Archive for November, 2011

Check out Le bruit des mots : slam-poésie et chroniques de polyvalente.

Thanks to Adam for pointing this out. I highly recommend this web-documentary featuring 16-year-olds, de jeunes slameurs, who put words to their life experiences and narrate them in a slam in front of their peers:

Le bruit des mots, c’est la chronique du quotidien de jeunes de 16 ans qui, dans l’ordinaire de leur école secondaire, se retrouvent plongés dans l’univers de la poésie et apprennent à apprivoiser la scène, dans tout ce qu’elle a de terrifiant, pour monter y déclamer leur slam.

You can have their words appear on the screen by clicking on Mots animés. (The words only appear when the speaker begins to déclame his slam.) Discover the different slams by clicking on the names and images on the main page, and by navigating the plan of the school up in the top right corner.

What each young person has to say is very moving and poetic; it’s a refreshing contrast to the tired old refrain we hear too often today from some people about the “poor” quality of young people’s language.

Listen to the slams here.

Or keep reading about this web-doc in entry #343.

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There. I said it.

Some people will say, “but it’s just too easy to slip into English in Montreal.” No, not if what you really desire is to learn French. If you’re clear about what you want and you go at it in a very determined way, you won’t slip into English in Montreal. By “slip,” I mean end up speaking in English all the time. I’m not talking about speaking occasionally in English, or even in another language.

You know that to learn a language to full competency, you’ve got to be really determined. You can go to the most francophone city in Quebec, speak and hear French all day long, and never become a genuinely proficient speaker of the language. If your heart isn’t 100% into learning French, it doesn’t matter what proportion of francophones are around you.

Or you can go to a city where, perhaps the proportion of francophones is lower, but where you have every possible resource imaginable available to you — large numbers of native speakers, employment, books, cinema, theatre, sports, universities, very vibrant social scene…

A profile —

I know of a Mexican who arrived in Montreal 10 years ago with no French. None. (Well, maybe bonjour.) He only spoke his native Spanish and English. But he was so determined to learn French that he now speaks it almost flawlessly, understands almost everything he hears — and he’s got a really amazing blend of a Spanish-Québécois accent. Does he speak Spanish in Montreal? Yes. Does he speak English in Montreal? Yes, sometimes. But did that prevent him from learning French to full competency and having it become his primary language? Absolutely not.

Compare that to someone who chooses a city with a higher proportion of francophones but isn’t really into learning French and doesn’t seek out every opportunity available to him. Does it still matter that the proportion of francophones is 99% there? Are there still cities in this world where you’re “forced” to speak the language? You can hang out in expat communities, spend all your time with your classmates who speak the same language as you, avoid native speakers, find jobs where you don’t need to speak much, hide…

Yes, of course you can choose to learn French in Quebec City or Trois-Rivières or Rimouski and have great success doing so. I’m not saying that you can’t. What I’m saying is that the only thing preventing someone from learning French in Montreal is the lack of will to do so, not because of the proportion of francophones. And, yes, I’m also saying that Montreal is the best city in Quebec (and Canada and North America…) to learn French in because of the quantity and quality of what’s available to you on the cultural scene.

Oh, one other thing — I also think that Montreal is the best city to learn English in, not just in Quebec but in all of Canada. For the same reasons as French.

There. I said that too.

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Télé-Mag Québec

On Télé-Mag Québec, you can watch hundreds of videos in French from Quebec.

At least one of my American readers has confirmed that the episodes can be viewed from the USA. (Thanks, John.) I hope this means that they can be viewed anywhere in the world.

Many videos are for outdoors enthusiasts, themes like motoneige, vélo plein air, plaisir nautique. But there’s a variety of other themes too, like tuning and passion auto rétro.

Full listing here

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Two weeks ago, a young guy approached me on Sainte-Catherine Street near the corner of Peel. He said:

Aurais-tu cinq piasses? Je me suis fait voler mon portefeuille. C’est pour prendre le métro et l’autobus. J’habite à Laval.

I didn’t give the guy his cinq piasses — I was pretty sure his story was fake.

Yesterday, I was again approached by a young guy. This time it happened near the corner of Sainte-Catherine and Guy. I thought the guy looked familiar but couldn’t remember from where. When he asked me for cinq piasses because his wallet had been stolen and that he lives in Laval, I had my answer…

I confronted him by telling him that was the same story he told me two weeks ago. He got nervous, smiled, and said that his wallet got stolen again yesterday. Of course, at this point he was just saying nonsense because he knew that he’d just been called out.

Today’s entry serves two purposes:

a) review of the informal French word piasse, which means dollar
b) don’t fall for the boulechite on Sainte-Catherine Street

I’ve been approached three times by a lady collecting money for needy children (in East Asia, I think). She’s dressed in regular clothes and carries a black sort of clipboard that opens and closes. I think she pockets the money — I can’t say for sure that it’s a scam, but it just looks fake and I think my bullshit detector is good. She’s always alone. She’s approached me twice downtown and once in metro Lionel-Groulx.

Have you seen the crying boy on Sainte-Catherine? The one who has a sign that says he needs money to get home to Toronto? I’m not 100% sure about that one either, but it looks really suspect. I’ve seen him crying with his sign three different times over the space of about two months, in slightly different spots. Always crying with the same intense chagrin.

He makes a lot of money. I saw a woman give him vingt piasses. A crying boy with a sign that uses the word “home” is very effective, it seems. I’m sure he made the amount he supposedly needed to go to Toronto really quickly. So if I’ve seen him three times over the space of two months, crying intensely each time, I think I’m gonna have to call boulechite.

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44 clips on YouTube with French subtitles

Minuit, le soir — a gritty television series featuring three videurs de bar (bouncers) and set in Montreal — ran on Radio-Canada until 2007.

On YouTube, you’ll find 44 segments from the show. The cool thing is that each clip has French subtitles on it, so you can check the exact words that are being said if you don’t understand.

There’s lots of informal Quebec French in there, some of it really vulgar. I think you’ll be happy.

If you want to learn more about the show, you can check out the official site on Radio-Canada. (There are no clips there though.)

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