Archive for September, 2015

Say aloud the French word for milk.

It’s lait, right?

Now, how did you pronounce it? Did it sound like  or ?

If we transcribe into IPA, we get [le].
If we transcribe into IPA, we get [].

Do you hear the difference between the two sounds?

Say these French words aloud: mes, chez, tes, né. All these words use é. They can be transcribed in IPA as [me], [ʃe], [te], [ne]. In IPA, [e] sounds like é.

Now say these French words aloud: belle, fesse, messe, net. All these words use è. They can be transcribed in IPA as [bɛl], [fɛs], [mɛs], [nɛt]. In IPA, [ɛ] sounds like è. Listen carefully to sound made by [ɛ]. Say belle again, but this time, hold the [ɛ] sound longer: bèèèèèèèèèèlle.

Now try this: say belle, but instead of pronouncing it correctly as [bɛl], mispronounce it intentionally as [bel], or as though it were written bél. Do you hear a distinct difference now between [bɛl] and [bel]?

Isolate [e] and say it on its own a few times: é, é, é, é, é.

How about [ɛ] now — can you isolate it and say it on its own? è, è, è, è, è.

Think about the English word meh. You know, it’s that word often used to show your indifference towards something, especially online. Meh. Meh, meh, meh. Does the vowel sound in meh sound more like [e] or [ɛ] to you?

We started this post by looking at the French word lait, and I asked you how you pronounced it — as [le] or [lɛ].

If we look up lait in the Usito dictionary, we see it transcribed in IPA. Here’s what we see:

Lait is transcribed as [lɛ]. Does that match or mismatch how you pronounce it?

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In this post, I’m going to describe an offcois study method you can implement right away to learn the 1000 examples of Québécois French from the OffQc guide called 1000. (Offcois means offqc-ish.) This method is for dedicated and serious learners; it’ll require work of you and sticking to a routine.

Each page of the 1000 guide contains five examples of use. With the method described here, you’ll work on one page per day, for a total of 200 days.

Here’s what to do:

Your day will be divided up into five blocks of time. The five blocks are:

  • dawn to 08:59
  • 09:00 to 12:59
  • 13:00 to 16:59
  • 17:00 to 20:59
  • 21:00 to midnight

At some point during the first block of time, you’ll read the first example sentence on the page and accompanying notes. Understand the example sentence, then repeat it to yourself several times until it sticks in your head. Repeat the sentence silently to yourself or aloud whenever you can for the remainder of the block of time — as you brush your teeth, as you wait for the bus, etc.

In the second block, you’ll learn the second sentence and repeat it silently to yourself or aloud for the remainder of the time in the block. You’ll do the same thing for the rest of the sentences and blocks of time.

  • dawn to 08:59, example sentence #1 on the page
  • 09:00 to 12:59, example sentence #2 on the page
  • 13:00 to 16:59, example sentence #3 on the page
  • 17:00 to 20:59, example sentence #4 on the page
  • 21:00 to midnight, example sentence #5 on the page

It would be best to start at the beginning of each block of time so that you have as much time as possible to let the example sentence stay present in your mind. If you do it just before the block ends, it’ll defeat the purpose, so start as early as possible within the block.

If you miss a block, you’ll need to make up for it as soon as possible. For example, let’s say it’s 10:00 (second block of time) and you still haven’t done the sentence from the first block. In this case, you’ll need to learn sentence #1 and sentence #2 together, and repeat them both to yourself or aloud for the remainder of the second block.

Obviously, the more blocks you miss, the more difficult this exercise will become, so try to keep up. If you’ve missed the entire day and it’s now 21:00, you’ll have to do 5 sentences all at once and repeat them silently to yourself or aloud for the remainder of the block of time.

You must complete the day’s five sentences before midnight. Don’t learn new sentences between midnight and dawn. If you want to study French in that period of time, review older stuff or work on something else.

This routine will give you 200 days of work, which is good, and it will allow you to keep examples of French present in your mind all day long. You can even do this while you’re at work and nobody has to know.

