Home » Posts tagged 'learn french'

Tag Archives: learn french

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

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

Boy, this is one I have heard a lot over the years.  It seems to be a definite point of frustration for a lot of people.   The problem with language courses (in school or elsewhere) is that people learn from textbooks without being immersed in French.

This means that if a native French speaker were to write out a paragraph stating their thoughts, many learners of French could read and understand it.

But if the native speaker was to “say” the entire paragraph, at regular speed,

  • it would catch the learner off guard,
  • it would be too fast with too few breaks (to allow time to process what is being said), and
  • it would sound like one big, long string of gibberish.

This is 100% natural, and it’s not something to be ashamed of or to get discouraged at.

Learning a language is like learning four different school subjects.  And just like different school subjects, your mastery of each, and your grades may be different for each one.

Your (1) reading could be very good it it (perhaps at an intermediate level).  But your (2) writing and (3) speaking may be at an elementary level.  And, as is often the case, your (4) listening skills (ability to distinguish what is being said) may still be lagging a little bit.

How can it be that you are at a different level for each?  Well, it is possible because you may have not had equal amounts of practice for each of the four language “subjects”.

  • Reading is often the easiest because we can do it anywhere, anytime (and it is emphasized in classrooms).
  • Writing is also drilled into students in the classroom.  It may take a little thought, but writing affords us the time.
  • Speaking also may not be too difficult if students are afforded the time to pause and collect their thoughts as they speak.  The speed at which one speaks can be controlled by the speaker.  Also, there are lots of little “shortcuts” when speaking (such as slipping in easier substitute words if the desired word isn’t necessarily on the tip of your tongue).

The odd one out is listening.  Drastic improvement often comes from regularly interacting with Francophones.

But what happens if you do not live in an area where you can regularly interact with Francophones?  That’s the big question, and boy, it’s a clincher.

Yes, listening skills can be improved by listening to television and radio programs.  The problem with TV and the radio is that the language spoken is for fluent native-French speaking adults, using vocabulary for fluent native-French speaking adults, at a (fast) speed which corresponds to that level.

The garbled jumbo from listening to fast-paced, advanced French can leave students frustrated, discouraged, and feeling they are not making progress (even when they are).

One way to counter that is to listen to children’s programming.  But seriously, what mature adult or student of French would actually enjoy doing that!?!  I’d rather be hit by a manure truck than have to watch Tele-Tubbies in French or any langage!    (I’d shoot myself!!!  And I’m sure you would too).

These are problems I sympathize with, precisely because I had the same issues when I as learning Chinese.  So I get it, I really really do.

An easy solution which could work for you, with fast results

When I was learning Chinese, and before I moved to China (and completely immersed myself in Chinese for a few years), one thing that helped me develop an ear was “slow news in Chinese”.

I recently found out that Radio France International (RFI) offers something similar for French.

RFI is France’s public broadcaster to an international public.

On their website, they have a “learn French” section.  Within that section, they offer numerous tools and exercises for learning French.

One such tool is an “Easy French” (français facile) daily news broadcast.

The daily newscast is spoken in a slightly slower-paced French, with better enunciation, and regular pauses between sentences and even words.

Even better, RFI offers online typed transcripts of the newscast to allow you to follow-alone.

To top it all off, you are also able to download the newscasts in an MP3 format for your iPhone or MP3 player.  You can also print the transcripts.  Therefore you can rewind, fast forward, read along and practice your listening skills anywhere, anytime.

It is really too bad that Radio-Canada does not offer such a thing for Anglophone Canadian learners of French (ironically, CBC Radio Edmonton offers something very similar in English for immigrants to Edmonton, using local Edmonton newscasts.  But it offers nothing in French, and I can’t find something like this anywhere else on the CBC / Radio-Canada platforms elsewhere in the country).

Here’s what to do

The driver plug-ins seem to work best in Internet Explorer.  I say this because the RFI broadcast plug-ins repeatedly fail for me in Chrome.

1.  Open Internet Explorer.

2.  Go to the following RFI website:


3.  In the middle column you will see the following:


It basically says “Understand the News — The Easy French Newscast: A newscast which presents you with the news, using simple words and which explains events in context.

Hey, what more could you ask for!?!

4.  You have three self-explanatory buttons (Read, listen and download).  Again, the listening and downloading work best in Internet explorer (not in Chrome).

Voilà!!  You now have a way to practice your learning skills at a pace and level which should shoot you light years ahead.  And the best thing is … IT’S FREE AND INTERESTING!!

But why stop there !?

If you go down by one more block, you’ll see the following:


It is a box which says “The words of the news:  A two-minute, stimulating segment which enlightens you on a word or expression which you will hear in the news”

So not only can you improve your listening skills with RFI’s simple French, you can also increase your vocabulary.   In the above example, today’s chosen word is “MAIRE” (Mayor).

1.  If you click the word “Maire” (or whatever word you have on your screen), you’ll get the definition and a little story about it.

2.  Clicking “Newscast” will play a news story using the word in question.

3.  Clicking “Read” will give you a transcript which you can follow along with.

But wait, there’s more! (Now I sound like an infomercial!!!)

