Archive for April, 2011

In Quebec, you’ll want to be familiar with the 24-hour clock. If you plan on moving to Quebec or spending an extended amount of time here, consider getting used to it now.

The 24-hour clock is used here in public transport schedules, when taking appointments such as with a doctor or dentist, in TV programming, and so on. The 12-hour clock is also used, especially during regular, informal conversations, but you’ll still need to become familiar with the 24-hour clock too.

If you’ve not grown up with the 24-hour clock, I imagine it will take a little getting used to. One way to convert the time from the 24-hour system to the 12-hour system is to subtract 12: for example, 19 h – 12 = 7 p.m.

I don’t recommend this, though.

When you’re speaking in French, I think you’ll have enough going on in your mind to want to stop and do a mental calculation.

A better way is to simply accept the time in the 24-hour system for what it is. Set your clock, watch or computer to the 24-hour system now, and take note of what you’re doing at different points of the day while looking at the time.

For example, when you take your break at work in the afternoon, what time is it in the 24-hour system? 14 h? 15 h 30? When you finish work, look again at your watch. What time is it? 17 h? 18 h? What time do you get home?

If you can start to associate routine activities with different times in the 24-hour system, you won’t need to think anymore about what 19 h, 20 h or 21 h mean: an image will automatically come up in your head.

For me, I know that at…

16 h 30: In the winter, the sky may already be dark.
17 h: Many people are getting off work.
19 h – 20 h: I’m hungry and ready for supper.
22 h: I’m watching the Téléjournal.

If you’re still uncomfortable with the 24-hour system, consider implementing it in your personal life.

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Here’s a review of five informal French verbs that you’ll hear in Quebec, all beginning with the letter c. Why c? Just ‘cos!

All of these verbs have already appeared elsewhere in this blog.


J’ai coulé mon cours.
I flunked my course.

J’ai coulé mon examen d’histoire.
I flunked my history exam.


Mes parents vont capoter.
My parents are going to freak out.

Arrête de capoter pour rien!
Stop freaking out over nothing!

Can also be used to show excitement:

Je capote, je capote, je capote!
= It’s so amazingly good that I’m freaking out!


Ils se chicanent tout le temps.
They’re always arguing.

Pas le goût de me chicaner avec toi.
(I) really don’t feel like arguing with you.


Je m’en crisse.
I don’t give a damn.

Il a l’air de s’en crisser.
Looks like he doesn’t give a damn.

Note: The verb s’en crisser is vulgar.


J’ai cassé avec lui.
I broke up with him.

Est-ce que Marc et Nicole vont casser?
Are Marc and Nicole going to break up?

Note: You’ll hear the a in casser pronounced as “aww” [=kawsé].

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Boussole électorale (#193)

Update: The Boussole électorale 2011 is no longer available online.

In a little less than one week, Canadians will go to the polls: ils iront aux urnes le 2 mai.

If you’ll be voting, are you still undecided?

An interesting tool online: la Boussole électorale (or Vote Compass in English).

Through a series of questions, la Boussole électorale will determine which party most closely aligns with your values, or as the Boussole itself says: Découvrez votre position dans le paysage politique.

Even if you are decided, you may be surprised by the results!

If you haven’t already done so, why not take a few minutes before next Monday to check out where the Boussole positions you?

You’ll also give your French a little workout by taking the test.

Boussole électorale

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Each period of a hockey game is called une période in French.

la première période
la deuxième période
la troisième période

When you want to talk about something that happened during one of the periods, we use the word en.

en première période
en deuxième période
en troisième période


X a ouvert la marque en première période.
X opened the score in the first period.

X a nivelé la marque en deuxième période.
X tied the score in the second period.

X a porté la marque à 3 à 2 en troisième période.
X brought the score to 3 to 2 in the third period.

Sometimes you’ll hear the word période left out. In this case, période is understood without actually saying it.


