Accent - Quebec or France?

Discussion in 'French-English Vocabulary / Vocabulaire Français-Anglais' started by mersplace, May 16, 2006.

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  1. mersplace Senior Member

    Bonjour Forum,
    As a newcomer to this beautiful language and only studying for 4 months, I have not yet begun actual speaking in French. I have registered at Alliance Francais to commence verbal French next month.
    Now, I understand there is a huge difference between the accents of Quebecois and France. As I am learning French for business reasons mostly (but have developed an amazing passion for the language) is the France accent used internationally?
    Please help me sort out this confusion.
    Thank you!!
  2. claudine75 Senior Member

    NOW in Paris, France (before: NYC,London)
    REAL bilingual Eng&Fr from bilingual background
    without offending anyone,the french accent is the generally accepted international one,the canadian one would simply be a geographical regional accent...among many others! :)
  3. KaRiNe_Fr

    KaRiNe_Fr Senior Member

    France, Provence
    Français, French - France
    There are a lot of French accents everywhere into the "Francophonie". There is no such thing as THE French accent.
    As I'm from the south of France I don't have the same accent than someone from the north. In Africa, there are also other accents. Into the islands like Guadeloupe, there is another one. From French Canada others, and from Switzerland, Belgium... and so on...
  4. Critical Member

    Guadeloupe ( FWI)
    french west indies
    I admit that but i said that canadian speak canadian because they have so many particular expression like "criss or tabarnac"
  5. KaRiNe_Fr

    KaRiNe_Fr Senior Member

    France, Provence
    Français, French - France
    There are "so many particular expressions" everywhere!
    Je prends le parti de m'estrasser de rire, tiens ! :D

    (I refrain from chatting... I refrain from chatting... I refrain from chatting)
  6. anangelaway

    anangelaway Senior Member

    I agree 150% !
    :) :thumbsup:
    Mersplace, you will be understood, whether with an accent from Quebec or from the Pyrénées. You will only need to adapt the different terms maybe depending on your audience.
  7. mersplace Senior Member

    Thank you all!
  8. Gil Senior Member

    Français, Canada
    Give yourself a break. With time you will be able to understand the French spoken on Radio-Canada and on French television and radio. You probably will have an accent of your own that will depend on the environment where you learn the language. And there are various accents in Canada. Selon qu'on vit en Acadie, dans le Saguenay, le lac Saint-Jean, à Québec, dans la Beauce, à Montréal, dans l'Outaouais, à Sudbury, à Hearst , à Maillardville, on ne parle pas tous de la même manière. Et ça ne nous empêche pas de s'engueuler et de rire.
  9. la_cavalière Senior Member

    St. Louis, MO
    anglais États-Unis
    Yes, there is a difference in the French spoken in France and Québec, but it is still the same language. I learned "standard" French, yet I also studied in Montréal.

    Living in North America, I find that the fact that I can understand the Québec people helps immensely, as most of the French-speaking jobs here are dealing with French Canadians. The average American with a French degree would be at a complete loss if he or she had to speak to a butcher from Québec City!

    My advice is to learn how to speak French the "standard" way, but learn the colorful language of French Canada, too. If you live in Canada, you will have plenty of opportunities to hear both standard French and colloquial French. I love watching the goofy sitcoms from Québec and I am always amazed and amused by their creative use of the language!

    Bonne chance!
  10. vince Senior Member

    Los Angeles, CA
    If you are going to l'Alliance Française you will be learning French French anyway. And since you're in Vancouver, there are neither Quebeckers nor French people, so you might as well pick up the one that they're teaching you.

    la_cavalière, Vancouver is about as French-speaking as Missouri is, so it is very difficult to learn French there.
  11. Vikta

    Vikta Member

    Quebec City, Qc.
    English/French/Spanish Canada
    For Critical:
    And you think the french from france don't have expressions ???
    The Quebecois expressions at least are not vulgar, they originate from the church. For Mersplace: Speak as you wish, except not with an english-french accent, because at least here in Canada you will not be liked. The important is that you have good grammar and vocabulary!!!
  12. Radiance Member

