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Let’s go fishing… and learn hard-core French while you’re at it! – Post 2 of 6 (#324)

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

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The last post had the hosts at Radio-X set up the scenario for receiving fishing stories.  This time we’ll get right into the stories.

I’ve ranked them with varying degrees of difficulty based on

  • the vocabulary being used
  • the accents being used (you’ll notice at least three different regional accents in these six posts, all from Eastern Québec).
  • the speed and rhythm with which the callers are speaking.

Despite the language difficulties, these posts should be  reassuring to Anglophone Canadians.  As you go through these learning exercises, you will notice that direct equivalents exist in colloquial Canadian-Québécois French for things which are said in colloquial Canadian English.

This is often not the case with French from Europe.

I’m not referring to “anglicismes” or “calques”, but rather I’m referring to the syntax or expressions which are signs that Anglophones and Francophones in Canada seem to have the same visual and lexical thought process when choosing how to say things (I believe that it shows we culturally share much of the same mental thought process when choosing our words).

Yet, I find if one were to express the same circumstances using European French, from a syntax and situational context, the way it would be expressed would be very different — and the FEEL would be completely different (whereas the feel would be culturally much the same for Canadian Francophones and Anglophones).

The thought process in Europe (ie: how people run through scenarios in their mind as they’re searching for words) sometimes can be culturally different.

This is one reason I have always advised Anglophone Canadians to take the easier route and to learn their own version of French than the European version of French.

It is also for this reason that it is better to learn Canadian French if most interactions will be with Canadian French speakers (and not with Europe).  You’ll be able to better relate to others, and others will be better able to relate to you (if no other viewpoint, than on a peer-to-peer level, not to mention any subconscious mutual understanding and acceptance as kin).

Some people say “When in Rome…”.  Yet in this case it should be “When in North America…”.

Colloquial difficulty level:  2

Difficulty levels 2

cc

Caller

  • 0:00 – Oui, bonjour!
  • Yes, Hello!

Host

  • 0:01 – Bonjour
  • Hello

Caller

  • 0:02 – Oui, j’ai une histoire de pêche à vous conter.
  • Yes, I have a fishing story to tell you.

Host

  • 0:04 – On vous écoute.
  • We’re listening.

Caller

  • 0:05 – Alors, moi chu partie à la pêche avec mon père. Et puis, on allait régulièrement à cette rivière.  Et pis le canot est toujours là, prêt.  Pis il est à l’envers sur le bord.  On le pousse.  On décolle.  Chacun, mon père au bout, il est assez agé.  Pis moi, ben, je pousse le canot, pis on décolle
  • So, I went fishing with my dad. And then we regularly went to this river.  And the canoe is always there, ready.  And it’s sitting upside down on the bank.  We pushed.  We were off.  Each, My dad was at the end, he’s rather up there in age.  And me, well, I pushed the canoe, and we were off.
  • 0:26 – Pis j’ai ma flotte. Pis, tout à coup je m’aperçois qu’il fait chaud un petit peu.  Fait-que j’enlève ma flotte, j’enlève ma veste, je remets ma flotte.  Je prends ma veste, je le mets dans le point du canot.  Qu’est ce qui sort du point du canot?  Une couleuvre. 
  • And me, I had my lifejacket. And all of a sudden I realized that it was a bit hot out.  So I took off my lifejacket, I took off my vest, and I put my lifejacket back on.  I took my vest, I put it in the tip of the canoe.  What came out of the tip?  A garter snake.

Host

  • 0:39 – Oh! Ok, pis vous autres, vous trippez pas là-dessus. 
  • Oh! Ok, and you guys, you aren’t so hot on that idea.

Caller

  • 0:41 – Euh, ben, la couleuvre je l’ai pas aimé mettons. Là, je lâche la rame.  La rame est rendue dans la chute.  Je décolle, en tout cas.  Je m’en vas (instead of « vais ») trouver mon père dans le point du bateau.  Là, il était plus pesant dans le bord, fait-que.  Pis là, mon père criait « Tu vas nous noyer! ». 
  • Uh, well, let’s just say that I didn’t like the garter snake. So there, I threw the oar.  The oar ended up in the housing rings.  I pushed off at any rate.  I went for my dad in the end of the boat.  So there, it was heavier on the side.  So my dad yelled “you’re going to drown us!”

Host

  • 1:01 – Vous avez manqué de suivre votre père.  Vous avez manqué de noyer votre père. 
  • You didn’t end up following your dad in. You didn’t end up drowing your dad.

Caller

  • 1:04 – On a manqué se noyer finalement.
  • We didn’t drown in the end.

Host

  • 1:06 – Aw aw aw aw… Ç’a bien fini?
  • Aw aw aw aw… It ended well?

Caller

  • 1:08 – Ç’a bien fini, oui. Une belle pêche quand-même.  Mais on fait toujours ça des belles pêches.  Mais les couleuvres, c’est pas mon fort dans le bateau. 
  • Yes, it finished well. It was good fishing anyway.  But we always have a good time fishing.  But garter snakes, I don’t get off on them in the boat.

Host

  • 1:15 – Eh, Merci d’avoir appelé. Bonne journée!
  • Hey, Thanks for calling. Have a good day!

Caller

  • 1:16 – Bonne journée.
  • Have a good day.

Host

  • 1:17 – Bye bye.

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

Let’s go fishing… and learn hard-core French while you’re at it! – Post 1 of 6 (#323)

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

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The last few posts which combined some language learning exercises garnered some pretty high traffic.

I guess that means that a good chunk of people found them interesting or useful to study spoken French.

Those could be considered rather straight forward in the sense that post #321’s conversation was rather short (even if it was colloquial / verbal), or in a controlled interview, such as in the case of post #322.

Regardless, such exercises give you a perspective and an opportunity to learn French as it is spoken in every day speech.

Textbook French only gets you so far.   The true key is if you can put yourself in a situation where you have to use your French, you understand what is going on around you, and you can follow it enough to respond.

In the next few posts, I’m going to give you the opportunity to practice your listening skills, to learn some colloquial (oral) French vocabulary as it is spoken in everyday situations, and to challenge yourself a little.

I’m going to provide you with six texts, each with a different level of difficulty.   I’ll rank them for you on a scale of one to six.

Because there is quite a bit of work involved in putting these together, I won’t be able to do them every day.  But I will do my best to put one together every couple of days.

Also, I UNDERLINED some very colloquial words and expressions which might be of particular interest.

SCENARIO:  This past long weekend I spent some down-time doing some camping, and some friends went fishing.  on the way home, I was listening to Radio-X in the car (a very well known talk radio station).  The coincidentally were talking about fishing stories.

