Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Entries #601-650’ Category

“Help! I think I speak pretty good French, but I still have so much trouble understanding what people are saying!”

If that describes you, know that you’re not alone. Improving your listening skills takes time — a lot of it. If you’re struggling to understand spoken French, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a gift for languages. We all have to work on it. It just means that you need to revise what you’re doing to avoid fumbling along without making progress.

Seeing improvement in your listening skills is a lot like losing weight (or gaining it). You only see the changes in hindsight after a long period has passed. You don’t see the changes on a day-to-day basis. If you start following some or all of the suggestions below, you can be sure that your listening skills will improve.

By the way, I’m not going to include “speak with francophones” in this list. That one’s so obvious that you already knew you should be doing it.

1. Speak with francophones

OK, I lied. Speak with francophones! There can be no better listening practice than speaking with francophones. Start with just one francophone. One-on-one conversations will reform your French in ways that you can’t even imagine if you’re not doing this yet. In one-on-one conversations, you have to listen to what your friend is saying for the conversation to continue.

Please don’t be one of those people who thinks that they need to improve their French just a little more before speaking. That’s missing the whole point of learning French. Nobody cares about your perfect or imperfect French, people care about you.

The francophone you find doesn’t even need to be québécois. Just find a francophone and start building a relationship.

If you are in fact already speaking with francophones very regularly but still feel like you’re struggling to understand spoken French — relax. You’re doing everything right. Your listening skills are improving, even if you don’t see it right now. Keep doing what you’re doing.

2. Familiarise yourself with more vocabulary

Yes, become familiar with the vocabulary specific to Quebec French, but please don’t neglect French vocabulary in general. Sometimes I see certain learners get so hung up with wanting to learn all the typical québécois words (nothing wrong with that) that they forget to learn even the most basic and important vocabulary common to all francophones (that’s a problem).

Become familiar with vocab however it is that you like to do it. You like word lists? Go nuts. Flash cards? Flash away. Read the newspaper? Browse the dictionary? Do it. Just do something that you enjoy and that you’ll be inclined to do often enough.

The point of this isn’t to study vocabulary. Really, I don’t think that you’ll learn vocabulary by studying it. The point of this is to make an initial contact with lots of vocabulary on your own so that when you’re doing the more important work of speaking with francophones or listening to French, you’ll hear that vocab again and have a better chance of understanding what you hear. And that’s when you’ll learn the vocab for real.

3. Listen to the radio

I know of learners who have made incredible progress in French after listening to the radio. I’ve recommended it numerous times on OffQc: 98,5 fm. It’s all-talk radio on weekdays, which means that it’s very dense with spoken French. You can listen to it live on the radio in Montréal, or listen online from anywhere.

Again, if I’ve insisted so much on 98,5 fm, it’s because I’ve seen the success that other learners have had with it with my own eyes (or ears). If this station isn’t for you, no problem, there are others to choose from. Pick something you like and listen to it. But really listen to it. Don’t just keep noise on in the background for the sake of it — pay attention to what you’re hearing.

4. Watch television series

OffQc is full of examples from québécois television series. This isn’t an accident! I’ve chosen the language examples that you’ve discovered on OffQc because they’re pertinent to everyday language situations. Three television series that I’ve quoted from extensively on OffQc are Les Parent, 19-2 and La Galère.

These three certainly aren’t the only québécois series that prove useful, but I’ve consistently gone back to them time and time again because of their pertinence, quality and entertainment appeal. You can watch films too, but the advantage to picking series is that they have many episodes and are produced in several seasons’ worth.

The most important consideration, of course, is to watch something that interests you. There’s not much point forcing yourself to sit through something that you feel is dead boring. You’re not going to become hooked enough to want to continue. Keep looking for something that you fall in love with, then listen, listen, listen.

Don’t just watch an episode once and be done with it. Watch it the first time to enjoy it. Watch it a second time to become even more familiar with it. Listen a third time, and then a fourth. You get the idea. The more you listen to it, the more that language is going to worm its way into your head and the better you’ll become at listening.

5. Every single day, baby

As a bare minimum, spend one to two hours a day of listening to French or taking part in French conversation. If you want to pick up steam in French though, I say increase it to the highest amount that you can manage, without driving yourself crazy. There is time for it. (No, you don’t need to spend quite so much time on Facebook.)

