Archive for the ‘Entries #301-350’ Category

There. I said it.

Some people will say, “but it’s just too easy to slip into English in Montreal.” No, not if what you really desire is to learn French. If you’re clear about what you want and you go at it in a very determined way, you won’t slip into English in Montreal. By “slip,” I mean end up speaking in English all the time. I’m not talking about speaking occasionally in English, or even in another language.

You know that to learn a language to full competency, you’ve got to be really determined. You can go to the most francophone city in Quebec, speak and hear French all day long, and never become a genuinely proficient speaker of the language. If your heart isn’t 100% into learning French, it doesn’t matter what proportion of francophones are around you.

Or you can go to a city where, perhaps the proportion of francophones is lower, but where you have every possible resource imaginable available to you — large numbers of native speakers, employment, books, cinema, theatre, sports, universities, very vibrant social scene…

A profile —

I know of a Mexican who arrived in Montreal 10 years ago with no French. None. (Well, maybe bonjour.) He only spoke his native Spanish and English. But he was so determined to learn French that he now speaks it almost flawlessly, understands almost everything he hears — and he’s got a really amazing blend of a Spanish-Québécois accent. Does he speak Spanish in Montreal? Yes. Does he speak English in Montreal? Yes, sometimes. But did that prevent him from learning French to full competency and having it become his primary language? Absolutely not.

Compare that to someone who chooses a city with a higher proportion of francophones but isn’t really into learning French and doesn’t seek out every opportunity available to him. Does it still matter that the proportion of francophones is 99% there? Are there still cities in this world where you’re “forced” to speak the language? You can hang out in expat communities, spend all your time with your classmates who speak the same language as you, avoid native speakers, find jobs where you don’t need to speak much, hide…

Yes, of course you can choose to learn French in Quebec City or Trois-Rivières or Rimouski and have great success doing so. I’m not saying that you can’t. What I’m saying is that the only thing preventing someone from learning French in Montreal is the lack of will to do so, not because of the proportion of francophones. And, yes, I’m also saying that Montreal is the best city in Quebec (and Canada and North America…) to learn French in because of the quantity and quality of what’s available to you on the cultural scene.

Oh, one other thing — I also think that Montreal is the best city to learn English in, not just in Quebec but in all of Canada. For the same reasons as French.

There. I said that too.

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Télé-Mag Québec

On Télé-Mag Québec, you can watch hundreds of videos in French from Quebec.

At least one of my American readers has confirmed that the episodes can be viewed from the USA. (Thanks, John.) I hope this means that they can be viewed anywhere in the world.

Many videos are for outdoors enthusiasts, themes like motoneige, vélo plein air, plaisir nautique. But there’s a variety of other themes too, like tuning and passion auto rétro.

Full listing here

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Two weeks ago, a young guy approached me on Sainte-Catherine Street near the corner of Peel. He said:

Aurais-tu cinq piasses? Je me suis fait voler mon portefeuille. C’est pour prendre le métro et l’autobus. J’habite à Laval.

I didn’t give the guy his cinq piasses — I was pretty sure his story was fake.

Yesterday, I was again approached by a young guy. This time it happened near the corner of Sainte-Catherine and Guy. I thought the guy looked familiar but couldn’t remember from where. When he asked me for cinq piasses because his wallet had been stolen and that he lives in Laval, I had my answer…

I confronted him by telling him that was the same story he told me two weeks ago. He got nervous, smiled, and said that his wallet got stolen again yesterday. Of course, at this point he was just saying nonsense because he knew that he’d just been called out.

Today’s entry serves two purposes:

a) review of the informal French word piasse, which means dollar
b) don’t fall for the boulechite on Sainte-Catherine Street

I’ve been approached three times by a lady collecting money for needy children (in East Asia, I think). She’s dressed in regular clothes and carries a black sort of clipboard that opens and closes. I think she pockets the money — I can’t say for sure that it’s a scam, but it just looks fake and I think my bullshit detector is good. She’s always alone. She’s approached me twice downtown and once in metro Lionel-Groulx.

Have you seen the crying boy on Sainte-Catherine? The one who has a sign that says he needs money to get home to Toronto? I’m not 100% sure about that one either, but it looks really suspect. I’ve seen him crying with his sign three different times over the space of about two months, in slightly different spots. Always crying with the same intense chagrin.

He makes a lot of money. I saw a woman give him vingt piasses. A crying boy with a sign that uses the word “home” is very effective, it seems. I’m sure he made the amount he supposedly needed to go to Toronto really quickly. So if I’ve seen him three times over the space of two months, crying intensely each time, I think I’m gonna have to call boulechite.

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44 clips on YouTube with French subtitles

Minuit, le soir — a gritty television series featuring three videurs de bar (bouncers) and set in Montreal — ran on Radio-Canada until 2007.

On YouTube, you’ll find 44 segments from the show. The cool thing is that each clip has French subtitles on it, so you can check the exact words that are being said if you don’t understand.

There’s lots of informal Quebec French in there, some of it really vulgar. I think you’ll be happy.

If you want to learn more about the show, you can check out the official site on Radio-Canada. (There are no clips there though.)

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Gabrielle from the TV series 30 vies is talking to her husband Pascal. She tells him that she shouldn’t have got into an argument with another character named Boudrias…

J’aurais pas dû me chicaner avec Boudrias.
I shouldn’t have argued with Boudrias.

Pascal reminds her that Boudrias had it coming, at least according to what she had already told him:

Mais tu m’as pas dit qu’il l’avait cherché?
But didn’t you tell me he deserved it?

