Archive for February, 2011

In the TV series 19-2, Officer Nick Berrof has just returned to work after his partner was shot in the head during an investigation.

When Sergeant Houle sees Nick back at the station for the first time, he reassures him that he can come see him if he feels down. Houle knows things are going to be rough for Nick on the job after what happened to his partner. He says:

Tu files pas, tu m’appelles, OK?
(If) you don’t feel good, you call me, OK?

Similarly, if you hear someone say j’file pas, it means: “I don’t feel good.”

This verb is also spelled as feeler.

[This entry was inspired by the character Houle in 19-2, season 1, episode 1, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 2 February 2011.]

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19-2 is a new series running on Radio-Canada. On the official website, we read: 19-2 nous plonge au cœur du quotidien de deux patrouilleurs du Service de la police métropolitaine de Montréal. Unlike the comedies La Galère or Les Parent, the series 19-2 is edgy.

In the first episode, two policemen have been called to investigate a scene. When they arrive, they step out of the patrol car and approach a building.

That’s when Officer Nick Berrof sees a person walk past the window inside the building. To alert his partner, Nick says: Il y a quelqu’un en dedans! “There’s someone inside!”

Count the syllables in il y a quelqu’un en dedans. Eight, right? But when pronounced informally, il y a quelqu’un en dedans might be said in just five syllables. How?

Il y a often sounds like ya in informal speech. That’s one syllable instead of three. When said quickly, en dedans can sound more like endan. That’s two syllables instead of three.

So, il y a quelqu’un en dedans can sound more like ya quelqu’un endan when said informally. If you’re not aware of these shortcuts in French pronunciation, something like that could really throw you off.

19-2 is a good series. I’ll draw more inspiration from this show in future entries.

[This entry was inspired by the character Nick in 19-2, season 1, episode 1, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 2 February 2011.]


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Before reading on, try answering the question in the title: How do you ask for the time in French?

Is your answer: Quelle heure est-il?

In French textbooks, “what time is it?” is often given as quelle heure est-il? The problem is that you’ll rarely hear anybody say that. People might sometimes write that, but it would pretty stilted if you said that in a conversation.

In a scene from Les Parent, Louis is sleeping in bed. It’s 9 o’clock in the morning. His wife Natalie walks in and encourages him to get up. Louis asks: Il est quelle heure?

Now that sounds more natural.

In fact, you’re likely to hear it pronounced as:

Yé quelle heure?

This isn’t the way you’d want to ask a complete stranger on the street for the time, though. It’s too direct, too informal. Instead, you could say something like: Excusez-moi (monsieur), vous avez l’heure (s’il vous plaît)?

Louis said something else in this scene that you’ll find very useful: He asked what the weather was like in an informal way. You can read about this in entry #157.

[This entry was inspired by the character Louis in Les Parent, “Black Zak,” season 3, episode 17, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 21 February 2011.]

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Ah ben, ah ben, ah ben! (#152)

You open the front door. There, standing in front of you, is your ex. You were hoping they’d show up; maybe deep down you miss them, or maybe you were waiting for an opportunity to chew them out. But you don’t want to let it show that you were hoping they’d show up.

To maintain your little air of superiority, maybe you’d say to your ex: “Well, well, well.” Of course, you’d have a satisfied look on your face; it was your ex who cracked and came to you after all!

Well, well, well… This is what Stéphanie said in a scene from La Galère. The circumstances she said it in are much different, though: When it becomes clear to Stéphanie that there’s flirting going on between her friend Isabelle and a character names Jacques, Stéphanie playfully taunts Isabelle by saying: Ah ben, ah ben, ah ben. “Well, well, well.”

Ben comes from an informal pronunciation of bien. It sounds like the French word bain.

Say the expression “well, well, well” in English. Note how your voice starts high on the first “well” and then drops down with the two that follow. This happens in French too: Ah ben, ah ben, ah ben.

[This entry was inspired by the character Stéphanie in La Galère, season 3, episode 2, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 27 September 2010.]

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Antoine and his wife Claude from La Galère have marital problems. Claude, who’s with Antoine for the money, hasn’t been paying much attention to their sex life.

In one scene, Antoine walks into the bedroom. He catches Claude keeping herself busy with her purple vibrator and a little display of magazines of naked men, all propped up against the pillows. Claude refers to the men on the magazine covers as toute une équipe.

Later, in the kitchen, Antoine loses his temper with Claude when she walks in. At the top of his lungs, he yells at her:

Là là, j’en ai jusque là!!
Right, so I’ve had it!!

[Said by the character Antoine in La Galère, season 3, episode 5, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 18 October 2010.]

Antoine is fed up that a vibrator has replaced him. As he later explains to their marriage counsellor: elle me trompe avec son vibrateur.

Here, là là means something like “right, so” or “OK, so” as an introduction to what someone’s about to say. Antoine used là là here as a way of introducing his burst of anger. The first is stressed a little more than the second one.

As for the French expression j’en ai jusque là, it means “I’ve had it!” or “I’ve had it up to here!” in English.

You can read another example of là là in entry #146, where it takes on the meaning of “right away.” See entry #206 for a review.

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Thomas is a typical teen — he’s very concerned with his appearance. He’s standing in front of his bedroom mirror checking out how he looks, turning from side to side, unconvinced.

That’s when his younger brother Olivier walks into the room, frustrated. Olivier wants to know what’s taking Thomas so long to get ready; everybody’s waiting for him so that they can leave. Olivier loses patience and says to his brother:

Qu’est-ce tu gosses, Thomas?! Envoye!* Grouille!
What the heck are you doin’, Thomas?! Come on! Hurry up!

[Said by the character Olivier in Les Parent, “La réalité dépasse la friction,” season 3, episode 12, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 17 January 2011.]

*Sounds like en-wéy.

Lots of informal language in this example!

Gosser can take on different meanings in the informal French of Quebec. Here, it’s used in the sense of “to (needlessly) busy away at something.” Thomas is wasting time by staring in the mirror, trying to look just right. The verb gosser has other meanings as well, but let’s just stick with this one for now.

The question started with qu’est-ce (sounds like “kess”). Sometimes, qu’est-ce que gets shortened to qu’est-ce when speaking informally.

Both envoye and grouille mean “come on!” or “hurry up!” Envoye is pronounced en-wéy. It’s sometimes also spelt as anweille or enweille. Grouille is pronounced grou-iy.

By the way, Thomas is pronounced to-mâ.

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In the series 30 vies, trouble’s brewing at the école secondaire du Vieux-Havre. One of the students there has a knife hidden in his locker.

A student named Dominique knows about the knife. Even though he’s friends with the student who’s got the knife, he informs a teacher named Gabrielle about it. He tells her that the student with the knife has got it dans sa case, “in his locker.”

The reason I’ve picked this example is for the pronunciation of case.

If you aren’t familiar with the â sound, you might not understand the word case when you hear it. Rather than “kazz,” case is generally pronounced “kawz” in regular conversations. This is the â sound.

Here are a few other words that contain the â sound: gâteau, château, classe, tasse, passer.

Once you start tuning into this sound, you’ll hear it more often. It’s a distinctive feature of the Quebec French accent.

[This entry was inspired by the character Dominique in 30 vies, season 1, episode 23, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 16 February 2011.]

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