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“Regional” Vocabulary and Expressions within Québec – Introduction – 1 of 6 (#169)

Learners of French often say the most difficult aspects to grasp are the speed, grammar, strong accent and vocabulary of French spoken on the street.

We looked at some of these issues in the posts on Joual as well as in the accent series.

Here we’ll take a bit closer look at regional vocabulary – words you may hear in one region of Québec, but not necessarily another.

I’m going to start by saying that all regions of Canada have region-specific vocabulary in French (be it various regions of Québec or Acadia, Newfoundland, Ontario, or the Prairies).  The same holds true for words in Canadian English which can vary from one region to another.    There are not many, but it is an interesting topic nonetheless.

I can give you some parallels in Canadian English to put the concept of regionalisms into context:

  • When I was very young and living in Northwest B.C, I recall people used the word “potlatch” in English, which means a group meal – but nobody else in Canada seems to know what it means.
  • Likewise, I will never forget the following lesson in “regionalisms” when I was 18 years old when I drove from Edmonton (AB) to Baie Commeau (QC).  I stopped at a fast food restaurant in Sault-Ste-Marie, Northern Ontario.  I asked for a meal “to stay”.   The cashier responded “Excuse me?”.  I repeated that I wanted my meal “to stay”.  She asked “You mean for here?”  That was the first time I realized that people in Western Canada (outside the BC Lower Mainland) say “To stay or to go”, whereas people in Eastern Canada say “For here or to go”.   Until that point, I had never heard “For here”.
  • When I was in grade three and living in Northwest Alberta, we had a teacher from Newfoundland. The kids were talking about the frogs we caught in the “sloughs” on the edge of town.  Our teacher had no idea what we were talking about.  He had never heard of a “slough” (pronounced “sloo”).  However, if we were to say “swamp” or “muskeg”, I’m sure he would have known what we were talking about.
  • When I was young, my parents and my relatives in Saskatchewan used to refer to a “sofa” or “couch” as a “chesterfield”. When I was a child, I never said sofa or couch.  For me, it was only known as a chesterfield.

French in Québec and across Canada also has similar-natured regionalisms.

In a prior post on accents, I gave some examples from Prairie French (le français prairien as I call it – from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba) – Click here for those examples.  Another example of a regional French word from the Prairies which comes to mind is “soyeu” which means “hump day” (Wednesday);  Au moins c’est le “soyeu”, alors il en reste seulement un couple de jours avant la fin semaine.  I have never heard this French word anywhere else outside the Prairies.   The few times I said it in Québec and Ontario, it only resulted in blank stares (I researched it once, and it seems to have come from old Picard in France and Wallon in Belgium, meaning someone who “saws”.  It’s only a guess, but perhaps it came to Western Canada in the 1700s with the voyageurs, and came to be used in the context of “sawing the week in half”).

In the introduction to the prior accent series, I mentioned that regional French accents have been undergoing a major trend of standardization since the 1950s in Québec.   The conditions which lead to the rise of regional French accents across Québec and across Canada were also the same conditions which lead to a rise of many regional words, expressions and vocabulary.

But today, these regionalisms are fewer and fewer as people move around and as mass media and the internet “even out the language differences” (the same phenomenon is happening in Canadian English:   In the last few years I have noticed people in Alberta are beginning to say “For here or to go” in restaurants, and almost nobody ever says “chesterfield” anymore – even in Saskatchewan, where I recall so many people used to say this word).

Despite the rapid standardization of words in Québec, you still may run into French regionalisms in Québec from time to time — particularly with older generations, but occasionally with younger people.

The next few posts will offer you some examples of regional vocabulary in various regions of Québec (Québec City, Saguenay Lac St-Jean, La Beauce, and Gaspésie)

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

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

I received an e-mail not long ago from Derek, a reader in Truro, Nova Scotia.  He wanted to share some of his own experiences and had a few questions.   We exchanged a couple of emails, and he allowed me to post his e-mail online, along with some of my own thoughts on a couple of fronts (some directed at Derek, but others thoughts for a broader audience).   (Thanks again for your e-mail Derek !)