Aucun but n’a été marqué en deuxième.
No goal was scored in the second (period).

Overtime is called la prolongation. With prolongation, the word en is also used to talk about something that happens during this part of the game.


X a marqué le but vainqueur en prolongation.
X scored the winning goal in overtime.

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I’ve been under the weather for the past two weeks.

This morning, I made my second trip to the clinique médicale not far from where I live. Fun!

Une clinique médicale is what’s known as the doctor’s office in English. The clinique médicale where I went this morning is a walk-in clinic, meaning that no appointment is necessary. We call this une clinique médicale sans rendez-vous.

When I arrived at the front desk, the receptionist greeted me. I then presented my carte d’assurance maladie. With this card, I have access to the insured healthcare services in Quebec.

The carte d’assurance maladie has an image of the sun on it. (See here.) Behind the receptionist at the clinique médicale, there’s a sign that reads: La carte soleil ne couvre pas tous les services. The term carte soleil is a nickname for the card because of the design on it.

The first question the receptionist asked me when I arrived was: Vous avez un dossier ici? In other words, she wanted to know if I had been there before and already had a file with them. (Yep.)

After that, I passed into the waiting area, where I… waited.

And waited.

And then I waited some more.

As I sat there staring at the walls, I thought I’d better use the opportunity to prepare something for today’s entry! I listened to the receptionist answer the phone. Three questions came up frequently:

C’est quoi votre nom de famille?
Votre prénom, c’est comment?
Et votre prénom c’est…?

Then I started to fall asleep… but was saved by a little kid who kindly woke me up by placing himself in front of me and and making sounds to wake to me up.

And then… my name was called: Monsieur Polesello, salle 4!


Hey, hold on, only a 100-minute wait today!

Ç’a pas été long!

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Bérangère from the series 19-2 is a police officer. Not only is she one of the few females on an almost all-male team, she’s also openly gay.

In a few different scenes, Bérangère refers to herself as une gouine in front of her male colleagues. This is how Bérangère refers to herself as being a lesbian, but a better equivalent in English would be “dyke.”

Is it offensive to use the term gouine? If you’re not a lesbian, it most certainly could be. (Similar to “dyke” in English?) In this case, use the word lesbienne instead and just learn to understand what gouine means.

Gouine is pronounced as though it were written gwine.

Bérangère never falls in love with the right person. In fact, in one scene, we see her gaze longingly into the eyes of a female colleague, even though her colleague isn’t lesbian.

In frustration, Bérangère later asks a male colleague: […] pourquoi j’suis pas capable de tripper sur des gouines comme moi? Tripper sur is an informal expression meaning something like “to go for,” “to fall for,” “to be into,” etc.

Now that you know what the title of this entry means, know that I wasn’t trying to be provocative! 😉

[This entry was inspired by the character Bérangère from 19-2, season 1, episode 3, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 16 February 2011.]

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Amande from the series 30 vies is standing in front of her secondary school with her boyfriend Dominique.

Dominique senses that Amande is being secretive about something, that she’s hiding stuff, qu’elle cache des affaires. He begins to question Amande, but she gets frustrated by it.

To get Dominique to back off, Amande tells him that she’ll break up with him if he doesn’t stop asking questions. To say “break up,” Amande used the verb casser. This is an informal usage of this verb.


Je casse.
I’m breaking up.

Elle va casser.
She’s going to break up.

Elle va casser avec lui.
She’s going to break up with him.

Can you guess how casser is pronounced in Quebec? Clue: entry #188.

The letter a in casser is pronounced â, or like “aww.” If you’ve learnt to pronounce casser as “kassé” instead of “kawsé”, don’t worry; you’ll still be understood. Just learn to understand the Quebec pronunciation for when you come across it.

By the way, don’t try to translate the word “up” in the English expression “to break up.” It’s simply casser in French.

[This entry was inspired by the character Amande from 30 vies, season 1, episode 31, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 2 March 2011.]

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