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Archive for February, 2012

These four informal French pronunciations come from an episode of the TV show Les Parent.

  • t’auras. You’ve seen before on this blog that tu as often contracts to t’as informally. Similarly, you’ll also hear tu auras contract to t’auras. You’ll also hear t’avais (tu avais) and t’aurais (tu aurais).
  • j’les veux. Zak is looking at a pair of glasses online. He tells his father that he wants them. Instead of saying je les veux, he pronounced this informally as j’les veux. The vowel sound of je dropped.
  • j’es aime. This was also said by Zak while talking about the glasses — he tells his father that he likes them. In j’les veux above, only je loses a letter. But in j’es aime, je loses its e and les loses its l. Of course, he could also have said this informally as j’les aime, just like j’les veux.
  • y’a rien. This is an informal pronunciation of il n’y a rien. You’ve seen before that il n’y a pas can be pronounced informally as y’a pas. The contraction of il n’y a to y’a can happen before rien too.

[This entry was inspired by Les Parent, “Accident de parcours,” season 4, episode 16, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 13 February 2012.]

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If you’re still having trouble understanding spoken French, it probably comes down to two things: a need to increase your vocabulary and a (great) need for more listening practice.

As you’re learning new vocabulary, try not to fall into the trap of wanting to concentrate only on vocabulary unique to Quebec French. If you listen to a regular conversation, you’ll notice that the amount of vocabulary unique to Quebec is probably quite small overall.

Yes, Quebec French has vocabulary unique to it, and it has its own accent. But when I come across a learner struggling to understand French, it’s very often not with the parts of it that are unique to Quebec French but with French in general.

This is why so much of what’s on this blog isn’t necessarily French that’s unique to Quebec, but conversational French in general.

Increase your vocabulary through exposure to French. I’ll never be able to stress enough how important it is to get a lot of listening exposure. The best way of course is to listen and take part in real conversations (if you can do this every day, you’ll make very fast progress), but TV, radio and Internet are good too.

If you have a choice between studying grammar for one hour, studying a vocabulary list for one hour, or listening to one hour of French, I will always say listen to one hour of French. By listening, you will review and learn new grammar and vocabulary without having to dwell on it intentionally, and you’ll train your brain to listen and understand.

If you really want to study grammar every once in a while, then do it. If you’re in love with vocabulary lists, then do it. I don’t feel that either of these things work, but you’re in charge. Just be sure to max out your listening time!

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The next time that you’re listening to a French dialogue on the TV, radio or Internet, try this:

Take note of all the questions that are asked. You can even write some of them down if you like. Pay attention to the word order, intonation of the voice, and any contractions that are used in the questions. Take note also of who is speaking, and who that person is speaking to.

Asking questions naturally and spontaneously in French can be a weak point for learners. (If you’re not talking to people regularly enough, how will you practise asking questions?) Improving how you ask questions in French will make a big difference to the flow of your conversations.

To start, why not try this every day for one week? If you feel that it helps you to ask questions better in French, continue with it.

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In a scene from the TV show Les Parent, Natalie reminds her youngest son that she often tells him and his brothers to tidy up and to pick up after themselves:

… ce que je vous dis souvent aussi c’est de ranger pis de vous ramasser.
… what I often also tell you is to tidy up and to pick up after yourselves.

You read another example of the French verb ramasser in a short dialogue from the series 30 vies.

In the quote above are the words ce que. As you’re listening to French, notice how ce que is pronounced. Pay attention also to ce qui. You’ll notice that ce often loses its vowel sound: c’que, c’qui.

Remember, pis is an informal pronunciation of puis. Here, it just means “and.” Pis is not used in careful writing. You’ll usually only come across it in informal speech.

[Quote from Les Parent, “Question existentielle,” season 4, episode 18, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 27 February 2012.]

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It’s morning in a scene from the TV show 30 vies. Teenager Louis-Vincent is asleep in bed. His father opens his bedroom door and walks in to wake him up. He says to his son who’s lying in bed:

Qu’est-ce que tu fais? Y’est huit heures moins vingt! T’as pas mis ta sonnerie?

They have a short conversation, then the father leaves and goes to the kitchen. There, he tells his wife that their son has overslept. To say this, he uses the expression passer tout droit.

Do you remember that the pronunciation of passer in Quebec French is pâsser? The â sounds like “aww.”

J’ai passé tout droit ce matin.
I overslept this morning. I woke up late this morning.

Read another example of this expression.

[Quote from 30 vies, season 2, episode 86, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 21 February 2012.]

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A frustrating part of language learning is feeling that we aren’t making any new progress.

When this happens, it could mean that we aren’t taking enough new risks. Like weight training, the weight needs to be increased over time. Otherwise, we aren’t building any new muscle but just using what we’ve already got.

If you feel that you’re not moving forward, incorporate new risks into the way that you’re learning French. You know what “risk” means to you (those things that scare you at least a little, like a new speaking situation), so go there.

You don’t have to increase the weight so much that you can’t even lift it. Increase it slowly, but do increase it. Keep increasing it and you’ll always build new muscle in French.

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Teenager Louis-Vincent in the TV series 30 vies is sick of how his parents nag him all the time.

He tells a friend that his parents say that he’s not good enough, that he doesn’t work hard enough at school, that he never does anything right…

Then he tells his friend that the nagging is annoying:

C’est gossant.
It’s so annoying. It drives me crazy.

***

In another scene of 30 vies, Ariane tells her coworker Karine that she caught her flirting with Vincent, and that everyone’s starting to talk about it (i.e., the word is spreading about how Karine flirted):

Le monde commence à jaser.
Everyone’s starting to talk.

Le monde here just means “everybody,” or “people.” The letter a in jaser is pronounced â (aww).

[Both quotes from 30 vies, season 2, episode 85, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 20 February 2012.]

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