Just a little review of the verb se chicaner today:

Il s’est chicané avec un de ses amis.
He argued with one of his friends.

[Both quotes taken from 30 vies, season 2, episode 40, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 17 November 2011.]

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On Télé-Québec, you can listen to a show called Les francs-tireurs —

Un magazine socioculturel engagé et singulièrement urbain, qui scrute de façon critique et ludique les phénomènes frappants ou inusités, les tendances aberrantes ou drôlement établies.

This show is good for listening to a conversational style of Quebec French. The episodes are 45 minutes long.

There are other shows that you can watch on Télé-Québec, either short clips or entire episodes.

You can get to all the episodes of Les francs-tireurs here.

You can see all the shows that are available online on Télé-Québec here.

I’m hoping that the videos on Télé-Québec are viewable from anywhere in the world. If they aren’t, you’ll let me know…

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Take responsibility for your learning

Here’s just one possible daily routine you can set up to get you closer to your goals. I’ve written this routine with intermediate learners in mind who don’t have daily contact with francophones and who struggle with understanding the spoken language. But even if you’re at a lower level in French, the sooner you start exposing yourself to genuine spoken French the better. Remain positive by focusing on what you do understand rather than what you don’t.

If you speak with francophones for several hours every day, you can disregard all of the listening suggestions I’ve made here. Speaking with real people in large doses is always preferable to any other listening method. Of course, you can always add in these suggestions to help round out your skills, or just for pleasure.

This daily routine is for people who want to make real effort. You will need to make the time to implement it if you want to make progress. It will require two hours a day of you. (I did say it was for people who want to make real effort!) Of course, if you have even more time to dedicate to French, then you can increase the time recommendations I’ve made below as much as you’d like.

You can also decrease the time if necessary, but I’m sure you know that the less time you spend with the language, the slower your progress will be and the less momentum you’ll gain.

The emphasis here is on listening, not reading. Reading is important (as you’ll see in the last step), but if you want to make real progress in conversational French, then you’ll probably want to increase the time you’re exposed to conversational French!

One final note: Everything here is just a suggestion. You can use this page for ideas only, if you like. Or you can decide that nothing here interests you and go about things your own way! You’re in control of your own learning, so do what’s best for you.

60 minutes of watching television

Spend one hour a day of watching television programming from Quebec. Ideally, you will pick programming that uses conversational Quebec French. It is important to listen to conversational French to get used to hearing speakers talk in a natural way and so that you can model yourself on them. You’ll hear natural voice intonation, see facial expressions, and receive other contextual clues.

If you’re in Quebec or anywhere else in Canada, go to tou.tv and watch Les Parent, 30 vies and La Galère. These are the best shows using conversational Quebec French that are available on tou.tv at the time of publishing this.

If you’re outside Canada, many of the shows on tou.tv will be restricted. However, some programming there is accessible outside Canada: look for the green circle in the A-Z list. You can also check out Télé-Mag Québec. There are hundreds of videos here that you can watch from outside Canada. (I’m always on the look-out for better stuff for out-of-country viewers and I’ll update this section as I make new discoveries.) Alternatively, increase as necessary the number of minutes you spend listening to the radio described in the next section.

And if all else fails, look for some series on DVD and watch the episodes not once but many, many times. I recommend 19-2, Les Parent, La Galère, Tout sur moi, C.A., Trauma, François en série, Rumeurs, Les Invincibles. Look for them online at Renaud-Bray and Archambault.

30 minutes of radio

Listening to the radio is a very useful way to improve your listening comprehension and speaking skills, but it’s very often overlooked.

By listening to the radio, you’ll train yourself to pay attention to French with fewer contextual clues. You may find listening to the radio tiring at first because of this. If this is the case, start with fewer minutes then work up to 30.

No matter where in the world you are, you can listen online to 98,5 fm from Montreal. On weekdays, the programming is all talk. Most of the talk deals with current events, but the style of language used is conversational.

This is excellent for you in two ways — you’ll listen to a natural way of speaking and keep up with issues of interest to the Québécois at the same time.

If you live outside of Canada and are having real trouble finding good conversational French from Quebec to listen to, then increase the amount of time you spend listening to this radio station accordingly. I can’t stress enough how useful this radio is — I have seen some learners make phenomenal progress in French after listening to it in a dedicated way.

By the way, just having the radio on in the background probably doesn’t count towards your 30 minutes! It doesn’t hurt to do that, but what I’m encouraging you to do here is to spend 30 dedicated minutes to active listening (in other words, try to pay attention, okay?).

30 minutes of reading about current events

If you’ve followed the routine up to this point, you’ll have spent 90 minutes listening to French. Consider completing the last 30 minutes of your two-hour routine by reading about current events.

Why current events? You’ll probably want to know how to talk about what’s going on in the world around you. You’ll increase your vocabulary by reading about current events, and you’ll also absorb a large amount of vocabulary related to specific fields of activity in Quebec, such as government, education, sports, and so on.

You can read any online news source from Quebec that you like. If you don’t know where to begin, give Le Devoir from Montreal a try.

Please do consider this step. Even if you speak to francophones every day in large doses, this step is still worth considering. Strive to understand the world in which Quebec French is used.

You can do it

Reaching a high degree of proficiency in conversational Quebec French is most certainly within your grasp if you’re serious and consistent, and if you approach it with the right attitude of curiosity and excitement.

Oh, and, if you find it hard to dedicate two hours a day to French, you may just have to start waking up a little earlier!…

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