: A play on words (#237)

A Montréal Mystery: the Mountain Mirowave (#236)

Odds ‘n Ends Post from Québec City (#235)

All province’s & territories’ “Francophone” flags proudly being flown in Québec City (#234)

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SERIES:  A SYMBIOTIC EVOLUTION & RELATIONSHIP (4 POSTS)

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Les publicités négatives 2015 / 2015 Attack ads (#229)

And Easter in Québec?… (#228)

How a little bit of ignorance of the Two Solitudes can lead straight to failure (#227)

FR –  UNIS (la toute nouvelle chaîne de télévision au Canada) — Tout franco, tout beau (#226)

ENG – UNIS (Canada’s newest French-language TV station) — Tout franco, tout beau (#225)

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SERIES:  FRANCOPHONE ONTARIO & ONTAROIS (6 POSTS)

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A short word on Belgian French (#218)

A brief history of France’s former languages, and how they helped to shape our French in Canada (#217)

The end of SNL Québec? (#216)

Real-life documentary: “Bienvenue chez Normand” (#215)

Montessori has also gone French (#214)

PKP’s major Anti-Immigrant, Anti-Immigration Muck-up (#213)

One of Montréwood’s biggest movie stars: “Patrick Huard” (#212)

Even the media can have a bad day, week… or year (#211)

A very funny, well made movie: “Henri Henri” (#210)

La Semaine Verte (#209)

The new “Links” page (#208)

Une pub forte intéressante “pro-français” à la télé en Saskatchewan, qui passe à l’écran aux heures de grande écoute (#207)

An Interesting, “Pro-French” Advertisement on Prime-Time TV in Saskatchewan (#206)

Odds ‘n Ends post (#205) – From Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

Today’s Top Countdown French Hit music (#204)

The 24/60 Charkaoui interview (#203)

Still a Nation of Hockey Fever – No doubt about it (#202)

Nanette Workman (#201)

Post #200 — Un mot sur l’épanouissement du français au Canada anglais

Old video footage of Québec in the 1930s, 40s & 50s (#199)

A surreal experience in Témiscaming (#198)

An embarrassing example of the “Two Solitudes” (#197)

Ding et Dong (#196)

A bit of humour – See if you can figure this out (#195)

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SERIES:  THE THREE “MARTINS” (4 POSTS)

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TWO-POST SERIES:  DENYS ARCAND

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Elvis Gratton – “Unveiled” (#188)

Congrats! You’re making progress! (“Théatre St-Denis” & “Le Capitole”) (#185)

Major Projects in Sister Cities: Towers and Arenas in YQB & YEG (#184)

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SERIES:  MULTICULTURALISM AND INTERCULTURALISM (8 POSTS)

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Fanny Bloom (#177)

Paul Arcand (#176)

The Duo “Coderre – Lebeaume” (#175)

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SERIES:  “REGIONAL” VOCABULARY AND EXPRESSIONS (6 POSTS)

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GND does it again – (#168)

Véronic DiCaire – Who is that singing? (#167)

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SERIES:  FRENCH IMMERSION (4 POSTS)

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Learning French – don’t be afraid to take things to the next level (#162)

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SERIES: THE WORST CITIES??  SERIOUSLY??  DON’T BE SO QUICK TO JUDGE!! (5 POSTS):

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The Names of Residents of Cities, Towns and Villages in Québec, in French (#156)

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MINI “EAVESDROPPING” SERIES

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SERIES: AN INCREDIBLE SHOWING OF SOLIDARITY ACROSS CANADA (3 POSTS):

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Pierre Lapointe (#143)

Yup, There are those days which sometimes seem like this… (#142)

Stereotypes France has of Québec, and vice-versa (#141)

François Massicotte (#140)

The annual “Rendez-vous de la Francophonie”, coming to a city near you (#139)

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SERIES:  “SOME THOUGHTS FROM ALBERTA” ( 9 POSTS) — A few thoughts from my two weeks spent in Alberta over the holidays.   A number of these posts could be of interest to both Francophones and Anglophones.

