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New course: Le québécois en 10 leçons

  Tags: Canada | Textbooks | French
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s_allard
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 Message 113 of 167
02 November 2012 at 8:19am | IP Logged 
emk wrote:
...
But this still leaves me with a very real problem: Once I get outside of educated Montreal, I have no idea what the Quebecois are saying. Seriously, on a good day, I understand almost 90% of Buffy contre les vampires but only 40% of what I hear from a univesity student from Trois Rivères, even when they speak slowly and clearly. The same goes for the babysitter and people on the beach. Basically, I'm getting kicked back from B2 to A2 listening comprehension, and it's painful.

...

Now that the petty squabbling is over, we can move on to more substantive issues. Here @emk raises a very important point: what kind of French does one need to interact with people from Quebec, be they university students, characters in Québécois movies and television, babysitters, tourists, singers, politicians, etc.?

There are two sides to this coin. How much do you want or need to sound Québécois? This is of major importance for people who actually live in Quebec or plan to move there. On the other hand, many people outside of Quebec need above all to be able to understand the spoken language.

Not surprisingly, as has been alluded to in this dreary debate, spoken Québécois French is a spectrum of usages that range from at one end an informal vernacular correlated with lack of schooling, low prestige and low socio-economic class to a high prestige variety that goes with social class and education.

To complicate things, there are regional accents such as those of Montreal, Quebec city, Gatineau, etc. Then I should add that there are significant immigrant populations from France, Belgium, North Africa, Vietnam, sub-saharan Africa who all speak French.

Mention should be made of the existence of significant groups of French-speakers from outside of Quebec, particularly from neighbouring provinces such as Ontario and New Brunswick.

Finally, to understand the vast variation in spoken Québécois, you have to keep in mind that Quebec French separated from France before the French Revolution. Many features of Québécois are remnants of pre-revolutionary French from France. A prime example of this is the major pronunciation shift of the "moé" to the modern "moi". It is said that Louis XIV would say "Le roué c'est moé" and not "Le roi c'est moi."

But since then Quebec French has been heavily influenced by the French of France through immigration to and from France and the influx of books, teachers, movies, etc. from Europe.

Given all this, what should people interested in Quebec French learn? As I said, it all depends on your needs. If you want to speak Québécois like a native, then you have to ask yourself where you belong in terms of social class and what image of yourself do you want to project. Are you joining a motorcycle biker gang or are you taking up a teaching position at l'Université de Montréal?

What you probably don't want to do is use biker gang French in your job interview at the university.   

Let's say that you don't necessarily need to sound Québécois yourself because you already speak another variety of French, but you are interested in at least understanding Québécois for the reasons given above. What kind of Québécois should you study?

In all depends on the people you will be interacting with or the kind of people you will be hearing. If you will be listening primarily to Radio-Canada radio and television, you will be more towards the high end of the prestige scale. If you will be listening to the residents of certain areas of Montreal, you will be at the other end of the scale. If your interest is Québécois movies and television then you need a wide range of passive proficiency.

Generally speaking, the distinguishing features of Québécois French as compared to European French are the accent and some vocabulary. The accent is what throws people off. Once you get used to the accent, you realize that Québécois French is not that different after all.

To get used to the accent, the solution is of course massive input, as we all know.

Basically, Québécois is like American English, Australian English, Mexican Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese when compared with the languages of the countries of origin. The written languages are nearly identical. The spoken languages differ primarily by accent and local vocabulary.

I usually say to people that choosing what to understand and speak in Québécois is no different from your native language. We all understand a wide range of spoken varieties and we speak in a certain way and from an informal to a formal register. Just apply some common sense when dealing with Québécois.



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tommus
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 Message 114 of 167
02 November 2012 at 2:47pm | IP Logged 
s_allard wrote:
what kind of French does one need to interact with people from Quebec

Excellent post!

You refer to the language on Radio-Canada radio and TV. I find news to be the easiest language to understand, in French and in my other TLs. That is partly because I am a news junkie, but also because it is usually of good quality, and is well-spoken and clearly spoken by the news readers. However, the "man in the street" interviews are almost always faster, and more difficult to follow and understand. I wish I had some techniques to improve that understanding, other than just massive amounts of input. Closed captions of "man in the street" interviews also tend to be much less accurate and more paraphrased. The closed caption editors tend to try to use better quality words and grammar, which I think is a mistake, both from the point-of-view of language learners, and from the accurate portrayal of the speaker and his tone/message.

A somewhat unrelated issue is the typing of accents, such as in Québécois. Many of us here with English or specifically US keyboard layouts struggle to add accents. The situation is manageable with desktop computers, but usually a nightmare with laptops, and accents must also be a struggle with smaller devices. Of course, you can switch keyboard layouts but then many of the keys don't match, and it will be different on each keyboard you use. Canadian English keyboard layout can be marginally better. I find a text file of accented letters on my Desktop to be a functional workaround. Maybe some people have found more innovative solutions to writing Québécois. For example, is there a spellchecker for browsers that would high-lite Quebecois as a spelling error and offer Québécois as a correct spelling?