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Original Message:

Hello Brad,

I enjoy reading your blog.   You are right when you say that many people are looking for cultural context to supplement their own French experiences and interests.  I also listen to “C’est la vie” on CBC Radio, but other than your blog and “C’est la vie”, there are not many other places we can turn which are devoted to this subject (at least not in English).

I’m from Truro, Nova Scotia. I am Anglophone, and I went through the French immersion program.  Truro is mostly Anglophone, but it has a few Acadians and an Acadian Francophone school system.  But my French immersion school was a different school system than the Acadian Francophone schools.  So my experiences in and out of school were with other Anglophones.   But now that I’m out of school, I work with Acadians, and I insist that they speak only French with me and not English.

There are so many of us who went through French immersion, and the first generation of the “immersion kids” are now adults, and the second generation is just now also graduating.  By now, there must be thousands of us coming out of the program as adults across the country.   I think only good things are going to come out of this, and it is changing Canada.

My French is already very good because I did my education in French, but my accent can always be better.   People tell me I have a bit of an Acadian accent when I speak.  They also tell me I use many Acadian words which are not used in Québec.   It is probably because of the Acadian influence in this part of Nova Scotia.

I read your posts on different Canadian accents.  It was quite interesting because people don’t ever talk very much about the different accents.  Many Francophones I talk to are not even aware there are so many different accents.  Most people I speak with think there are only three or four different accents, probably because much of the television they watch comes from New Brunswick or Quebec.

My question is this:  Because you have experiences with French in different regions of Canada, and because many people tell me I use many “Acadian French” words, would you have a list of French words used in other regions of Canada?  You gave some Prairie French word examples in your accent series.   I’ve heard there are sometimes different words used in Québec city and Lac St-Jean which are not used in Montreal, Moncton or other places.   Would you have some examples or a list of different words from different areas?  I generally only know Acadian and international French because I have not traveled to other Francophone regions of Canada.

Thanks!

Derek

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(My answer, apart from the emails he and I exchanged)

Hi Derek…

Thank-you for your email and your thoughts.  I think you have hit on some great points which would be of interest to a good number of people.

I’ll see if I can come up with a list of different words used in different regions over the next few days.  Often the differences are not very big, and French vocabulary has standardized quite a bit over the past three decades (especially in Québec, but also in other regions across the country).  But there are still some unique regional words and expressions which may be heard the odd time, depending on where you are.

I particularly agree with you that it is quite interesting that the original 1980s & 1990s immersion students are now adults, with another generation not far behind them.   I completely agree that this is bound to have an effect on the country as far as openness and new possibilities (regarding a whole host of issues).

I don’t have the updated statistics, but back in 2000 (15 years ago), the following were the overall percentages of students enrolled in French immersion across Canada (hold your seat… the numbers are quite surprising!):

  • New Brunswick: 32%
  • Prince Edward Island: 20%
  • Nova Scotia: 12%
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: 7%
  • Ontario: 6%
  • Manitoba: 6%
  • Alberta: 4% (Go Oilers!)
  • Saskatchewan: 3%
  • British Columbia: 2%

These numbers come from a report published by Statistics Canada entitled “French Immersion, 30 Years Later”

We always hear the usual statistic that there are 1 million “Francophones” (mother tongue) outside Québec.   But really, if you’ve gone through the immersion program, you’re already part Francophone for simply living a huge part of your life in French (at least 7 hours every day during the school years).   It blows my mind that nobody ever talks about those statistics.

Think about it bud !  20% of all Anglophone students in PEI…  4% of all Anglophone students in Alberta… 7% of all Anglophone students in Newfoundland!   Those are mind-blowing numbers.   And these numbers only speak to the students who were still in the school system.   They do not count those of us who are now adults but who used to be in the program (keep in mind the numbers are already 15 years old – so all of those students are now adults, and there’s a whole new wave of students behind them in the immersion system).