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Today’s French hit music countdown (#134)

25th Anniversary of RDI (#133)

Tonight’s 2014 Bye-Bye Celebration (#132)

Simon Durivage (#129)

A few Christmas traditions in Québec (#128)

Gérald Fillion – Watch this guy if you want to know about Québec’s economy (#124)

Oil Pipelines in Québec – A Hot-Button issue (#123)

Bouleversement politique en Alberta (#122) (with a Feb’15 addendum on an interesting analysis from CBC)

Antoine Bertrand (#121)

Premier Philippe Couillard’s Year-End Interview (#120)

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SERIES:  “QUI ÊTES-VOUS?” ( 7 POSTS)

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这加拿大说法语的情况就是什么意思?(#113)

Marc Dupré (#112)

Québec’s network of opinion makers (#111)

A couple of interesting online documentaries on Télé-Québec (#110)

Free online films from the National Film Board (#109)

If you love films, this (travelling) festival is for you (#108)

Official Francophone Representation outside Québec (#107)

Michaëlle Jean & La Francophonie (#106)

Gabrielle – The movie (#105)

Charles Tisseyre – Découverte, his activism, and his “Cuys” (#104)

Sugar Sammy:  Most people love him, but others… well… (sigh) (#103)

Europe & Canada:  Same language, but culturally worlds apart (#102)

Thanksgiving (#101)

100th post – Some thoughts on common values (#100)

Good Cop, Bad Cop (#99)

La petite vie (#98)

TV5, & European French (#97)

Antoine Olivier Pilon (#96)

Alex Nevsky (#95)

Denise Bombardier (#94)

Louis Morrissette (#93)

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SERIES:  OUR 32 ACCENTS (7 POSTS) – One of the Internet’s most comprehensive and descriptive texts on the subject of Canadian French accents.  It’s worth a look – you’ll find little else like it.

(If the “32 Accents” series is of interest to you, you may also find certain things mentioned in the post onJoual, Informal French (#23)” to be of interest, as well as the last half of the post “TV5 & European French (#97)” to also be of interest)

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Remembrance Day in Ottawa (#85)

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SERIES:  THE MYTHIC THREE (4 POSTS)

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Michel Rivard (#80)

Dagobert (#79)  (note:  I still can’t believe I wrote a post about a bar!)

1987 (#78)

Montréwood’s 10 hottest sitcoms and drama series (TV) (#77)

No way, Le Figaro (#76)   (This is a highly political, running post on matters involving PKP).

Michel Louvain (#75)

Québec’s Rough’n Toughs (#74)

Maxime Landry (#73)

Le Plateau (#72)

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SERIES:  CANADIAN BILINGUALISM TRENDS (4 POSTS)

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Alex Perron (#67)

Yesterday, a day without the Two Solitudes / La journée d’hier, sans les Deux solitudes (#66)

Dave Morissette (#65)

Mes raisons d’écrire ce blogue (#64)

This week’s national tragedy / La tragédie nationale de cette semaine (#63)

Political interview series of major Federal party leaders (#62)

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SERIES:  COMEDY (4 POSTS)

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“Patrice Lemieux” or “Daniel Savoie” (#57)

Martin Matte (#56)

Mommy – Now playing in your city (#55)

Lise Dion (#54)

Terrace et la côte-nord de la Colombie-Britannique (#53)

Anne Dorval (#52)

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SERIES:  A COUPLE TIPS TO LEARN & IMPROVE YOUR FRENCH, FAST! (2 POSTS)

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Maurais Live (#49)

C’est la vie (#48)

Éric Salvail (#47)

Virtual tour of some pretty cool places in Québec City (#46)

Evening news programs (#45)

Les FrancoFolies (#44)

Today’s hit music Franco-Countdown (#43)

Les Trois Accords (#42)

Cayouche (#41)

Louis-José Houde (#40)

Paul Houde (#39)

Pierre Houde (#38)

La poussière du temps (#37)

Stromae:  French hit music in Québec isn’t just from Québec and Canada (#36)

“Archambeault”, “Renaud-Bray” and Québec books (#35)

Les francs-tireurs (#34)

Claude Legault (#33)

Québec Talk Radio:  Who’s talking about what? (#32)

Les enfants de la télé (#31)

Katherine Levac – Move over Acadia… and Bonjour Ontario! (#30)

L’Été indien (#29)

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SERIES:  THE GÉMEAUX AWARDS (2 POSTS)

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Marc Labrèche (#26)

Jonas & the Massive Attraction (#25)

Kain (#24)

Joual, Informal French – An Audio Post with Examples (#23)

Fabienne Larouche (#22)

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SERIES:  MONTRÉWOOD (5 POSTS)

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Country Music = Québec (#16)

Isabelle Boulay (#15)

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SERIES:  THE POLL THAT SHOCKED (13 POSTS)

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Tout le monde en parle (#1)


index

Joual, Informal French – an Audio Post with Explanations (#23)

Joual

A post about “our” style of French

[If you’re looking for the audio recordings which I made, which a number of people are asking me for, you can find them 3/4 of the way down].

