Home » Posts tagged 'Regional French'
Tag Archives: Regional French
This documentary, “Le Garage”, caught my eye the moment I first saw a short 20 second clip, and now I’m hooked!
I’ll provide you with trailers, and an official link for online viewing a little further below.
This is one of the most “real” documentaries I think I have ever seen. I have never seen a documentary quite like this one before; one which has surprisingly left me with a feeling of having a strange bond with the people featured in it, despite never having met them.
At the very bottom, I’ll provide you with links to official sites where you can watch the full hour-long documentary, officially approved for internet viewing.
The Trailer: Here’s how the film maker, Michel Demers, describes his film (translation) : “It is along the banks of the North Coast where we find The Garage. Between forest and sea, adults, children, and grand-parents all gather in the garage to tell their stories and to gossip. In an atmosphere in which everyone has each other’s back, you can sample the moose meat, trout, and mussels that everyone has pitched in to bring home together. Norman and his sons are mechanics, and are under the ever-so-watchful eyes of those who drop in and who watch from the side-lines”.
C’est à Longue-Rive sur La Côte-Nord que nous retrouvons LE GARAGE. Entre mer et forêt, adultes, enfants et grands-parents s’y rencontrent pour raconter histoires et menteries. Dans une atmosphère de solidarité et d’entraide, on déguste orignal, truites et moules que l’on a capturé ensemble. Normand et ses fils y font de la mécanique sous les yeux des gens qui “veillent” dans le côté salon.
THE STORY LINE:
The film maker’s brother, Norm, lives in a very small village, Longue-Rive, in the relatively remote region known as Québec’s North Shore. Norm is a mechanic in the village, and works out of his garage set up on his property. In small towns and villages across Canada, particularly those which are quite remote, neighbours have grown up together and/or know each other very well. In such places, people often do not lock their doors at night, and villages take on a family atmosphere of sorts (you can walk into your neighbour’s homes without knocking, everyone knows where everyone’s chilren are at all times, and adults spend a lot of time with each other.
In Longue-Rive, there is no bar or cafe. But the blue-collar nature of the small town makes it so everyone has a garage where they work (either professionally or as a hobby), and everyday life revolves around the garage (much like everyday life may have revolved around kitchens 50, 70 or 100 years ago).
I’ve personally driven through Long-Rive a while back, as well as many other communities like it along the North Shore, and all across Canada. In villages like these, it tends to be more cultural the norm, rather than the exception, to see homes with detached garages, in which residents work or whittle away their time (even in my own family, we I have a number of relatives whose lives semi-revolve around their garage).
Culturally, it is very Canadian to see this phenomenon in remote, rural settings, in all provinces. It’s something I have never really thought of before, but I think it’s an aspect of our rural culture. It’s a part of our culture which the film maker, Michel Demers, has captured beautifully.
In the absence of a bar or café in town, Norm’s garage doubles as the local hang-out for family and friends. People drop by in their free time, pull up a chair (or a “living room recliner”) and meet for a beer, to chat, to eat, organize group activities and just pass away the time. And it’s not only the village men who have turned Norm’s garage into their local “hang-out”. Women and children also gather to gossip, joke, and play.
Because everyone shares the same lifestyle (a love of the outdoors, catching up on community news, bonding as a community, hunting, trapping, fishing, clam digging, ski-dooing, etc.), there are more than enough topics for everyone to talk and laugh about. There is rarely a dull moment. People bond, and the entire village becomes one big family.
WHAT I TOOK AWAY FROM WATCHING THIS DOCUMENTARY:
What I love about the film is its simple and genuine nature, its innocence, and how life is uncomplicated for those we see on the screen. If one member of the community falls on hard times, there will be a whole network of others around to help pick him/her up by their bootstraps and step in until that individual is back on their feet.
Although I now living in our largest city (with Toronto at the heart of the “Golden Horseshoe” which counts over 10 million people), and even though I have lived in a few cities overseas which have ranged from 8 million, to 17 million, to 25 million people people, a film like this still resonates so strongly with me because I see so many echoes of my own early childhood in it; be it clam-digging close to home with my family, ski-dooing with my dad and his buddies, spending time with my dad as he did odd things around his own garage, or simply growing up in a small, isolated community in which neighbours spent the bulk of their time together. I talked about many of these things in a couple of earlier posts:
It find it quite interesting that so many aspects of life on the North Coast of Québec (where the St. Lawrence meets the Atlantic) are almost identical to many aspects of life on the North Coast of British Columbia (where the Skeena meets the Pacific), and a good number of other places. Fascinating stuff!
Apart from the various Canadian cities in which this documentary has or will be screened (both inside and outside of Québec), it is also set to be screened or has been screened in cities as far away as Moscow, Marseilles, Brussels, Chicago and Mexico.
A NOTE ON THE STYLE OF FRENCH USED :
The French accents and expressions spoken are those commonly heard in Québec’s North Coast region. This style of French has more in common with French spoken in Québec’s Gaspé region, the Atlantic Province’s Acadian regions, and the older generations of Prairie French speakers than it does Western Québec (which includes Montréal) or Ontario. (You can click the above links for more information on these various accent styles).