Being the ‘lil go-getters that they are at RFI… Boxes further down offer you listening exercises.  You can listen to audio tracts, and are then prompted to answer questions about what you just heard (by checking off multiple-choice answers).


And below this is a whole series of French learning materials for teachers to present to their class.   You may also be interested in the materials.

They include:

  • Dossiers pour la class:  Materials which let you discover various areas of French culture.
  • Outils:   Which gives you more audio exposure
  • Fiche pédagogique:  Which provides you with exposés on various cultural tid-bits.
  • L’Actu de FLE:  More ways to learn in context.

Wow!!  This should give you lots of practice which you perhaps never would have otherwise had.  Take the time to check it out, and bonne écoute !!!

P.S.  Am pretty proud of ya for stickin’ with it!  Keep up the good work (the good stuff in life may not come easy, but sometimes is worth fighting for)


Let’s go fishing… and learn hard-core French while you’re at it! – Post 6 of 6 (#329)



WARNING:  This particular post contains a lot of very crude language, and may be offensive for certain people.  Consider yourself warned.

This is the final post in a series of six posts which provides examples of colloquial (spoken) French.

I have good news and bad news for you.

First with the bad news:

This is the most difficult of the six posts.  I perfectly understand that if you are trying to learn French (especially spoken informal French, which involves a good deal of JOUAL, slang, contractions, and regional accents), a post like this may make you feel extremely discouraged… almost as if Mount Everest is staring you straight in the face.   But don’t be (I’ll get to that a little further down).

Difficulty levels 6

I consider this the most difficult of the six audio tracts because:

  • of its speed,
  • there is a noticeable regional accent from the Saguenay-Lac St-Jean region of Québec (see map below — the Green part near the top),


  • the caller mixes up his tenses. He uses
    • the present tense for the past,
    • the past tense and imparfait for the present,
    • the future for the past,
    • the subjunctive is completely out the window (take that all you French teachers! — Yes, I’m talking to you “Madame C.” — all those years of trauma you put me through!),
    • and I think he even threw in the literary passé-simple at one point – I mean really??? Who does that?!  (At 0:53, I actually think he said “renversa” instead of “renversé”)
  • some words and expressions are really out there… I mean really really out there (good luck finding them in the dictionary).  I think he even invented a couple of new words.
  • Contractions, contractions, contractions – did I mention contractions?

Now with the good news:

It does not get much more difficult than this – truly.  (I can think of only a handful of other French accents and ways of speaking which are more challenging than this).  And even this is something you would rarely run into (especially if the bulk of your dealings will be with people from urban centres).

Don’t worry, because you will NEVER hear people speak like this on television.  Nothing in books, newspapers or magazines is ever written as it is spoken here.  Even 90% of radio stations would not feature people who speak like this.

Therefore, do not become discouraged, and be thankful that it cannot get any worse than this.  I say this because as you gradually improve your French through the ranks of the “intermediate” levels, you will actually begin to understand parts of the written transcript below.  Thus if you can begin to understand this (even in small doses), then you’re well on your way to beginning to understand ANYTHING! (truly – trust me).

You may recall that I stated in the post on JOUAL that it is rare to find people who truly express everything in Joual.  This is almost one of those instances.  If anything, the rareness of it should leave you more with a sense of curiosity and desire to continue to learn, rather than with a sense of discouragement.

For North American readers, you could almost think of it this way:

In the Southern U.S., there are pockets of populations with extreme accents which are very difficult for others to understand (even in other parts of the Southern US).  You will never hear them on television or the radio because nobody would be able to understand them.  The majority of the people do not speak like them.  For people learning English, knowing that such ways of speaking exist should not at all be a reason to become discouraged.  After all, there is no relation.  It’s simply interesting to know that very “informal / colloquial” ways of speaking simply exist out there.

Here is a perfect example of what I mean (using the Virginia “Tangier Island” accent / grammar as an example).  Fast-forward to 0:38 amd be prepared to be shocked at this English:



There is a blog devoted to making sense of all this French colloquial madness.


The next post at OffQc will be Felix’s 1000th blog post on the topic (big day!!).   He has gone to a tremendous amount of work to help non-Francophones learn the in’s and out’s of informal spoken French (as it is spoken on our side of the ocean).

He has a very unique site, and I have never seen anything else which compares to it.  Check it out when you have a moment.

My hat goes off to him.


A few things to note before we dive into it:

NOTE 1:  In the English translation below, I added a good number of things in (PARENTHESIS) in order for the story to make better sense.  If you ignore what is in parenthesis, then it is pretty much exactly as it is spoken.

NOTE 2:  I tried to provide as true an English translation as possible.  So if the English looks screwy, that’s how it also sounds in French.

After translating colloquial hick French into colloquial hick English, I actually feel like I lost a few brain cells in the process… so excuse the way I worded it in English.

My way of translating the below segment into English couldn’t possibly be any worse than the terrible French verb tenses, slang and wording the caller was using.  I mean seriously… “renvenir” instead of “revenir”??? Where did he even find that extra n !?!?  And is “parcédumé” even a word???  Well folks, I guess it is now – hahaha!

Actually, kidding aside, I should be the last person to point fingers.  After all, I grew up pronouncing CH as a heavy “H”, and “éch” as “tch”, and even dumb things like “J’ai”, I grew up as pronouncing as “H’ai”.   Also, my “ère” and “eur” are very very strange to many people.