I don’t want to be a downer, but if the number of hours you spend per month listening to French and taking part in conversation can be counted on the fingers of one hand, you’re not doing enough. This is why you feel like you’re struggling to understand.

The number of hours should be more like the number of fingers on both your hands and all the toes on your feet. And then add to that all the fingers on my hands and all the toes on my feet. (OK, maybe not my feet because I’m missing some toes. Somebody else’s feet.) And then multiply that by three. Or four…

Increase the hours dramatically and you can be sure that your listening comprehension will improve. There’s nothing magical about it, honest.

Enjoy your journey!

Read Full Post »

More overheard French from around Montréal for you (1. enweille, 2. on se dépêche, 3. bonne fin de semaine), plus Chris asks a question about the expression quand même.

1. Enweille!

Come on! This was said by a dad to his son, who was lingering behind a little. He used enweille to tell his son to get a move on, to hurry up.

Not only can enweille be used to encourage someone to hurry up (enweille, on est en retard!, “come on, we’re late!”), it can also be used to motivate someone (enweille, t’es capable!, “come on, you can do it!”).

Although this expression is used mostly in spoken French, you’ll also sometimes see it in informal writing. It can take on all kinds of different spellings, like anweille, enweille, enwèye…

Enweille isn’t the only way to encourage people to hurry up…

2. On se dépêche!

Hurry up! Quickly! A teacher on a Montréal STM bus was travelling with a large group of students, about 15 of them. When they were getting off at their stop, the teacher yelled out repeatedly on se dépêche! to encourage the students to get out fast and not hold up the bus.

She used the on form of the verb se dépêcher to give an order, instead of the imperative (dépêchez-vous). This isn’t unusual. Another example of this might be calming down a hysterical friend by saying on se calme!!

3. Bonne fin de semaine!

Have a good weekend! The weekend has two names in Québec: (la) fin de semaine and (le) week-end. You’ve maybe heard that fin de semaine is how weekend is said in Québec and that week-end is how it’s said in France. This is only partly true.

Yes, fin de semaine is a québécois usage, but this doesn’t mean that week-end isn’t used in Québec. You’ll see and hear week-end used extensively in québécois media, and you’ll sometimes hear people say it too during conversations. That said, fin de semaine is still perceived to be the typically québécois way of saying it.

4. And a question from Chris

Chris wrote to me asking about the expression quand même. He’s familiar with how quand même is used in the sense of “anyway,” like this:

C’est trop cher, mais je vais l’acheter quand même.
It’s too expensive, but I’m going to buy it anyway.

His doubt was that he sometimes hears quand même used in a different sense, a sense that he’s unfamiliar with, and if I knew what it might be.

I suspect that what you’re hearing, Chris, is the use of quand même to show surprise or anger.

— Il roulait à quelle vitesse?
— 100, 110.
— Quand même!

— How fast was he going?
— 100, 110.
— Oh, that fast!

Faut pas exagérer quand même!
Oh come on, don’t exaggerate!

Read Full Post »

Le Navet, satirique mais poli

John just completed an 8 km run with RunTastic and nobody gives a shit, confirm his friends

That’s the headline used in an article from Le Navet, which I’ve translated into English.

Le Navet is a québécois humour site that publishes satirical articles in French. The articles are written in a convincing journalistic style, making for very comical reading! If you’re looking for something new to read in French, give Le Navet a try.

The headline from above reads like this in the original French article:

Jean vient de faire une course de 8 km avec RunTastic et tout le monde s’en sacre, confirment ses amis

The article then reports on Jean’s use of the RunTastic application, and how none of his Facebook friends give a flying fuck about his status updates regarding it:

Un homme originaire de la banlieue nord de Montréal vient tout juste de compléter une course de 8 km en 50 minutes avec l’application RunTastic et pas mal tout le monde s’en câlisse comme de l’an 40, ont confirmé avec conviction plusieurs de ses amis joints par Le Navet cet après-midi.

A man from the metropolitan area north of Montréal just completed an 8 km run in 50 minutes with the RunTastic application and pretty much nobody gives a flying fuck about it, confirm with conviction several of the man’s friends who were contacted by Le Navet this afternoon.

