Difference between French in Quebec and in France?

Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by JLanguage, Mar 26, 2005.

  1. Phenyx13 Senior Member

    Français - French
    As a native, accent from Quebec sounds so American (speaking with the nose). I sometimes need subtitles to understand everything :D
    Quebeckers are a real contradiction : they blame french (from France) for using some english word in everyday life :
    - week-end (saturday+sunday) > Quebeckers say "fin de semaine"
    - roller (wheels under shoes)...) > Quebeckers say "patin à roues alignées"

    But they have no problem with : je vais "checker" mes bagages à l'aéroport (I'm going to check my luggage at the airport) ou j'ai trouvé un nouveau job (I found a new job), passe moi le gun (give me the gun) :D
  2. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    C'est une job au Québec. :)

    I don't think that québécois sounds particularly American (if you go to remote regions of la Vendée you'll still hear québécois sounding accents), but it definitely sounds strange to those who only know European French.

    The difference between anglicisms in Quebec and France is that in Quebec anglicisms tend to have penetrated verbal forms in spoken language, which is not yet the case in France. That being said, France is being absolutely overrun by English words at present (more so than Quebec, at least when I lived there in 2011-2012).
  3. Salvatos Senior Member

    Québec, Canada
    French - Québec
    I think that's an accurate way to describe the distinction between the two as far as borrowing from English goes. Quebec's dialect, in many cases, thoroughly appropriates English words and adapts them to French constructs. In my limited experience, European French seems to borrow mostly nouns and leave them unchanged, and notably also use them in formal language, which is never the case in Quebec. Here, it seems to me, most English borrowings entered the dialect a century or more ago and were relegated to colloquialisms; in Europe, these adoptions seem to be in full swing and used in almost all registers.

    I find it interesting to see how they're moving in opposite directions in that regard, and ironic that one reason I can't translate into European French is that I wouldn't know which English words to use and when. :p
  4. Mishe Senior Member

    An interesting difference are also names of the meals. There is no "petit déjeuner" in Canada (breakfast is simply déjeuner), lunch is "dîner" in Canada and "déjeuner" in France, whereas dinner is "souper" in Canada and "dîner" in France.
  5. snarkhunter

    snarkhunter Senior Member

    France, Région parisienne
    French - France
    ... Not everywhere!
    If you are in a countryside location, and not even specifically among elders, you will still hear dinner being referred to as "souper".

    It basically depends on where/who.
  6. JamesM

    JamesM Senior Member

    This is interesting. My mother came from West Virginia and for her the three meals were breakfast, dinner and supper.
  7. Mishe Senior Member

    Ok, but that's rather dialectal, isn't it? I researched it a little bit and it seems there was a switch in the meal names in France somewhere between the 17th and the 19th cenuturies, which did not occur in some other francophone areas.

    Standard usage in France nowadays is petit déjeuner, déjeuner and dîner, while in some other francophone countries (Quebec and Belgium come to mind) the standard is déjeuner, dîner, souper - which shows that déjeuner was originally meant as the first meal of the day (it literally means break - fast, as in English).
  8. snarkhunter

    snarkhunter Senior Member

    France, Région parisienne
    French - France
    ... Dialectal it is indeed!
    But still very common use. It just depends on where you are, and what people you are with.

    One may just refer to theoretical language, but actual language, even if only "local", remains a fact.
    And it's unlikely things will change anytime soon since I could witness such habits being passed on to "the next generation".
  9. Dymn

    Dymn Senior Member

    Catalan (native) & Castilian
    In Catalan it's esmorzar, dinar and sopar. And in Occitan, if my translator is right, dejunar, dinnar and sopar. This replacement must have been a Parisian thing that then spread to English. I don't know what French countryside snarkhunter refers to. It would be interesting to know whether there are differences in this aspect between Northern and Southern France.

    By the way, I just learned that déjeuner/dejunar and dîner/dinar/dinnar are cognates :eek:
  10. Rodal

    Rodal Senior Member

    Seattle WA
    Castellano (Chile)
    What about people from Guadalupe? Don’t they speak French too? And how do they sound to other French speaking people?
  11. wildan1

    wildan1 Moderando ma non troppo (French-English, CC Mod)

    Educated natives of Guadeloupe (and Martinique) have a distinctive accent (e.g., the sound R often sounds more like W), but speak European-style French with some localisms and influences from Creole, the blend of French and Indian languages that developed among enslaved people of those islands in the 17th - 18th Centuries, the slave era of these French colonies.
  12. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Bắc Kinh
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    Isn't there also a big difference between Montréal and smaller cities? I'd guess Montréal French would be more anglicised in vocabulary? Phonologically it looks anglicised to me, with all those [æ].
  13. JamesM

    JamesM Senior Member

    My limited experience with Montréal French vs. rural Quebecois is that the French in Montréal seems to be very standard, formal French compared to the outlying towns. There seems to be a lot more slang in the rural French.
  14. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    Lorraine in France
    English (US Northeast)
    Montreal and Québec City varieties have always been very different even from the start. What [æ] are you referring to?
  15. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Bắc Kinh
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    I thought Québec City's French was closer to standard French, but I'm probably wrong.

    A Montrealer (?) told me that his open e's are [æ], not [ɛ] like in France and in the rest of Québec. I wonder if that's an English influence or an intrinsic development?
  16. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    I'm not sure where you were in Montreal but if you go to areas like Verdun, for example, I wouldn't call the French spoken on the street as "formal", a lot of "joual" is still present in everyday language.