I obtained clips from the show, edited them, added subtitles, and am presenting them to you with translated texts.   I feel they provide you with the real-deal on how people speak to each other in French using relaxed, everyday colloquial French — at least on this side of the Atlantic, in Québec, and across Canada.

This first clip introduces what’s about to come with the real fishing stories (the subjects of the next few posts).

Lets dive into it.

Colloquial Difficulty Level:  1

Difficulty levels 1cc

Host A :

  • 0:00 – Ça fait toujours réagir quand on parle de chasse et pêche ici sur nos ondes. Beaucoup de chasseurs sont à l’écoute, et beaucoup de pêcheurs.
  • It always gets a reaction when we talk on air about hunting and fishing. Many hunters are listening, as are many fishermen/women

Host B :

  • 0:07 – Oui. C’est la saison. 
  • It’s the season.

Host A :

  • 0:09 – Mais pas de la chasse, par exemple. Il n’y a pas plus grande chose à chasser à ce temps de l’année.  Vous autres, les gars, vous n’avez jamais pêché?
  • Well, not for hunting. There isn’t much to hunt at this time of the year.  You, you guys, you’ve never fished before?

Host B :

  • 0:16 – J’étais supposé aller pêcher avec mon propriétaire, qui est le cousin à Véronique Bergeron, pis il avait dit…
  • I was supposed to go fishing with my landlord.  I told you he’s Véronique Bergeron’s cousin.

Host A :

  • 0:23 – “Je vous sors”, Véro c’est une pêcheuse aussi.
  • “I’ll take you out”… Vero is also a fisherwoman.

Host B :

  • Ben oui
  • Of course

Host A :

  • 0:26 – Parlant de filles qui font de la chasse et de la pêche,
  • Speaking of women/girls who hunt and fish, well

Host B :

  • 0:29 – Je me demande, elle est supposée prendre son permis de port d’arme…
  • I wonder, she is supposed to get her firearm holder’s permit…

Host A :

  • Ouais
  • Yup

Host B :

  • 0:33 – … pour aller à la chasse. Mais c’est une grande pêcheuse, Véro.  Pis mon propriétaire m’avais dit « On va aller pêcher le soir.  On va se faire du fish ‘n chip.  On va cuisiner tout ça avec une bonne bouteille de vin.
  • … to be able to hunt. But Vero, there’s a big fisherwoman.  And my landlord has always said to me “We’re going to go fishing tonight.  We’ll make some fish ‘n chips.  We’ll cook it all up with a good bottle of wine.”

Host A :

  • 0:44 – T’étais prêt .
  • And you were like ready to do it.

Host B :

  • 0:45 – J’étais prêt. J’étais cranké.  Et quand on était dans la voiture, on allait mettre du gaz dans le bateau.  Mais la température et des vagues de 3 pieds dur le fleuve, fait-que c’était vraiment pas idéale
  • I was ready. I was all geared up / on my mark / cranked up.  And when we were in the car, we were all ready to put gas in the boat.   But those temperatures and the 3 foot waves on the river… it made it so that it really wasn’t ideal.

Host A :

  • 0:55 – Les conditions intactes.
  • The conditions lined up.

Host B :

  • 0:56 – Les conditions étaient absentes. Non, non.  C’était vraiment sur le fleuve là.   Donc on a oublié le projet.  Mais il y avait quand-même du bon poison.  Fait-qu’on s’est fait pareille du fish ‘n chip, mais sans avoir été sur le fleuve.  La seule fois chu allé pêcher, dans un petit lac quand j’étais jeune, avec mes parents.  C’était à l’Île d’Orléans.  Pis moi, la seule fois que j’ai swingé la channe à pêche, c’était comme dans les cartoons. 
  • The conditions were not there. No, no.  It was all that on the riverSo we simply forgot our project.  But we still had good fish, even without having gone on the river.   The only time I’ve gone fishing, it was in a little lake when I was young, with my parents.  It was on Orleans Island.  And me, the only time I swung a fishing rod, I ended up looking like a cartoon.

Host A :

  • 1:17 – Tu l’as accroché par le col en arrière!
  • You hooked / caught the back of your collar!

Host B :

  • 1:19 – Pas loin! Ou c’était… j’ai vraiment swingé!
  • Pretty close! Where it was sitting, I really was swinging!

Host A :

  • 1:23 – À deux bras?
  • With both arms?

Host B :

  • 1:24 – Comme dans les cartoons!
  • Like in the cartoons!

Host A :

  • 1:25 – Ouais? C’est dangereux, .   Ça, je sais panoute, mais il y avait du monde autour?
  • Really? Like, that’s dangerous.  Ya know, I have no idea, but there was nobody around you?

Host B :

  • 1:29 – Non, non! Mais c’était « Fuck! Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! ».  Je veux pas ça de mêmeFait-que c’est la seule expérience que j’ai, de pêche, dans ma vie.  C’était une expérience qui a complètement tombé à l’eau.  Et l’autre expérience, que c’était pas super fameux.  J’étais trop jeune pour m’en souvenir .
  • No, No! But I was like « Shit!  Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa!”  I’m not hot on thatSo it’s the only experience I have, with fishing, in my whole life.  It was an experience which totally fell through.  And the other experience, it wasn’t so hot  I was like too young to remember it.

Host A :

  • 1:48 – , t’as comme jamais pêché. T’es jamais allé à Costco.
  • So like, you’ve never fished, and you’ve never been to Costco (Costco is a running joke between the hosts).

Host B :

  • 1:52 – Je ne suis jamais allé à Costco.
  • I’ve never been to Costco.

Host A :

  • 1:54 – Mais t’as pas ta carte de membre.
  • Well, you don’t have your member’s card.

Host B :

  • 1:55 – Je n’ai pas ma carte de membre.
  • I don’t have a member’s card.

Host A :

  • 1:56 – D’ailleurs là, salutations à ton père, qui était à l’écoute, et qui t’a envoyé une preuve d’amour. Il t’aime quand-même.
  • By the way, hi to your dad who was listening and who sent you a few words of love. He loves you regardless.

Host B :

  • 2:01 – Il m’a texté, et je cite : « Ben oui, je t’aime mon garçon. »
  • He sent a text, and I quote “Oh yes, I love you son”.

Host A :

  • 2:06 – Ça me rassure.
  • That makes me feel better (in the sense of being reassured).

Host B :

  • 2:06 – Oui, ça me rassure, moi aussi.
  • Yes, that makes me feel better too.

Host A :

  • 2:07 – Ouais, de bon moments.
  • Yup, beautiful moments.