    China, speaks Chinese, English, French
    Hahaha :) You'll be better off speaking Chinese in Vancounver than French! ;)
    But I am learning French in Canada, so no doubt there will be some difference in pronunciation. However, most of the words are still recognizable, so communication is not impaired.
  13. mersplace Senior Member

    Radiance - absolutely correct! I studied Cantonese for one year - oops - should have been Mandarin. At any rate, I love French! There are many companies in Quebec and France that want to promote my products if I speak the language - a sweet incentive. As long as we can all understand each other is the main thing. (Will study Mandarin after I have mastered French, LOL)
  14. la_cavalière Senior Member

    St. Louis, MO
    anglais États-Unis
    Well, at least you can watch French TV...... legally!

    I don't know about the Alliance Française in Vancouver, but I worked for an Alliance Française in the USA, and although the profs taught "standard" French, they came from all over the francophone world: France, Switzerland, Québec, Sénégal and even Martinique!
  15. Gil Senior Member

    Français, Canada
    and although the profs taught "standard" French,

    By any chance, would you have a definition of what is "standard French?
  16. la_cavalière Senior Member

    St. Louis, MO
    anglais États-Unis
    Bonne question!!! As someone who has studied linguistics, I know this is a tricky question. There is really no such thing as the "standard" way to speak a language, other than what the people who write dictionaries and grammar books and work at the Académie Française dictate. Language evolves from the people who speak it, not from books and institutions.

    I suppose I meant that they teach the French that the average person from France would understand. Sometimes it's called "Parisian French," but I don't know how accurate that is. I love the variety and richness of the French language and enjoy the accents and unique vocabulary of all the French regions and francophone countries.

    When I went to Québec, I had to learn a whole new range of words and expressions I had never, ever heard before from my French professors, including: dépanneur, bâtisse, centre d'achat, char, souliers, gilet, chum/blonde, débarbouillette, chicaner, chialer, niaiser, frette, icitte, pantoute, "tu veux-tu," quétaine, platte, patente, magasiner, maringouin, médium (au lieu de "à point"), déjeuner (au lieu de petit déjeuner), dîner (au lieu de déjeuner), souper (à lieu de dîner), facture (au lieu de l'addition), etc. etc. etc. -- not to mention the dozens of swear words, which seem to be quite common in Québec: tabarnac, hostie criss, câlice, maudit... In addition, I had to get used to an accent I had never heard on any French language CD or tape.

    Yes, many of the above words are slang, but I would have had trouble understanding a lot of people without learning some of these words and unique expressions. My Québec friends understood my "standard" French perfectly, although they were slightly amused by it.

    I find that, living in the United States, where our nearest French-speaking neighbors live just across the border in a country that is our largest trading partner, it is inexcusable that Canadian French has been ignored for so long.
  17. french4beth

    french4beth Senior Member

    Canadian is not a language.
    I attended school ibriefly n Canada (in Quebec), and was taught 'standard French'. Everyone that I came into contact with in the education system spoke 'standard French', as well.
    There are regional dialects even within one's own country - that does not mean that people are speaking separate languages, just that there are regional variations.

    And if Canadians truly spoke a different language, how is it that we are all able to understand each other in this forum? :confused:
  18. Chaska Ñawi

    Chaska Ñawi modus borealis

    an old Ontario farmhouse
    Canadian English
    I learned continental French in school, but did a couple of immersion programs in Quebec - these did more for my French than the public school system ever did. In university we studied a mix of Quebecois and French writers.

    It all worked out fine - once I'm immersed for a few days and lose the impulse to speak Spanish, I can understand either accent .... but am much more comfortable with Quebecois French.

    In French Polynesia, my Quebecois accent was actually an asset - the Polynesians did NOT like being under French rule, and didn't particularly like the French expats either. I would have been much less welcome had my accent been Parisian.
  19. jaxineau

    jaxineau Senior Member

    English/Chinese; Canada
    The French being taught in Vancouver is the so-called Standard French. I think what it means is that whatever people learn from this Standard French, it is understandable among all Francophones and their dialects/accents.

    I would say that Québecois is a language of its own. The words, usages and grammar structure are really quite different from French. It has its own beauty. When I learn it, I treat it as another language to learn.
    Canadian and Québecois might not be completely detached from English and French, but they are definitely one of their own.