If you were to factor in current student numbers, plus graduated student numbers, plus the 1 million Francophones… where do we sit?  2 million?  Even more?  And it increases with every graduation, and every generation.

Another statistic I also like to point out is that for every child in French immersion, there are likely two Anglophone parents who made the conscious decision to ensure that their children became bilingual.  Thus, if you factor in “concerned parents” who are directly involved and devoted to their children’s & Canada’s bilingualism, as well as their openness to Canada’s and Québec’s Francophone culture, the above statistics for people making active efforts to keep French alive and well across Canada balloons to what… 4 million?   That’s a HUGE part of the Canadian population making active efforts – all within 30 or so odd years.  Parents count!   I never would have been part of the first “experimental” immersion group had my parents not taken the active decision to place me and my bother in it (it even resulted in my mother taking French courses so she could understand what my brother and I were saying about her in French when we were kids – hahaha 😉 ).  On this front, I’ve said many times before that Anglophone Canada is not the same country it was in 1980 or 1995.

And then we haven’t even begun to count Anglophones who simply are learning French as part of a regular FSL program (ie:  regular courses in an Anglophone curriculum), or as vocational courses, or as self-taught studies.   They certainly cannot be counted out.  Their efforts should be among those who are commended the most, since they’re the ones who tend to try to go the extra mile — and they’re the ones who have a steeper hill to climb.   Add them to the equation, and that makes for a large chunk of the country.

I can give you an example of how regular FSL and self-taught studies are equally valid and can bear fruit:

In a former life I was a diplomat posted to various Canadian Embassies abroad (I left the government a number of years ago to pursue my own business endeavours).  The first and main operating language of one of the Canadian embassies in which I worked was French (the administration, our internal meetings, staffing, reports, emails, and the language in which we operated with the public and Ottawa).    The diplomatic and locally hired staff therefore had to be fully bilingual (regardless if they were Francophone or Anglophone).  One day we received a new transferee who grew up in a very Anglophone city in Canada (let’s call her Cindy, even though that’s not her real name).   She only started to learn French after graduating high school.  She took the odd course here-and-there in university, but most of her French came from her own studies during her own free time.   I’ll say upfront that Cindy’s French was not the greatest, but she really tried hard, and I think she obtained this particular posting by demonstrating she definitely was the best qualified person for the job (and she was), regardless of rather poor French language skills.   During her first few months at the embassy, owing to a lack of confidence in her own French skills, she would generally only speak English with the Francophone and fully bilingual Anglophone staff.   But then one day something amazing happened which still blows me away many years later.

The ambassador at the time had to make a very important and difficult decision regarding quite a sensitive and delicate matter.   For the most part, he had already made up his mind (rather staunchly might I add) on how to deal with the issue.  Nonetheless, he wanted to call a meeting of embassy staff to seek additional input and to cover any bases he may have missed.   I, Cindy, and several others all met with the ambassador in the meeting room.  After hearing him out for about 20 minutes (in French of course), he then asked everyone, one at a time, what their thoughts were on the issues and if he missed any details before he dropping the gauntlet and proceeded with his plans.   The last person he asked was Cindy.   She understood everything he said (her French comprehension was much better than her spoken French), but when she spoke up, all of a sudden she started to present her views in French.   This was significant, because during any past meetings, she would only speak in English.   Everybody’s ears perked up the moment they heard her try to speak French for the first time.

She completely disagreed with much of what the ambassador said and she wanted to change his mind.   Because she felt so strongly about the issues, she wanted to ensure she had the ambassador’s (and everyone else’s) full attention – and she felt that speaking French was the best way she could ensure she had it.