Host B :

  • 2:09 – Mais il n’y avait pas de lol, ni de bonhomme clin d’œil, fait-que je ne sais pas si c’était sarcastique.
  • But there was no lol, no winking man, so I don’t know if it was sarcastic.

Host A :

  • 2:13 – Ah, ok. Toi tu penses que ça pourrait pas être vrai. 
  • Oh, ok. Tu think it wasn’t sincere.

Host B :

  • 2:16 – Non, je ne pense pas que mon père est assez développé, technologie texto, pour faire des bonhommes sourire encore.
  • Non, I don’t think my dad is with it enough, regarding texting technology, to be able to send smiling men.

Host A :

  • 2:20 – Oh ya ya. Écoutes, un jour ça viendra.  Et quoi de mieux que d’aller au Costco avant un voyage de pêche.  Ça là, c’est comme, c’est comme Noël.
  • Oh man. Listen, one day you get it.  And what’s better than going to Costco than a fishing trip.  And once there, it’s like, it’s like Christmas.

Host B :

  • 2:29 – Tu sais, quand tu joins l’utile à l’agréable
  • Ya know, when you combine usefulness and likeable together…

Host A :

  • 2:31 – La gang de boys qui débarque au Costco pour faire l’épicerie avant le voyage de pêche , pis là tu sais que c’est le lendemain, il y a comme une effervescence… Toi Alex, toi non plus tu n’étais jamais aller pêcher?
  • The group of guys who head off to to Costco to do their grocery shopping before, like, a fishing trip, and you know that the next day, it’s like riding on cloud nine…. You Alex, you neither have never been fishing?

Host C :

  • 2:41 – La chasse, zéro fois, pis la pêche ça se compte su’les doigts de la main. J’aimais mes expériences, mais je ne sais pas pourquoi ç’a jamais vraiment donné que j’aille à la pêche et au camping, ou des choses comme ça.   Si ça se compte, c’était peut-être à trois ou quatre fois que je suis allé à la pêche de même.
  • Hunting, not once, and fishing I can count the number of times on one hand. I liked the times I had done it, but I don’t know why, but it never quite fit me to go fishing or camping, or anything like that.  If I count, it was maybe three or four times that I’ve been fishing like that.

Host A :

  • 2:54 – Je pense qu’on est dû, les gars, pour vous donner un peu d’expérience par procuration. D’après moi, on est dans un cas de spotted
  • I think it’s about time, guys, to let you live a little vicarious experience. In my opinion, we’re in a situation of having been caught with our pants down / being able to identify / bring to the fore / highlighting things…

Host B :

  • 3:01 – Parce que des histoires de pêche, il y en a. Regarde, mon propriétaire, chaque fois que je le croise en partant de chez nous , y a toujours une histoire de pêche à me conterPis c’est minimum une demi-heure par histoire de pêche
  • Because when it comes to fishing stories, there certainly are those. Look, my landlord, each time I cross paths with him when I like leave our place, he always has a fishing story to tell meAnd it’s like a minimum half hour per story for fishing.

Host A :

  • 3:13 – Mais , je veux des histoires de pêche, de chasse, avec un « H » majuscule. Pas des histoires de pêche « Aw, j’en ai poingé une grosse de même, pis… ». 
  • But like, I want fishing stories, hunting stories with a capital « H » (for “H”ell). I don’t want to hear fishing stories which go like “Aw, I got such a big one and …”

Host B :

  • 3:21 – Non, non, des vraies histoires. Parce qu’il y en a toujours des histoires, des bateaux qui partent à la dérive quand on est au chaletUne petite raconte « Ouais, j’ai oublié d’attacher le bateau ».  Pis le bateau s’en va, pis t’es obligé d’aller nager.
  • No, no, give us real stories. Because there are always stories, like boats which go off on their own when we’re at the cabinHere’s a little story, “Yup, I forgot to tie up the boat…”.  And off the boat went, and you had to go swimming.

Host A :

  • 3:33 – Mais t’arriverais à un moment donner. On allait dans un chalet, mais tu sais, spotted, chasse et pêche, chalet :  670-9098, 1-877-440-2464, et il y a toujours le « live » à Radiox.com.   Je sais qu’il y a ben de gens qui dans leur première semaine de vacances de la construction sont allés dans des chalets, sont allés pêcher, sont allés faire un peu de plein air, et plus souvent qu’autrement il y a des histoires d’alcool, de boisson. 
  • Well, we’ll get to you at a certain point. You went to a cabin, and you know, caught with your pants down, hunting, fishing, and cabins:   670-9098, 1-877-440-2464, and there’s always “live” at Radiox.com.  I know there are many out there in their first week of construction vacations who went to cabins, fishing, who went to take in a bit of the great outdoors, and who more often than not have stories involving alcohol, of drinking. 
  • 4:02 – Il ne faut pas que ça tombe mal, mettons. Il ne faut pas que ça tombe mal ces histoires-là.  Mais, mettons que des fois il y a des trucs quand-même assez cocasse qui se passe quand tu t’en vas à la pêche.  Pis souvent, ce n’est pas pour être sexiste, mais souvent t’sais, c’est les boys, y vont à la pêche pis il y a toujours un paquet d’histoires.  Moi j’avais déjà oublié d’attacher le pédalo au chalet.  Pis le chalet était devant la rivière.  Fait-que calcul-le comme tu veux. 
  • It doesn’t have to end badly, let’s say. These stories doesn’t have to end badly.  But, let’s say that sometimes there are things which can yet be wacky enough which can happen when you go fishing.  And often, it’s not to be sexist, but often, ya know, it’s the guys, they go fishing and there are always a ton of stories.   Me, I even forgot to tie up the water-cycle to the cabin.  And the cabin was in front of the river.  I’ll leave it to you go guess what happened.

Host B :

  • 4:26 – Bye-bye pédalo.
  • Bye-bye water-cycle.

Host A :

  • 4:28 – Il aurait fallu remorquer le pédalo. Il était rendu comme 500 pieds plus loin poigné dans des roches.  C’était pas ma meilleure celle-là.  OK, les lignes sont pleines.  Je pense que vous nous avez des histoires à nous raconter.   Spotted, chasse et pêche, plein air, ou appelez ça comme vous voulez.  Peut-être sauf une fois au chalet, aussi ça peut entrer dans cette catégorie-là.  On s’en va au téléphone.   Allô, Radio-X…
  • We had to tow the water-cycle. It went 500 feet down and go caught on the rocks.  I wasn’t at my best with that one.  OK, the lines are lit up.  I think we’re going to have stories for you.  Caught with your pants down, hunting and fishing, great outdoors, or call us about whatever.  Except for that “one time” at the cabin, that can also enter into that category.  Ok, let’s get to the calls.  Hello, Radio-X…

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

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

This post is for Anglophone Canadians who are seeking ways to speak more French in Anglophone regions in Canada.