So I suppose I should be the first to admit that my own day-to-day colloquial French and accent might be considered “hick” by a good number of people (straight from rural Alberta).  But cripes… I will say that this recording sure gave me stiff competition!

(You can hear my Alberta accent and Joual in the post on PRAIRIE FRENCH)

Before I present you with the video, when you read the English translation which follows, try to picture it being spoken with “THIS” hick English accent from the most rural parts of Ontario (It makes the whole thing even more funny if you try to transpose this rural Ontario hick accent in your mind onto the English translation I wrote below).

And yes… this sort of country-bumpkin English accent does exist in the further rural depths of Ontario.  Ever take a drive down highway 7 starting around Peterborough, heading in the direction of Ottawa?  Open your mouth and in their minds you might as well be from Vancouver — or Nunavut.  But at least it makes for a pretty drive.

Now, let’s jump right into the thick of it…


When I made the closed captions, I made an extra effort to make them light and short — making it easier to rewind and review if you so desire.



  • 0:00 – Oui, allô.
  • Yes, hey there.


  • 0:01 – Vous êtes en ondes.
  • You’re on the air.


  • 0:02 – Oui, parfait. Hey, j’en ai une bonne histoire, moi. 
  • Yes, great. Hey, me, I have a good story.


  • 0:04 – Go!
  • Shoot!


  • 0:05 – Mais moi, je viens du Saguenay, pis quand j’avais 9 ou 10 ans, on était une gang de chums. On était quatre flos.  Ok, parfait – entre 9 et 10 ans.  Pis on faisait dur, pis on faisait des coups plats, t’sais.
  • See, me I come from Saguenay, and when I was 9 or 10 year old, we were a group of buddies. We were three kids.  Ok, good – between 9 and 10 years old.  And we never held back, and we pulled some mean stunts, ya’know. 
  • 0:13 – Fait-que là, à un moment donné, le père un de mes chums, André Péron, il dit « Hein, les p’tits gars, la semaine prochaine je vous amène au chalet…
  • So with that, at a certain moment, André Péron, the dad of one of my buddies, he says “Hey kids, next week I’m takin’ y’all to the cabin…”
  • 0:18 – …On va aller pêcher le brochet pis la truite ».
  • We’re gonna fish for Pike / Jack (fish) and trout.


  • 0:20 – Parfait
  • Perfect


  • 0:20 – On est quatre flos avec le père, pis on avait un autre, un cinquième ami qui était avec nous autres. Fait-qu’on était cinq flos avec un monsieur
  • There are us four kids and the dad, and there was another, a fifth friend who was with us. So we were five kids with an adult.
  • 0:26 – Fait-que là, on arrive là-bas.
  • So then, we arrive there.
  • 0:28 – Pis l’affaire en particulier, c’est qu’à un moment donné on pêchait le brochet.
  • And the thing is, at a certain point we were fishing for Pike / Jack (fish).
  • 0:33 – On était sur le quai.
  • We were on the dock.
  • 0:34 – Pis là, il y avait une catrou avec un canot, sur le rack.
  • And there was a quad (a 4-wheel ATV) with a canoe on the rack.


This is the set-up they’re talking about with the canoe and the quad.

  • 0:38 – Fait-que là, à un moment donné, le… ‘scuse moi
  • So then, at a certain point excuse me
  • 0:42 – Le père à Nicolas, André Péron, il pluchait (éplucher) des patates s’a (sur la) gallerie.
  • Nicolas’ dad, André Péron, was peeling taters (potatos) on the porch.
  • 0:46 – Nous autres, on est tous les quatre, on recule le catrou avec le canot s’a (sur le) top, parce que lui il aimait mieux pêcher la truite. Nous autres, on aimait mieux pêcher le brochet avant le chalet
  • Us others, all four of us together, we back up the quad with the canoe on the top, because he (the dad) would rather fish for trout.  But for us, we were rather wantin’ to fish for Jack in front of the cabin.

(NOTE : Here’s some extra info for the story to make better sense… The kids were going to fish for pike from a small boat close to the edge of the lake, but the dad was going to fish for trout at greater depths. Therefore the dad was going to take the quad and canoe far away to another part of the lake, and use the canoe to fish from another location.  While the dad was peeling potatos, the four kids were preparing the canoe for the dad to take a later time).

  • 0:53 – Fait-que là, mon ami Nicolas, mon Péron, il recul le catrou – il grimpe dans la souche. À (la) catrou elle renverse sur le côté. 
  • So there, my friend Nicolas — my bud “Péron” — he backs up the quad – but he runs it into a stump (on the ground from a chopped down tree). The quad (with the canoe on top) tipped over onto its side.


  • 0:59 – (Halètement / Gasp!!)


  • 0:59 – Pis le canot tombe directe sus (sur) une souche, mon chum.
  • And the canoe falls directly onto a stump, my man!
  • 1:02 – Là, le canot, il est parcédumé là – fini le canot!
  • Like, the canoe, it is like craked / split open – The canoe, it’s finished!
  • 1:05 – Fait-que là, la panique nous poinge. Mais durant ce temps-là, André Péron, il épluche ses patates su’à (sur la) gallerie.  Il est loin de nous autres et il voit rien!
  • So then, panic hits us. André Péron, he’s peelin‘ his taters (potatos) on the porch.  He (the dad) was far away from us and he ain’t see nuttin’!


