Learning French can differ quite a lot depending on what part of the world you are studying it in. This article looks at some of the differences between the French language spoken in its home country, France, and the French language spoken across the pond in Canada. It covers differences in pronunciation, variations in vocabulary, some examples of slang words and the different styles of speech. It is important to be aware of these notable quirks and differences, wherever you are studying the language.
If you’re studying French you may find that the language differs quite a lot in the various French-speaking countries. Although you’ll be able to use your French in any of these places, you may find it difficult to understand different accents and slang terms.
ESL Language Travel has a range schools across the globe, so you can take classes learning French in France or you can learn French in a non-European country like Canada. This article looks at some of the differences you’ll find if you learn French in France compared to learning French in Canada.
One of the first things you’ll notice is the difference in pronunciation. You’ll probably find that Quebec French in quite nasal, whereas Standard French is spoken more in the front of the mouth. The rhythm and flow of speech is also different. In France it flows up and down whereas in Quebec it is a lot choppier. You will hear a lots of ‘s’ sounds in the middle of words in Canada. For example, ‘tu’ will sound like ‘tsu’.
One of the main differences in vocabulary is the interpretation of popular American terms. In French many American terms have been adopted into the language, whereas in Canada the terms have been translated. For example, Standard French keeps the American word ‘Thanksgiving’ but in Canada it has been translated to ‘Action de grace’. Popular foods like hamburger and hot dog are kept the same in France, but in Canada they are ‘hambourgeois’ and ‘chien chaud’.
Many people who speak Standard French find Canadian French quite old-fashioned. Canadian French is closer to the French that was spoken centuries ago when the French first came to Canada. As a result many of the French-Canadian words no longer exist in France. It’s sort of like an English person listening to someone speaking Shakespearian language. It makes sense but it would sound strange if someone you met in the street spoke that way!
One of the hardest things to get to grips with is the difference in slang terms. You’ll find in Quebec that profane terms usually make reference to Catholic liturgical equipment, whereas in France they are often linked to prostitution. Here are some other examples of differing slang terms:
- You’re welcome is ‘bienvenue’ in Quebec and ‘de rien’ in France.
- Kid is ‘flo’ in Quebec and ‘mome, gosses, or les droles’ in France.
- A kiss is ‘bec’ in Canada and ‘bise’ in France.
- Girlfriend is ‘blonde’ in Canada and ‘copine’ in France.
- The word ‘like’ used in English and American slang, is ‘genre’ in Quebec and ‘comme’ in France.
If you’re learning French you’ll be opening up possibilities to speak the language in destinations all over the world. The language has evolved, however, so each country will have its own language quirks. By using this guide you should find it a little easier to relate Standard French to Canadian French.
The BBC’s webpage on the French language around the world
About.com discusses how French in Quebec differs from French in France
Information on the lexical difference between Quebec French and Metropolitan French