I’ve chosen this article in particular because it contains some language that we’ve been looking at recently on OffQc. There are also some other vocabulary items in the article that I wanted to draw your attention to.

1. Tout le monde s’en sacre.

Nobody gives a shit. Nobody gives a damn.

This comes from the article’s headline. The verb s’en sacrer means the same thing as s’en câlisser, which we looked at in a different entry dealing with the expression je m’en câlisse, or “I don’t give a fuck.” The phrase je m’en sacre means the same thing as je m’en câlisse.

2. Pas mal tout le monde s’en câlisse comme de l’an 40.

Pretty much nobody gives a flying fuck.

In English, when you really, really don’t care about something, fucks can start flying. In French, they’re more like the year 40. Hell yeah!

We looked at the expression pas mal in the last entry. This expression isn’t a negative — quite the opposite, in fact. We can translate pas mal tout le monde as “pretty much everybody.” Example: pas mal tout le monde est d’accord, “pretty much everybody agrees.”

I also wanted to draw your attention to some vocabulary used in the article related to Facebook status updates.

3. une publication

The article uses the word publication to refer to an update on Facebook. One of Jean’s friends had this to say about Jean’s RunTastic updates: Je dirais que sur vingt-cinq publications au sujet de ses courses, absolument aucune ne m’a le moindrement intéressée, “I’d say that, out of twenty-five updates about his runs, not a single one interested me in the least.”

4. J’aime son statut.

When you like someone’s status update on Facebook, tu aimes son statut. Jean’s friend admits to sometimes liking the RunTastic updates when none of Jean’s other friends like or comment on them: Parfois, j’aime son statut juste parce que je trouve ça gênant que personne réagisse.

Hmm, can you relate to that?

You might like to now review how to talk about blogging and blog posts in French. You can review words like un blogue and un billet.

[This entry’s vocabulary from: Le Navet, Jean vient de faire une course de 8 km avec RunTastic et tout le monde s’en sacre, confirment ses amis, lien]

Read Full Post »

Here are five very useful examples of conversational French that have come up in conversations or that I’ve overheard in Montréal over the past few days.

You can read the notes for each example for tips on how to give a more natural feel to your French when you speak and to understand what you hear.

1. Comment il s’appelle, lui?

What’s his name? What’s that guy’s name?

When asking about names, you’ve learned to ask comment s’appelle-t-il? and comment t’appelles-tu?, etc., using the inversion after comment.

It’s perfectly correct, but it’s not usually what people say spontaneously. The person who asked comment il s’appelle, lui? didn’t use the inversion after comment. Similarly, you can ask comment tu t’appelles?

You’ll hear il pronounced very frequently as i during conversations. When this informal pronunciation appears in writing, it’s almost always written as y. The question sounded like comment y s’appelle, lui? There’s no liaison (no t sound) between comment and y.

2. T’as pas mal de stock.

You’ve got a lot of stuff.

This was said to me when I was carrying several bags of stuff. The word stock doesn’t refer to merchandise here. It just means “stuff” or “things.”

Pas mal here isn’t a negative. It’s a set expression meaning “a lot” or “quite a bit.” Another example: j’étais pas mal fatigué, “I was pretty tired.”

When using pas mal, keep the words pas and mal together in the same breath when you say them.

Don’t say: j’étais pas / mal fatigué.
Say: j’étais / pas mal fatigué.

Using the example from above:
Don’t say: t’as pas / mal de stock.
Say: t’as / pas mal de stock.

T’as is an informal way of saying tu as.

3. Fait que, dans le fond…

So, basically…

The expression fait que tends to pepper a lot of informal conversations in French. It means “so,” like alors or donc. For example: fait que, dans le fond, t’as deux choix, “so, basically, you’ve got two choices.” The expression fait que is a shortened form of ça fait que.

Fait que has two syllables, but you’ll also hear it pronounced with one as faque (sounds like fak).

As for dans le fond, it’s used in the same way that English speakers say “basically” to resume. You’ll hear faque dans le fond… just as often as the English expression “so, basically…” (in other words, often!).

4. Elle veut pas.

She doesn’t want to.

The speaker didn’t say elle ne veut pas. She said elle veut pas. To tell the truth, she didn’t say elle veut pas either. She said a veut pas!