This blog post may be of interest to a wider Anglophone Canadian audience, but in particular for those who are learning French.  In my blogs, I’ve been encouraging you to do some web searches and take in some songs, musicians and bits of TV & movies.

A few times I’ve mentioned in earlier posts that there are people who speak “Joual” (such as the previous blog on Fabienne Larouche).  Basically, it’s just a term for very informal speech.  In many ways it could be synonymous with the word “Slang” in English.   Thus, in English we also have informal speech (a Joual if you will), and 90% of the time, we’re not even aware we’re speaking it.

Example:  “I headed down the strip and got me a good cold one at that happenin’ joint I often hit at the tail-end of the week”.   If we were to speak grammatically correct English with words according to the dictionary, the sentence would become “went down the street and boughtbeer at the busy bar I often go to on a Friday“.   Now imagine being someone who is trying to learn English at a basic or basic-intermediate level, and you come face to face with the first sentence;  chances are you would not understand – especially if it is said with a heavy accent.

The same phenomenon occurs in French too, but it can become much more informal in Québec French and other styles of Canadian French.  This informal way of speaking (or slang) is called Joual.   

But don’t let this turn you off from trying to improve your French.  Luckily for those learning French, newscasts, movies, many mainstream movies, much of what is discussed in interviews on television, and the vast majority of literature is in international, standard French, simply with various Québec accents or other regional accents.  The more you learn standard French, the more you’ll be able to pick-up bits and pieces of day-to-day informal speech, or Joual.

Joual is not a separate language, anymore than what casual and informal English is.  Although some people say they are speaking “Québécois” when referring to Joual, it’s not restricted to Québec and it exists in all types of Canadian French (my audio example below is one such example).  Different regions within Québec and in other regions in Canada do have variations of Joual (just as there are different styles of informal speech of English in different parts of the US, or Newfoundland, or the Maritimes, or the Prairies) – but all forms of Joual are still relatively simliar.   Because of Montréwood media and the large number of Joual speakers in Montréal, Montréal Joual is the form most often heard.

Where you may encounter Joual more frequently is in rural regions of Québec and certain areas of larger cities.  But Joual is spoken by all aspects of society (even Denise Bombardier – someone who is known in Québec for being the prime torch bearer for how international French should be spoken — has said she speaks it at home – I didn’t see that one coming when I heard it!).  Joual is also heavily used in comedy.   It’s the colloquial “street talk” that gives the audience a base denominator for many many jokes.  So don’t be surprised to hear it at the Juste Pour Rire! comedy festival, on the radio when jokes are being told, and in conversations about sports.

A Word of caution… sitcoms and drama series on television will often include a certain amount of Joual for added effect.  But don’t become too discouraged.  I once read that many sitcoms and dramas, in English at any rate, are written at level that a six year old can understand (they’re supposed to be family programs after all).  So the Joual used on television shows is often quite basic (in real life it can get much much more hard-core than the bits you hear on TV).  In this sense, sitcoms and dramas are an excellent way to begin to acquaint yourself with basic Joual and to begin to understand it over time.

The explanations I’m giving here are very broad and general.  Linguists have much finer definitions of Joual, and some say Joual is specifically from Montréal, but that it has different names depending on regional differences within Québec and elsewhere in Canada  (Brayon/ Edmonston in NW New Brunswick & La Beauce, Chiac/Acadie, Vallois, Magoua, Chaouin, autre Acadie, Prairies, Rivière Rouge/Manitobain, Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean, Sudburois/Ontario, Cajun/Louisianne, Paw Paw/Missouri, etc.).   For simplicity sake, and for the purposes of this blog, I’ll refer to all of these together as Joual (they’re often grouped together as Joual in the media, anyway).