    Alliance Française is on Cambie St around 43rd. I've never studied there, but it is very pretigious.
  20. itka Senior Member

    The language in Quebec is exactly the same as everywhere in France. And french is everywhere in the world the same. In each country (in France as well) there are a lot of different accents, different words or expressions. We notice them, but there is no problem of understanding !

    Somebody gave the example of : "icitte". Whose french people would not understand it ? Despite the right word (as they write in Quebec) is ici.

    dépanneur, bâtisse, centre d'achat, soulier, gilet, débarbouillette, chicaner, chialer, déjeuner, dîner, souper, facture...
    You didn't know these words before, but be sure that french people do !

    You say that "déjeuner" is not the same ? It is the meaning we use in south France (I always used déjeuner, dîner and souper that way, without knowing in spoke Canadian !)

    Do you think we cannot understand "char" or "magasiner" ? Of course, these words are used in Quebec and not in France with this meaning. It make us smile : un char is a tank and not a car... but where is the problem ? It's perfectly understable !

    What about grammar ? We don't have the same ?

    The only real difference is the accent : it need half a day to get accustomed to. Nearly the same if I hear people from north-France speaking.

    Could you undestand immediatly (and with no difference at all) a Scottish speaking ?

    I hear informations from the Quebec TV and never found the smaller difference from my language.
  21. jaxineau

    jaxineau Senior Member

    English/Chinese; Canada
    I really don't understand why you are taking such a strong tone in expressing your idea.
    I cannot speak for the Québecois, but I don't think that they consider their language French. They speak French but also Québecois.
    I am not natively Francophone, and my not knowing those words make sense. However, you don't live in Quebec, you don't know what is really going on there. The TV uses standard French because it is commonly understandable among people and even to the world. I am sure that if they used Québecois, you wouldn't understand that much than you have now. Québecois has a lot of English influence.
    So what if you understand what the language they are speaking, that doesn't mean that it's not a language of its own. French does not have influence on Québecois anymore. They developed the French they speak, just like how Canadians developed their own. Tell you a trivia, in Newfoundland, it is common that people use one of the conjugation of a certain verb for all the subjects. That is right for them, but completely incorrect in English. That is what we call Canadian, it's English but it's not.

    This is only how I think, I think that I need a Québecois to comment on this.
  22. itka Senior Member

    Sorry, I did wan't to use a strong tone but my english is poor and I cannot express me as I would wish to do !:)

    I only meant that learning french in Canada is like everywhere else. There is naturally a colloquial way of expressing, but the language is french. There are a lot of Quebecois on this forum. Do they have any problem when they come in France ?
    Would you give me as an advice not to learn english in Scotland ?

    I really don't understand why regularly people say that Quebecois have another language...
    You wrote : "I don't think that they consider their language French".
    ... I'm afraid you're wrong !
  23. jaxineau

    jaxineau Senior Member

    English/Chinese; Canada
    I've never said that Canada doesn't teach French like anywhere else and the Québecois learn the language the same way. However, Québecois French and Modern French have differences. Québecois French developed from the French 200 years ago. Thus I say it's another language. I am sure that you will agree with me that Old French differs from Modern French. The Québecois can communicate in both.
    I also have never said that Québecois cannot converse with French fluently and effortlessly. What I say is what I think. All I've said is my idea.
    I don't have anything against you learning English from Scotland. It is your choice. What I am really saying is that some languages may be originally based on another language, but one should recognize the differences in the language in honour of the cultural uniqueness.
  24. calembourde

    calembourde Senior Member

    Genève, Suisse
    New Zealand, English
    I think that to speak French with an accent which is recognisable as coming from a particular francophone region, whichever region that may be, is in itself a major accomplishment. I would love it if people listening to me thought I was Swiss, Québécoise, Belgian, French.... whatever! But for now they think just I'm an anglophone. :eek:

    So don't worry so much about which accent you have. Try to pronounce things as closely as possible to what you hear. If you have an understandable enough foreign accent, that's enough. If you can sound convincingly like any francophone accent, and understand the others most of the time, congratulations, that's more than enough.