  • 1:11 – Hahahaha!


  • 1:11 – on est sur les nerfs ben raide.
  • But like for us, our nerves are shot.
  • 1:13 – Là on est quatre flos, on réussi à dresser le catrou.
  • We were like four kids, and we managed to flip the quad back up right.
  • 1:15 – On le park de l’autre côté pour ne pas à voir le trou, pis on retient sur nos mots.
  • We parked it on the other side (of the cabin) so ya couldn’t see the hole (in the canoe), and we swear not to utter a word (to nobody).
  • 1:18 – Le lendemain matin André dit « Bon. M’a dit moi je m’en va au pêche au lac ».
  • The next day André (the dad) said « Well I’d say I’m gonna get in some fishin’ on the lake ».

(picture this last sentence being said with a really strong “hick” accent).


  • 1:21 – Ahhhhhhh! Avec un canot troué!
  • Whoooaaa!! With a split open canoe!


  • 1:23 – Ouais! Fait-que là, nous autres, il est malin – il est malin le monsieur, t’sais. 
  • Yup! So then, as for us, he’s so sly – he’s so with it, that guy (the dad), ya’ know.

(Meaning the kids thought for sure that the dad would find out, and they’d be in deep shit!)

  • 1:26 – Fait-que là, là je dis à mes chums, à Nicolas Péron, car c’est son père…
  • So then, I like say to my buddies, to Nicolas Péron, because it’s his dad…
  • 1:30 – … Je dis « crisse de fou est-il, tabarnak! Il a 20 kms de catrou à faire! ». « Ah, non, non, non! » il dit.  « Il va nous tuer, vas nous tuer! » il dit. « Il partira à (la) pêche avec ça! ». 
  • … I say, « Christ, He’s fuckinnuts!  He’s gonna head 20 kms away on that quad (to take the broken canoe fishing).  He (Nicolas) said, “No, No, No (pleading “NO!” in the sense that this can’t be happening to us!)He’s gonna to kill us… Kill us!”.  He said “He’s gonna take it (the canoe) fishing!”
  • 1:36 – Fait-que nous autres quan-qu’il va (quand il va) à catrou, on fait pas ni un, ni deux!  On saut sur le lac en avant, et on s’en va à l’autre bout du lac…
  • So the group of us, when we saw him (the dad) high-tailin’ it off with the quad, we didn’t waste a second. We jump  straight into the lake (into their own little boat), and we motored it off to the other side of the lake…
  • 1:42 – … pour être sur d’être loin, parce qu’on savait qu’il (re)viendrait.
  • … in order to be sure to be as far away as possible (from the dad), because we knew that he’d be coming back (when he found out he was fishing with a canoe that had a hole in it).
  • 1:44 – Fait-que là, il se passe à peu près, je te dirais, une demi-heure.
  • So then, I’d say somewhere in the neighbourhood of a half an hour goes by.
  • 1:48 – … On entend une catrou qui se renvient, pis ça en renvient en tabarnak, a’l catrou!
  • We hear a quad coming back in our direction, and fuck, was it ever comin’, that there quad!

Hosts x 2

  • 1:54 – HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!


  • 1:53 – Ça fait que là, on voié (voit) un bout de canot de par icitte (ici) de temps en temps. Tu sais, nous autres on était à l’autre bout du lac, pis on voit de temps en temps le chemin. 
  • So then-and-there, from our spot (in the boat on the far side of the lake) we can see the tip of the canoe (poking through) from time-to-time (on the trail in the woods along the shore of the lake). Ya know, we were at the other end of the lake, and from time to time we would see the road (on which the quad was travelling).
  • 1:58 – Pis là on voit la poussière qui se leve, et on voit le catrou qui s’en vient, pis il s’en vient!!
  • And then we see the dust gettin’ all kicked up, and we see the quad a-comin’, and shit was it comin’!!
  • 2:02 – Là, je dis à Nicolas, je dis « Crisse!! »
  • Man, I say to Nicolas, I says “Oh shit!!”


  • 2:03 – Ça y est!
  • You’re had / You’re cooked / There y’are! / You’re Toast !


  • 2:04 – J’ai dit « On est fait! ». Aïe, il dit « On reste à (l’)autre bord!  On reste à (l’)autre bord!  On reste icitte. » 
  • I says “We’re done-in / cooked / finished“. Well, he (Nicolas) said “We’re staying (here) on the other side (of the lake)!  We’re staying put on the other side.  We’re staying right here!”
  • 2:07 – « Hey » Il dit « Hey! Ça s’en revient l’idot. Il a pas pêché une heure de temps.  Il a pas fait son coton ». 
  • “Hey!” he (Nicolas) said. “Hey! It’s (the quad) comin’… the idiot.  He hasn’t even been gone fishin’ half an hour.  He hasn’t even broken a sweat / worked at it.

