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New course: Le québécois en 10 leçons

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tommus
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 Message 129 of 167
10 November 2012 at 5:39pm | IP Logged 
Arekkusu wrote:
This guy, Bernard Adamus

La question à 100 piasses

Here are the lyrics of that song.

http://www.lyricsmania.com/la_question_%C3%A0_100_piasses_ly rics_bernard_adamus.html
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Arekkusu
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 Message 130 of 167
13 November 2012 at 2:35am | IP Logged 
I just received the kindest words of encouragement from Léandre Bergeron, author of the
Dictionnaire de la langue québécoise,
who called me at home to congratulate me on my book, saying I did an excellent job! I still can't believe it...

If you have no idea who he is, you can see him in this
documentary on the history of Québec French.

We discussed, among other things, my choice of the word "Québécois" in the title of the book and he fully supported my decision, which
I was glad to hear.
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s_allard
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 Message 131 of 167
13 November 2012 at 5:59pm | IP Logged 
The documentary to which @Arekkusu refers is an excellent history of an interesting era of Quebec French. There are three parts, and I highly recommend all three. Note the title: Histoire de la langue québécoise - Le joual. The period covered is 1960 - 1980 which saw the transformation of the nationalist movement of Quebec and the affirmation of the popular vernacular - le joual - as the national language, le québécois.

For the makers of the documentary and the people interviewed, such as Léandre Bergeron, Québécois and joual are the same thing. This idea still dominates today and we see it in the many books or guides to Québécois. In addition to @Arekkusu's book, there are titles like: Parlez-vous québécois? (Claude Armange), Anatomie du québécois (Jean Forest),Le québécois pour mieux voyager (Pierre Corbeil) Petit guide du parler québécois (Mario Bélanger), Parler québécois – Guide de conversation pour les nuls (Marie-Pierre Gazaille et al).

What language do the people of Québec speak? Is it Le québécois or Le français québécois? What exactly is Québécois? What is joual? Is Québécois joual? When a Tintin comic book was adapted into Québécois in 2009, why was it badly received in Quebec?

For those who may be interested, here in a highly condensed form is my take on the question. But first a little background.

Something that I didn't mention in my previous posts is that the major factor in the separate evolution of Quebec French from European French was the British conquest of New France in 1760 at the battle of the Plains of Abraham in what is now Quebec City.

Starting around 1840 appear the first writings complaining about the sad state of the French language in Canada as compared to the French of France. This was the beginning of a long process of stigmatization of the vernacular language, process that continues up to today.

There was, and still is, obviously a lot of elitism, classism and snobism in all of this. Good French as taught in private schools and spoken by the elite was supposed to come from Paris. The bad French of the poor, the working class and the uneducated was full of archaic features, English borrowings, bad pronunciation and poor grammar.

Even today Radio-Canada has a full-time "conseiller linguistique" whose job is to monitor the quality of the French used on the air. Five days a week he broadcasts these "capsules linguistiques" where he attempts to correct common mistakes. Here is the website. Le français au micro

Although the term "joual" from the popular pronunciation of "cheval" had been around for a while, it was popularized in 1960 by the book. "Les insolences du frère Untel" written by Jean-Paul Desbiens. The author writes extensively about the poor state of the spoken language that he calls le joual. Joual was the stigmatized French of the working class and the uneducated masses of Montreal.

As well illustrated by the documentary, one of the interesting developments of this period of the 60s is the affirmation of joual as a vehicle of artistic expression and affirmation of rebellion against a political situation. In 1968 Michel Tremblay, who is today Quebec's greatest writer, published the play Les belles-sœurs in which joual is openly used.

From that period right up to the present day, there is strong tradition of joual in popular culture. Musicians such as Robert Charlebois, Plume Latraverse, Gilles Valiquette, Mononc' Serge, Dédé Fortin, les Colocs among many others use joual as their vehicle of expression.

Joual is the staple of most stand-up comedians. It is to be found in movies and on television. On television famous shows include Les bougons and La petite vie.

Interestingly, the word joual has sort of disappeared, having been replaced somewhat by Québécois. So, in 2012, what is joual or Québécois?