    I guess the difficulty is if you hear many different accents whille you're learning and don't know which one to emulate, you could end up saying some things the French way and other things the Québécois way. So maybe it is best to pick whichever one you can most easily find things to listen to in. Though it seems like you will learn whatever they teach at Alliance Francais anyway.
  25. Venusia Senior Member

    F/E Canada
    I don't know how to say this strongly enough. This is completely wrong. Québécois is an accent, not a language. We definitely speak French. If you don't believe me, check out the Office québécois de la langue française (

    No matter where you go, if you speak to a person who tends to use a casual register, you will encounter many words and expressions you don't know or understand.
  26. Lora44 Senior Member

    Birmingham, UK
    England, English
    I always understood Québécois to be a dialect of French (as well as an accent) rather than a separate language.

    The example you gave of the conjugation of verbs in Newfoundland is also a feature of a dialect - there are several dialects of English in England that do something similar. There's one dialect in English with the conjugation 'you am' and another with 'I be'.
  27. Vikta

    Vikta Member

    Quebec City, Qc.
    English/French/Spanish Canada
    Well I am the Quebecois to comment on that ;)
    We do speak FRENCH, we don't think we speak a different language than the french of France.
    Here is the difference I think will answer many questions:
    - When New France was founded, french in France was spoken and written as it is now in Quebec, even worse than we speak it...but since communication over the Atlantic ocean wasn't fast like it is today, the New France population's French didn't evolve with the France french (which evolved to be what it is today). That is why today Quebecois speak (but don't write) similarly to how all french people spoke 400 years ago.

    This is 100% true and many documents from that time period prove it. (when I studied our history, my professor showed us photocopies of such documents and I had a hard time understanding what was written because it was an extreme "jouale", the slang term for our french)
  28. Bostonien Senior Member

    USA - English
    I've found just in my own experience that the prevailing definition of the "standard" accent can often be derived from what you hear on the major news broadcasts. For example, here in the U.S. newscasters almost always speak "without an accent", which is to say using "standard" American English pronounciation. I'm always intrigued when I go somewhere in the American South and the news anchors are speaking differently than much of the local population!

    This seems to carry over in Québec, as well. I've noticed that the major Québec news broadcasts are done in "Parisian" french (that is, with no Québécois accent) despite the fact that relatively few Québécois actually speak that way! Morning shows, local interviews, etc. do have people speaking with a French-Canadian accent, but I can't help but wonder if the decision to use news anchors with "French from France" accents is an acknowledgement that France has the "standard" pronounciation.

    Any comments from francophone Canadians / Québécois would be most appreciated!
  29. Vikta

    Vikta Member

    Quebec City, Qc.
    English/French/Spanish Canada
    Well I agree with you on the fact that important shows and broadcasts in Quebec use a "clean" or standard french, but it IS NOT french from France. They simply use a french that is spoken as we read, say, an "unadulterated" French.
    And to the people who say that Quebecois is full of English and that French from France is "pure" or the proper french: There are many, many, maybe even more expressions in their french than in Quebecois that originate from english and that we have a hard time understanding.
    Conclusion? There is no "proper" or right way to speak french, be it France or Quebec. There are just different accents and influences.
    (like british and american! :) )
  30. zanzi

    zanzi Senior Member

    in South Africa
    French from France
  31. Sickduck Senior Member

    Montreal, Quebec (Canada)
    French - Canada
    I am another Québécoise who would like to say that we speak French in Québec, not «another» language. I am also sick and tired of the multitude of threads where non-French speaking folks get to dump on Québec French/accent. Enough already! If you don't like our accent, don't use it! Why is there no whining about Cockney or Alabama accent in English?
  32. Kelly B

    Kelly B Senior Member

    USA English
    I noticed that, too. I visited Montréal shortly after a course in older French literature. I was fascinated to find that the language followed the old spellings and structures much more closely than the modern French I knew. You could see how it had originated.