(Note the expressions “Il a pas fait son coton”… I previously gave the meaning and source for this expression in the post entitled Denys Arcand: His place in Québec’s history)

  • 2:11 – On est à l’autre bord du lac, et là son père arrive à catrou. Il tire ça, mon homme, quasiment sur deux roues.
  • We were at the other end of the lake, and like his dad was comin’ back on the quad. He (the dad) pounded it into full gear, and it was practically goin’ on two wheels.
  • 2:16 – Mais là, d’habitude il arrêtait le catrou à côté du chalet. Mais dans ce cas-là il arrêtait le catrou quasiment au bout du quai là. 
  • But usually he’s parkin’ the quad beside the cabin. But in this case, he like was parkin’ the quad practically at the tip of the dock.


  • 2:20 – Il a passé tout droit!
  • He went straight through (for the edge of the dock)!


  • 2:21 – Pis là, il arrive au bout du quai, pis il débarque.  Là, je dis à Nicolas, il dit…
  • So like he gets to the tip of the dock, then he gets off (the quad).  Then, I say to Nicolas, he said…


  • 2:25 – Vous êtes mort!
  • You’re dead (meat)!


  • 2:25 – Il disait « Il y a quelque chose qui se passe ».
  • He (Nicolas) said (as the four kids were watching what the dad was doing) “There’s something happenin’! ”


  • 2:26 – Hahahaha


  • 2:27 – Il arrive au bout du quai. Tu sais, dans le bois, ça fait de l’écho, hein. 
  • He (the dad) gets to the end of the dock. Ya know, in the woods, things tend to echo, eh.


  • 2:29 – Ouais.
  • Yup.


  • 2:30 – Ça fait que là il crie, « LES GARS!!! VIENT-EN ICITTE, TABARNAK!!! ».  Il sacrait
  • So it was like, he yelled “BOYS!!! GET YOUR FUCKIN’ ASSES HERE!!!”. He was swearin’.
  • 2:35 – Et là il dit « QUE C’EST QU’IL A !?!? » Il dit « PRENDS-MOI PAS POUR UN INNOCENT?!?!?!»
  • And then he was like “WHAT IS THIS!?!?!” He said “DO YOU TAKE ME FOR A RETARD / SOMEONE BORN YESTERDAY?!?!?!”

Note, I have a mentally handicapped cousin, so no offense… Am just translating 😉

  • 2:38 – Fait-que là, Nick il commence à ramener la chaloupe. Mais là, moi, c’était moi qui étais sur le nez de la chaloupe. 
  • So then Nick starts to take us back in our (small motor) boat. But, me, I was the one like stuck sittin’ on the front tip of the boat (as we were heading back to the dock).


Une Chaloupe… the type of boat the boys were fishing in as the dad was having his “canoe issues” elsewhere.

  • 2:43 – J’ai dit « Crisse!  Arrivé au quai, il va fesser le premier du bord. »  J’ai dit moi, je reste pas sur le bout là.
  • I says “Shit! Once we get back to the dock, (from where I’m sitting) I’m going to be the first to get smacked“. I said I ain’t stayin’ sittin’ on the front tip (of the boat).


  • 2:46 – Ouais.
  • Yup.


  • 2:46 – Fait-que là, tout le monde voulait s’assire (s’assoir) et chauffer le moteur.
  • So like, all of us wanted to sit (at the back end of the boat) and steer the motor (so none of us could be in reach of his dad when we got back to the dock).
  • 2:49 – Ça fait Nick a conseillera à nous, moi, peur-moi pas d’claque, c’est pas mon père, mais les deux autres, ils ont un p’tit claque, t’sais.

(Translation into proper French / Traduction en bon français:  Alors, Nick, il nous suggérait que moi, que moi je ne devrais pas avoir peur de recevoir une claque, car il ne s’agissait pas de mon père — mais (en ce qui concerne) les deux autres gars, ils ont reçu une claque, tu sais).

  • So it was Nick who reassured us all to not go gettin’ scared of gettin’ schmacked, ‘cause it ain’t our dad. But the other two (sons of André Péron) got themselves a ‘lil smack, ya’know.  
  • 2:54 – Pis il était pas content parce que, criffe, on l’avait laissé partir à la pêche avec un canot troué. Hahahaha!
  • And he (the dad) wasn’t happy ‘cause, cripes, we let’im go fishin’ with a canoe with a hole in it. Hahahaha!


  • 2:58 – Ça fait-que, c’est la première et la dernière fois vous l’avez fait.
  • So that means, it was the first and last time you ever pulled that stunt.


  • 3:01 – Ah, oui. Hey. Il a toujours à dire les coups plats on fait, parce que des fois ça peut être encore plus angoissant et plus compliqué plus tard. 
  • Uh, yup. Hey, ya always gotta fess up to the crap you pull, because sometimes if ya don’t, it can make it a whole lot worse and complicated later on.
  • 3:06 – Pis ça amène la personne en maudit encore plus.
  • And what’s more, it makes the other person even more pissed.


  • 3:08 – Hey, il y a une morale à cette histoire-là. J’aime ça.  Merci d’avoir appelé. 
  • Hey, there’s even a moral to that there story. I like it.  Thanks for callin’.


  • 3:11 – Hahaha.  Salut. Merci.
  • Hahaha.  See ya.  Thanks.