For those of you who are learning French, or who are trying to integrate a bit more of our country’s Francophone culture into your own life, this post might help to offer new avenues to expand your horizons, meet people and improve your French speaking and listening skills.

The French reality of my own background

To give you a bit of context, I’ll tell you a bit about how this fits into my own background.

Owing to decisions my parents took when I was still an infant, I was chosen to be one of the first “guinea-pigs” for the new “early-development immersion programs” in Western Canada.

When I was 3 years old, I was placed in the early pre-school immersion experiment.   Since then, my life has been a fairly even split between French and English:  Friends, school, work, and many other aspects of life.  Because of this, I have always considered myself both Francophone and Anglophone.

During my younger years, school (and school friends/peers) were key to this duality – regardless if I was living in British Columbia or Alberta.

Later in life, my Francophone university, friendships, Francophone communities in which I lived (in Western Canada, Eastern Canada, and also abroad) all played into this duality.  Over the course of years, I held numerous occupations which were sometimes 80% or more in French.

The challenge of living in French in Anglophone-dominant cities across Canada

It can be easier to have French interactions in certain Canadian Anglophone cities versus others.   Some cities have “Francophone districts” – complete with Francophone stores, social activities, universities and services.   Edmonton (Alberta) has a Francophone district, Bonnie Doon.  Winnipeg has St. Boniface.   Moncton’s downtown core is very bilingual (and Dieppe is a French-dominant district).  And of course, Ottawa-Gatineau has numerous French-dominant regions and is quite bilingual in and of itself.

However, most other Anglophone cities across Canada do not have a prima facie Francophone districts or quarters.

I left Canada for a number of years for work.  But when I returned to Canada, I moved to the very Anglophone city of Toronto.  Toronto is the first major Canadian city I have ever lived in with does not have a Francophone quarter, district, or a district with a French-only University.

This has presented me with a new challenge:  How to meet others in French.  This is the first time I have ever had this explicit challenge.

In the year and a half that I have lived in Toronto, I think I have encountered many of the “language challenges” which other people across Anglophone Canada regularly encounter when they seek to incorporate more French into their own lives.

I’ll explain…

Toronto’s Golden Horseshoe

The high-density, urbanized region named the Golden Horseshoe (the region around Toronto) has over 10 million people — which makes is the third largest urban agglomeration north of Mexico (it recently overtook Chicago, and is now third behind New York and Los Angeles).

Golden Horseshoe

According to statistics Canada (2011), this region has over 100,000 Francophones who have French as their first language.   This gives the Golden Horseshoe region the third largest Francophone population outside Québec (behind Acadia, and Ontario as a whole).

Again, according to statistics Canada (2011), there are 541,271 bilingual people who speak both French and English in the Golden Horseshoe.   This makes the region the second largest bilingual region in Canada, outside of Montréal.

However, unlike Montréal (in which most linguistic minorities and bilingual speakers are centred around the downtown core) those who speak French in the Toronto-Hamilton Golden Horseshoe region tend to be evenly spread over a vast urban region which takes over two hours to drive across at full freeway speed (at 120 kms/hour – from Bowmanville in the East to St-Catherines in the South).

This makes it challenging to meet people who also speak French when French speakers are evenly spread over such a large urban region.  Toronto and the Golden Horseshoe do not have a “French District”, per se.   Granted, I hear more French being spoken in downtown Toronto than other regions, but it is not enough to say that the downtown core is “French”.

The real challenge arises when there is no way to know whether or not the person you pass in the street, or the store you pass on the sidewalk speaks French.

Similar situations exist in other English-dominant cities across Canada such as Vancouver, Calgary, Saskatoon, St. John’s and Halifax.

A fascinating solution to speaking, living and interacting in French in English-dominant regions of Canada

I found a great “solution” with which to meet others who speak French, and thus evening out one’s social life in Anglophone Canadian cities.   I can tell you that this little trick has surpassed anything I could have expected.  If you live in an Anglophone dominant city in Canada, you too may be very interested in this.

Quite by accident, I came across an online listing of French, Francophone and Francophile “Meet-ups” in the Greater Toronto area.   These “meet-ups” are generally socializing groups – sometimes in cafés, sometimes in bars, and other times in restaurants.  They are basically random social “drop-ins” in which everyone and anyone is welcome.  The common language is French.  It is an opportunity to meet new people from all walks of life, share a beer, share a meal, and make new friends.

How good of an “in” are these meet-ups?

I was completely caught off guard when I came across these meet-ups.  I was even more caught off guard when I saw them with my own eyes.

There are so many “meet-ups”; one every two to three days in Toronto alone.   They are spread throughout the whole Greater Toronto Area (GTA).   Three of the meet-ups regularly take place within a 10 minute drive of where I live, and one within a 10 minute walk.   There are so many in fact, that it would be rare that anyone in the GTA would be far from at least one of them.

In total, there are

  • 37 separate French meet-up groups across the GTA with approximately 8700 membres registered online.
  • Organizers tell me they estimate that the real number of “attendees” (those who come to the meet-ups, but who have not registered online to receive emails) is three times this amount, or 30,000 attendees.
These are large numbers!

(You can count for yourself in the “members” listings online — I’ll give you the link a bit further down)

Out of curiosity, over a month ago I attended one meetup in Markham (in the Northeast of the Golden Horseshoe).   It was held at a restaurant.  Some people ordered food.  Others ordered drinks.   There were 15 other people.   Perhaps half were originally from Québec, but who have lived in Toronto for more than 10 to 20 years.  The other half were a mix (Franco-Ontarians, Acadians, and Anglophones who speak French).    I have since kept in contact with a couple of people from that meet-up.

A week later I attended another meet-up in a restaurant in North York (physically located in the middle of the Greater Toronto Area).   Almost 40 people attended.   This one was more than a pleasant surprise.   Over half of the attendees were French-English bilingual first-generation immigrants… mostly Chinese, Indian, some East-Europeans, and some Iranians.   These are not Francophone countries – but yet these people were fully embracing Canada’s bilingual nature.   It was great!  The other attendees were a mix of bilingual Anglophones, Francophones from elsewhere in Canada, and from other Francophone countries (France, Belgium, Switzerland, Mauritius, and Africa).