    Edit - Sickduck, I just saw your post. I assure you, Alabamians get plenty of this sort of guff from other speakers of English.
    I do sympathize with your position.
  33. zanzi

    zanzi Senior Member

    in South Africa
    French from France
    Well, I am sorry Sickduck to disagree, but if you come to Europe " avec ton chum, dans ton char, pour magasiner un peu dans les centres d'achat et essayer de nouveaux breuvages " ... people will look at you with eyes wide open - If they are literate they will probably try understand some of it, but if they are not, forget it, nobody will get what you say.

    Don't be offended, I think Quebecois is great and reflect a nice part of History, and it's definitely enriching and important to have different variations on a language, but when Québécois from rural areas are on French TV, we have subtitles to understand them ! (I promise !).

    It's just extremely different. I mean, would the English speakers say that the docker from Liverpool speaks the same English as the black inner-city Detroit average chap or the peasant in Jamaica or the policeman in Zimbabwe ???!!!
    I think not. Similar, of course, same roots, same structure, but different.
  34. calembourde

    calembourde Senior Member

    Genève, Suisse
    New Zealand, English
    Similarly not many people would understand me if I said I went to the dairy in my togs and jandals and filled a chilly bin with Jelly Tips to take back to the bach, but that doesn't mean it's not English.
  35. HogansIslander

    HogansIslander Senior Member

    Vancouver, Canada
    English, Canada
    Still, one would not say that they don't speak all English. They do.
    Just because I don't always follow the slang of a Scottish or Welsh person does not mean I think they are speaking a different language.
  36. MasterMax New Member

    French Belgium
    Here come my three pennies on top: the "français standard" does not exist, even if the "Académie française" (created by old chap Richelieu) is the warden of the orthodoxy of the language.
    Still you don't have "le français du président" as you have "queen's English".

    In England, you are supposed to find the purest of accents in Kent.
    And in France, the most proper French is supposed to be heard in the city of Tours.
    Or was that just a rumour?
  37. Nikola Senior Member

    I would like to address this issue without emotion. I agree with the people who say the two or more versions of French are not different languages.
    People are mistaking accent and regionalisms with language. Of course there are variations in vocabulary. Most people know also jargon from a field they work in. When I speak to people who are not from my regional, occupational, age, social group I use a version of language that all can understand not jargon or regionalisms. The French language as taught in school anywhere is understood by all. In France the use of argot is nothing like what is taught in school and Parisian French is full of argot just as Quebec has juoval. Greek and French are examples of two different languages not European and North American French.

    To the original question you should learn the version that you will use more but you will be understood by all.
  38. itka Senior Member

    I would like to give you again this link to a site I often use to teach french to foreign and to french people.
    You can notice it's a Quebecois' one. Be sure I won't do that if their language would not be french. As much french as I can immagine !:)
  39. themaster

    themaster Senior Member

    Standard french can be considered as being "Parisian"

    I always remember my french teacher from....way back in the days (damn i'm old !)

    I'm from the south right& she always was mad at us with our accent aha "Don't pronounce it this is way,this is not good french blabla"
    She was from the North that explained everything
    Anyway,that was b.s to me

    Also people must know that the "State" a.k.a the big heads we pay a lot for nathen tried to eradicate in some way all the regional languages for some time now.

    They wanna establish a real "standard french" but the fact is that there is no real standard(at least for the pronounciation).

    Always remember that Occitan could have possibly been the official language of France(would have not been "France" indeed)

    As far as Québec is concerned i think it can be considered as a regional language but i'm affraid i've got not enough knowledge in Québécois to claim it loud & clear.

    What i know is that if i go at Québec i will need some adapdation time for sure to understand 100% of the sentences ...& that depends on the efforts to understand i will provide.
  40. Qcumber Senior Member

    UK English
    There is such a thing as the standard French accent. It is the one you hear among educated Parisians. Only this one is international. All the others are local accents. Some are very hard to understand.
  41. Vikta

    Vikta Member

    Quebec City, Qc.
    English/French/Spanish Canada
    Many of you claiming such a thing are not speaking with an open mind! You are starting your train of thought with the idea that because French originated from Europe that it is the "standard" french. WRONG!! See my post beginning by a quote from Janixeau and you will understand why.

