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Archive for February, 2013

In a comical radio ad, a husband announces to his wife that his mother is coming to stay with them… for a few months. Surprisingly, the wife is happy about it.

To test her resolve, the husband then tells his wife that his mother can’t wait to give her cooking tips: Elle a vraiment hâte de te donner des conseils de cuisine.

If you’re not familiar with how â is pronounced in Québec, you might not have understood the word hâte.

As an approximation, hâte sounds a little like the English word “ought.” The â sound is close to “aww.”

Keep listening to lots of French from Québec so that you’ll hear exactly what â sounds like and become accustomed to it.

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Heard on the radio — a radio show host wishing a happy birthday to a listener celebrating his 40th.

The radio show host then admitted that turning 40, ça fesse.

Fesser means to hit, which, according to the radio host, is what turning 40 does. A hit to the old ego…

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Thomas is a teenaged boy in the television comedy Les Parent. He and his brothers typically receive irrational and difficult-to-understand lessons about life from their parents.

See if you can decipher this near-incomprehensible quote by Thomas. In it, he provides his parents with a summary of what he’s supposed to have just learned from them about buying a car:

« Faque dans le fond, je peux pas acheter une auto qui coûte trop pas cher, mais j’ai pas d’argent non plus pour en acheter une qui coûte pas pas cher. Je peux pas en acheter une qui a trop roulé, ni une qui a trop pas roulé. Pis idéalement, ça serait mieux que je connaisse pas trop le vendeur, mais faudrait pas que je le connaisse trop pas non plus, c’est ça? »

This quote was posted on the Les Parent Facebook page.

I’ll risk a translation into English. To maintain the same level of incomprehensibility, I’ll translate pas cher (inexpensive) literally as “not expensive.” Here goes…

“So basically, I can’t buy a car that costs too not expensive, but I don’t have the money to buy one that costs not not expensive either. I can’t buy one that’s been too driven, nor one that’s been too not driven. And ideally, it would be better to know the car seller not too well, but not not too well either. Is that what you’re telling me?”

Hmm. I think Thomas will be taking the bus!

Did you wonder about the meaning of faque dans le fond at the beginning of the quote?

We can translate this as “so, basically” in English, where faque means “so” and dans le fond means “basically.”

Faque is an informal usage, a contraction of (ça) fait que. You’ll hear faque very frequently during informal conversations.

[Quote taken from the Les Parent Facebook page, 22 February 2013.]

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Published in Québec, Le Guide de l’auto is a thick book that comes out every year with detailed information on new car models, with photos. If you’re into cars, check it out. Another good one from Québec, and just as thick, is L’Annuel de l’automobile.

You can use the video below from Le Guide de l’auto to learn new vocabulary related to cars and practise listening to French. In the video, the speaker talks about the Mazda3.

L’histoire d’amour entre les automobilistes québécois et la Mazda3 ne semble pas prête de se terminer. Offerte en livrées GS, GX et GT, la compacte se décline aussi bien en berline qu’en version hatchback à 5 portes. La GX et la GS offrent un 4-cylindres de 2 litres de 148 chevaux, tandis que la GT, pour faire honneur à son nom, est dotée d’un moteur de 2,5 litres développant 167 chevaux.

Il y a aussi la Mazdaspeed3, une petite bombe de 263 chevaux. Mais la vedette de la gamme 3 de Mazda s’appelle Sky, en raison de sa technologie SkyActiv. Plusieurs pièces de son moteur 2 litres ont été revues afin de diminuer la friction interne, et plusieurs astuces mécaniques ont été mises à contribution pour réduire la consommation le plus possible.

Mazda en a également profité pour modifier les transmissions manuelle et automatique pour qu’elles offrent des passages de rapport plus doux, et surtout pour qu’elles contribuent à l’économie de carburant. D’ici peu, cette technologie sera appliquée à plusieurs autres produits Mazda.

La Mazda3 demeure la compacte la plus agréable à conduire. La tenue de route est relevée et ceux qui apprécient un pilotage dynamique sont bien servis par un châssis très rigide, une direction précise, des suspensions à la fois sportives mais confortables et une puissance très correcte, surtout pour la version GT.

Au quotidien, le modèle sport avec ses 5 portes et sa configuration hatchback s’avère plus polyvalent que la berline, mais certains préfèreront cette dernière au look plus classique.

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The yes-no question marker -tu is only used at an informal level of speech in Quebec French.

C’est-tu prêt? J’ai faim!
(Est-ce que c’est prêt? J’ai faim!)

Is it ready? I’m hungry!

This yes-no question marker is always placed immediately after the verb.

Tu veux-tu qu’on en parle?
(Est-ce que tu veux qu’on en parle?)

Ya wanna talk about it?

T’aimes-tu ça, la musique québécoise?
(Est-ce que tu aimes la musique québécoise?)

You like music from Québec?

t’aimes-tu = tu aimes-tu

It may help for you to think of -tu as meaning oui ou non.

J’ai-tu vraiment besoin d’en parler?
J’ai-(oui ou non) vraiment besoin d’en parler?

Do I really need to talk about it?

C’est-tu vrai?
C’est-(oui ou non) vrai?

Is it true?

C’est-tu assez clair?!
C’est-(oui ou non) assez clair?!

Do I make myself clear?! (literally, Is it clear enough?!)

This -tu is never used to ask questions with words like pourquoi, comment, quand, qui… For example, you cannot say pourquoi tu fais-tu ça? It’s not a yes-or-no question.

Some tenses, like the passé composé, are formed with two verb forms. For example, in j’ai dit, you have two verbs: ai and dit. When there are two verbs, the -tu goes after the first one.

J’ai-tu vraiment dit ça??
Did I really say that??

Asking yes-or-no questions with -tu is always informal. Native speakers don’t expect learners of French to use it. You can use est-ce que, the inversion, or a rising voice instead:

Est-ce que tu comprends?
Comprends-tu?
Tu comprends?

Just because this -tu form exists in Quebec French, it doesn’t mean that the Québécois only ask yes-or-no questions like this. It’s just one of several ways.

I recommend avoiding this -tu form to ask yes-or-no questions until you reach a high level of fluency and have a good sense for the kinds of language situations where you’ll hear it used. It may sound quite awkward coming from a non-native speaker.

But if you’ve got some good francophone friends who you’re comfortable with, maybe you can try it out with them once in a while for fun.

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A googler landed on OffQc searching for an answer to what on peut-tu means in Quebec French.

It’s an informal question starter meaning the same thing as est-ce qu’on peut.

On peut-tu faire ça? means est-ce qu’on peut faire ça? (Can we do that?)

On peut-tu changer de sujet? means est-ce qu’on peut changer de sujet? (Can we change the subject?)

Just remember that the form using on peut-tu is informal only. It can be heard in everyday relaxed speech, but you’ll come across it much less in writing (unless it’s particularly informal writing).

The -tu part in on peut-tu has nothing to do with “you” (second person singular tu). It’s an informal yes-no question marker instead.

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While reading the newspaper today, I came across an advertisement for a dentist.

In the ad, they mention that they also offer orthodontic services like braces.

To say braces, they used a feminine plural word proper to the French of Québec: broches.

J’ai porté des broches quand j’étais plus jeune.
I wore braces when I was younger.

J’ai eu des broches quand j’étais ado.
I got braces when I was a teen.

As-tu déjà eu des broches?
Have you ever had braces?

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