Archive for September, 2011

JE TE pronounced as J’TE (#272)

In careful speech, je te vois has three syllables. When said in regular, relaxed speech, it will probably be said with just two.

Where does the third syllable in that example disappear to?

je te vois (careful pronunciation)
j’te vois (relaxed pronunciation)

In everyday conversations, you may hear people say je te as j’te. But how is j’te pronounced anyway?

When je contracts to j’ before t, it makes the French sound ch. So j’te sounds like ch’te.

More examples:

je te donne… (careful)
j’te donne… (relaxed)

je te dis que… (careful)
j’te dis que… (relaxed)

Pronouncing je te informally as j’te is not limited to Quebec French. You’ll hear this feature of informal French throughout the francophone world.

Look again at the last example (j’te dis que…). Do you remember that Quebec francophones pronounce di like dzi? You can read about this in entry #209.

If you liked this entry, you can also read entry #273.

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Change pas de sujet! (#271)

From a scene in 30 vies:

Gabrielle, a mother in her 40s, has a daughter named Florence.

When Gabrielle gets home, she finds her mother folding clothes; she asks her where her daughter Florence is. Her mother says that Florence has gone over to a friend’s place.

Immediately, Gabrielle can tell that something’s not right, and that her mother is hiding something about Florence. She asks her mother:

Vous êtes-vous chicanées?
Did (the two of) you get into an argument?

Her mother isn’t revealing what’s going on, though. With an impatient tone of voice, Gabrielle says to her mother:

OK, c’est quoi l’affaire, là?
OK, what’s the matter? what is this?

Her mother tries to change the subject by talking about something else. Gabrielle says:

Change pas de sujet!
Don’t change the subject!

Are you still wondering how to use the verb se chicaner? Here are some more examples:

Ils se sont chicanés.
They argued with each other.

Vous vous êtes chicanés.
You argued with each other.

Vous êtes-vous chicanés?
Did you argue with one another?

[All three quotes above said by Gabrielle in 30 vies, season 2, episode 2, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 13 September 2011.]

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J’étais pas mal gâtée (#270)

In a scene from 30 vies, a grandmother reminisces with her granddaughter about how she used to take care of her when she was little and would get sick. That’s when her granddaughter smiles and answers back:

J’étais pas mal gâtée.

[Said by Florence in 30 vies, season 2, episode 2, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 13 September 2011.]

Or in English: “I was pretty spoiled,” or “you really spoiled me” (i.e., you took really good care of me).

This quote contains an example of pas mal before an adjective. Pas mal is not a negative even though it contains the word pas. If you need to review the meaning of pas mal in this sense, see entry #266.

As for gâté (feminine: gâtée), can you say aloud the way this adjective is pronounced in Quebec?

Remember that â is pronounced “aww” in Quebec French, so the part of gâté sounds like “gaw.” This is also true of the infinitive form (gâter) and all the conjugated forms (je gâte, il gâtait, etc.).

Another verb with the â sound came up in this episode: gâcher.

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Review your French (#269)

Review the French you’ve been learning in the past few entries with this exercise.

1. In French, tell a friend that it’s very impolite to text message while speaking to someone.

2. Say “I’m pretty disappointed” in French.

3. Say “Don’t take it the wrong way” in two ways in French: (a) in a careful sort of French; (b) in an informal, spoken sort of French.

4. Say appartement in an informal way in French.

5. How might someone say “Your apartment’s so cool!” in French?

6. Imagine you’re on the bus with a friend. The sun is shining on the side where the two of you are sitting, and it’s getting uncomfortable. Tell your friend to change to the other side. Say this in two ways, using a different word for “side” each time.

