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… don’t always limit yourself to it.

Some people may disagree by saying that you should only listen to one accent to learn a language. I think you should listen to French as it’s spoken by people from all over the francophone world.

I should make myself clear — if you want to model your accent on native speakers then, yes, I think you should pick one accent. You can model yourself on Québécois speakers when you’re working on your accent.

I’ll even suggest that guys pick a male Québécois speaker to model yourself on, and ladies a female speaker. Someone in your age group is a good idea too.

But when you’re working on listening comprehension, listen to speakers with different accents every once in a while. You can still make Québécois French the major part of your listening, but make time for other accents too.

In Montreal especially, you’re not just going to hear the Québécois accent. You’re going to hear many different accents in French — you’ll hear the Québécois accent, different European and African French accents, French as spoken by Arabs, French spoken as a second language; the list goes on.

It’s also a good idea to get used to hearing a variety of francophone accents because I don’t see any interest or sense in cutting yourself off from all the great cultural production that comes out of other French-speaking countries. If you can habituate yourself to other accents, you’ll enjoy listening to movies from other countries, for example.

One other reason, and a very good one I think, is that you’ll develop an appreciation for what makes each variety of French unique. If you only listen to one accent, you’ll never know this. If you’re interested in how Quebec French differs from other kinds of French, the best way to discover this is to listen to lots of Quebec French and other kinds of French too.

On a related note, I’ll point you to a show that I particularly like on Radio-Canada International (RCI) called Courrier mondial. You can hear people call in from all over the world to speak with the show’s animator, Stéphane Parent. Maybe you’ll even hear someone from your own country or language group speaking on the show.

Other good shows include Pomme et mandarine (a meeting place between Canada and the Maghreb) and Tam-tam Canada (issues touching immigration). You’ll find more recordings on this main French page page of RCI.

The speakers on RCI use crisp, plain language in French. This is excellent for learning more French vocabulary because you may find it easier to understand. They’ve all got nice voices too which makes listening enjoyable.

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1. If I sometimes feel the person I’m speaking to is giving me a “your French stinks” look, I’ll work up the courage to continue speaking anyway. (It’s rare to get that look though! Ask yourself if it means something else instead, like “can you speak louder?” or “can you slow down a little?”)

2. If it’s me who’s saying in my own head “your French stinks” during a conversation, I’ll vow to worry about that later and just focus on the conversation at hand.

3. I’ll start taking myself a lot less seriously when I speak French. I know this isn’t school, and there’s no such thing as getting good marks during real French conversations.

4. I’ll focus less on perfect grammar and more on sharing thoughts and ideas. This will allow me to just chill out and let the words flow.

5. I’ll listen to French every day. Not just once a week on Sunday afternoon if I’ve got the time, but every single day.

6. I’ll take more risks with my language learning. I’ll put myself in situations that are unusual or different for me, like enjoying a coffee in a different café, joining a new club to meet people, or striking up a conversation in French with someone I don’t know.

7. I’ll get excited about making mistakes. Every time I make a mistake and realise it, I have an opportunity to improve my French: I recognise the mistake and can do something about it.

8. I’ll speak up in French, even if my fear tells me not to. I’ll do this because I’ll feel better about myself if I take risks instead of keeping quiet when I have something really damn good to say!

9. I’ll accept my pronunciation, no matter how “off” it seems to me. I’ll keep working on improving it but, in the meantime, the pronunciation I’ve got now is more than good enough for making contact with other people in French.

10. I’ll aim to form a strong bond with at least one francophone in my life, or strengthen the bonds I’ve already got with francophones.

11. I’ll make “courageous,” “adventurous” and “curious” my new favourite adjectives to describe myself in learning French, and “perfect” my least favourite. I don’t need perfect French to make contact with people and form friendships.

12. I’ll take time to savour the progress I’ve made in French, commit myself to learning more, and be grateful that I have a new year of discoveries to make lying ahead of me.

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Two choices for you —

If you’ve only got a few seconds for French, you can check out the short clip below with the words spoken in French typed out.

Oui, oui, madame, j’ai reçu la valise — mais c’est pas la mienne. Non, non, je vous dis que c’est pas la mienne. Oui, c’est la même marque, la même grandeur, la même couleur, mais je vous dis — c’est pas la mienne. Je vous dis — j’suis sûr de ça. Comment je fais pour être sûr de ça? Ben c’est parce qu'[il] y a des légers détails qui me font dire que c’est pas la mienne…

If you’ve got more time for French right now or later on in the day, you can take a look at this video on TV5, filmed in Montreal, which a reader named John has recommended. You should be able to view this clip from anywhere in the world. Video description:

Les déchétariens — Ils récupèrent, gratuitement, les aliments jetés par les centres de distribution et les supermarchés pour contester un fait indiscutable : il existe d’énormes surplus de nourriture alors que partout, des gens meurent de faim!

The TV5 video is only available until 31 December 2011. Check it out; it’s pretty interesting — Les déchétariens.

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In fact, give yourself permission to make A LOT of mistakes in French.

And if giving yourself permission to make mistakes isn’t something you do very easily, then I give you permission to make a lot of mistakes!