  • 3:12 – Salut!  Bonne journée.
  • See ya!  Have a good day. 


After this post, I’m taking a break for a little bit!  I deserve it (I need to grow my brain cells back).  See ya sometime soon.

P.S.  —  And who said Canada doesn’t have culture !?!?!?!



Let’s go fishing… and learn hard-core French while you’re at it! – Post 5 of 6 (#328)



I ranked this next colloquial dialogue as a very difficult “5” on the scale of one to six.  This is the shortest of the six audio examples of colloquial speech, yet it is one of the most difficult.

There are three main reasons:

  1. The accent is strong, which is somewhat made fuzzier by the phone line – but people regularly hear such conversations over the phone)
  2. The speed is quick (which makes for some heavy contractions and improper use of tenses)
  3. The punchline
    1. comes very fast (it begins at 18 seconds and ends at 23 seconds),
    2. is heavily contracted and accented, and
    3. would be extremely difficult for anyone to understand, unless they were a native speaker, or at the very minimum, unless their verbal French was at the most advanced levels.
    4. If you were to miss the five seconds of the punchline, the entire story would not make sense.

Difficulty levels 5


Because colloquial French is so different from standard French, you might wonder where can you practice listening to colloquial French if you are not exposed to it on a regular basis?

I chose these excerpts from Radio-X (CHOI FM) for a specific reason.  Radio-X’s website (and APP) allows you to download their radio shows.   You can load them into your phone or MP3 player, and listen to them anywhere and anytime (in your car, as you’re going to bed, as you’re doing your chores, or at the office).

I’m familiar with French-language radio stations across Canada, and I can pretty much guarantee you that the informal nature of Radio-X’s programs makes their speech the most colloquial French you will hear on any of Canada’s or Québec’s radio stations (and much more colloquial than what you will hear on television, or TV sitcoms).

What’s more, the radio programs are interesting.  Although the station is based in Québec city, the shows feature well-known radio hosts and columnists who love to discuss Canadian Federal politics and society inside-and-out.  They regularly talk about topics which are equally pertinent to someone living in Kamloops (BC), Steinbach (Manitoba), or Fredericton (New Brunswick).

Starting on August 15, 2015, they will have a new program line-up featuring some of the most well-known columnist names in Québec (Dominic Maurais, Richard Martineau, André Arthur, Denis Landry, etc.).

Radio-X is one of the most listened-to radio stations in Québec and Canada (they regularly top the Eastern-Québec listener rankings).  They recently dropped somewhat in the ranking numbers owing to stiff competition (from 93.5FM and NRJ Québec City).  But their revamped scheduling slated for August 15th is their way of fighting back.

Check them out at http://quebec.radiox.com/accueil

Now for the next audio tract (don’t forget to turn on the closed captions).   The colloquial English translation will follow in the transcript below.




  • 0:00 – Yes, c’est à mon tour?
  • Yes, It’s my turn?


  • 0:01 – Oui, vas-y. T’es en ondes.
  • Yes, go for it. You’re on the air.


  • 0:03 – C’est dans le fond, moi j’étais plus jeune, j’allais à la pêche dans le fleuve avec mon père.  (Il) y avait de la grosse barbotte sale.  Pis (puis), on s’est fait poigné par la marée.  Fait-que là, on s’est avancée à la marée basse. 
  • Bottom line, when I was younger, I went fishing on the river with my dad.  We were after big, dirty burbot (bullhead).  But we were caught by the tide.  So we went to where it was lower. 
  • 0:15 – C’est du bord du fleuve sur des grosses roches. Pis ç’allait ben (bien), ç’allait ben.  On pêchait. 
  • It was on the edge of the river where there were a lot of big rocks. It’s was all going hunky-dory, just fine.  We were fishing.
  • 0:18 – Mon hors (moteur hors-bord) ça revire, et on a dû (avoir) douze pied d’eau en avant de nous autres qui nous séparait de la rive. Mettons qu’on n’a pas trop trippé
  • My outboard (motor) came unhitched / fell off, and there must have been 12 feet of water in front, separating us from the banks. Let’s just say we were less than happy.
  • 0:25 – Moi j’avais à peu près onze ans. Mon père il trippait pas pantoute.  J’savais nager, mais j’étais pas le meilleur nageur contre le courant, mettons à onze ans. 
  • Me, I was about 11 years old. My dad was not happy, not at all.  I knew how to swim, but let’s say that at 11 years old, I was not the best swimmer against the current.
  • 0:33 – Fait-qu’on s’est mouillé pas mal jusqu’au cou. Lui encore plus.  Lui, il avait encore une petite rame en arrière. 
  • So we got drenched we right up to the neck. Him a bit more.  He still had a little paddle in the back.
  • 0:37 – Il nageait pis il m’a tiré en même temps, pis on a réussi à sortir sur la rive. Mettons que c’est une petite course qu’on a eu là.
  • He swam and he pulled me at the same time, and we succeeded in getting out onto the banks. Let’s just say que it was quite an adventure which we had there.


  • 0:45 – C’était pas votre meilleur.
  • It wasn’t your best (moment).


  • 0:47 – Non, malheureusement.
  • No, unfortunately.