Possible answers

1. C’est très impoli de texter pendant que tu parles à quelqu’un. (review) 2. Je suis pas mal déçu / déçue. (review) You may hear je suis pronounced as chui or chu informally. (review) 3. Careful French: Ne le prends pas mal. Informal French: Prends-le pas mal. (review) 4. appart. The final t is pronounced. (review) 5. Il est écoeurant, ton appart! Informally, il est écoeurant can sound like yé-t-écoeurant. (review) 6. Change de bord. Change de côté. (review)

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Prends-le pas mal (#268)

To tell someone to not take something the wrong way, or to not be offended by something, you could say this in French:

Ne le prends pas mal, mais…
Don’t take it the wrong way, but…

The language used in the series La Galère is very similar to what you can hear in regular conversations. In another scene from this show, we hear Isabelle say ne le prends pas mal in an informal way in French:

Prends-le pas mal.

Remember, this is informal. It’s not something that would be used in careful writing or speech. All that happened here was that the ne was dropped, and the le stayed in the same position as in the affirmative (prends-le, prends-le pas).

Ne le prends pas mal, mais je ne te comprends pas.
Prends-le pas mal, mais je te comprends pas. (informal)
Don’t take it the wrong way, but I don’t understand you.
Don’t be offended, but I don’t understand you.

The construction of the informal version may remind you of inquiète-toi pas (see entry #6), which is an informal way of saying ne t’inquiète pas.

As I was writing this entry, a song came into my head: Le pyromane by Karkwa, a group from Quebec. In this song, we hear this in the first line: Prends-le pas, prends-le pas mal…

If you can’t see the video above, you can watch it here on YouTube.

[This entry was inspired by the character Isabelle in La Galère, season 4, episode 2, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 19 September 2011; and by the song Le pyromane by Karkwa.]

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Un appartement écoeurant (#267)

Hugo from the television series La Galère has found a new apartment. His father asks him what his new place is like:

Il est comment, cet appart-là?

Hugo responds:

Il est écoeurant!

When Hugo answers that the apartment is écoeurant, he’s saying that it’s incredible or amazing even though écoeurant literally means “disgusting.”

Appart is an informal way of saying appartement. The final t in appart is pronounced: appartt.

Informally, il est very often sounds like yé. Here’s how the above quotes were pronounced in this scene:

Yé comment, cet appart-là?
(Il est comment, cet appart-là?)

(Il est écoeurant!)

In fact, this isn’t the first time that Hugo talks about an amazing apartment. In entry #130, Hugo described the apartment he was going to get as being un appart d’enfer…

Nor is it the first time that Hugo uses the word écoeurant — in entry #67, he says that he’s going to get une job écoeurante.

[Both quotes in this entry from La Galère, season 4, episode 2, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 19 September 2011.]

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If you’re a regular rider on the Montreal metro, you’ve no doubt seen at least a few people get stuck between a pair of closing doors.

I once saved a dismayed metro rider from getting sliced in half by holding the doors open long enough for her to push the other half of her body through.

While taking the metro yesterday, I saw a woman in her 50s run towards the train as the doors were closing. Half in the train and half out, she held open the doors rather effortlessly as she slid in.

The first thought that came to mind was:

Wow, elle est pas mal forte.
Wow, she’s pretty strong.

I was really impressed because those doors, once they’re closing, aren’t easy to retain.

Can you guess what your informal language item for this entry is? 😉

pas mal + (adjective)

When pas mal is placed before an adjective, it means “quite.” It’s an informal expression, however. So it comes closer to the way English speakers use “pretty” before an adjective.

C’est pas mal loin.
It’s pretty far.

C’est pas mal facile.
It’s pretty easy.

C’est pas mal triste.
That’s pretty sad.

You’ll also hear the expression pas mal de + (noun). This expression is informal, too. In English, it means “lots of,” “so many,” “so much”…

J’ai pas mal de problèmes.
I’ve got lots of problems. I’ve got so many problems.

J’ai mangé pas mal de fromage.
I ate lots of cheese. I ate so much cheese.

Finally, a couple examples where pas mal is used before ça.

Ouais, c’est pas mal ça!
Yeah, that’s pretty much how it is!

C’est pas mal ça que je voulais savoir…
That’s pretty much what I wanted to know…

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