Edited by tommus on 02 November 2012 at 5:44pm

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s_allard
Triglot
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Canada
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Speaks: French*, English, Spanish
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 Message 115 of 167
02 November 2012 at 3:36pm | IP Logged 
tommus wrote:
...

You refer to the language on Radio-Canada radio and TV. I find news to be the easiest language to understand, in French and in my other TLs. That is partly because I am a news junkie, but also because it is usually of good quality, and is well-spoken and clearly spoken by the news readers. However, the "man in the street" interviews are almost always faster, and more difficult to follow and understand. I wish I had some techniques to improve that understanding, other than just massive amounts of input. Closed captions of "man in the street" interviews also tend to be much less accurate and more paraphrased. The closed caption editors tend to try to use better quality words and grammar, which I think is a mistake, both from the point-of-view of language learners, and from the accurate portrayal of the speaker and his tone/message.

A somewhat unrelated issue is the typing of accents, such as in Québécois. Many of us here with English or specifically US keyboard layouts struggle to add accents. The situation is manageable with desktop computers, but usually a nightmare with laptops, and they must also be a struggle with smaller devices. Of course, you can switch keyboard layouts but then many of the keys don't match, and it will be different on each keyboard you use. Canadian English keyboard layout can be marginally better. I find a text file of accented letters on my Desktop to be a functional workaround. Maybe some people have found more innovative solutions to writing Québécois. For example, is there a spellchecker for browsers that would high-lite Quebecois as a spelling error and offer Québécois as a correct spelling?


@tommus's observation about "man-in-the-street" interviews is so accurate. We've all experienced this. We can follow the reporter perfectly, but when they interview an ordinary person, suddenly we can barely make out what the person is saying. What we are seeing, of course, is the meeting of two varieties of speaking.

Like @tommus, I find the closed-captions of Radio-Canada, RDI, RDS and all French-language stations in Canada to be of very variable quality. Actually, this is just a euphemism for saying there are lots of mistakes.

How can you improve your understanding of ordinary spoken Québécois? I speak of massive input, but I will admit that the problem is the lack of understandable input, that is audio with accurate transcription. There is no point in listening to material that you don't understand.

For example, you could buy a boxed DVD set of La petite vie, a very popular television program from the 90s. This is great stuff for popular speech that would warm @Arekkusu's heart, but the problem is that if you don't have a transcription and some explanations, you will be scratching your head continuously.

In a previous post I mentioned some websites that provide authentic material with transcription. The stuff from www.fluentfrenchnow,com is in my opinion the most useful because of the translations and the commentary, but there is not very much.

As for the problems of typing accented characters on various devices, I know the problem only too well.

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Arekkusu
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bit.ly/qc_10_lec
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 Message 116 of 167
02 November 2012 at 3:46pm | IP Logged 
s_allard wrote:
For example, you could buy a boxed DVD set of La petite vie, a very popular television program from the 90s. This is great stuff for popular speech that would warm @Arekkusu's heart, but the problem is that if you don't have a transcription and some explanations, you will be scratching your head continuously.

Actually, I gave a small course on Québec French ages ago, when la Petite Vie was popular, and I had transcribed -- with IPA, no less -- large segments of one show.

But, s_allard, aren't you afraid that people who watch La Petite Vie would -- oh heaven forbid -- start talking like the characters on the show?

La Petite Vie - Bloopers

Edited by Arekkusu on 02 November 2012 at 4:15pm

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s_allard
Triglot
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Canada
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Speaks: French*, English, Spanish
Studies: Polish

 
 Message 117 of 167
02 November 2012 at 5:05pm | IP Logged 
No more pettiness. While I have a moment I'd like to do a quick post on the very word Québécois. Prior to 1970, the word Québécois designated the residents of Quebec City. Otherwise, "French Canadian" or "Canadien-français" were the words used when speaking of the French-speaking populations of Quebec or outside of Quebec.

The designation "canadien-français" has basically disappeared from modern French today. In fact it is usually used in a derogatory way. It has been replaced by Québécois. Interestingly, the French-speakers outside Quebec are designated by terms such as "Franco-canadiens" or "Francophones hors-Québec". Or they may be called by more specific terms such as "Franco-ontariens", "Franco-manitobains", etc. But no "Canadiens-français."

I will spare everybody a pedantic course in the history of Quebec nationalism and summarize a long chain of events by saying that the foundation of the Parti Québécois in 1968 marked a major shift away from ethnic nationalism (i.e. canadien-français) to a country-based nationalism (i.e.la nation québécoise).

Fast-forward to 2012, exit "Canadien-français" and in with "Québécois." What does this have to do with language? Well, what used to be called "Le français canadien" is now being called "Le québécois" or "Le français québécois."