Not only did she not include ne in her negative sentence, she pronounced the subject elle informally as a. If this happens, it’s only when elle is a subject. You’d never hear someone pronounce c’est pour elle as “c’est pour a” because elle isn’t a subject here.

It’s always acceptable for you to pronounce the subject elle as elle, even during informal conversations. Native speakers certainly don’t expect to hear a non-native pronounce elle informally as a.

Back to the example above — if you still wanted to maintain some informality when you speak, you could just leave out ne and say elle veut pas, avoiding pronouncing elle as a. Leaving out ne during regular, informal conversations with friends and co-workers will go unnoticed.

Of course, you can also say the full elle ne veut pas, no problem. It’s just that in spontaneous speech during informal conversations, ne is largely absent. But you don’t have to adopt this if you don’t want to.

5. C’est quoi la saveur? C’est quoi la grandeur?

What flavour is it? What size is it?

A customer in a café asked the employee working at the cash about a drink they serve. He wanted to know what flavour it was: c’est quoi la saveur? He also wanted to know what size it was offered in: c’est quoi la grandeur?

Questions using c’est quoi? are very commonly heard in French, for example: c’est quoi le problème?, “what’s the problem?” and c’est quoi la différence?, “what’s the difference?”

OffQc likes you, fait que like OffQc back on Facebook!

Read Full Post »

Ostie que ça pue

Here are 5 items in French that you’ll find useful to learn. This list of 5 all started with 1 smelly garbage bin in Montréal…

1. Ostie que ça pue!

“Fuck that stinks!” I heard a man yell this while standing at a bus stop with some friends. Near them was a smelly garbage bin.

When something stinks, ça pue.

Ostie derives from hostie, the sacramental bread for Catholics. Variations of the swear word ostie exist, like estie and astie.

Yelling ostie or one of its variations is equivalent to yelling “fuck!”

Ostie que ça pue dans ta chambre!
Does it ever fucking stink in your room!

Remember how vidanges means “garbage” in Québec? I found this example on the web using both puer from our example above and vidanges:

J’devrais p’t’être sortir les vidanges qui puent la marde.
= Je devrais peut-être sortir les vidanges qui puent la marde.
I should probably take out the garbage which smells like shit.

2. Marde

That last example used puer la marde, “to smell like shit.” And that’s not a spelling mistake for merde — you really will hear marde in Québec.

Merde is also understood, like everywhere in the French-speaking world, but marde is distinctively québécois shit.

In a scene from La Galère (season 3, episode 10), Claude panics when her fiancé leaves her. She exclaims:

J’sus dans marde!
I’m in deep shit! I’m screwed!

3. J’sus dans marde!

When you’re up shit’s creek, t’es dans marde. The expression is être dans la marde, but you’ll hear it said as être dans marde, without la. It’s an informal contraction where la gets swallowed up by dans.

J’sus sounds like chu. It means the same thing as je suis, but chu is an informal pronunciation of it. Another informal pronunciation you’ll hear is j’suis, which sounds like chui.

In another scene from La Galère (season 2, episode 2), Stéphanie is angry because she’s let herself get hurt again by her boyfriend. She uses the informal j’sus when she says:

J’sus cave, j’sus cave, ostie, j’sus cave.
I’m so stupid, so stupid, fuck, I’m so stupid.

4. Cave

Un cave is an idiot. Olivier from Les Parent (season 3, episode 19) says:

Prenez-moi pas pour un cave!
I’m not stupid, you know!
(Don’t take me for an idiot!)

He used the vous form because he was speaking to more than one person. If we convert it to the tu form, it becomes prends-moi pas pour un cave!

5. Prends-moi pas

This form is an informal usage. According to the rules of standard written French, it would have to be ne me prends pas. During conversations, you’re very likely to hear it said as prends-moi pas instead.

Here’s another example of this with the verb toucher.

1. touche-moi
2. touche-moi pas
3. ne me touche pas

(1) is the affirmative form. (2) is an informal spoken form in the negative. (3) is the standard written form in the negative.

Below is an example from the web using touche-moi pas. And just to take us full-circle back to number 1 of this list, it also uses the verb puer as part of the expression puer la sueur, similar to puer la marde.