Joual or Québécois is basically slang vernacular. And like all slang vernaculars in the world, it is speech characterized by the presence of stigmatized, low prestige, nonstandard linguistic features associated with the urban working class and lack of education. For these very reasons joual will be attractive to youth in rebellion and as an expression of class conflict.

In sociolinguistic terms, slang vernacular is a sociolect, a variety of language that is socially rather than geographically defined.

What are the linguistic features of joual-québécois in 2012? I won't attempt to answer the question, but I would like to highlight some of the problems of describing a sociolect that is changing just like any other. Major demographic changes, immigration from abroad, widespread access to education and literacy, the omnipresence of the mass media, etc. all contribute to the evolution of the language. The joual-québécois of 1960 is very different from that of 2012.

My own observation is that the most stigmatized features are disappearing and we are seeing the homogenization and upward mobility of popular speech towards the standard, especially in phonology and grammar. The most salient features of joual-québécois will be found in older speakers.

Who speaks joual-québécois in 2012? Very simply put, everybody understands it and can use elements of it, some people speak it as their primary mode of expression, some people do not use it as their primary mode of expression. And then we have all the situations in between. And many people use it for rhetorical purposes: to ridicule, for irony, to highlight class differences, to express anger,for example.

The reason there is some controversy about this whole matter is that some people - and I'm one of them - feel that the word Québécois as a term for the national language of the people of Quebec should be all inclusive of all varieties of speaking and not restricted only to the vernacular.

Basically, there are two perspectives here. An older view, dating back to the 60s identified Québécois with joual. That's how it started. In this view, there is Québécois and there is standard French.

This is the perspective of Léandre Bergeron in his Dictionnaire de la langue québécoise, published in 1980 (with a supplement in 1981). It is still in print, unchanged. This book was very successful and should be put in the political context of its time. Léandre Bergeron was not a lexicographer but a historian, and his dictionary was universally panned by linguists at the time. I feel that the value of the work is more political than linguistic.

A different view, more modern I believe, identifies Québécois with all the varieties of French spoken in Québec. There is slang or informal Québécois, standard spoken Québécois and formal Québécois. Our prime minister, Pauline Marois, speaks Québécois. Radio-Canada speaks Québécois and so do the manual workers who are repairing the street where I live. Québécois is thus a spectrum of usages that vary from the colloquial to the very formal, but it's all Québécois.

Since we know that when speaking a language, we project a social identity, the different varieties of Québécois French will reflect the diversity of contemporary Québécois society.

From this perspective, Québécois is a national language just like any other. All the major languages of the world have their slang vernacular. Nobody would claim that Russian slang from Moscow is the Russian language or that New York slang is synonymous with American English.

Now, what about Tintin, the comic book not the movie, in Québécois? Why did so many people get pissed off with the 2009 québécois edition of Coke en stock that became Colocs en stock? I don't want to make this post any longer, but if anybody is interested, they should do a search on 'tintin traduit en québécois' and they'll see a lot of different opinions about what is Québécois. Personally, I don't think the adaptation is as bad as some people make it out to be. It's just a bit strange.

Note that I haven't discussed the thorny issue of the teaching or learning of Québécois vernacular. I prefer to start to separate topic on the general question of the place of slang in the learning of a foreign language.





Edited by s_allard on 13 November 2012 at 6:04pm

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iguanamon
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 Message 132 of 167
13 November 2012 at 8:04pm | IP Logged 
s_allard, it seems to me that your argument with arekkusu's book boils down to the term "quebecois" being too encompassing and not giving the impression that you deem appropriate which is the language being described is only representative of a slice of modern Quebec. I guess what I'd like to know is this- what would you advise French learners to know before a visit to Quebec, where they will interact with bus drivers, taxi drivers, waiters, shop keepers, bar patrons, ski instructors, fishing guides and random people on the street? If I was unfamiliar with the language in arekkusu's book would my interactions with people be less enjoyable due to comprehension problems?