I’ll be upfront in saying that because her French level was quite low, she struggled – big time – to get her many points across.   The issues were complex, and she needed to talk in great detail if she were to convince the ambassador that her view of the issues and courses of action were the correct ones.   I can tell you that the ambassador obviously did not agree with her, and a bit of a heated debate erupted between the two of them (I’m not sure he was happy that he was being challenged so ardently).  All of us in the room were kind of in shock.  Here was Cindy, who had a very difficult time speaking in French, taking on the ambassador (who’s first language was French) in a full head-on debate on a very complex issue — all in French.   And what’s more, she was holding her own.   She stumbled (quite a bit actually), and had to constantly search for words, but she would not relent.  The Ambassador actually started to speak faster and faster as the debate went on, often cutting her off…  He even tried to switch to English at one point in an effort to debunk Cindy’s points by making his standpoint very clear to her.   But she simply would not relent.   She refused to speak English, and she kept at him in French, giving it her very best shot.    The rest of us around the table gave each other looks of surprise and disbelief.   Cindy was amazing!!   We had never seen this side of her before (let alone see her have the confidence in herself to push her French to the limits when things became heated).

In the end, guess what happened… she won out, and she actually convinced the ambassador to take a change in direction.   She fully explained every one of her points and reasoning (and there were many).  It took a while because of her low French proficiency, but she eventually got there.   We were all kind of stunned!  Not because the ambassador changed his mind – he was a very reasonable man – but because Cindy would not relent and she did it all in French… for the first time ever…  Wow!!

After the meeting, everyone left the room except for me and Cindy (I asked her to stay behind for a second).  There were not many Anglophones working at the embassy, and she was a friend of mine.  I went over to her and told her how proud I was of her — not because she hotly argued with the ambassador for half an hour (I’m not sure I would have done that)… but I was proud that she gave it her best shot in French – which was very uncomfortable territory for her – and that she managed to pull it off beautifully.   Judging from one-on-one comments which were said to me by others over the following days, I think everyone else was also equally impressed and proud of her too (including the ambassador).

Later that evening, a bunch of us from work went out for drinks.  Cindy was there, and she spoke French the whole evening (she never had the self-confidence to try to carry out whole conversations in the past).   For the rest of her posting, she tried to speak French as much as she possibly could at work and with friends (we were in a “semi”-Francophone country and it was generally a “French-as-a-first-language” embassy after all).  Her level of French was much better at the end of her posting than during the first few months when she did not have the self-confidence in herself to even try.

This was a big lesson for me.  It showed me that even if you don’t hail from a childhood in which you grew up speaking French, it truly is never too late to learn.  Even with just an elementary level of French, you can still pull off some amazing feats if you really push yourself to try.   The self-confidence that comes from that takes care of the rest.

There are many Anglophones across Canada who are giving it there best shot.  I sometimes really wish the media in Québec talked more about this because there’s this strange myth (and really, it is a myth) that French outside Québec is static or dead – when reality is actually pointing in the opposite direction (propogated more within fringe elements of the PQ & BQ, but not so much within QS, nor within the CAQ, Prov Liberals, Fed Liberals, or NDP).  It’s interesting because I get the feeling the first two parties are trying to propagate this myth to score political points with the public to take up their causes.    However, this myth can pose a problem if people begin to believe it.  This is a tough one to resolve if several major influential spheres of Québec’s media do not give it due attention.   Fortunately, however, from a media perspective, the tide may be turning on this front too.   The new television station, UNIS (http://unis.ca/) is now being broadcast all over Québec (it went on air in September, 2014).  It’s a Francophone television channel with studios across Canada, devoted to programming about Francophone life outside Québec (it’s quite an interesting channel and concept).  It is owned by TV5 Québec Canada and is designated a category A station, meaning that all Canadian households (everywhere in Canada, including Québec) now receive it.   TFO, http://www3.tfo.org/ (Ontario’s public Francophone television network) is also broadcast across many parts of Québec.  It too gives a more realistic situation of French, Francophone and Francophile realities/changes outside of Québec and across Ontario (many of which I discussed above).   Although these two television stations are not politicial in nature, we’ll see role they play to help debunk the myths about French outside of Québec.