Linguists are clear in stating Joual is NOT a creole (just as informal English is not Creole).  Nor is it a separate language, and even classifying it as a dialect of French may not be correct since the bar of what constitutes a dialect can be quite loose.  At its most basic level, it’s just very informal speech, often with more informalities than what Canadian English has (but perhaps other forms of English elsewhere in the world can become equally informal).

The only two ways I can think of how two explain Joual, in a more definitive sense, to Canadian Anglophones is (1) through providing comparisons using English, and (2) through actual audio examples.

(1) English Comparisons

There are certain regional accents and regional vocabularies of English in some rural parts of Ireland and Scotland which I have had a very difficult time understanding (perhaps understanding only 20% – 30%).  This is because my ear is not accustomed to hearing the regional accent and words (I recall I had a discussion with a business contact from a very rural region of Ireland, and being Anglophone myself, I was completely embarrassed that I was not able to easily understand when he asked me some basic work-related questions in his variation of rural Irish English).   There are also regions of the Deep South in the US where I’ve had difficulty understanding certain individual’s English accents and vocabulary (we don’t hear it so much in Canada because television networks in the US often do not air more-difficult-to-understand accents, and when they do, they often use sub-titles).

But this does not mean these examples of informal speech are not English.  I am sure that given a couple months living in the environment, I would acclimatize to their way of speaking, and it would no longer be an issue.  If the speech of these regions were to be simultaneously read on paper (or sub-titles), I would be able to follow what’s spoken, and would not have many problems understanding.   That’s precisely why these regional differences are not a different language, and often do not even meet the criteria for being a separate dialect.

Joual works on kind of the same principle.  You’ll often hear others say that people from France cannot understand people from Québec.  But what they really mean is that they can’t understand people form Québec when they are speaking Joual – it’s only a question of not being accustomed to hearing it on a regular basis.  I have known a good number of immigrants who have moved from France to Québec and who, after just a few weeks on the ground, didn’t have many issues understanding Joual.  They simply needed a bit of time to acclimatize.

Something that is interesting about Joual, and a reason why it is so difficult for many Anglophones to understand, is its pervasive use of contractions.  English has contractions (ain’t, can’t, shouldn’t, shan’t, it’ll, you’ve, y’all, nutt’in’, ‘dem’der, ask’em, give’er… , etc, etc,), many of which are very informal.  Joual seems to have so many many more of these types of contractions – often two or three contractions in the same word! – making it difficult for learners of French (as well as French people from France) to isolate and identify the words being spoken.  Throw in a strong local accent, and it becomes all the more difficult to understand – especially when the contractions are not necessarily used in International French.

I’ll give you an example:  Accoutumance in Canada means habitude (or être habitué) in international French (“accustomed to”, “to be used to”, “to be in the habit of”).  Both words (habitude and accoutumance) are used in Québec, but accoutumance is used very informally (similar to Anglo-Canadians saying “Yah, I’m pretty in-tune with it” instead of saying “Yes, I am quite used to it”). Even though accoutumance is not standard International French, someone from France could probably figure out what it means in the context of a sentence, and it would not pose a barrier to communication.  But if it’s contracted in Joual to “ac’t’m’nce” (as if we were to contract “I’d be pretty in tuned to it” to “I’j be p’t’n tun t’it”) then it likely wouln’t be understood by a learner of French or by someone from France (just as the English example wouldn’t be understood in English by someone who has never heard it said that way before).

It doesn’t mean this reflects a dialect or distinct language… it’s just means it’s a regional word that has been… well… contracted (and I mean seriously contracted, my friend!).  Now, put many of those types of words together in a conversation, sometimes one after another (just as I did in the latter English example “I’j be p’t’n tun t’it”), with a very distinct accent, a multitude of regional expressions, followed by even more contractions, and the untrained ear will likely have difficulty understanding Joual.  That’s one of the best explanations I can think of.

I’d say 80% or more of what Anglophones will encounter when going about their lives listening to and participating in Québec French will be internationally understood French, simply with a Québec accent.  From my experience, perhaps 90% of what’s spoken on Montréwood television is also internationally understood French.

But it’s good to be able to recognize the remaining 10% or 20% which may constitute Joual; if for no other reason, than to prevent yourself from becoming discouraged in your own language learning efforts.  It’s a terrible feeling to think you have hit a language learning wall after having put in so much effort to learn a language, when in fact you simply ran into a small bout of informally used French.  But if you recognize Joual for what it is, and you are aware that you encountered Joual instead of standard French, you can forgive yourself for not understanding, and just move on with a smile.

