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Quebec French Language is Far Cry from Parisian French

By Alison at Accredited Language
Posted on Monday, May 17, 2010
Category: Languages, Languages, Localization, Localization, Translation, Translation

The Quebec province of Canada is well-known for its French flair, with French serving as the province’s official language and the majority of the population speaking Quebecois French.

Quebec is home to two major French-language cities: Quebec City and Montreal, the second-largest French-speaking city outside of Paris.

But don’t assume that a trip to Montreal is the linguistic equivalent of a trip to Paris. Quebecois French is unique, with its own dialect, slang and vocabulary differing significantly from the standard style of French language spoken in France.

Pronunciation in Quebec vs. France

Although Quebecois French shares the basic grammatical and lexical values as “France French,” in some cases a Quebecois French speaker with a truly heavy Quebecois accent will have trouble being understood by listeners accustomed to a standard French dialect.

The differences in pronunciation are significant. For example, while a France-based speaker’s “yes” sounds roughly like “wee” to the English ear, a Quebecois French speaker’s “yes” sounds more like “weh.”

Unique Vocabulary of Quebec French

Thanks to Quebec’s history as a Francophone province in the predominantly English-speaking country of Canada, the fight to keep the French language – an integral part of Quebecois culture – dominant in Quebec has proved difficult.

The desire to preserve the French language’s purity in the province has inspired Quebecois French speakers to fight back against the influence of English loan-words and “Franglais,” an English-influenced style of French speech.

Eliminating English words from Quebecois French is one means through which the inhabitants of Quebec are fighting the English language threat to Quebec French. As a result, some Anglicisms commonly accepted throughout France are not used in Quebec.

While hitchhiking in Quebec is referred to as “Faire du Pouce” (“to do by the thumb,” literally), in France it’s simply called “Faire du Stop.” Another example: In France, the term “e-mail” is commonly used; however, in Quebec the word “courriel” is preferred.

Translating and Interpreting Quebec French

Due to its unique lexicon and pronunciation, Quebec French translation and interpreting demands linguists who specialize in Quebecois French. Likewise, to translate or interpret material targeted at a France-based audience, it’s best to trust a linguist who specializes in “France French.”

Accredited Language Services offers top-quality translation and interpreting services in more than 150 languages and dialects, including Quebec French and “France French.”

It is perfectly possible to have translators who are capable of working in both Standard and Quebecois French; the key is that they are well-versed in the differences between the two dialects. Only a translator who is intimately familiar with the details of Quebec French will be capable of capturing the linguistic nuances that set Quebec French apart from the French spoken in France.

Assuming that a translation in Quebec French will be identical to one in “France French” is a huge mistake that can result in confusing or even incorrect translation.

4 Responses to “Quebec French Language is Far Cry from Parisian French”

  1. Stella Says:

    While it’s certainly true that there are significant differences in pronunciation, I don’t think the wee/weh example is a good one. The informal use of “ouais” (weh) for “oui” is common across the Francophone world.

  2. Paul Gutman Says:

    1. “D’abord qu’y fait ben frette au Québec en hiver, moé j’te conseille de te mettre deux paires de bas, un gros foulard épais, pis des mitaines ou une bonne paire de gants avant de prendre une marche!”

    2. “Puisqu’il fait bien froid (très froid) au Québec en hiver, (moi) je te conseille de te mettre deux paires de chaussettes, un gros foulard épais, et des moufles ou une bonne paire de gants avant d’aller te promener!”

    Translation: “Because winter is very cold in Quebec, I advise you to put on two pairs of socks, a big thick scarf, and mittens or a good pair of gloves before you go out for a walk!”

    The first version is what you would hear on Quebec streets and in many Quebec homes. The second version is what you would be more likely to hear elsewhere. Note that the first version is far more likely to be spoken than written. Written French is virtually IDENTICAL on both sides of the Atlantic.

  3. El Duchy Says:

    The reason why French is a dying language is because it puts up barriers. English accepts any new word or phrase from any other language worldwide – no strings attached. The shame is that English should be called International (which it is) to counteract the anglophobes.
    As a British Columbian-born Canadian I had four years of mandatory Quebecois French (grades 4-8). It is a peasant dialect and very different from Parisian French.

  4. Laodah Says:

    “Peasant dialect.”

    I am also a British Columbian, now from Québec. This is the most ridiculously backward comment I’ve seen in a long time. People in Québec are exactly like people everywhere: they speak their language after their own fashion amongst themselves. It varies greatly from the “received” version of it that’s written and heard in the media.

    Québécois French is no more a “peasant dialect” (seriously?) than the English of my hometown of Chilliwack. These old bigotries really need to be retired. Like, fifty years ago.

    (Also, very little Canadian French is taught in BC schools. Virtually all French taught to anglophone children in Canada is European standard. Even those Québécois who find work in BC schools quickly learn they must use a fake European accent to continue. This poster has an axe to grind.)

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