However, if your French is at an upper advanced level, and if you’re used to hearing a couple of different Canadian French accents to a fluent level, you should not have much difficulty understanding what is being said. Just be aware that even if your French is perfectly fluent, or even if French is your first language (such as for those from Montréal or Québec City), but if you are not used to hearing a North Coast accent, the super-strong accents of a couple of Normand’s buddies may throw you off here and there (there were a couple of times when I had to rewind to catch the words in a couple of different phrases).
SOME ADDITIONAL OUT-TAKES:
Here are some clips of people in the documentary talking about their lives and their”Garage” culture:
Here are some clips of reactions from local residents in Long-Rive when they first viewed a showing of “Bienvenue chez Normand”.
The documentary’s official website: http://www.micheldemers.com/?cat=67
HOW TO VIEW THE ENTIRE DOCUMENTARY ONLINE, FOR APPROVED VIEWING:
The documentary will be available on Radio-Canada’s “Tou.tv” website for free viewing until approximately September 2015.
The direct link is as follows: http://ici.tou.tv/les-grands-reportages/S2015E189
Subtitles (in French) are available in the video if you need them (click the subtitle button at the the bottom of the screen).
Happy viewing !!
Two days ago, I had a very surreal and quite unique experience with Canada’s cultural duality.
Canada does not have many “cross-border” towns. We have a few with the United States (where the border divides towns in two), and there are a few border-towns between provinces as well. Cross-border towns are communities which are divided by a border, and which would be “one town” if the border did not exist.
Some prominent ones which come to mind are:
- Stewart (B.C.) & Hyder (Alaska): When I was a child and living in Terrace B.C, my parents would take us up the road to Hyder to celebrate 4th of July (it was quite close to Terrace).
- Lloydminster (Alberta & Saskatchewan): This is actually one city, with the Alberta-Saskatchewan border dividing it down the middle along Main Street. I’ve driven through Lloydminster at least once every year, for many many years, on my way to visit relatives. As a city, it is administered in quite a unique fashion: The two provincial governments have agreed that it falls under Alberta sales tax rules, Saskatchewan education system, Alberta health care system, and Saskatchewan’s other municipal regulations – regardless of what side of the border residents live on.
- Noyes (Minnesota), Pembina (North Dakota) & Emerson (Manitoba). This was basically a tri-border community. I used to work in Emerson, Manitoba for a short period. The US-Canada border was a road on the edge of town. Everyone had friends on the other side of the border. We regularly crossed back and forth for meals, beers, local baseball games, and even groceries. Customs & Immigration officers on both sides of the border knew everyone and everyone knew them (today, when I cross the border at a place like Niagara Falls, and the US inspector asks how many times I’ve been to the USA, I respond
in a purposely naive tone“maybe a hundred times or two”, which I know perfectly wellwill earn me a strange look – lol).
However, two days ago I had a border-town experience unlike any other I have experienced before (I’m still shaking my head in disbelief).
I drove to Témiscaming, Québec for a business related matter. Usually, people from Toronto think that the closest point to Québec from Toronto would be where the 401 enters Québec on the way to Montréal, or where Gatineau meets Ottawa.
But actually, the closest point in Québec to Toronto is Témiscaming. This might actually come as a surprise to most people because Témiscaming is a 6.5 hour drive from Montréal (it is considered quite far “North” for people living in Montréal), and it is a four hour drive from the Western edge of Ottawa.
But if you look at a map, it is almost exactly straight North of Toronto. Because of the new limited-access expressway from Toronto to North Bay, 90 minutes has been shaved off the trip. It now only takes three hours and a bit to drive to North Bay from Toronto, and Témiscaming is only a 45 minute drive beyond North Bay.
Geographically, Témiscaming is almost cut off from the rest of Québec. If you want travel to Southern Québec from Témiscaming, you have to travel through Ontario to get there (but there is a road which connects to Northern Québec to Témiscaming). Ironically, their closest major city is Toronto — and North Bay, Ontario is the closest centre for dentists, optometrists, etc.
What took me aback was the cultural duality of the town. The town is situated along a very narrow point on the Ottawa River (two short bridges cross the Ottawa River, with each bridge perhaps only a few metres long, with an island in the middle). The Ontario side of the river has three satellite communities, Eldee, Thorne and Wyse. These three communities speak French, and the only school on the Ontario side is a Francophone school. The Ontario side counts perhaps has 500 people.
On the Québec side, there is the old town of Témiscaming, and a bit further up the road is the new town. 30% of Témiscaming is Anglophone. There is an Anglophone school on the Québec side. The remainder of the town is Francophone, with a Francophone school. The Québec side has around 2800 people.
Together, both sides of the border interact and operate as one community.
On the Ontario side, when I went to a café and gas station, both times I was greeted and served in French. On the Québec side, when I went to the grocery store, a sales clerk in the isle greeted me in English, but the cashier greeted me in French.
When I was standing in line waiting to pay for groceries, the cashier and customer ahead of me obviously knew each other and were friends. But the cashier spoke to the customer only in French, and the customer spoke to the cashier only in English. They had quite a conversation about their kids who play together, and their husbands. One would speak in one language, and the other would answer in the other language. It was very interesting to witness (many years ago, I once had a colleauge who operated in this manner, he spoke only French when other people spoke to him only in English — but since then, I have never seen this occur before in public).