If it’s any consolation, even many Québécois find it difficult to understand different types of Joual.   (A Francophone friend of mine from Gatineau, QC was having supper with someone from Acadia in New Brunswick, and the friend from Québec had a very difficult time understanding the Joual-type language being used by the other person from Acadia.  Likewise, the same situation sometimes arises within Québec as well, such as with aspects of the Joual in the Magdaleine Islands versus that spoken in Trois-Rivières).

Audio Examples

I’ve been racking my brain for some time about how on earth I would find and present to you a good audio sample of Joual.   I spent a fair chunk of time going through YouTube videos, but quite surprisingly (or maybe unsurprisingly), there is very little in the way of good audio examples of Joual online.  The vast majority of French YouTube videos from Québec are standard, run-of-the mill French with a Québec accent, understood by all.  But that is an important point in itself… it reflects the reality that in Québec, standard French remains the lingua franca.   The very few videos which I did manage to find online were, well… quite vulgar – so I wouldn’t link to them, regardless (that’s also a characteristic of Joual, it’s rather liberal its use of profanity, but in no way does that mean it’s always profane or that swear words are always present – so no need to put winter ear muffs on the kiddies when you take a summer holiday to Québec — but during winter, that’s another story!).

I think an audio example is still the best way to help readers recognize Joual.

I’m venturing out on a very long and narrow limb — way waaaay out of my comfort zone here — to do my best to provide you with an audio example of the difference between standard French with a Québec accent, and Joual.   I made two recordings myself, with my own voice… the first one is standard French, the second one is the same story, but told in Joual.  Again, the two versions of the story are essentially the same, paragraph-by-paragraph, and in large part, sentence-for-sentence.   However, I had to change the words, syntax, and accent in each sentence to transform the standard French version into Joual.  I personally have never seen such a comparison done before — so it’s kind of a strange (but quite interesting) experience, even for me — especially while playing it back and listening to the comparison of the two versions (it becomes even more interesting when listening to the Joual version while trying to read along and follow it using the International French transcript at the bottom of this post).

The story in the audio track is based on a true story that happened to me the other night here at home in Toronto.

Plot:  The other night I had to go to bed very early for an important early morning work appointment.  At 3:00am, a car, parked nearby at a convenience store, started to blare its horn relentlessly and would not stop.   It woke up the entire neighbourhood.  My neighbours from all around began shouting at the car to stop honking.   I waited a long long time for the honking to stop, but it didn’t, and the racket outside only intensified.  Just as I was preparing to walk outside and confront the driver, the most unexpected and hilarious thing happened… I won’t spoil the ending for you, but see if you can pick it up from the audio version of the story (the very last paragraph sets it up, and the very last sentence is the punch).

A written transcript is at the very bottom of this post (with translation below it).

NOTE :  The 2nd video has a heavily Alberta French style of Joual, but it’s close enough to numerous styles in Eastern Québec… you’ll get the the drift.  🙂

Like I said… I sure ventured out of my comfort zone by making these audio tracks… so wish me luck !!!

Audio File One – Standard French with Québec / Canada accent

Posted on YouTube:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFcw4XxB81U

Audio File Two – Rural-style Joual

(turn on the “closed captions” mode in YouTube to follow along in Joual).

Posted on YouTube:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srB47x2XWCM

Something to also note is that Joual, when spoken, is often lightly speckled in and out of regular standard French sentences and paragraphs (just as in English), rather than comprising the entirety of a conversation or story (as I presented it here).  But interestingly, sometimes there are a minority of people out there who communicate predominately in Joual (those people are are more rare, and not the majority, but you may run into them — and it’s always interesting when you do).

Bonne écoute!


Transcript in French (For the standard French audio recording).   See if you can follow the standard, International French transcript below when listening to the Joual verson — my Joual version came from my standard French version below.  A translation is at the very bottom.

Je me suis couché l’autre soir assez de bonne heure car il fallait me lever plus tôt que d’habitude le lendemain matin. J’avais un client important à rencontrer. Alors, pour expliquer un peu la scène, pas loin de chez moi se trouve une artère principale avec un dépanneur à 24hrs. Parfois, durant la nuit, on pourrait y voir des voitures qui s’y stationnent illégalement dans la rue en face du dépanneur lorsque les chauffeurs y courent dedans pour chercher du lait ou autre.