But hopefully this can help to encourage you and others to continue with your own efforts.  It’s not necessary to become fully bilingual.  Just keeping an open mind and learning about cross-cultural tidbits are sometimes more important than anything else, even if you’re not able to hold a conversation in French.  People appreciate the efforts, and you end up feeling a deeper connection with your own country and the world at large   But if you are able to pick up parts of the language, then all the more power to you.

In the end, everyone charts their own course within the limits that time, interest and obligations allow for.   But it’s nice to see that there are millions and millions of Anglophones across the country with an interest in, or who have interaction with Canada’s Francophone cultural and linguistic sphere.   It’s very encouraging – and touching.

“L’Autre midi à la table d’à côté”; Mofatt – Tremblay discussion summary, post 3 of 3 (#152)

This post will tie the last two posts together, and you can use the audio track to as an opportunity to work on improving your French (if you’re at an elementary or intermediary level), or to help you develop an ear for French (if you’re at a more basic level).

In the audio track of this episode of radio program “L’Autre midi à la table d’à côté” (The Other Afternoon, at the Next Table…”), Ariane Moffatt and Guylaine Tremblay sit down for a one-on-one meal together.  I get the impression they have never met before, but they spend the hour learning about each other, and focusing on what they have in common.

Both are mothers, but both did not carry their own children (in Moffatt’s case, it was her spouse who carried their children, and in Tremblay’s case, her children were adopted).   They also speak about a number of other topics regarding children (such as Christmas and childhood memories).

I think you’ll hear both of their personalities shine (the intimacy and one-on-one nature of the conversation greatly facilitates the conversation).

The dialogue summary (below) is written in chronological order with the audio track, highlighting various discussion points and the dialogue continues.   You can use the summary as a crutch when listening and improving your French listening skills.

The official link-page for this episode of L’Autre midi à la table d’à côté can be opened by clicking HERE.  (Click “Audio fil” half way down the page… that will open an audio window with the sound track).

Dialogue summary;

  • Both spoke of Christmas as children and their Christmas experiences with their own children, what they like about Christmas, and how it fits in with their own experiences.
  • Guylaine talks about how Christmas in Québec used to be celebrated different than how it is celebrated now (mass traditions on Dec 24th have been moved to 7pm now from midnight decades ago). She says Christmas today seem to be all about gifts, whereas when Guylaine was a child, she could hardly remember receiving any gifts.
  • Ariane talks of her family’s Christmas traditions.
  • Ariane talks of how she slowly starting to fall into music as a child, and her family’s role in influencing her artistic talents. Guylaine also shares her childhood development stories and relates them to her family.
  • They talk about their different styles of communication and how they perceive their respective styles.
  • Guylaine took her two daughters to the 2012 protests, “le Printemps érable” to protest university tuition hikes
    • (Comment: “Le Printemps érable” (the “Maple Spring”) was a period of mass student protests in Québec in the spring of 2012, which greatly divided Québec society as a whole.  Students refused to accept government tuition hikes – and (in a very very general sense) it pitted right-against-left, and opposition parties against the government at the time.  Many believe it had a direct impact in the defeat of the Charest government, but it left much bitterness in Québec’s society – involving accusations flying everywhere;  against the government, the opposition, school bodies, and even the media.  It also greatly divided student bodies).
  • Guylaine talks about having being an angry child, and how she still becomes vexed and involved if she believes there’s an action she judges to be unjust.
    • (Comment:  This actually surprised me when she said this – she seems like such a calm, cool headed person whenever I have seen her in interviews, the type of person with measured and empathetic emotions.  It seems like this is a part of her character which she doesn’t regularly show in interviews – but she also seems very self-aware, which in itself is a very good thing – regardless if you do or do not agree with her politics or the battles she chooses to fight, and how she chooses to fight them.  Something also quite interesting is that she states she took her children to the protests.  I also found this surprising because many people were criticized for taking their minor children to events which (a) involved much emotion which minor perhaps could not have conscious control over, and (b) periodically turned quite violent, resulting in many arrest and police action.  However, I do not know the context in which she involved her own children.  All-in-all, I find what Tremblay says to be extremely interesting.  I will probably pay much more attention to her public appearances in the future.  Like I said in the earlier post about her, she has a personality I really like and greatly identify with, even if I don’t agree with her politics.  And I have learned many other things about her in the last couple of years, which makes her a very intriguing figure.  I don’t have to agree with her views on various issues to have to like her – and I still very much like her.  She’s the type of person who is difficult not to like – and as you listen to the audio track, I venture to say you’ll agree with me).
  • Both spoke about how they act upon what they feel is right (Ariane speaks about her own coming out, and both talk about how society has changed to be accepting of the new normal).
  • Both speak about their choices to have children which they didn’t carry themselves, and what their children signify to them in this context, and in general. Guylaine said people often ask her “Do you love your children as much as if you had carried them yourself?”
  • They speak of their worries as mothers.
  • At 44:00 minutes, they sing a Capella songs which bring back Christmas memories for both. For the remaining 15 minutes of their meal, they just sing Christmas carols.   You may be interested in this part, because they sing certain carols which do not exist in English – and even for me, they brought back memories from my childhood when much of that period of my life was in French.

