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Archive for October, 2014

If you like Humans of New York, be sure to take a look at Portraits de Montréal. The creators strike up conversations with strangers and post part of the conversation online for us to read, accompanied by a photo.

As I browsed through the images on Facebook, I came across two examples of French that you’ll find useful to learn:

au primaire, (when I was) in primary school
au secondaire, (when I was) in secondary school

A young woman says:

Je me faisais intimider quand j’étais au primaire.
I was bullied when I was in primary school.

If you click on the thumbnail, you can read the entire quote on Facebook.

au-secondaireAnother young woman says:

J’avais des troubles du comportement intenses au secondaire.
I had severe behaviour issues when I was in secondary school.

I often notice learners of French wonder how to talk about their school years in Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3, etc.

Learn this third expression: en (première, deuxième…) année.

quand j’étais en quatrième année
when I was in Grade 4

Similarly, if you have Grade 12 where you live, you can say the expression “in Grade 12” as en douzième année.

Don’t say en grade douze. The word grade does exist in French, of course, but it’s not used to talk about school years.

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Portraits de Montréal on Facebook

Portraits de Montréal official site

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Here’s some random French I overheard today in Montréal while out.

All of these examples of French were said by a group of three women in their 60s in the seating area of a public space.

1. Y’a une place icitte.

There’s a place (to sit) here.

Y’a is an informal pronunciation of il y a. Icitte means ici and is often heard at the informal level of language.

2. Amène une chaise.

Bring a chair. Get a chair.

The verb amener is used here to tell someone to bring something. There’s another example of this below.

3. Qu’est-ce tu veux?

What d’you want?

Qu’est-ce sounds like kess. Dropping que here (qu’est-ce tu veux instead of qu’est-ce que tu veux) is an informal usage.

4. Amène-moi un biscuit.

Bring me a cookie.

Here’s another example of the verb amener. The woman who said this yelled it out to her friend who was ordering food.

5. A s’en vient.

She’s coming.

You’ll often hear elle pronounced informally as a, like the a in ma, ta or la. The verb s’en venir is frequently used: je m’en viens, I’m coming; tu t’en viens, you’re coming; y s’en vient, he’s coming; y s’en viennent, they’re coming.

One of the three women said this as her friend was coming back to their table after ordering food.

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In Ne touche pas mon bébé (a blog post on Urbania), Jonathan Roberge writes about his strong dislike of strangers’ touching his baby in public without his permission.

Jonathan describes a stranger — an elderly woman — who not only kissed his baby on the mouth, but did so without his permission. He says:

Pis là, elle a fait le move qui m’a rendu vraiment inconfortable. Elle lui a donné un bisou… sur la bouche.

An’ then, she did something (made the move) that made me really uncomfortable. She gave him a kiss… on the mouth.

We’ve seen many times that pis (a reduction of puis) is used in the sense of “and” in Québécois French.

What Jonathan has done here though is use it alongside to form a usage that you’ll hear very often in French conversations: pis là.

Pis là is used when recounting events. It means “and then.” First she did this, pis là she did that, pis là she said this, pis là she said that…

Pis là is an informal use. You can try using it to add a natural sound to your spoken French. Francophones use it all the time when speaking colloquially.

[Quote written by Jonathan Roberge in « Ne touche pas mon bébé » on Urbania, 10 October 2014.]

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Here’s a sign I saw at the beginning of this past summer (summer 2014) in métro Guy. It’s an ad for an app from the Yellow Pages, les Pages Jaunes.

I took the photo from the other side of the platform, so it’s a little blurry. You can click on it. It says:

Ton linge d’été de 2013 fait tellement… 2013? Il y a 179 boutiques de mode au centre-ville.

Your summer clothes from 2013 are so… 2013? There are 179 fashion boutiques downtown.

Two things to learn from this:

1. The masculine word linge, which means “clothes” in Québec;

2. The expression ça fait tellement 2013, that’s so 2013!

mon linge, my clothes
mon linge d’été, my summer clothes
porter du nouveau linge, to wear new clothes
m’acheter du nouveau linge, to buy myself new clothes

In Québec, you can use the word linge the same way you’ve probably already learned to use vêtements.

Ça fait tellement 2013!
That’s so 2013!

People usually say the year that just ended to be snarky and label something as outdated, often prematurely. I took this photo earlier in 2014, which is why the ad uses 2013.

Now that we’re two months away from the end of 2014, people might even already say ça fait tellement 2014…

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Say this sentence:

Puis là, je lui dis que je n’aime pas ça.
So then, I tell him that I do not like that.

If I asked you to transform this sentence into something more colloquial sounding, the way you might hear it said during a regular conversation, could you do it?

Maybe you know that the ne in the negative construction ne… pas generally gets dropped, so we can start with that:

Puis là, je lui dis que j’aime pas ça.

And maybe you also know that puis is almost always pronounced spontaneously as pis (pi) during everyday conversations, so we can change that too:

Pis là, je lui dis que j’aime pas ça.

There’s another thing we can change here to make it sound like something you might hear someone say spontaneously in a conversation. The title of this post gives it away — it has to do with the pronunciation of lui:

Pis là, j’y dis que j’aime pas ça.

Here, lui got pronounced as y (i). You don’t necessarily have to start pronouncing it like this yourself too, but do learn to recognise it.

je lui dis que…, j’y dis que…
je lui donne…, j’y donne…
on lui a dit que…, on y a dit que…

We saw an example of lui pronounced as y in #868: j’ai juste à y flasher ça dans’ face! If we spell everything in full, we get: j’ai juste à lui flasher ça dans la face!

You’d only ever catch lui pronounced as y when it’s put before a verb (either conjugated or in the infinitive form) like in the examples above, as an indirect object pronoun.

Lui wouldn’t be pronounced as y in these examples:

Sans lui, je pense que ça aurait été différent.
Je me suis beaucoup occupée de lui.
Avec lui, je pense que notre équipe ira loin.
Il s’appelle Martin, lui.

Let’s go back to the first example:

Pis là, j’y dis que j’aime pas ça.

Don’t forget that the Québécois pronounce the letter d as dz when it comes before the i sound. So dis sounds like dzi.

If you’ve been listening to lots of spoken French from Québec, then you know just what the vowel sounds like in the words là, pas and ça. If you’re not sure what it sounds like, please go turn your radio on!

Here’s the unmodified sentence from the beginning of this post:

Puis là, je lui dis que je n’aime pas ça.

Can you say it now the way you might happen to hear it said spontaneously during a conversation?

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