Difference between French in Quebec and in France?

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
 
  • Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    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
    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).
     

    Salvatos

    Senior Member
    French - Québec
    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).
    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
     

    Mishe

    Senior Member
    Slovenian
    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.
     

    JamesM

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

    Mishe

    Senior Member
    Slovenian
    ... 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.
    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).
     

    snarkhunter

    Senior Member
    French - France
    Ok, but that's rather dialectal, isn't it?
    ... 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".
     

    Dymn

    Senior Member
    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:
     

    Rodal

    Senior Member
    Castellano (Chile)
    What about people from Guadalupe? Don’t they speak French too? And how do they sound to other French speaking people?
     

    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.
     

    Youngfun

    Senior Member
    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].
     

    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.
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    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].
    Montreal and Québec City varieties have always been very different even from the start. What [æ] are you referring to?
     

    Youngfun

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

    Montreal and Québec City varieties have always been very different even from the start. What [æ] are you referring to?
    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?
     

    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    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.
    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.
     

    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.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    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.
    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.
     

    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    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.
    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.
     

    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.
     

    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.
     

    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    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.
    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).
     

    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.
     

    L'irlandais

    Senior Member
    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.
     

    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.
     

    Olaszinhok

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Portugues and Italian all some pretty similar to me.
    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.
     

    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!
     

    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    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.
    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).

    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!
    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.
     

    Oddmania

    Senior Member
    French
    Well, apparently no one shares my impression that Quebec French sounds like French spoken with an English American accent
    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:
    Le R est traditionnellement roulé [r] dans l'ouest du Québec et grasseyé [ʀ] dans l'est (quoique de nos jours, le r parisien [ʁ] domine partout).
    Les voyelles /i/, /y/ et /u/ subissent la règle de relâchement (ɪ, ʏ, ʊ) en syllabe fermée sauf devant les consonnes /ʒ/, /ʁ/, /v/ et /z/, mais la voyelle /y/ est relâchée devant la consonne /ʁ/ (« mur » se prononce [mʏːʁ]): « Six » se prononce [sɪs], « lune » se prononce [lʏn] et « route » se prononce [ʁʊt].
    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.
    Les voyelles longues (marquées /ː/ phonologiquement) sont diphtonguées en syllabe finale fermée, c'est considéré comme non-standard, sauf, phonologiquement, quand l'allongement n'est pas intrinsèque mais dû à l'action d'une consonne allongeante ou quand la voyelle allongée est [a] et, sociolinguistiquement, dans les contextes où la variété utilisée est acrolectale: « pâte » /pɑːt/→[pɑʊ̯t], « fête » /fɛːt/→[fæɪ̯t] ~ [faɪ̯t], « autre » /oːtʁ/→[oʊ̯tʁ], « cinq » /sɛ̃ːk/→[sãɪ̯̃k], « onze » /ɔ̃ːz/→[ɒ̃ʊ̯̃z], « gaz » /ɡɑːz/→[ɡɑʊ̯z], « neutre » /nøːtʁ/→[nøy̯tʁ̥], « cœur » /kœːʁ/→[kaœ̯ʁ], « or » /ɔːʁ/→[ɑɔ̯ʁ], « rive » /ʁiːv/→[ʁɪ̯i̯v], « douze » /duːz/→[dʊu̯z], « amuse » /amyːz/→[amʏy̯z].
    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.
     

    symposium

    Senior Member
    Italian - Italy
    Ok, it's just my personal opinion and it's not relevant to anything, but just to let everyone understand what I mean, sort of, and just to let everyone have a laugh, I'll link you a video of a French girl from France speaking French with a mock English accent. Basically, it's someone speaking French with an English accent. That is what Quebec French sounds like to me, on a general level. Hope you enjoy it!
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    Nooo... That has nothing to do with the Quebec accent. She is exaggerating everything she thinks an American accent would be. First of all, the r is never pronounced like an English r in Quebec. Traditionally in some regions like Montreal it was rolled, but in other areas it was guttural. Nowdays, guttural has an upperhand everywhere. Then she stresses the first syllable of every word even more than an American word, and the rhythm is not smooth.
    You tell a Quebec accent by the vowel sounds that are different, in particular the nasal sounds which are not the same as in France. They also close some vowels that are open in Europe, like pére and môde. The t is also more like /ts/, so they say "la natsion". Edit, better tsu for tu, tsirer for tirer
     