    After that bit of history it is undeniably true to say that the french in Belgium, Benin, Burkina-Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, France, Gabon, Guinea, Haiti, Ivory Coast, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Monaco, Niger, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Switzerland, Togo,
    Vanuatu, and many other countries are just different accents, and one must adapt in every one
  42. orangenormal Senior Member

    Québec, Canada
    English - North America
    Wow---such a lively discussion.

    Personally, I wouldn't worry too much about which regional dialect of French you're learning, since your English accent will probably overpower many of the subtleties.

    Plus, you'll be understood quite well everywhere; a French school won't teach a highly regional dialect of French, just as an English school wouldn't teach slang and accents that accompany dialects like Cockney or a southern drawl.
  43. Bostonien Senior Member

    USA - English
    I find this response very interesting, although it just raises more questions for me:

    1.) Why don't important (to reuse your term) shows and broadcasts use the same French that is spoken on the streets? (or at least some trace of a Québécois accent) As we've seen from the sometimes passionate replies to this thread, many Québécois are extremely proud of the French spoken in their province, so it seems strange to produce media broadcasts with a totally different accent.

    2.) The fact that you use the word "unadulterated" implies that the French used in major broadcasts is somehow "better" or "more proper" than the French spoken by people in Quebec. This term seems to be at odds with the idea that Québécois French is just as legimate as the French spoken in other parts of the world. Is it a common view, then, even among Québécois that the Québécois accent and vocabulary are "adulterated" French? (Related question - what accent is taught in Québécois schools?)

    3.) I'm sorry to disagree, but I think most people would say that the French used in major Québécois broadcasts is based on the way French is spoken in France. What else could it be based on? Clearly, the decision to speak with an accent that almost exactly matches what you hear in France is a conscious one. Much of my curiousity comes from the fact that this seems unnatural to me given the fact that almost NOBODY in Québec talks like the people on the news.

    4.) Be careful when using the "British" and "American" analogy, because it doesn't always work. In this case of TV/news broadcasts, for example, there are many, many parts of the country where the accent of the local population more or less matches the "standard" American accent that is heard on the news. The same is true in the U.K. - there is at least some significant portion of the local population that actually speaks with an accent that matches what is heard on the news. This just doesn't seem to be the case in Québec, although I welcome comments and corrections related to this perception. (Plus, it would seem very strange to an American to hear their nightly news broadcast in an accent that sounds British!)

    In summary, I don't see why many Québécois broadcasts deliberately alter the accent to one that more closely resembles what is heard in France than what is heard in Québec, especially in light of the fierce (and justified) pride that so many Québécois take in their unique vocabulary and accent.
  44. HogansIslander

    HogansIslander Senior Member

    Vancouver, Canada
    English, Canada
    I have to disagree with this - at least as far as the accent goes. The accent used on Radio-Canada et al does not sound like that of France, to my ears at least. It is sort of a neutral Quebecois accent.
  45. Bostonien Senior Member

    USA - English
    Yes, I actually just listened to a couple of online broadcasts from Québec and agree that the accent I heard is not exactly the same as what is heard in France. However, it sounds closer to what is heard in France than what most would consider a "Québécois" accent, and so the basic questions of my post remain.
  46. cancan Member

    English, Canada
    Also, within both Quebec and France there exist a range of accents. In Quebec, if you are from the Gaspe region, or Montreal, or Ste. Foy, you will naturally have an accent that reflects the region from which you originate. Similarly, France has a range of regional accents as well.
    It's a pecualiar thing that somehow the French in Quebec is preceived as somehow "less" French by (mostly) non-French speakers, and not a few French-speakers as well.
    As an earlier post mentioned, we do not question the English-ness of English spoken in Toronto v. London v. Sydney v. New Dehli. So, why is the reverse true of regional French?
    An interesting point on all of this is that many French speakers in French find the insistence of Quebecois to use French words for everything (i.e. couriel for email) to be at once quaintly amusing and somewhat admirable.
  47. OlivierG

    OlivierG Senior Member

    Toulouse, France
    France / Français
    Bonjour, tout le monde :)

    This thread, although very interesting, goes past the original query. There are already some threads about accents in the "Cultural Discussions" forum. I invite you either to participate to them, or to open a new one there if the topic you want to address isn't already present.

    This thread is now closed.

    Thanks for your comprehension,
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