If I became familiar with the language in arekkusu's book would I be able to interact with a fisherman at the dock, with a vendor at the local farmer's market, with a guy just getting off his shift at the local factory having a happy hour beer at the local bar or join in with a group of people talking about last night's hockey game? If I only had standard French how might those interactions proceed? With just a knowledge of standard French, would I find a Quebec movie or TV entertainment show as enjoyable? Simply put, would my Quebec cultural experience be richer or poorer or would it not even matter if I only know standard European French?

Lastly, we know you speak English and French, but just out of curiosity, do you study other languages and/or speak any besides English and French to a high level? If so, have you ever been frustrated or surprised by learning the standard language and then discovered upon a visit to the tl country that there is another way of speaking the language that is in more common use with which you were unfamiliar?



Edited by iguanamon on 13 November 2012 at 8:27pm

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emk
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 Message 133 of 167
13 November 2012 at 10:37pm | IP Logged 
s_allard wrote:
Joual or Québécois is basically slang vernacular. And like all slang vernaculars in the world, it is speech characterized by the presence of stigmatized, low prestige, nonstandard linguistic features associated with the urban working class and lack of education.


After all these pages of posts, I still don't see why it's bad thing to want to comprehend the speech of people who are stigmatized, or working class, or elderly, or insufficiently educated, or rebellious. They're interesting people, too, and some of them feel awkward with producing European French.

From where I'm standing, the status hierarchy among Quebec French speakers really doesn't matter. I'm not trying to impress anybody, or get a job at the University of Montreal. I've never quite understood the horror some francophones feel over patois. And in any case, I speak European French awkwardly, and American English very well, and that seems to be socially acceptable for a tourist in Montreal. And I already know how I prefer to handle slang and accents (namely to match my social group, after significant exposure).

But I visit Quebec about 20 times more often than any other foreign country. It would be nice to actually understand a larger fraction of Patrick Huard's standup comedy routines (relatively easy, NSFW), or perhaps even Louis-José Houde. If I wanted to be limited to nice, prestigious linguistic bubble, I would have stuck with English.
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tommus
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 Message 134 of 167
13 November 2012 at 11:11pm | IP Logged 
tommus wrote:
I provided a constructive suggestion quite some time ago that you add the languages you are learning to your HTLAL profile.


s_allard wrote:
@tommus, an excellent suggestion that I had completely forgotten.


iguanamon wrote:
Lastly, we know you speak English and French, but just out of curiosity, do you study other languages and/or speak any besides English and French to a high level?


@s_allard: Out of curiosity, why do you choose not to add any languages that you are learning to your HTLAL profile? If you are learning any, that would add quite a bit to understanding your opinions.

By the way, your long explanation above of the French language in Quebec is excellent.




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s_allard
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 Message 135 of 167
13 November 2012 at 11:55pm | IP Logged 
iguanamon wrote:
s_allard, it seems to me that your argument with arekkusu's book boils down to the term "quebecois" being too encompassing and not giving the impression that you deem appropriate which is the language being described is only representative of a slice of modern Quebec. I guess what I'd like to know is this- what would you advise French learners to know before a visit to Quebec, where they will interact with bus drivers, taxi drivers, waiters, shop keepers, bar patrons, ski instructors, fishing guides and random people on the street? If I was unfamiliar with the language in arekkusu's book would my interactions with people be less enjoyable due to comprehension problems?

If I became familiar with the language in arekkusu's book would I be able to interact with a fisherman at the dock, with a vendor at the local farmer's market, with a guy just getting off his shift at the local factory having a happy hour beer at the local bar or join in with a group of people talking about last night's hockey game? If I only had standard French how might those interactions proceed? With just a knowledge of standard French, would I find a Quebec movie or TV entertainment show as enjoyable? Simply put, would my Quebec cultural experience be richer or poorer or would it not even matter if I only know standard European French?

Lastly, we know you speak English and French, but just out of curiosity, do you study other languages and/or speak any besides English and French to a high level? If so, have you ever been frustrated or surprised by learning the standard language and then discovered upon a visit to the tl country that there is another way of speaking the language that is in more common use with which you were unfamiliar?


Good question from @iguamon. But please read my post. As I pointed out in my post, the question isn't whether one should learn Québécois slang or not. If you are interested in Québécois culture, you should learn Québécois slang. How else would you understand some plays, songs, movies and above all the stand-up comedians?