In the subsequent two weeks, I attended two additional events downtown, one in a pub, the other in the bar of a well-known hotel.   One event had around 90 people (mostly Francophones from Ontario, Québec and other Francophone countries – as well as a good number of fully bilingual Anglophones and first-generation immigrants).   Another event had over 170 people – with much of the same mix as the last event.

Last week, I attended a meet-up brunch in a restaurant, and met more people.  We were a good mix: Franco-Ontarians, Anglophones, Francophones from Québec, from France, and first-generation immigrants.

IMG_8982

Not sure why I’m sticking out my tongue… but whatever.  Bad angle + lots of tongue = bad pic 😉
IMG_8988 IMG_8994

And the results?

One word:  unbelievable (I’m still shaking my head in semi-disbelief).

I only set out to perhaps meet a couple of people with whom to have a beer with from time to time (I value a bit of a French/English balance in my life).   I exchanged phone numbers and emails with just a few people.

But since having attended only a few of these meet-ups in the last five weeks, I have received,

  • 4 emails from individuals I met, inviting me to go for drinks after work or on the weekend (a couple of which I have taken up on their offer),
  • At least a dozen phone calls and SMS from other individuals inviting me for drinks, to dinner at restaurants, or to a dinner in their home with their families,
  • An invitation for brunch with another family and their friends (which I attended last weekend),
  • An invitation from three people to go camping in a couple of weeks,
  • An invitation to go kayaking with a couple of other people who have kayaks (like me),
  • A tentative offer from someone as a potential travel buddy to check out Gaspésie and Acadia this summer.

5 weeks, four meet-ups, and… well… holy crap!!

If you wish to find meet-ups in your own neighbourhood
The website where I found these meet-ups is http://www.meetup.com/fr/.

When you open the site,

  1. type “FRENCH” on the left side,
  2. choose a 100km radius
  3. enter your city

Meet-ups

It will give you a list of many different French meet-up groups.

mtups1

I checked other French meet-ups in a few other Anglophone cities across Canada which also do not have French districts.  Here is some of what I found:

  • Victoria, British Columbia: One large meet-up group, 402 members
  • Vancouver, British Columbia: 13 meet-up groups, 6278 members
  • Calgary, Alberta: 2 large meet-up groups, 1378 members.
  • Halifax, Nova Scotia: 1 large meet-up group, 593 members.

That’s almost 10,000 registered members in just these four cities alone — more than enough of an opportunity to meet others who speak French, and improve your language skills. (If the groups have more than 3 times the amount of unregistered members, like in Toronto, the numbers could very well be over 30,000 in these four cities as well).

And the last word?

It boggles my mind that a chunk of people in the sovereignist camp continue to say that French is dead outside of Québec.

On the contrary… I think with the advent of the internet and all the connections which can be forged, the net has basically become a “virtual French city”.  Things are taking off like we have never ever seen in the history of the country.  These sorts of opportunities to meet people, socialize and live in French have never been as easy to find as they are now.

I would even dare to say that this new meet-up movement is more effective and more efficient than traditional French communities were.   I say this in the sense that all of these people are out to meet others in a safe, public group environment – in cafés, restaurants and bars.   At least you can target your efforts for immediate results.

Combined with the massive French Immersion movement  (a good number of fully bilingual Anglophones I met at the meet-ups were products of the Immersion program), and what seemingly appears to be a good deal of interest on the part of first-generation immigrants towards Canada’s French fact… I would say things are looking pretty good as to the overall direction of things, and the interest in Canada’s French fact.  Wouldn’t you?

Anyway… I’ve been invited out for supper tonight with a small group of people I met at one of the meet-ups.   So I have to run!

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Addendum:  2015-07-13

I went to the Mississauga Meet-up out of curiosity the other evening, and I found it to be one of the more interesting (and most “mixed”) groups.   Although it only had about 30 – 40 attendees, people were from everywhere in Canada (des Franco-Manitobains, une personne d’Abitibi, Franco-Ontariens, Acadiens, de gens de Québec et de Montréal, un Franco-colombien, une Fransaskoise, des Francophones d’origine de Toronto, Anglophones who are very fluent in French, Anglophones who want to improve their French, business people, government workers, white collar, blue collar, a good mix of women and men… a very nice and diverse mix – all with beer, wine, jokes, interesting conversations and a lot of laughs!!).

The irony…

It has been a few weeks since I started to go to the meet-ups… and ironically, I now am thinking I have to make an effort to make “Anglophone” friends to do things in English.  Considering all the people I have met through the meet-ups, and the social activities which have stemmed from it (camping, movies, boating, fishing, restaurants, day-trips & travelling – all in French, etc), it seems like my social life in and around Toronto is now more in French than English.

Perhaps I should look for English meet-up groups now to re-balance!  Hahaha!!!

The use of “VOUS” versus “TU” — in CANADA – Post 2 of 2 (#269)

The last post provided an introduction and the EUROPEAN guide and tips to using tu and vous.   This post will give you tips to the CANADIAN use of tu and vous”.

The CANADIAN & QUÉBEC use of Tuand Vous

For those who are learning French and who may not be comfortable with our use of tu and vous, I would wholeheartedly say that you cannot go wrong by using William Alexander’s guide (above) until you become more comfortable with Canada’s and Québec’s unique usage.

In effect, the difference is not as large as you would think.  Even on this side of the ocean, people sometimes find themselves in situations where they judge it better to play it safe by using vous.

I will say this upfront:

When in doubt, it is always better to address someone with vous”.  You can always transition to tu at a later time if feel the situation calls for it.

However, it can be awkward if you tutoie someone, only to later discover that it may have been more appropriate to address the person with vous.

As a beginner to French, when in doubt, follow what others do.   When others are not around, you can always use vousto be safe (until you become culturally aware with our nuances of when to use tu).

On the bright side, if you do make a mistake (either way), don’t sweat it.   Native French speakers are more than used to the notion that this is not always a cut-and-dry matter, especially for second-language French speakers – and people always cut you more slack than what you realize (ie: people generally don’t sweat the small stuff 🙂 ).

If it makes you feel any better, even I had a very recent “mess-up” of my own.  I have a business in a field where people often tutoie (use tu).   Almost all of my Canadian & Québec business acquaintances address me with tu, right from the beginning.   But I usually wait for them to first use tu before I use tu with them (ie:  I will first address them with vous – unless they are younger).

Recently contacted a new business acquaintance for the first time.   I called the person by his first name (which is standard practice in my field), yet I used vous a few times.  However, out of habit, a few tu inadvertently slipped into what I was saying.   This new acquaintance obviously noticed that I called him by his first name, and that I inadvertently slipped in a few tu.