Mais cette nuit-là, vers 3hrs le matin, je me suis brusquement levé au son d’un klaxon qui n’arrêtait pas de sonner. Je ne parle pas d’un klaxon court et intermittent, comme on a l’habitude d’entendre. Non, c’était le klaxon des klaxons. C’était clair et certain, que la personne qui appuyait sur le petit bouton rond au volant n’avait guère l’intention d’y relâcher.

Alors, quoi faire… devrais-je attendre encore une minute de plus? Peut-être deux minutes? Voire même trois? Et puis, quoi? Ouvrir la fenêtre lui crier à haute voix? Bon, j’attendrais encore un peu – malgré tout, ça ne pourrait pas durer bien longtemps.

Mais ça durait, et à ma grande surprise, je n’avais rien à faire moi-même car tout le voisinage dans son entier commençait à crier auprès du chauffeur. Les voisins criaient des deux côtés de la rue, des hommes, des femmes, et même des chiens ont commencé japper. En regardant dehors, j’ai vu les lumières s’ouvrant une à une dans toutes les fenêtres du quartier. Combiné avec les coups de klaxon, je n’exagère pas en vous disant que le bruit était assourdissant.

Bon, je n’en pouvais plus! Je m’apprêtais moi-même sortir lui dire ses quatre vérités. Mais, j’avais juste assez de temps d’ouvrir la porte de maison quand j’ai vu une vieille dame, peut-être 85 ans sortir du dépanneur elle-même, bien accroché à son déambulateur, s’approcher de la voiture, ouvrir la porte, et – écoutez-ça… laisser son chien descendre faire pee pee.

TRANSLATION:

I went to bed fairly early last night because I had to wake up earlier than usual the next day.  I had an important client I had to meet.   Thus, to explain the situation, not far from where I live is a major road with a 24 hour convenience store.  Sometimes, during the night, you can hear cars who illegally park in the street in front of the convenience store when the drivers run inside to buy milk or other things.

But this particular night, around 3:00am, I was suddenly woken by the sound of a horn which wouldn’t let up.  I’m not talking about a normal short honking, like you would be used to hearing.  Non… It was the ultimate horn of all horns.  It was very clear that the person laying on the steering wheel button had no intention of letting up.

So, what should I do?  Should I wait for another minute?  Perhaps two?  Maybe even three?  And then what?  Open the window and yell at him?  Well, I though it best to wait a little longer — after all, I was sure it wouldn’t last forever.

But it did last, and to my great surprise, I didn’t have to take any action at all myself because the whole neighbourhood, in its entirety, began yelling at the driver.  The neighbours were yelling from both sides of the street – men, women, and even the dogs began to bark.  When I looked outside, I could see all the windows of the neighbourhood light up one-by-one.  Add to this the honking noise, and I’m not exaggerating when I tell you it was deafening.

Ok, I couldn’t take it anymore!  I was now getting ready to go outside myself and give the driver a piece of my mind.  But just as I opened the house door, I saw an only lady, perhaps 85 years old, exit the convenience store, hunched over her walker, walking towards the car.  She then opened the car door and — get this — let her dog out to take a whiz.


A bit of additional information regarding my Alberta & Prairie influenced French accent & Joual vocabulary.

I have received a number of emails from people asking questions (particularly from very curious Québécois who say it sounds very familiar to them — like a variation of rural or remote Eastern Québec French – but that they can’t quite place it.  A few people told me they thought it sounds similar to Acadian Chiac French from New Brunswick – bit I do NOT think it sounds anything like Acadian Chiac French):

Regarding the above Joual audio track… my own accent & colloquial vocabulary very much has its roots in rural Western Canada.  Therefore, the style of Joual I grew up with in rural Alberta does has some variations from Montréal Joual (many people I’ve spoken with in the past believe “Prairie French” (or le français prairien) has more in common with Québec North-Coast (Côte-Nord) slang than it does with Montréal slang.

You can read much more about it in the section on Prairie French Accents (click here).
Here is a map with the region from where I grew up and which speaks the above style of Prairie French Joual.