Usage is hesitating a bit because of some political nuances that I won't go into.

But there is an interesting twist to this story, and it does get a bit complicated. Prior to the creation of the the Canadian Confederation and the Dominion of Canada in 1867, the word "Canadien" designated the French-speaking inhabitants of what is today Canada. The English-speakers were "Anglais" or "English." It's after that point that it became important to distinguish between French and English Canadians.

It's actually somewhat amusing or even ironic when reading 19th century writings to see that "Canadien" is not Canadian as we know it today but what would become Canadien-français and eventually Québécois.

This explains the title of the highly nationalistic song, "Un Canadien errant" (A Wandering Canadian) written in 1842 and still sung today but with not without some irritation. This also explains the name of the hockey club Les canadiens de Montreal which was meant to be a French-language club opposed to the Montreal Maroons, an English-language club. As a matter of fact, the club Les canadiens took the colours of the French flag from France for its team colours.

So, it really is somewhat funny to see many highly nationalistic Québécois cheering for a hocky club called Les canadiens de Montréal.

The word "canadien" is also pronounced "canayen" in popular speech and survives in some popular sayings such as "se faire brasser le canayen" or "to be shaken up or to be scolded". The French language back then was also called Le canayen and until quite recently when one wanted to jokingly use very local slang word one would say "comme on dit en bon canayen" (as we say in good Canayen). Today people say, "comme on dit en bon québécois."

As we have seen in this debate, the definition of "Le québécois" when referring to the French language spoken in Quebec is open to some interpretation. I'll leave it at that, lest the heavens fall on me again.



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Sprachprofi
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 Message 118 of 167
02 November 2012 at 9:34pm | IP Logged 
tommus wrote:
A somewhat unrelated issue is the typing of accents, such as in
Québécois. Many of us here with English or specifically US keyboard layouts struggle to
add accents. The situation is manageable with desktop computers, but usually a
nightmare with laptops, and accents must also be a struggle with smaller devices. Of
course, you can switch keyboard layouts but then many of the keys don't match, and it
will be different on each keyboard you use. Canadian English keyboard layout can be
marginally better. I find a text file of accented letters on my Desktop to be a
functional workaround. Maybe some people have found more innovative solutions to
writing Québécois.


This is off-topic, but the thread has already seen a lot of off-topic messages...

I create custom keyboard layouts for myself, which allow me to type all kinds of
languages using one familiar keyboard layout. The regular German keyboard already
includes äáàâ and variations, but I needed easy access to the cedilla (ç) for French,
supersignoj (e. g. ŝ) for Esperanto, ā for Latin, ǎ for Chinese Pinyin and so on, so I
extended the standard keyboard layout. I also created phonetic-based layouts for typing
Greek, Arabic and Russian.

For friends of mine, I created a multilingual keyboard based on the standard US
keyboard. If you want to use it, it should suit your needs nicely, as you can type
French, German, Spanish and Esperanto accented letters with it. You can download it
from
http://www.learnlangs.com/temp/us_internacieta_klavaro.zip .
Unzip, run the setup, and enjoy. Using this layout, press the key above Tab and...
a yields ä, o yields ö, u yields ü,
q yields â, e yields ê, i yields î, p yields ô, y yields ŷ, (q and p chosen for
location near the letter)
n yields ñ
all the chapelliteroj are also available through this button (combined with cghjs, as
can be expected), but for ŭ you have to press w

Shift + key above Tab yields all kinds of letters with the accent grave: àèìòùǹ

Shift + 6 yields letters with accent aigue: áéíóúńśḱĺź and also the cedilla ç

In short, anything you'll need in the foreseeable future.
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tommus
Senior Member
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Speaks: English*
Studies: Dutch, French, Esperanto, German, Spanish

 
 Message 119 of 167
02 November 2012 at 10:15pm | IP Logged 
Sprachprofi wrote:
In short, anything you'll need in the foreseeable future.

This looks very promising. Thank you.

Question: Windows can be temperamental. If something goes wrong or, for whatever reason I don't like the result, is it reversible?


1 person has voted this message useful



Sprachprofi
Nonaglot
Senior Member
Germany
learnlangs.comRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 4640 days ago

2608 posts - 4866 votes 
Speaks: German*, English, French, Esperanto, Greek, Mandarin, Latin, Dutch, Italian
Studies: Spanish, Arabic (Written), Swahili, Indonesian, Japanese, Modern Hebrew, Portuguese

 
 Message 120 of 167
02 November 2012 at 10:56pm | IP Logged 
Yes, you can run setup again and choose the option to repair the installation or
uninstall. It is also possible to uninstall it from the Add/remove Software option in the
control panel.

For what it's worth, I didn't program this, it was created using Microsoft Keyboard
Layout Generator and the installer is Microsoft-supplied as well, so it should have an
error rate comparable to opening a Word document...


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