I know he noticed because he made a firm point of calling me monsieur(with added emphasis).  This was his way of sending me a stern signal that (1) he was not willing to have me call him anything but monsieur, and (2) there is no way he would allow a tutoiment (the use of tu).   We have been on a monsieur” / “vous ever since (and now there is no chance of making an error).    But yet 85% of any of my other business encounters in similar situations have either mutually started off as “tu”, or quickly moved to a tutubasis.

What are the CANADIAN rules?

The rules on this side of the Atlantic are not so cut and dry.   William Alexander’s European rules (from the last lost) can serve as a foundation from which we can branch out and make adjustments.

The following scenarios mostly apply if you are an adult speaking to another adult (someone over 18 or 20).

Eminent positions:

Like in Europe, “vous” is generally used on this side of the Atlantic to address people in eminent positions (Prime ministers, premiers, government ministers, mayors, police chiefs, CEOs, high ranking officials, etc.).  I’ll leave it up to you to decide what is an eminent position.  But when in doubt, revert to vous“.

“(Considerably) older strangers”

Older strangers are addressed as “vous” in Europe. But on this side of the Atlantic, there is much more wiggle room.  In that sense, I personally use vous, unless I’m engaging in a regular joint activity with that older person for the purpose of a mutual goal or pastime.

Example 1:

I, and many others, will often feel comfortable using tu with an older stranger when playing tennis, hockey, if engaged in a social club, a motorcycling club, a discussion group, if we met in a camp ground or boating activity, etc.   These are all circumstances which have brought us together through mutual interest, and in this sense, we’re “peers through interest”, regardless of age.

Example 2: 

However, if I encounter someone considerably older in a happenstance situation (ie: I have to ask a considerably older stranger or senior citizen a question in the middle of the street, I will use vous.   Other people may use tu, and they may be able to get away with it, but it just sounds more polite and respectful to use vous (a little more politeness in this world is always a good thing).

When deciding to use vousor tu to address an older person, you should look at the overall situation.  If you have met under random circumstances, and both of you are not engaged in the same common activity, you should ask yourself the following question:  Would I hold the door for this person if both of us were entering a building at the same time?

If the answer is “yes”, then I’d recommend you’d use “vous” (I personally hold the door for others, especially for the elderly, for those in need of assistance, and just to be a nice guy – even though other people may not).

Another good question to ask might be:  Would I give up my subway or bus seat for this person?  If the answer is “yes” (and I do hope there are numerous circumstances under which you would be polite enough to give up your seat to others), then you should use vousto be polite.

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This brings me to an interesting point…

If you are strangers (regardless of age), and you are polite enough to hold the door for such a person in regular circumstances, then just use “vous”.

General Rule of thum:  

Strangers + you’d hold the door for them under any other circumstance = Vous.  Pretty simple, isn’t it.

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Formal and semi-formal situations / activities:

This is less clear.   The use of vous” depends on how formal the activity is, and who you are addressing.   But there are some rough questions you could ask yourself when judging whether or not to use tuor vous.  Your choice of tu” or vous” will be based on a COMBINATION of answers to the questions below.

(I cannot stress enough that you have to look at a COMBINATION of factors which all fall on a SLIDING SCALE).

  • How badly do you want something from this person?

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  • What is the degree of knowledge / expertise / power / social standing of the person who you are addressing?

1

  • What is the other person’s social and profession standing as opposed to you?

1

  • What is the degree of formalness of the environment in which you are interacting?

1

  • Have you ever met your interlocutor in person, or only on the phone or by letter?

2

  • Do you work closely together for a common goal?

3

  • Do you often see this person?

4

  • Does the other person tend to keep their distance from you (either physically or figuratively because of rank), regardless if you perhaps see them often enough?

4

  • Is your interlocutor a friend, a near-level peer, near-level colleague – by way of age, job, or role?

7

  • Is your interlocutor speaking Joual with you and others around you instead of more formal French?

    (And are you conversely comfortable addressing your interlocutor in Joual?)  Note:  This is an excellent indicator which often sets the tone for using tu” instead of vous“.  

8

All of the above are major factors which can play into whether or not you would use tu or vous”.   They are all on a sliding scale which is libel to change based on the situation in which you find yourself.

Generally speaking, in Québec and elsewhere in Canada, unless you are speaking with a stranger, you could start off with the loose assumption that there would be perhaps a 60% – 70% chance you would use “tu”.

But for strangers, remember the “door holding rule”.   If you’re polite enough to hold he door, then you should be polite enough to use “vous” (a natural reflex).

Before taking the plunge to move towards “tu”, first take into account all of the above factors and adjust your assumption accordingly.

EXAMPLES:

You want to order a drink in a bar = Tu.

You are in an informal environment.  There is no power-play situation, no social standing issues, no professional issues, and you’re in close proximity with the person.

You want to order a meal in a high-end, pricey restaurant = Vous”.

You and the waiter/waitress are in a very formal environment.  The waiter/waitress likely has a professional knowledge of the gourmet dishes and is expected to act in a very profession manner (which you would naturally reciprocate), and they are catering to you at a non-peer level.

If the restaurant is middle-of-the-road, some people may say tu”, whereas others may say vous”.

If you are not sure if the restaurant is formal or not, a good measure might be the formality of the language used by the waiter / waitress.  If they use Joual or informal French, that can be a good measure if you are in a tuor vous” environment.

You call a government call-centre = Vous”.

There is physical distance between you and the other person.   The person is expected to render a service in a formal, professional maner.  You have never seen the person before.

  • You ask a grocery store clerk to help you locate a specific item = Perhaps 60% of people would say “tu”, whereas perhaps 40% would say “vous”.

The setting is quite informal, fast-pace, and transitory.   You’re not expecting much from this person, thus the importance of the interaction is greatly diminished.  It is not an interaction based on a requirement of deep knowledge or education.  There are no-power dynamics, and thus you could both be peers in another life.

If you chose to say “vous”, it is because you desire to “up” your standard of speech a little.  (On a personal note:  I mostly say vous out of politeness, especially if I really want this person’s help.  But I would say tu if the clerk is younger than me, or if the clerk addresses me with a tu).

You are a client meeting with your lawyer / doctor over some issue (and you do not normally see your lawyer / doctor on a regular basis) = Vous”.

You definitely need something important from this person, and it is on a basis which requires a great deal of education on the part of the person with whom you are engaging.   Your interlocutor is a professional, in a professional setting, and they have a prestigious social standing.

You are the lawyer / doctor, and you are speaking with your client = “Vous”.