  • 0:49 – Ok, ben content que ç’a bien tourné quand-même.
  • Ok, I’m still really happy that it turned out nonetheless.


  • 0:51 – Yes


  • 0:52 – Hey, merci d’avoir appelé, bye-bye.
  • Hey, thanks for having called.


  • 0:53 – Salut
  • Bye.



Let’s go fishing… and learn hard-core French while you’re at it! – Post 4 of 6 (#327)



In this post on colloquial French, I’m picking up from post #325.   I rank this post one notch higher on the difficulty level.

I want to re-emphasize that colloquial (spoken) French conversations tend to be much more difficult than

  • written French
  • the French we hear on TV (news, documentaries, and even sitcoms which generally tend to use quite simply colloquial French)
  • monologues (when one person speaks, but not with the intention of anyone speaking back, such as teachers, YouTube videos, speeches, etc.)

That is why I believe these exercises can be useful for your own French learning.  They can offer Anglophone Canadians general insight into how spoken conversations sound.

And on that note… Do not think for a minute that European Colloquial French isn’t as equally challenging.   Although I don’t have issues understanding our Canadian colloquial French, I sometimes have a heck of a time understanding certain aspects of regional French colloquial conversations in Europe – especially if spoken with a strong accent.   European Colloquial French can also be VERY different from written French, European TV French or European monologues

Thus, take your pick — If you are an Anglophone Canadian, you can chose to learn our own colloquial French with all its challenges, or you can chose to learn Europe’s own difficult colloquial French.  There likely won’t be much of a difference in difficulty levels (on a colloquial level, they’re two different language systems… so it’s simply a matter of choosing to learn one or the other, whereas on a standardized, television or written level, they are very similar).  

But, if you’re an Anglophone Canadian, I would strongly urge you to learn our own (and your own country’s) colloquial French — and not that of Europe.  The opportunities to hear it, practice it, and speak it will be infinitely greater across all of Canada.  I cannot see the logic for Anglophone Canadians to try to struggle with European colloquial French when it will be of little use to them.

Keep in mind that by the time you get around to learning colloquial French, you will already know  “international” or “Standard” French (that which is written, found in books, heard in television, etc.).  It remains the same across the world – thus you’ll already have that global advantage.  

However, if for whatever reason you do live in Canada but you chose to learn colloquial European French, I think you’ll find the task will become quite daunting because of the limited opportunities to hear it and practice European colloquialism in Canada (versus our/your own Canadian / Québec colloquial French).

Back to the audio tracts…

I ranked the following colloquial conversation higher on the difficult scale than the last one.  The reasons are because

  • it integrates a greater amount of colloquial (spoken) vocabulary, slang, and expressions than we have seen in the past dialogues,
  • the speaker has a slight (but noticeable enough) Saguenay-Lac St-Jean regional accent,
  • The caller’s speed of speech might be slightly faster than average.

One last thing worth mentioning:

When you read the English translations below, you will notice that the English translation is just as colloquial (informal & spoken) as the original French.

That might give you an idea of the challenges faced by immigrants who move to English Canada when they have to contend with our colloquial English (a style of English they NEVER learn in school, in books, or from TV).

Thus, like you who wishes to improve your French, they too just have to suck up the challenges posed by colloquialisms in English when they want to improve their English.

Nobody said that learning a language (any language) is easy.  Colloquialisms across all languages (be it Canadian French, Mexican Spanish, Beijing Chinese, Berlin German, Lebanese Arabic, France French, etc, etc) are all much more difficult than the book versions of the language.

The key is for you to find ways to have fun with it, to practice it, and to find opportunities to find and listen to other exercises similar to the ones I am presenting you with here.

Bottom line… Enjoy the challenge!!

Let’s dive in.   Remember to turn on the closed captions “CC” function at the bottom of the audio tract.

Difficulty levels 4




  • 0:00 – Salut les boys.
  • Hey guys.


  • 0:01 – Salut, comment ça va?
  • Hey, how are you doing?


  • 0:01 – Je m’en va (vais) au chalet tantôt.
  • I’m heading to the cabin in a bit.


  • 0:03 – OK


  • 0:04 – J’allais partir avec un de mes chums. On est à monter.  Moi je viens de Saguenay, de Mont-Vallain.   J’sais pas si ça te dit de quoi?
  • I was gonna go with one of my buddies.  We’re heading up there.  Me, I’m from Saguenay, from Mont-Vallain.  I don’t know if that says anything to you?


  • 0:11 – Oui, absolument. Chu déjà allé dans ce coin-là.
  • Yes, of course. I’ve been to that area


  • 0:14 – En tout cas, on était dans le fin fond. Pis moi j’ai peur de l’eau. 
  • Anyway, we were at the deepest point (of the lake). And I’m afraid of water.


  • 0:16 – Pis t’es allé à la pêche, pis t’as peur de l’eau.
  • So you went fishing, but you’re afraid of water.


  • 0:18 – Pis on pêchait, pis tout le kit. On avait nos flottes, mais on ne les avait pas sur nous autres.  Mais on a poigné un squale.  Ça dit-tu c’est quoi?
  • Well, we were fishing, and the whole kit ‘n caboodle. We had our life-jackets, but we weren’t wearing them on us.  But we hit a squall.  Ya know what that is?