I hope you enjoyed this 3-part mini blog series, and found it insightful on a few fronts.

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MINI “EAVESDROPPING” SERIES

“L’autre midi à la table d’à côté”; Roy – Lafortune discussion summary – Post 3 of 3 (#149)

This post can be useful for you if you’re learning French, if your French is already at an intermediate level.   In this post, I’ll offer you a summary of what the subjects of our last two posts spoke about;  Patrice Roy and Charles Lafortune.

You can also listen to the conversation yourself.   For learners of French:  Without translating the entire show, I’m providing you with summaries of various parts of the show.  The summary below is in chronological order.  You can use the summary as a “crutch” to try to stay on track.  It might be able to help with your language learning, and can fill in the holes as you move through the diaglogue.

The radio show L’Autre midi à la table d’à côté” is the brainchild of François Legault.  Regardless of where you are in Canada, you can listen to a new episode, with new people, during weekdays from 11:00am to 12:00.  It airs nationwide on Radio Première (you’ll have to check the internet to see where Radio Première falls on your radio dial in your part of the Canada).

The web-link for the Patrice Roy – Charles Lafortune audio episode can be heard by clicking HERE.

  • Charles Lafortune is introduced as having been the host of many shows; La voix, impro, comedy, variety. In his 20’s, he appeared on various youth programs (Watatatow, Tam-tam, etc.).
  • Patrice Roy = the chief anchor of the Téléjournal de Montréal. (Montréal’s nightly RC TV newscast).
  • Roy – Is a father with twins. Both Roy & Lafortune speak about how children tend to view the world, and how to relate the world to their children so children can understand the world.
  • They speak about how growing up in working families affected their personalities.
  • Lafortune said he can live with the idea of not having a job in front of the camera precisely because he’s able to take pleasure in other aspects of work. Roy agrees because he says he too loves the behind-the-scenes aspect of preparing for the work day.  However Roy said he still loves being in front of the camera and presenting.
  • Both agree they are under tremendous public pressure owing to the information age provides them with immediate public feedback, both good and bad. They speak about how they attempt to adjust themselves to deal with such pressures.   Lafortune comically says that if someone tweets him a criticism, his way of “dealing” with it and with that person is to re-tweet it to 90,000 of his followers – which usually takes care of the problem 😉
  • Roy says that when he was a news bureau chief in Ottawa, he felt the need to “shake things up”. He chose to take a flight to Afghanistan, and pursue his national reporting from there.  He spoke about the fear he felt, in a very human sense, when bombs fell around him and his crew, injuring many people (including his cameraman who had to have his leg amputated).  Roy had to step up to the plate to help.  He also spoke about post-traumatic stress and how his thoughts have changed on numerous topics.
  • Roy speaks about how his upbringing in a journalist family influenced his own work style and work values, as well as his values towards journalism.
  • Lafortune speaks about challenges he has in raising an autistic child in a family environment (he has to pay attention to many small things, such as having to remain standing when watching hockey games on TV at home so as to keep an eye on what his child is doing). He talks about his biggest anxiety in life, which isn’t his television career, but rather what will happen to his child once Lafortune passes away (he’s worried it could happen sooner than later, as an early heart attack, etc.).  He speaks very much from the heart about quite intimate subjects in this respect.
  • They both speak about Roy watching his father’s health deteriorate and eventually pass away (his father was Canada’s ambassador in Tunisia).