If you are in a position / role which is going to lead your client to address you as “vous”, then you should do the same.   It is a mutual, two-way street.   This also goes for other types of professional positions you may be in, such as a civil servant rendering services to the public, an accountant, a dentist, etc.

However, there are exceptions.   If there will be continuous meetings in a short period of time, and in which both sides will have to share honest and frank personal thoughts and impressions (such as a real-estate agent and their client), tu” may be perfectly acceptable.

You are in a bank = It depends.

If I go to the same bank on a constant basis, I may use “tu” with the clerks because I know full well that they know (or at least can see from my file) that I am a regular customer.

However, if I am with a teller who I do not know very well, or if I have a meeting (especially a first meeting) with the bank manager or loan officer, I would use vous(but I would not be surprised if we might transition to tuafter a couple of meetings… it is case by case).

You are a patient talking to a dental assistant, or you are a dental assistant talking to a patient (ie: the dental assistant is spending a good deal of time with you, working in your mouth also) = “vous” or tu”.

This is sort of interesting because you would likely use vous” if you were speaking to the dentist him or herself.

But because both you and the dental assistant are both “under” the higher positioned “vousvoied” dentist, and because you both will be spending a good chunk of time together (dental assistants often work quite a bit in your mouth), the situation may quickly move to a “tu” situation (both “kindred spirits” below the almighty dentist).

In other words, because you both are “pions” under the “overloard”, it could eventually be OK to get over yourselves, and to call each other “tu”.

Again, this is case by case.  (On the phone, when I make an appointment, I use “vous”.  But I may switch to “tu” in person when I see my interlocutor in person after spending time together).

You are visiting a new city, you are walking in the street, and you need to ask for directions. = tu or vous.

Age might play into this one.  Do you remember the “Holding the door test” I mentioned earlier?

Your interaction would be brief and on a one-time basis.  Thus you could ask yourself if you would hold the door for your interlocutor (or if you would give up your subway or bus seat for them).  If the answer is “yes”, then you could use vous.

I hold the door for most strangers (as I am sure most other people do too).  And thus I would use “vous”.

But then again (and unfortunately), other people may find the 20 seconds it takes to hold the door for a stranger is too large a sacrifice to make in life (it’s kind of sad reality) – and thus some other people might say tu (it’s a personal choice… but I, like most people, am a door-holding kind of guy).

You ask your secretary for something = “tu”.

You’re the overlord, so you have the right.  Plus, you work in close proximity, you see each other all the time, and your secretary likely knows many of your personal details.

You are speaking to your boss — and you are the secretary, clerk, employee, or subordinate = It depends.  Using tuor vousis not black and white.

If the difference in levels is not that great (ie: one level, or perhaps two), if the business is not very large (an SME), and if your boss is not Ted Rodgers, Kevin O’Leary, or J.D. Irving, then you may be able to use tuunder certain circumstances.

Age may or may not be a factor.  I was in my mid-20s and I had an employee who was 60 years old.  We were both on a tu basis.   We knew a good deal about each other, and we felt we could speak about issues a bit more frankly because of it.  However, there were only 2 levels which separated us.  If there were 3 or more levels, or if I had 100 employees, I would expect my 60 year old employee to likely address me as vous”, despite the fact that I was 35 years younger.

However, there are companies and organizations which have a more formal operating culture.  Be aware of this, and do as your colleagues do.

If you are new to a company, NEVER take the first initiative to “tutoie” your boss.   Follow the lead of your colleagues (if everyone “tutoies” the boss, then it is ok.  If some employees use tuand others use vous“, you would be safer to use vous” until you figure out your place in the overall structure of things).

Likewise, even if members of the public or those outside the organization “tutoie” your boss, that does not give you or other employees a license to do so.

Also, I have worked in environments where my immediate manager and I were on a “tu” basis, and in which my manager’s manager (2 levels higher) and I were on a “tu” basis, but anything higher was on a “vous” basis.  It turly really depends on the environment and the company / organization.

You are shopping in The Bay or Sears, and you are interacting with an employee = Vous”.

Large companies, with large employee pools, and those which focus on professional customer service are more likely to train their employees to treat their customers with respect and to use vous.

It ups the professional atmosphere, and you should respect the atmosphere.  I always use vous” in department stores, or other stores with higher-end items.

BUT I would be more inclined to use tu in smaller stores or in a less informal atmosphere.

As you can see, the bar of what constitutes a “professional” atmosphere is not that high (Sears and The Bay are not De Beers flagship store, after all).   Shopping mall store employees will often greet customers with vous, but customers will often respond with tu (which then sets the tone for the rest of the interaction).

Regardless, if I want to give the employee a little bit more “face”, then I still might use vous (and I regularly do).

You are making a fast, fleeting purchase in a very small, informal setting, such as a convenience store, gas station, pizza-by-the-slice restaurant, fast-food chain, etc. = “vous” or “tu”.

The situation is cursory and fleeting.  There is no formality.  Credentials or professionalism are not deal-breakers.

The staff have likely not undergone training with dictates they should address customers with vous.

The company does not likely have a customer-care culture which dictates the use of vous”.

Thus tu” can become the common default setting under certain circumstances – especially if the person is young (ie: a 15 year old high school student working at McDonald’s as a part-time job).

BUT remember the door holding formula?  (Maybe “vous” to be a bit more polite, ie especially for adults).

You are speaking with other colleagues = tu.

You work together towards a common goal.  You know each other.  You are peers.  You work in close quarters. There is no level-to-level pressure dynamics.

You are a high school student addressing your teacher or vice-versa. Take a guess.   Come on… take a chance.   What do you think?   Vous?  NOPE!  You actually use “TU”. 

I admit, this is a strange one… and I’ve heard there are some schools (mostly private or specialty schools) which are trying to break this habit.

It was a trend which started maybe 50 years ago, and has now become normal.   I suppose the assumption is that both teachers and students are working towards the same goal.  Both see each other every day and interact in an intimate matter, and thus have come to know each other very well.  There really is no physical distance, despite rank.   However, the school principal should be addressed as vous”.

Here is a bit of quirky side-note regarding this phenomenon:

This student / teacher trend of “tutoiement” does not really apply in Canadian provinces outside of Québec.

Growing up in French in Alberta, there would have been no way I ever would have called my high school teachers or university professors anything other than Monsieur or Madame ABC… We always used vousin Alberta.  I can only assume it is the same in other provinces outside Québec (such as Ontario, New Brunswick, and Manitoba)… but there may be exceptions I am not aware of.

Feel free to correct me if I am wrong.

You join a social club or sports club/team = tu”.