    In fact, the French spoken in Quebec City was more "formal" than that which I encountered in Montreal. But I never lived in Quebec City.
  17. wildan1

    wildan1 Moderando ma non troppo (French-English, CC Mod)

    My impression is that differences in accent and style across Québec cut across two dimensions: 1) social/educational background and 2) regional differences.

    Not sure that such differences are any more unusual if compared to other countries like Italy, Germany, the UK, etc.
  18. JamesM

    JamesM Senior Member

    I was working with someone in Montréal remotely, so I was only exposed to business French as spoken by a banker. Her French seemed very standard and not heavily accented at all.

    I have spoken with several people from Montréal and have not had a problem understanding them in French. I've heard some tourists from outlying areas of Quebec and honestly didn't recognize the language until I listened to it for a while. To me, that's a big difference.
  19. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    A farmer from Chicoutimi will certainly speak differently to a Montreal banker. That said, I don't think that dialectal variation is that terribly wide inside Quebec itself (though there is a clear demarcation between Quebec and Acadian French). And of course the difference between standard Quebec French and what is spoken on the street is enormous. When Quebeckers speak amongst themselves, particularly the less educated, it is sometimes impossible to understand what's going on.
  20. JamesM

    JamesM Senior Member

    That must be what I heard from the tourists. I honestly couldn't identify it at first. It sounded like a mangled, growling Germanic offshoot until I started picking out familiar words.
  21. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    Lorraine in France
    English (US Northeast)
    @Youngfun , if you mean by /ae/ the diphthong aè instead of è, it sounds so to me in this video... a speaker says "fraère" instead of "frère".
  22. symposium Senior Member

    Italian - Italy
    I'm Italian, and my French is just so-and-so, but I can immediately tell when someone speaking French is from Quebec or France: to me (is it just me?) quebecois sounds like a British or American person speaking French with a very strong English accent. The way the "oeur's" are pronounced, for example, or even just the cadence... It's very easy to spot.
  23. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    No, it's not English at all. Almost all québécois sounds can be traced back to regional varieties of French French (albeit some are now extinct).
  24. symposium Senior Member

    Italian - Italy
    That's absolutely possible: all I'm saying is that to me Quebec French sounds like French spoken by someone who has a strong English accent. That's how it sounds to my foreigner's ears.
  25. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    Fair enough. But your impression is completely wrong.
  26. L'irlandais

    L'irlandais Senior Member

    Dreyeckland/Alsace region
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    I agree with Pedro, Québécois french is very, very different from French spoken by somebody with an English accent. It is a little like me saying Spanish, Portugues and Italian all some pretty similar to me.
  27. atcheque Senior Member

    français (France)
    I can only agree with Pedro and l'Irlandais: Canadian French accent is different than British or American accent in French.
  28. Olaszinhok Senior Member

    Central Italy
    Is European Portuguese similar to Italian or Spanish? Have you ever heard it? However, you are right, French Canadian does not have any English accent.
    As for Continental Spanish, it sounds much more similar to Greek than Italian, let alone Portuguese.
  29. symposium Senior Member

    Italian - Italy
    Well, apparently no one shares my impression that Quebec French sounds like French spoken with an English accent, still, I retain that impression... I cannot help it... Up to this day, everytime I've heard someone speak French and they sounded like they were Americans (I mean, Americans whose mother tongue is English) speaking French, I always said: Oh, they're from Quebec! and they always turned out to be Canadians. It's so strong and obvious, especially the cadence and the way the R's are pronounced... No, I will never change my mind! Never!
  30. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    You omitted the start of his sentence, "It is a little like me saying...". He doesn't believe that but it's akin to his saying that they sound the same (i.e. they obviously don't).

    I'm rather mystified by your impression. They sound nothing alike. The québécois accent in French is distinctive and has nothing to do with English. The québécois do tend to pronounce English words as in North American English (unlike the French) but apart from this, there's no link whatever.
  31. Oddmania

    Oddmania Senior Member

    I actually see where you're coming from. It's not 100% accurate but it's not exactly off the wall. I only get that impression from a couple of sounds, though: R, -eu, and i, basically.

    From Wikipedia:
    The short [ɪ] and [ʊ] are not used in European French and sound very English (or Germanic) to us. I've also heard French Canadian speakers pronounce the word feu in a way that sounded exactly like the beginning of the word first in American English (and describe my European version of the vowel as very "pointue").

    Also, what probably makes you think of English when you hear a Québécois accent might be all the diphtongs (which are non-existent in European French). A lot of vowels get diphtongized in Quebec French.
    Once again, diphtongs are very alien to us so we typically associate them with the English language. But that's basically it. I wouldn't ever mistake a native French Canadian speaker for an American speaker, but I wouldn't be too surprised if an Italian or a Spanish speaker did. If you don't speak French fluently, you can't be au fait with all the existing accents and varieties of French, so it's hardly surprising you try to make connections with other accents you're familiar with.

    It actually makes sense that Quebec French shares some phonological features with North American English. It enables Canadian speakers to switch between the two languages smoothly. I don't have any difficulty pronouncing English names correctly in an English conversation, but it gets super difficult in a French conversation without making a pause, because the English phonology (especially syllable stress) clashes with my European French phonology. The two systems don't sit well together. Likewise, whenever I use a French word or phrase in English, I tend to pronounce it with a slight English accent, because I can't go back and forth between the two languages that easily. French Canadian speakers don't seem to have that problem.
  32. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    French speakers in the Greater Montreal Area usually don't. Someone from Gaspésie, though, usually won't pronounce English words or names in the "North American" manner.

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