The whole town seemed to operate on along these lines.
(Photos of the “transformed” coffee shop and Subway restaurant in a VIA Rail car and old railway station)
I went to the hardware store to buy some bindings. I heard the same linguistic quirks there also. A customer spoke French, and the clerk spoke in English. I didn’t know what language to speak (really… how you decide?).
I suppose people who live there knows everyone else, and they would know what language to address others in. But it seemed like people just spoke in their own language, regardless of the language of the person they were speaking to, and everyone seemed to be perfectly bilingual.
When I went to a restaurant, I heard the staff speak both languages, perfectly bilingual, with no accent in either (I couldn’t tell if they were Anglophone or Francophone). When it came my turn to be served, I uttered an awkward downtown-Montréal-style “Hi, Bonjour!” (I have never done that before, it just came out like that without me even thinking about it – it felt very strange). The waitress said “Bon, mon cher, you can speak whatever language you want! Alors, qu’est ce que je vous sers?” I laughed out loud! (but that didn’t answer my question as to what language to speak — I felt like speaking both — it was just such a unique situation!).
I had the chance to ask some people what the heck was going on, and how this even worked. For the most part, I was told that what I observed was correct — that the town operates much along the above lines. Everyone is very bilingual, and people feel comfortable speaking their own language for the sake of simplicity, with no expectation that the response will be in the same language. Everyone understands each other – so it just works. It’s perfect harmony – and there is no assimilation or loss of one’s identity (Francophone children will grow up Francophone, Anglophone children will grow up Anglophone, and they all live together as one cohesive community. Everyone is friends, and everyone has each other’s back, regardless of their home language —
like a 1960s love-in!).
I don’t ever like to admit it, but “sometimes” I feel uncomfortable speaking English in some areas of Québec. Don’t get me wrong… It’s not because I feel like I would be treated differently, or badly, or anything like that. Probably it has more to do with the fact that I don’t want to make others feel awkward — in the sense that I don’t want others wondering what I’m talking about if they can’t understand me. It’s strange, I know. I know that 99.999999999% of the time it would never be a problem to speak English in a public Francophone environment (just as 99.9999999999% of the time there would never be any issues with a Francophone speaking French in a public environment in Anglophone Canada). I’m probably a bit too sensitive on this front. But the fact that I don’t really have an English accent when I speak French makes it so I know I can just blend in with the crowd — and my brain instinctively switches to French in Québec or other Francophone regions of Canada. But this trip to Témiscaming was the only true time I have ever felt my linguistic compass go completely haywire — I truly did not know what language I should speak.
In this sense, Témiscaming would be a documentarist’s dream!
What I found particularly interesting was that the notion that Ontario-Québec border did not appear to exist in people’s minds in Greater Témiscaming, regardless of what side of the border people lived on. Elsewhere, people in Québec and Ontario are often very “aware” of the border (I used to live in Gatineau, Québec, so believe me when I say that the border is as much a psychological matter to many Ontarians and Québécois, as it is physical).
One resident of Timiscaming told me that the town’s former Loblaws/Provigo closed several months ago. For a period of several months, the only place the town’s residents could purchase groceries was 45 minutes down the road in North Bay, Ontario. People made this commute on a regular basis until the new IGA recently opened in town. Now that Témiscaming has a new supermarket (quite a large one might I add, I was told it employs 100 people), Anglophone Ontarians from as far away as a 25 minute drive on the Ontario side now come to Témiscaming to do their grocery shopping. This adds even more to the cultural diversity of the community.
For some, Ontario is good for owning a home, paying cheaper income taxes (for people without children), and for gas (the pump price on the Ontario side is $0.08 cents cheaper). For others, the Québec side is good for owning a home, paying less income tax for families with children, groceries, and services.
The main employer is the pulp & paper mill on the Québec side. But if you look at the parking lot, it’s a good mix of Ontario & Québec license plates (just like the rest of town). Témiscaming is the main point of employment for the region on both sides of the border.
I was told the only major inconvenience for residents is that Anglophone families on the Ontario side have to send their children by bus 35 minutes down the road to Redbridge, Ontario (they’re not eligible to attend the Anglophone public school on the Québec side, and the Ontario side only has a Francophone school).
In the end, once I got my business out of the way, I managed to get in a couple of hours of snow-shoeing (I mean, hey – doesn’t everyone always carry an extra pair of snow shoes in their trunk?). The town’s physical setting, with the forests and hills, was breathtaking. The only thing that would have ruined it would have been if a hungry bear happened to see me as I was fighting my way through 4 or 5 feet of snow (Monday’s post could have been my last one if that happened 😉 ).
Considering how close Témiscaming is to Toronto, and considering how interesting it is from a cultural perspective, I think I’ll definitely make a point of heading up there with friends for camping this summer. As far as I’m concerned, it’s one of the best kept secrets within a short drive from Toronto.
(I don’t think I could have out-ran a bear with the snow-shoes on in 4 feet of snow)