This is the minimum you can do with this method. If you want to do even more because you’re especially motivated and serious, here are things you can do to reinforce what you’re learning:

— After you learn an example sentence, you can listen to several minutes worth of French (or as much as you can manage): radio, TV, real conversation, etc. The more colloquial the language the better. This way you will incorporate listening practice into your routine, which is excellent. You’ll hear the example sentences come up during your listening practice, so this will reinforce things;

— As you repeat the example sentence to yourself, you can add alternate versions to it. For example, you can change the nouns in the sentence to different ones, change the verb tenses, etc. Be sure to repeat the original sentence as a minimum, though. The alternate versions are extra;

— Try to find a way to use the sentence in a live situation during your block of time with someone who speaks French;

— Try to create a dialogue in your head or aloud that uses the example sentence;

— Before you go to bed, reread all the example sentences you learned that day;

— When you wake up in the morning, reread all the example sentences from the day before;

— As you listen to French, if you hear something you’ve come across before in 1000, make a note of the example. You can create a list of these usages and dedicate even more time to learning them because they’re high frequency.

Remember, learning French is a long-term endeavour. This method will give you 200 days of material to work with. If you’re regular and devoted in your efforts and do it over a long enough period of time, you’ll achieve what you set out to do (i.e., become a fluent speaker of French and more specifically of Québécois French).

You can get started with this method today. Even if you’ve read through a lot of 1000 already, you can use this method to go back over older stuff and review.

You can buy 1000 here and start the offcois study method #1 now.

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Here’s another example sentence taken from 1000, which has 1000 examples of things you can hear people say in French conversations in Québec:

C’est n’importe quoi!
That’s nonsense! Whatever!

This expression isn’t limited to the French of Québec.

It can also be shortened to just:

N’importe quoi!

The final e of n’importe is pronounced, so n’importe has three syllables (n’im/por/te).

Tu dis n’importe quoi.
You’re saying nonsense.

Écoute-les pas, i’ disent n’importe quoi.
Don’t listen to them, they’re saying nonsense.

You’ll remember that the Québécois pronounce the letter d like dz before the French i sound, so disent from the example above sounds like dziz.

If you want to make your French sound more Québécois, you’ll definitely want to adopt this dz sound. It’s described in the 1000 PDF along with all the example sentences. You can buy it here.

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If you’re new to OffQc, you might like to get a copy of C’est what?

C’est what? is an OffQc guide that you can use to get started in understanding what makes Québécois French Québécois, with lots of examples that you can use immediately yourself in conversations. You can buy it here, or you can learn more about it here first.

In C’est what?, there’s an example on the page for sentence 5 that reads: Prends-moi pas pour un cave. Literally, it means don’t take me for an idiot, but it can be used where an English speaker might say I’m not an idiot, you know. How does this sentence work exactly?

Prends-moi pas pour un cave.

  • prends-moi, take me
  • prends-moi pas, take me not
  • pour, for
  • un cave, an idiot

If you’re taking French lessons, you’ll have learned (or will learn) to negate prends-moi like this: ne me prends pas. But that’s not what we’ve got in the example above; we’ve got prends-moi pas. Why?

Negating prends-moi as prends-moi pas is an informal usage. It’s what you’d hear used spontaneously in conversations. You’ll notice this informal negation is simply the affirmative form with pas added to it.

Today, I heard someone say in French don’t listen to them, in an informal style. Based on the above, can you guess how it was said?

If listen to them is écoute-les, then the informal negation of it is écoute-les pas. (The non-colloquial way is ne les écoute pas.)

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In #1020, we saw an example of where a Québécois speaker in Montréal said:

quand qu’y’a fermé la porte
(an informal variation on quand il a fermé la porte)
when he closed the door

Instead of saying just quand, she said quand que. This is a feature of colloquial language. It’s not necessary for you to include this que yourself here, but it’s always good to understand what people are saying.

It’s not just after quand that you might hear que added in. I heard another example of it today, this time using comment instead:

comment qu’y pensaient
(an informal variation on comment ils pensaient)
how they used to think

Remember, il and ils are pronounced informally as i’, often written as y.

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