  • They speak of their thoughts regarding how they physically appear on television and what value they give (or don’t give) to it, and why. Lafortune’s first faced public criticism in his 20’s when he say an article about his entitled “Good Looking, but Insignificant).
  • Patrice Roy admits that all television managers he knows in Radio-Canada consider viewership numbers important, and this has a bearing on individual’s behaviour and decisions within the organization, just it does in a private company such as TVA (which Lafortune discusses).
  • Lafortune admits that most of the successful TV productions he is involved in are often most often modeled after those in the Netherlands and Israel (rather than being home-grown ideas. Nor are they modeled after American productions, contrary to what the public may believe).
  • Lafortune speaks about the delicate situation he ran into earlier in 2014 when presenting La Voix the night before the last provincial elections. The show that night was watched by over 2,700,000 people, it was produced by Julie Snyder (the wife of Pierre Karl Péladeau, PKP), who himself was running for election.  He talked of having to be very conscious on stage about how he said things (so as not to be perceived as taking political sides).  (Note for reader… this whole issue regarding PKP, and the influence his role as Québecor’s owner has on the media, is currently a very serious debate in Québec.  Here we hear an on-the-ground 3rd party account which shows it is a consideration which is making some pretty big celebrities feel uneasy or feeling they’re walking on egg shells).
  • Roy speaks of some of his thoughts when covering political matters… and how he approaches certain issues. He also speaks of his thoughts regarding individuals he has interviewed.  (It’s quite interesting to hear his personal thoughts in this sense, since he has to play a completely neutral role on air).  Lafortune then jumps in with some of his own thoughts regarding how political parties and politicians tend to behave.  He speaks about what gets on his nerves.

If your French is at a basic or elementary level, do not get discouraged if you find Roy and Lafortune are speaking too fast.  I’ve studied a few languages, and I know that it can be frustrating when you can’t understand everything, or you feel the dialogue has left you behind as you’re still trying to figure things out.  But you’ll find that, with time, the more & more you listen, the more words will take anchor in your brain, and you won’t have to always stop and try to figure out what’s being said.  Stick with it and give yourself a pat on the back… after all, you’re further along than where you were 1, 3 or 5 months ago 🙂 .

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MINI “EAVESDROPPING” SERIES

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

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:

w.oqa.

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;

fr.acc fr.langwal.dia  bed.acc


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.)

S.ar.1

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EXAMPLE 2:  

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:

HOST:

  • 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.

Manoukian: 

  • 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.

HOST:

  • Asks Giroux what enticed her to write a public rebuttal to Manoukian’s on-air statements regarding Québec French.

Giroux:

  • 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”).

Manoukian:

  • 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.

HOST:

  • 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).

Giroux:

  • 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.

Manoukian:

  • (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.

Giroux:

  • No.

Manoukian:

  • Ok.

Giroux:

  • 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”).

HOST:

  • 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.

Giroux:

  • 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.

Manoukian:

  • 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.