That voice inside your head, you know the one — the one that tells you that your accent is horrible, that you don’t know enough words, that they’re going to laugh at you… Learning to ignore that voice is just as important as getting lots of exposure to French.

I spend a lot of time with people who are learning French. I pay attention to how they go about it.

Compare these two native Spanish speakers that I once met, who were both friends —

The first one would only speak after she had run the entire sentence that she wanted to say in her head first. Then, when she spoke, she made sure that every single word was pronounced as correctly as possible.

The second one had less vocabulary, less mastery of grammar, but he said whatever came to his mind without worrying about forming the perfect sentence. Some of the things he said were even just fragments of sentences. He was accused by his friend of speaking horrible French.

I understood everything the perfect girl said, but the conversation was really slow. As for the more daring guy, I didn’t necessarily understand everything he tried to say, but the conversation had movement. I enjoyed speaking with him more than with the perfect girl. He was more fun to talk to because he kept the conversation moving by allowing himself to make a lot of mistakes and by not taking himself so seriously.

There’s a time and a place for dealing with mistakes. When you’re at home working on your French on your own, that’s a good time to focus on details. But when you’re out talking to other people, just let it all hang out.

School drilled into our heads that making mistakes is bad. This is horribly false. I even recall a teacher who once said that if you’re good at mathematics then you’ll be good at languages. I think this reveals his idea that language learning is all about the “rules.” I prefer to think of language learning as being more like art class than math class. Cast off your inhibitions and let yourself out.

Give yourself permission to make mistakes, and do it every day. I force myself to write in this blog every day. If I obsessed over every entry I wrote, revising and rewriting until my fingers turned into bloody stumps, I’d never publish anything here. I write an entry, read it over a couple times, and then I hit the blue PUBLIER button.

I look back at some entries and think, “surely my blog got hacked when that steaming pile of merde got posted.” Then I look at other entries and think, “hmm, not too bad for a wannabe blogger.” The point is that the blog keeps moving.

And that’s what you need to do too when you’re out speaking to people — turn off your inner critic, hit the blue PUBLIER button on your mouth, and keep things moving!

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Ils dansent is a show featuring 10 men who receive an intensive dance training. Every week, they learn a new style of dance.

You can watch the episodes on tou.tv (for now, at least) or check out the official site on Radio-Canada. There are also many clips available on this YouTube channel for those of you who can’t view the programming outside of Canada.

On tou.tv, we read:

Cette série de 13 émissions suivra le parcours de 10 danseurs qui recevront une formation de haut calibre, sous la supervision de Nico Archambault. Ceux-ci devront maîtriser un style de danse différent chaque semaine. […] ils devront offrir à la fin de chaque émission une chorégraphie en milieu urbain.

If you like dance, check out Ils dansent. You can listen to French while you check out some moves. (The episodes contain spoken language, not just dance.)

Here’s a clip filmed in Montreal to give you an idea of what you can expect from these guys:

The song you heard was by Zaho; it’s called Kif’n’dir (that’s Arabic for que vais-je faire?). If you like the song, you can find the official video here on YouTube.

Remember, if you can’t see the programming outside of Canada, take a look at this YouTube channel. There’s some unrelated stuff in that channel too, but most of it seems to be from Ils dansent for now.

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In a scene from Les Parent, Natalie is at the hockey rink with her sons. She’s watching her youngest son play a match.

When the team that her son is on scores, she cries out:

Bravo les gars! Wooouuu! Allez les gars! Allez les gars!
Allez! Allez les gars!

Allez les gars means “go guys go.” Gars is the same in both the singular and plural: le gars, les gars.

But be careful how you pronounce it.

gars is pronounced

No r sound, no s sound.

Don’t pronounce it as garce. Please don’t do that. If you don’t know what garce means in French, I think this short article will give you a good idea.

[The quote above was said by Natalie in Les Parent, “Noël emballant,” season 4, episode 11, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 21 November 2011.]

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More thoughts about getting francophones to speak to you in French if you’re an anglophone living in Montreal or spending extended time here:

If you find that francophones often switch to English on you and it’s begun to frustrate you, ask yourself who the francophones are that are switching.

Are they your good friends?
Are they girlfriends or boyfriends?
… or are they just random strangers and people you don’t know well?

I encourage you to speak in French whenever you get the opportunity, including with strangers, but the best way to learn is through conversations in French with francophones that you share a strong bond with. They’re much more likely to keep speaking in French with you.

Make francophone friends or — even better — find a francophone girlfriend or boyfriend, if you’re single and looking! Find work where you speak French with your co-workers.

If you arrange your personal life so that you have a lot of meaningful conversations in French with people who matter to you, the language switching of random strangers on the streets will no longer seem like such a big deal.

You won’t be relying on them anymore to “behave” the way you want them to, and then you’ll be free to start enjoying the messiness of language use in Montreal and letting things go with the flow.

If you find that you’ve got few to no strong bonds with francophones, this can become your challenge for 2012 — forming new relationships with francophones and relying less on random strangers for speaking opportunities.

Of course, no matter what city you’re learning French in, you should aim to form strong bonds rather than rely on strangers for speaking opportunities. Aim for long conversations in French with people you enjoy being around, not just short dialogues with strangers.

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