  • 0:23 – Non
  • No.


  • 0:24 – C’est une tempête qui arrive gros dans le coup.
  • It’s a big storm which slams you in one fell swoop.


  • 0:25 – Ah, une espèce de tempête éclaire là.
  • Oh, like a type of flash storm.


  • 0:28 – Ouais, mais ça allait caler d’un coup.
  • Yah, but it swallows you in one fell swoop.


  • 0:30 – Ouais.
  • Yup.


  • 0:31 – C’est des gros vents, tout le kit, pis toutes les bébelles.
  • It’s big winds, the whole kit ‘n caboodle, and all the stuff that goes with it.


  • 0:32 – En plein milieu du lac?!?
  • Right in the middle of the lake?


  • 0:34 – On était en plein milieu.  Fait-que, moé je vois que ça arrive, fait-que je mets ma flotte.  Pis mon chum il se met à m’écœurer, de bébé moumoune, bébé moumoune.
  • We were right in the middle.  So, me I saw it coming, so I put on my life-jacket.  And my buddy started to get on my nerves, like a crybaby, a crybaby. 


  • 0:42 – Évidemment.
  • For sure.


  • 0:43 – Sauf qu’à un moment donné, en poignant des vagues, la chaloupe a monté, pis quand on descendait la vague, l’autre vague nous arrivait de suite. Les vagues ont commencé à rentrer dans la chaloupe.
  • Except at a certain point, when we hit the waves, our fishing boat went up, and then came down with the waves, and another wave came after. They started coming into our boat.


  • 0:50 – Pfff. Ok, pis là
  • Sheesh. Ok, and then


  • 0:53 – J’ai viré regarder mon chum. Là, na na na na.  Pis là, lui il trippait là non plus là.   Ç’a tout pris qu’on s’en arrive.  On est en train de caler là, ben raide là là.
  • I turned to look at my buddy. Like blah blah blah.  And so he wasn’t any more impressed  It took all we had to get through it.  We were frozen in place while gripping for life, totally, right there.


  • 1:00 – Ahhhh!
  • Huh!


  • 1:01 – Mais on a réussi à fran(chir) , mais sincèrement ça n’a pas été, euh… on n’a pas trippé, mais pas pantoute.
  • But we like managed to get through it. But seriously, it wasn’t uh… we were less than impress, not at all.


  • 1:06 – C’était pas votre meilleure 15 minutes.
  • It wasn’t the best 15 minutes you’ve had.


  • 1:08 – Non non non… Pas pantoute. On a poigné là, mais c’était pas la (rire), C’est pas ma meilleure journée, mettons
  • No, no, no… not at all.  Like we were sure slammed, but it wasn’t (laughs).  Let’s just say it wasn’t my best day.


  • 1:14 – Ben, ce qui est plate, c’est que souvent les meilleures pêches, c’est les pêches quand il fait pas beau. Tu sais, quand il pleut (bang!)
  • Well, what sucks is that often the best fishing, it’s the fishing to be had when it’s not nice out. You know, when it rains (bang!)


  • 1:18 – Hein, ‘scuse-moi, j’ai poigné, uh, j’ai poingé de quoi? ‘scuse-moi.  Hein, les meilleurs pêches, c’est quand il fait pas beau, tu dis?
  • Hey, sorry, I banged into something, uh, what did I just bang into… sorry. Hey, you said the best fishing, it’s when it’s not nice out?


  • 1:24 – Ben, c’est ça, tu sais, quand il pleut pis c’est grisâtre un peu là. Fait-que des fois tu peux le faire le tard ou le tôt. 
  • Well, that’s it ya know, when it’s raining and when it’s like a little duskish. So sometimes you can do it when it’s late or early.


  • 1:29 – S’il faut trop chaud, le poisson il est mou, pis s’il fait trop fraitte, ben il est gelé, fait-qu’il fait rien.
  • If it’s too hot out, the fish become mellow, and when it’s too chilly, well they become frigid, so nothing happens.


  • 1:34 – Hey, merci d’avoir appelé.
  • Hey, thanks for having called.


  • 1:35 – Pas de trouble.
  • Not a prob.


  • 1:36 – Salut, bonne journée.
  • See ya. Have a good day.



Quiz: Accents & Eagles (#326)


Here is a little quiz for you.

Some friends and I went camping for a few days outside Toronto.

There were eight eagles circling around us (maybe they saw the dogs)… It got us talking as we were keeping an eye out for them.  As I was trying to film the eagles, I happened to catch a short clip of a few of us talking about them.

Here is a challenge for you:  Considering past blog posts I’ve written on the topic of different accents, and materials which I have provided you with, see if you can identify the three different French accents in the video below.


1.  Turn on the close captioning button “CC”


2.  See if you can identify Accents “A”, “B”, and “C”.    Listen very very carefully, and you’ll hear there’s a difference.

3.  I’ll give the answers at the very bottom of the post 🙂  




French Accent “A”:  The Greater Montréal & Upper St. Lawrence Valley Accent

French Accent “B”:  Alberta & Saskatchewan Prairie French Accent

French Accent “C”:  Standard Québécois Accent