Slang is part of the linguistic repertoire of all Québécois. And as I have said, all the major languages have some form of slang vernacular. I know only too well, as I have pointed out many times here, the difference between the vernacular and the standard language.

When I listen to movies from Argentina or Cuba, there are things that I don't understand because I don't really master the local vernaculars.

Is @Arekkusu's book useful as a guide to understanding some aspects of Québécois French? Of course it is. Should people buy it? Of course they should. Have I ever said the contrary?

If all you know is Parisian French, will this book be of some use? Certainly, and that is why I think there are about a dozen books that claim to decipher Québécois in some form.

I have some differences with @Arekkusu over the accuracy of the depiction of contemporary Queébécois slang but they are of little importance to most people.

As I have stressed, somewhat in vain I see, the real difference I have with @Arekkusu is one of perspective on what is Québécois. Much of this debate may be meaningless to people outside Quebec, but I have tried to draw some analogies with other languages.

We all know that in English some people say things like "I seen", "I ain't", "We is", "skank-ass", "yessiree, I'm fixin' to git me a missus", "yo, bitch" and many things that we would consider part of American slang, whether contemporary or historical. We call it slang or popular speech. If I were to write a book called American English and presented only this form of speaking, I'm sure a lot of people would get very upset. But if I call it a guide to American slang, nobody would say a word.

Should a student of English learn slang? Of course, if they want to understand modern or historical popular culture. If you want to watch reruns of the Beverly Hillbillies, you must learn this stuff. Elvis Presley sings "You aint't nothing but a hounddog". Where is the problem?

Using it is another question. Should learners be taught to say "I ain't" or "I seen" because it is used in popular songs? It's debatable. All I would say, as I have said before, is that learners must tread carefully with some of this stuff because, unlike natives, they have not internalized the subtle social etiquette and rules that determine how and when to use much of this language. Most of us would laugh if someone says to us "See you later, alligator" with a strong foreign accent.

Just the other day, some Spanish-speakers corrected something that I said. I had heard it on a telenovela but I didn't realize that the speakers were using the word in a very derogatory sense. How could I know until somebody corrected me. Similarly, I'm always being corrected because I tend to use things from Spain that have different meanings in Latin America.

Edited by s_allard on 14 November 2012 at 12:20am

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s_allard
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 Message 136 of 167
14 November 2012 at 12:08am | IP Logged 
emk wrote:
s_allard wrote:
Joual or Québécois is basically slang vernacular. And like all slang vernaculars in the world, it is speech characterized by the presence of stigmatized, low prestige, nonstandard linguistic features associated with the urban working class and lack of education.


After all these pages of posts, I still don't see why it's bad thing to want to comprehend the speech of people who are stigmatized, or working class, or elderly, or insufficiently educated, or rebellious. They're interesting people, too, and some of them feel awkward with producing European French.

From where I'm standing, the status hierarchy among Quebec French speakers really doesn't matter. I'm not trying to impress anybody, or get a job at the University of Montreal. I've never quite understood the horror some francophones feel over patois. And in any case, I speak European French awkwardly, and American English very well, and that seems to be socially acceptable for a tourist in Montreal. And I already know how I prefer to handle slang and accents (namely to match my social group, after significant exposure).

But I visit Quebec about 20 times more often than any other foreign country. It would be nice to actually understand a larger fraction of Patrick Huard's standup comedy routines (relatively easy, NSFW), or perhaps even Louis-José Houde. If I wanted to be limited to nice, prestigious linguistic bubble, I would have stuck with English.


I won't spend much time on this post because I hope I have made it abundantly clear that I have never ever said, stated or intimated that it is bad to want to understand Québécois slang. Good heavens, give me a break. I don't know how many times I have to say that if you want to understand popular culture, you have to understand the language.

What my long post - and I apologize for the length - tried to do was show that there are two perspectives on what is Québécois. The debate has nothing to do with what is good or bad or what should one study to enjoy Québécois culture. This is a red herring. It seems to me that you should always learn the language of the people you want to understand.


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