AB-SK7

Any time I have visited the Québec North-Coast, people there had no problems understanding my joual, whereas people in Southern regions of Québec have had a more difficult time understanding my Joual.   I too have relatively few problems understanding Québec North-Coast Joual, whereas I know of people in Montréal and Gatineau who have difficulty understanding Québec North-Coast Joual.  That’s why I think there is more in common between “hardcore” rural “Prairien” French and Québec North-Coast French.

You can contrast Prairie French Joual with Montréal East End Joual in by listening to the Montréal style in the following video:

And again, you can contrast this with very informal speech from the Saguenay region of Québec (the following audio tract from post #329).
I wrote subtitles and added them to the video considering that it may be difficult for some people to understand (turn on the CC button at the bottom of the video)

On the subject of various styles of French, you may be interested in the blog series I did on various accents.  There are explanations, maps, and video examples of French from various regions of Canada (32 general regions).  The last post on French from the Western Province Accents gives more context to the above audio tracts I presented you with.

SERIES:  OUR 32 ACCENTS (7 POSTS)

You might also be interested in this blog post I wrote on European French (the latter half talks about how learning European French comes with its own challenges, and the very last addendum at the bottom contains a very interesting French language “surprise”):  TV5, & European French.


A Fun, Semi-Related Language Challenge:

On the topic of regional slangs & accents, we all have them.  The following can help to put it all into context.

As I stated above, English has quite a number of difficult to-under-stand accents and slang.  We all know that Canadian English in the Maritime Provinces and in Newfoundland & Labrador can be very different, but if you ever doubted that Western Canadian English also has various kinds of “English Joual”, then check out the following video of a style of Canadian English (accent & vocabulary) unique to Saskatchewan.  1000 points to you if you get through it without having to look at the subtitles (but you don’t get any points if you’re from the Prairies – especially from Saskatchewan! – because that wouldn’t be fair).

And then there is the Newfoundland English accent from Canada’s most Eastern province.   It can get quite “hurly!”  I think it’s great!!  (Who said travelling across Canada can’t be a language adventure).   Anyway, here it is…

Just as you think it couldn’t get any worse, you then run into… well… THIS !!!  SAY WHAT !?!?!  (Coming from rural Alberta, I might still have a soft spot for the country… but boy, when I run into this type of rural Ontario talk West of Barrie, even I’m sidewinded!  It sure makes me run back to Toronto, only 90 minutes South, with my tail between my legs!!).

But compared to Scottish accents and slang, Canadian English can often seem tame.  Here’s a video of a heavy Scottish accent and slang:

And here is a heavy rural Irish accent for good measure.  I once had business acquaintance from Ireland who traveled to my side of the ocean to attend a meeting – and he spoke with the type of accent in the video below.   It was the most embarrassing meeting I ever had.  After constantly having to ask him to repeat himself as we discussed our business together, he finally asked me “Don’t you speak English?”  I just answered “I guess not!”

And here is another video of colloquial Scotts English for good measure and to help put it all in perspective.

Dominique Michel (#115)

Although I wasn’t born yet, I, like most people, know that Dominique Michel was one of the two main actresses in the 1966 to 1971 sitcom Moi et l’autre (the other actress was Denise Filiatreault, also a very famous personality).   The show was kind of the like the 1960’sThelma and Louise of Québec — and thus has gone down in pop-culture history.

Since then, Dominique Michel has never left the public eye.  She was one of the main figures on television when I was growing up, and I would often see her doing stand-up comedy, acting in movies, or staring in various sitcoms.    Like most actresses of this league, anyone with such a far reaching career by default becomes a regular figure on the talk-show circuits, award gala ceremonies, and interview programs.

She acted in the very famous movies Le Déclin de l’empire américain and Les invasions barbares, and I specifically remember her as one of the main actresses in the early 2000s television sitcom Catherine (however, she acted in many other famous sitcoms, as well as other famous movies, such as Un zoo la nuit). 

She garnered much attention when she appeared a number of years back on Tout le monde en parle, after having lost her hair due to treatment for colon cancer.  I think it took a lot of people aback because society was used to always having Michel in the background when growing up – she was just always there – and then all of a sudden her illness was apparent and real.   Fortunately she has recovered, and at 77 years old, she is appreciated by everyone as being one of the central “rocks” of modern Québec and Montréwood pop-culture.

In the recent genealogical show “Qui êtes-vous?” she traced her roots back to France, and found out that her ancestor discovered Wisconsin (now part of the USA), and a descendant of one of her family lines is now the president of Bombardier.