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    Dymn

    Senior Member
    The t is also more like /ts/, so they say "la natsion".
    I think you're mixing it up with Italian :D

    T in nation may well be a spelled t but phonologically it's an /s/ for all intents and purposes. The feature you're trying to describe is that /t/ and /d/ become /ts/ and /dz/ respectively before a front vowel.
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    I think you're mixing it up with Italian :D

    T in nation may well be a spelled t but phonologically it's an /s/ for all intents and purposes. The feature you're trying to describe is that /t/ and /d/ become /ts/ and /dz/ respectively before a front vowel.
    Right, I should have given a better example. Actually any word with a t. Mon petsit, tsu es tsimde.

    This video is quick but the lady gives good info about speaking Canadian style.

    This Québécoise always has a strong accent.
     
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    Salvatos

    Senior Member
    French - Québec
    You tell a Quebec accent by the vowel sounds that are different, in particular the nasal sounds which are not the same as in France. They also close some vowels that are open in Europe, like pére and môde.
    I'm not sure I understand what you are getting at with that last example. I know we pronounce père differently (though for most people I would say pêre, not pére, but I've definitely heard both! :p ), but môde doesn't sound like anything to me.
     

    Oddmania

    Senior Member
    French
    I associate the "pére, mére" pronunciation pimarily with the North-East of France, and Belgium. It isn't something that strikes me as particularly French Canadian either.

    If more people are interested in the subject, I find this video very informative:

     

    wildan1

    Moderando ma non troppo (French-English, CC Mod)
    symposium said:
    That is what Quebec French sounds like to me, on a general level.
    I have to agree with others here, this sounds nothing like French as it is spoken by francophone Quebeckers. It's actually not even a very good imitation of an American speaking French with a thick American accent.

    Oddmania's video, on the other hand, seems a good introduction to some common conversational Québécismes.
     
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    Doraemon-

    Senior Member
    "Spanish - Spain" "Catalan - Valencia"
    There are differences like in any language. For me the biggest one is that I understand perfectly French from France but I usually don't understand a single word of French from Quebec if I don't put a lot of attention to it. But here again, I think that this happens in every language between its dialects (you get used to what you hear), although it's true that Quebecois is not famous for having a very clear pronounciation.
     

    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    It depends what kind. The French spoken on Radio-Canada is as clear as anything heard in France. The problem is that learners are hardly ever exposed to Canadian French. I studied French from secondary school up to and including university and I wasn't exposed to Quebec French at all. Classes concentrated solely on France and a small bit on Belgium and Switzerland.
     
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    L'irlandais

    Senior Member
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    Native German speakers working in Basel, often tell me they don’t understand a word of Swiss German. With my B2 level of German, after 3 years working in Basel I could grasp a bit of the local dialect. Enough to say hello, see ya tomorrow and enjoy your meal. That and follow a little the chat at the coffee machine. I think you put your finger on the cause. Those who make zero effort to try and understand a vastly similar language to their own mother tongue, will NOT understand.
    It’s not really a linguistic problem.
    Just the other day a shop assistant complimented me on my French (after 19 years in this country my pronunciation is still poor to middling.) He said compared to the Québécois, he had little trouble understanding me. In Québec, he had to resort to asking them to speak in English, as he couldn’t understand a word. I feel sure there must be a psychological explanation for this phenomenon.
     
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    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    In Québec, he had to resort to asking them to speak in English, as he couldn’t understand a word. I feel sure there must be a psychological explanation for this phenomenon.
    I've heard this before too. It's insane. I arrived in Quebec with little or no knowledge of québécois and I understood fine. So the idea that a native French speaker can't get by is ridiculous. There must be a conscious effort to NOT understand.
     

    L'irlandais

    Senior Member
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    Or subconsciously blocked out. I guess such folk are confused by the apparent similarities of words, when their meaning can sometimes be different. After all Québécois have like their American neighbors kept a purer form ( late 16th and early 17th century version) of the language than us lot.

    When listening to Swedish, I hear similarities to both German and some English words, but the meaning escapes me. (Level leass than A1.1)
     
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