Between French and Québécois: what are the differences?
Yes, we speak French in Quebec, but not quite like in France… And, in the French-speaking communities of the country, it’s yet another story! A geo-linguistic study, conducted by two researchers, reveals the amusing variations in French vocabulary and pronunciation in Canada.
This article is taken from Special Figaro « From East to West – Living in Canada why not you? ».This issue offers you to answer the questions you ask yourself as simply as possible. This, with the help of practical texts, maps and testimonials from French people living in Canada.
Notice to athletes: if you want to buy sneakers in Quebec or in a French-speaking store elsewhere in Canada, you will not find any. Don’t panic though! It is of course possible to get sports shoes across the Atlantic, only under other denominations… The sneakers are thus called « running » or « running-shoes » on the side of Montreal and in Ontario, « shoe-slaps » in Quebec and “sneakers” (or “sneaks”) in Estrie and Acadie. “A lot of people also say ‘espadrilles’. Inevitably, it may surprise the passing Frenchman who does not really associate this word with a pair of state-of-the-art sneakers., smiles the linguist André Thibault who, since 2016, has been studying the geographical variations of the language of Molière in Canada. With his colleague Mathieu Avanzi, they conducted several surveys of French-speaking Canadians to probe their expressions and their pronunciation*.
And surprises abound! Did you know, for example, that skipping school is called « loafer » in Quebec City, « foxer » in Montreal and « jigger » in New Brunswick? In Acadie, we speak of “puppets” to designate the aurora borealis. As for the word « bus », it completely changes gender and pronunciation depending on the location: in Quebec and in its areas of influence (Beauce, part of the Eastern Townships, Chaudière-Appalaches, Bas- Saint-Laurent, Saguenay and Côte-Nord), the term is feminine (“the bus”).
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In the greater Montreal area, part of Abitibi, northern Ontario and northern New Brunswick, we take « the bump ». On the other hand, in southeastern New Brunswick and in the Baie-Sainte-Marie region of Nova Scotia, it is “the bump” that allows you to move…
In regions where French is in a minority situation, it is more influenced by English
André Thibault, linguist
« French in Canada is divided into two main families: on the one hand, Acadian French (which is spoken in the maritime provinces), and on the other hand, Laurentian French, in other words, that which was born on the shores of the Saint -Laurent and then exported to the west, explains André Thibault. What we observe is that, in regions where French is in a minority situation, it is more influenced by English. For example, some Franco-Ontarians or Franco-Manitobans will reject the preposition at the end of the sentence and say ‘la fille que je sors avec’, equivalent to ‘the girl I’m going out with’. It’s something you don’t hear, or in any case much less, in Quebec French.
The phenomenon is also found in the vocabulary: if, in the bakeries of Quebec and New Brunswick, it is « chocolatines » that are displayed in the window (the « pain au chocolat » is not very popular besides -Atlantic), in Ontario and Manitoba, the pastry goes by the name of « chocolate croissant », translation from english chocolate croissant.
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Within the Belle Province itself, it is also enough to lend an ear to know if your interlocutor is from Quebec or Montreal. « We say ‘stop’ with a long ‘ê’ in Montreal, while it is short in Quebec », says the researcher, himself from the capital. In Montreal, a « pull » is a « sweater », while in Quebec we use « vest ». As for the word « sweater », it does not exist there. « It’s a term that immediately betrays the French », laughs the specialist. You have been warned.
*Since March, their work has continued through a fun and original application called « French from our regions », which can be downloaded free of charge.
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