Tu pues la sueur dès huit heures le matin.
Touche-moi pas!

You stink of sweat as early as 8 o’clock in the morning.
Don’t touch me!

Read Full Post »

L'accent québécoisThe â sound is one of the most distinctive features of the québécois accent.

You can always identify a French speaker from Québec by listening for the â sound!

The sound made by â in Québec sounds something like “aww” to an English speaker.

To hear â pronounced, listen to Ricardo pronounce carré, or hear Martin Matte pronounce câline and passait. All three of these words use the â sound.

The â sound occurs in words written with the accented â (like âge and fâché), but it can occur in certain words written with an unaccented letter a too (like tasse and case).

When the word is written with the accented â, there’s little doubt — say aww! But when it’s written with an unaccented letter a, it isn’t as obvious if it takes the â sound. That said, you may begin to notice some patterns.

To help you out a bit, below are 50 words taking the â sound in Québec but all written with an unaccented letter a. I’ve underlined the letter a in each word that makes the â sound.

This list isn’t exhaustive, it’s just a list of 50 words that I felt were useful.

  1. amasser
  2. barrage
  3. barreau
  4. barrer
  5. barrière
  6. bas
  7. base
  8. baser
  9. basse
  10. brassage
  11. brasser
  12. brasserie
  13. carré
  14. carreau
  15. carrément
  16. cas
  17. case
  18. casier
  19. casse-croûte
  20. casser
  21. chat
  22. classe
  23. classement
  24. classer
  25. classeur
  26. dépasser
  27. entasser
  28. espace
  29. gars
  30. gaz
  31. gazer
  32. gazeux
  33. jaser
  34. jasette
  35. matelas
  36. paille
  37. pas
  38. passage
  39. passager
  40. passe
  41. passeport
  42. passer
  43. ramassage
  44. ramasser
  45. rasage
  46. raser
  47. surpasser
  48. tas
  49. tasse
  50. tasser

Remember, the letters rs in gars aren’t pronounced. This word sounds like gâ. The final s in bas, cas, matelas, pas, tas is silent. These words sound like bâ, câ, matlâ, pâ, tâ.

Read Full Post »

You can’t pass for a native without mastering the québécois verb niaiser!

You’ve seen this verb before in “Everything you ever wanted to know about the québécois verb niaiser.” Here are some new examples for review. Using the phonetic alphabet, niaiser is pronounced [njɛze], which sounds like nyèzé.

1. Je te niaise pas, je te parle sérieusement.

This is taken from an interview by Les Francs Tireurs. It means: “I’m not kidding you. I’m being serious.” We can tell that the person was speaking informally because, instead of je ne te niaise pas, he left out ne and said je te niaise pas.

In fact, what he most likely said was j’te niaise pas, which sounds like ch’te niaise pas. When je and te come together, they often contract and the j makes a ch sound.

The same goes for the je te combination je te parle sérieusement, which you may hear pronounced as j’te (ch’te) parle sérieusement.

2. Arrête de me niaiser là, c’est pas drôle!

This means: “Stop messing with me, it’s not funny!” It comes from a book called Fais-moi confiance by Andréanne Parenteau.

This example also includes the famous québécois , which you can explore in “Everything you ever wanted to know about the québécois use of .”

3. Niaise pas avec les gars en uniforme!

This example comes from a blog. It means “Don’t mess with guys in uniforms!” Remember, the letters rs in gars aren’t pronounced, so gars sounds like gâ.

This is also an example of dropping ne in an informal style because the author wrote niaise pas instead of ne niaise pas.

4. J’ai niaisé pendant deux mois.

This example comes from a comment left online. In full, the commenter wrote: J’ai niaisé pendant deux mois et demi avant de me trouver une job, “I did absolutely nothing for two and a half months before I found a job.” In this example, niaiser is used in the sense of goofing around, doing nothing.

During conversations, you’ll hear job in the feminine in Québec: une job.

5. Ils m’ont fait niaiser trois semaines pour rien! Câlisse.

This example comes from an online forum. It means: “They made me wait three weeks for nothing! Fuck.” Here, faire niaiser is used in the sense of making someone wait. This example also includes câlisse, which equates to saying “fuck” in Québec. You can also now review the expression je m’en câlisse.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »