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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.
CBC’s English language Radio’s “C’est la vie” is one of the networks longest running and more successful radio programs. It runs once a week on CBC Radio One, for 30 minutes each time (Sundays 6:30 p.m.,Tuesdays 11:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m. NT).
If you wish to learn more about life in French-speaking Canada (strong concentration on Québec, but with focus on other areas of Canada as well), then this program is for you. C’est la vie’s target audience is Anglophone Canadians, and can provide you with much in the way of context, and sub-context, to help understand important nuances and values in French speaking Canada.
I have to admit that the program does an excellent job of remaining politically neutral, and you will never feel there is any political message or bias (a very difficult task to pull off considering the variety of subjects discussed).
The completely bilingual host (you wouldn’t know if he is Francophone or Anglophone), Bernard St-Laurent, is the political editor for CBC radio Montréal. He’s often sought for political perspectives, analysis, and commentaries on numerous other programs and networks (he is one of a rare handful of reporters anywhere in Canada who lives across, and understands issues across both Francophone or Anglophone linguistic lines. Chantal Hébert may be one of the only other such people who I readily can think of). Because of St-Laurent’s unique perspective, he asks the show’s guests questions that Anglophones would not have thought to have asked, and he delves into issues which gives Anglophones a completely new perspective of their own country and cultural heritage.
I cannot think of any other program like this one, anywhere in Canada (Grégory Charles’ former CBC/Radio-Canada television show Culture shoc is the only other one that comes to mind). In my teen years, during the constitutional rounds, and referendum years, I remember thinking that a wide-ranging program such as this was desperately needed in Anglophone Canada to help bridge the Two Solitudes. I can actually remember where I was in 1998 when I heard an advertisement on CBC radio that they would be launching the new program C’est la vie. I made a point of catching the launch of their first episode, and I’ve been a fan of the program ever since (even when I moved abroad, I made a point of downloading their podcasts).
It helps to fill in numerous missing gaps, and it gives a good number of small “uh huh” moments – which over time, weaves a bigger picture of issues and lifestyle.
The last 5 minutes of the program provides a language capsule. Each week, the show’s “word lady”, Johanne, teaches the audience a new word in French, and explains its many uses, both formally and colloquially.
We’re fortunate that this is one of the best archived radio programs on CBC’s website. You can listen to programs going back years, and past programs are available as podcasts (perfect lengths for daily commutes).
I really hope this program continues to evolve into something bigger. Time will tell what they do with it. But with the program having reached millions and millions of Anglophones over the last 15 years, I don’t think it will be going off air any time soon.
The link for the show’s official website, including archived programs, is HERE
iTunes also has a word-of-the-week and program podcast library.
Hats off to all the crew at C’est la vie !!
The show’s long-running host, Bernard St-Laurent, retired last week. The show will be back this fall with a new host (and the same producer, Alison Cook, and same word lady, Joanne, who both contribute so much to making the show a success).
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 “I went down the street and bought a beer 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).
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).
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.
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.
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)
- 1. “Our 32 Accents” – Post 1: Canada French Accents OVERVIEW (#86)
- 2. “Our 32 Accents” – Post 2: (ONTARIO x 5) (#87)
- 3. “Our 32 Accents” – Post 3: (QUÉBEC x 8) (#88)
- 4. “Our 32 Accents” – Post 4: The Big Three (Montréal x 2, Standard x 1) (#89)
- 5. “Our 32 Accents” – Post 5: (QUÉBEC x 7) (#90)
- 6. “Our 32 Accents” – Post 6: (ACADIA / ATLANTIC Provinces x 11) (#91)
- 7. “Our 32 Accents” – Post 7: (PRAIRIES / Western Province accents x 2 and nuances) (#92)
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.