Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Franglaise Episode 1: Quebewhat?

I have had the opportunity to study French under more than 5 different people in the last 6 months and have learned some very interesting things about the language over that time.  I should also point out that all 6 of those people were France French, not Quebecois. What's the difference you ask?  Well, let me tell you.  Before I do though, I just want to point out to all my Acadian readers, I know you are out there...but...I am not touching that one with a ten foot pole...really...don't expect to be understood when you come to France.  You're French, but in the same way that Bobcat Goldthwait is English.

He's English...No Really, I Swear

As this is my first article in this series I think a little background is in order. In the 17th and 18th centuries France colonized Canada, and it was in that time that the majority of who are now known as French-Canadians came to live in Canada. Over time the populations shifted and changed becoming known as Quebecois, Acadian, and generally as French-Canadians.  Today, French is the official second language of Canada and is even protected by law under bill 101 in Quebec.

This is important because it is the basis for the main reason Quebec French and France French is different...history.  Anywhere outside Quebec in Canada, French is little more than a ceremonial language that you hear at the airport and see on your consumable products.  And the French in Canada know this.  To combat the potential death of their language, they have created laws and became incredibly protective as a culture of the "purity" of their language.  In fact, they have protected it so much that it has not evolved like the French in France has.  To every France French person I have talked to, Quebec French is the French of antiquity.  They actually describe it as cute...not really an adjective you want associated with your way of speaking when you are trying to ask for a toilet.

A few examples of words and phrases in Quebec French that just don't work here are:

1.  Arachides:  As in Beurre D'Arachides.  Just doesn't exist here...peanuts are Cacahuetes, not Arachides.

2.  Swears:  Calice and Tabarnak, although fun to say for us non-French speaking Canadians are perfectly normal religious words in France...a tabernak is just like our tabernacle and calice means "chalice", which is somehow a swear in Quebec...weird.


3.  Fin de Semaine:  Yes, it is the literal translation of the "end of the week" however, in France the Fin De Semaine is "La Weekend"...simple.

4.  Magaziner:  A verb in Quebec French meaning to go shopping, it does not exist in France.  In fact, like weekend, the French simply "Faire Du Shopping."

5.  Bicyclette:  This one is actually the opposite of the general rule in that the Quebec word has become Anglified and the France French word has remained in its original form.  In France a bicycle is simply a "Velo".

These are the big ones I have found so far but they have been enough to throw me for a loop...especially when I am trying to find peanut butter...which, as I have mentioned before is hard enough to find in France already.

1 comment:

Riles said...

Cereal Box french thwarts me again!!