You are both engaged in the same activity as peers, regardless of age, working for a common goal, and you will be spending time together.

I actually ran into this situation a few times over the last several weeks in Toronto.  I joined a couple of personal interest groups here in Toronto in which the main language was French.

A number of bilingual Anglophones and Allophones also joined the same groups.   Although most spoke fluent French, some had an intermediate level of French.  Those at an intermediate level addressed me vous” (even those in the same age category).  I responded with a friendly smile and said “We can “tutoie” because we are peers”.

Even though we were strangers, it felt awkward when I was addressed as “vous”.  We were all in a relaxed, informal environment.  We all shared the same goal (that of pursuing similar interests as members of the same social group).   Interestingly, there were two people from France in the same group.   They recently arrived in Canada, and they confided in me that it felt awkward for them to be addressed as “tu” in such a diverse group (their reaction was the exact opposite of mine — welcome to the the tu” / “vous” difference which exists between Canada and Europe).

Parents, family members, classmates, other relatives (regardless of age), friends, “potential” friends = tu”.

The relationships are close, and everyone knows each other well.  Blood and friendships = “tu”.

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS:

As you can see, the use of tu is much loser on this side of the ocean than in Europe.  Also, because so many small nuances exist, it would be very difficult (if not impossible) to create a flow-chart for the use of tu and vous in a Canadian and Québec context.

With that being said, the concept is not so difficult.  If you spend any time in a French-dominant environment, you will catch on very fast (after all, we all deal with the same 10 or 15 main categories of people on a regular basis).

If you are only passing through a French-dominant region for a quick vacation, just stick to the European guide… you can’t go wrong.

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Alors, je “te” souhaite bonne chance avec “ton” parcours, et ton apprentissage au sujet de “tu” et “vous”

Après 269 billets de blogue, j’ai le sentiment que je partage une certaine connection avec mes lecteurs… alors, sous ces circonstances, il ne me dérange pas du tout de “tetutoyer, malgré le fait qu’on ne s’est jamais rencontré. 

Mais pour ceux qui viennent tout juste de visiter ce blogue pour la première, bon, là je “vous” salue.  🙂

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

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The use of “VOUS” versus “TU” — in EUROPE – Post 1 of 2 (#268)

Introduction to the use of “vous” and “tu”

A good number of the followers of this blog are Anglophone Canadians who are learning French.  Many people are following these posts to gain additional cultural insight as they integrate more and more of our Canadian Francophone culture into their English-dominant lives.

Anglophones who are learning French often have a good deal of questions regarding the use of “vous” and “tu”.  I have been giving a good deal of thought on how to describe the use of “vous” and “tu” in a Canadian and Québec context.

In Europe, there exist more concrete and tangible rules regarding their use than here in Canada.

On this side of the Atlantic, you almost have to “feel” the situation out, and make a “judgement call” as to whether or not to tutoie or vousvoie (to use “tu” or “vous”) with the person to whom you are speaking.

It’s not as tricky as it sounds if you regularly live or interact in French.  This is because the correct use of vocabulary becomes a natural reflex the more you use it (and the more you hear it being used).   Thus, for those of us who consistently interact with others in French, we “naturally” known when and where to use “vous” or “tu”.

But for those who are learning French, it must often feel like an adventure of epic proportions; one of trial and error, sometimes with a little uncertainty.

Fortunately, it need not be.  There are a number of loose rules you can use to get by until you develop a firmer feel for the “concept” (and never forget that in Canada, the use of “tu” and “vous” is just that:  a concept – thus there is a relative amount of flexibility when choosing to use of “tu” or “vous”).

Before I try to explain how and when to use “tu” and “vous” in Canada and Québec, let us first look at how “tu” and “vous” is used in Europe.   By extension, the European rules also apply in the many countries which comprise Francophone Africa (I lived and worked for a period in Africa, and I can confirm that Africa uses “tu” and “vous” in the same context as Europeans).

The EUROPEAN use of “TU” and “VOUS”

I asked the author and blogger, William Alexander, to contribute a guest post to explain the EUROPEAN use of “tu” and “vous” His works have been featured in publications as diverse as L’Actualité (the French counterpart of Maclean’s), the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times (several times), the Washington Post, Bloomberg TV, and many other prestigious media outlets.

William Alexander is also the author of the well-selling book “Flirting with French”.  His book has been featured on the New York Times best-sellers’ list.   If you have an interest in French, I’d encourage you to check out his book.

(Click to englarge)

Flirting with French

His blog can be found here:  http://www.thefrenchblog.com/

The following is William Alexander’s gracious contribution to this blog post. (Thanks very much Bill!  Much appreciated).

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Guest Contribution by William Alexander

Asking me to contribute to a blog that attempts to bridge the cultural divide between French and English speakers is like inviting an arsonist to a campfire, but I’ve been asked, so I’ll try to forget the 13 months I recently spent not learning French and discuss one of my favorite topics: navigating the hazardous waters of vous and tu.

First, a little background: Until the fourth century, Latin (from which, of course, French is derived) had only one form of the third person singular: tu, as in, “Et tu, Brute?” Thus addressing other people (even those who’d just stabbed you) was easy until the Roman empire split into two, with Eastern and Western emperors ruling from Constantinople and Rome. The two emperors wanted to make it clear that, although separated by a thousand miles, they spoke with a single voice, so they each started to refer to themselves in the plural (“We decree that…” or even “We’d like a cup of coffee.”) Well, it didn’t take long for everyone else to figure out that if your boss refers to himself in the plural (however bizarrely), you’d better follow suit, so the emperors’ subjects started to refer to each emperor using the plural “you,” vos. This made the pope jealous, so he demanded to be called vos, and, predictably, the kings followed suit, and then the nobles, and the not-so-nobles, as the custom filtered down through society until (and we’ll move the story to France here) French peasants, at the bottom rung of the social ladder, demanded that their children start calling them “vous.”

France, in particular, has turned this business into a bit of a fetish, with social rules so complicated that, as Mary Blume once pointed out in the International Herald Tribune, “Foreigners can’t hope to master the intricacies of the tu and vous forms of address because the French can’t either.” But fear not: For my book, Flirting with French, I drew up this foolproof flowchart to help you navigate these treacherous waters.

Note that these rules were written for France: In Canada, you have a slightly different set of unfathomable rules, so adapt as needed — but you’re used to doing that!

(CLICK the diagram to ENLARGE)

tu versus vous

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With the above introduction and explanation of the EUROPEAN use of “tu” and “vous” behind us, the next post will look at the CANADIAN and QUÉBEC use of “tu” and “vous”.

Click here for the next post:

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