The differences between “France French” and Canadian French have often been compared to those of American English and British English, although this is a hotly contested debate – the relationship is perhaps more akin to that of Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese.
Quebecois vs French as we’ll call it for the purpose of our debate here. If French is your target language, this guide will give you a rundown of what to focus on, depending on where your language skills are going to take you.
Speakers of one dialect can easily understand another yet could find the definition of certain words changes dramatically across the Atlantic. No matter where you learn French, it’s important to keep this in mind.
Accents and pronunciations, like between the US and the UK, or between the BBC and CBS, are also noted differences, sometimes to the extent that a Canadian francophone may be required to modify their accent in Europe to be understood. The major differences, however, are in vocabulary.
Quebecois vs French — literal differences
One example of the differences is the use of “mes gosses.” In France, if one were to ask “ca va, les gosses?”, they would be asking how another’s children were.
In Quebec, however, using the same phrase could be quite embarrassing or insulting to either party. There, “mes gosses” does not mean “my kids”. Instead, it means “my testicles”.
The immigration to Canada by French settlers predated the invention of some of today’s commonplace items such as the automobile. Modern services like Amazon have helped to connect the “old world” and the new, but many cultural differences remain between their take on the French language.
As such, differences between France French and Canadian French are noticeable when it comes to nouns in describing recent inventions.
In such cases, Canadian French has been heavily influenced by the maritime heritage of the original French settlers and the proximity of the English-speaking regions of Canada along with the United States.
This has been influenced further through intra-North America migration which has accelerated the introduction of some English words into Canadian French.
Examples of the above include the use of the verbs “embarquer” and “débarquer” as opposed to the France French “monter” and “descendre” for entering and exiting an automobile.
Whilst it is suggested that this is due to Quebec’s maritime history, “embarquer” and “débarquer” being the verbs for entering and exiting a vessel, this is more due to the isolation of Quebec from France.
With no word to describe the action, Canadian French speakers adopted an existing word for the action.
Quebecois vs French — The accent
Canadian French is also noted as having a similar accent to Normandy, with many settlers emigrating from there.
In summary, a speaker of Canadian French would have no difficulties communicating in France, although their accent may be met with some surprise.
Years of separation has seen the divulgence of the two strands but with the rise of the internet and television, globalization gives rise to greater exposure of Quebec French in France and vice versa.
For a further understanding of Canadian French and France French, this youtube video may be of interest:
Many people believe a language does not change in the different countries where it is spoken: Of course, it is not true at all. A clear example is Spanish and English. The Castilian spoken in Spain is not the same spoken in South America; the same issue between British and American English. And in French too.
It should be remembered that European French — unlike Japanese — is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, with two hundred million speakers; the third preferred foreign language among the second language learners.
In Canada, almost seven million people speak French (compared to the less than half a million that speak Russian, Chinese, Italian, or German). It is the co-official language of the country together with English and the only official language in the province of Quebec.
For many of these French speakers, it is their native language.
Here are some differences between Canadian French, so-called Québécois, and French from France.
It is the main difference, particularly in language learning. French people are sometimes unable to understand Canadians perfectly. This happens because Canadian French accent resembles more than what was used in the French court of the seventeenth century:
- Words end with “-oir”, such as the verb “avoir”, say “-oér”;”avoér”[av?e?].
- In front of the vowels “u” and “i”, the consonants “t” and “d” speak sounds “ts” and “dz”. For example:”importations.”
- The sound “e” at the end of words sometimes becomes an “a”. For example: “Je ne suis pas parfait”, where the “ai” in French is pronounced as “e”; in Canadian it is called “parfa”.
- Words end in “a” become a long “aa” vowel. For example: “Le Canadâ”
Many expressions and archaisms of ancient French are used in Canada. Here are some examples:
- Shopping: Magasiner (CAN) – Faire les courses (FRA)
- Automobile: Char (CAN) – Vocations (FRA)
- A film: Une vue (CAN) – A film (FRA)
- The ball: La ballonne (CAN) – Le ballon (FRA)
We need to take into account the large amount of dialects derived from the existing French, both in France, such as the Norman, Provençal, bourguignon, champenois, and many more and in Canada, such as the Brayon, acadien, etc.
In Québecois, for example, a different construction is used for negation, or words are used which are used alternately depending on the situation, although they have the same meaning in French.
It refers, in particular, to the past generations habit to pronounce an S after T, a Z after T, in front of certain vowels such as I or U.
petit = petsit
têtu = têtsu
French spoken in Québec uses certain particular forms such as pus, pantoute instead of the French plus, pas du tout. In traditional French, negative sentences are built with the particle followed by a verb, together with pas or personne.
- Lise ne parle pas (Lise doesn’t talk)
- Lise ne parle à personne (Lise doesn’t talk to anyone)
Now you know that it is not the same thing learning French in France or in Canada. And remember: if a Frenchman is talking to son petit ami, a Québec resident is talking to jase avec son chum. Both expressions mean talking to his/her boyfriend.
Whether you’re traveling to Quebec, France, or even West Africa — we’d love to send you our FREE French Survival Crash Course, right to your inbox. It’s more effective than Duolingo or other free open source apps. Every day for six days we’ll send you an e-book and a few audio lessons to help you get your footing in the language, totally free!
(Our Skype language lessons can take you even further)