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Posts Tagged ‘accent’

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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You’ve got lots of videos featuring speakers from Québec in the Listen section, so let’s put two of them to good use by looking at how the Québécois pronounce â.

The Québécois â sound is one of the most distinctive features of the Québécois French accent. For speakers of French from abroad, the Québécois â stands out immediately when they listen to the Québécois speak.

For a Québécois speaker, patte and pâte don’t sound the same. As an approximation, we can say patte sounds a little like the English word “pat,” and pâte a little like “pot.”

The â sound doesn’t just appear in words written with the accented â. You’ll also often hear it in words where a appears before an s, r, z or aille sound, like in classe, barrer, gaz, paille. Be sure to check out this list of 50 words that use the Québécois â sound even though they aren’t written with â.

In the video below, Ricardo uses the â sound when he pronounces the word carré. I’ve highlighted this word where it appears in the transcription. Here are the exact moments where you can hear it said:

— 0:37
— 0:46
— 0:58

Avant de peler ou de trancher une mangue, il faut savoir qu’est-ce qu’on veut faire avec la chair. Si on veut se faire des cubes par exemple, on commence pas par la peler, on veut la trancher. Ce qui est à se rappeler c’est que le noyau est long et plat, donc on veut couper notre mangue en deux sur la longueur, et on fait glisser la lame contre le noyau.

On voit très bien la forme du noyau qui est très plat, et il reste un peu de chair autour, on la jette pas, on la gruge directement, les enfants adorent ça. Maintenant, pour faire des cubes, on va prendre notre couteau et on va faire des carrés [0:37], en fait directement dans la chair, sans transpercer la peau. Et on va le faire dans les deux sens, vraiment on veut obtenir des carrés [0:46].

Et en faisant les cubes, essayez de pas transpercer la peau. C’est pas un drame mais ça va mieux parce qu’après on veut faire une pression dessous pour vraiment faire ressortir tous ces beaux carrés-là [0:58], c’est très beau. Des fois on peut même mettre ça tel quel comme décoration dans un plateau de fruits. Pour retirer les cubes, on prend le couteau, tout simplement, puis on glisse la lame le plus près possible de la peau pour pas gaspiller. Voilà pour les cubes.

Disons qu’on veut se faire des tranches de mangue. À ce moment-là, il faut commencer par peler la mangue. Ensuite, on va retirer le noyau. Et maintenant pour faire les tranches, pas compliqué. Et pour faire un éventail, c’est pas compliqué. On fait des tranches, mais pas jusqu’à l’extrémité. Alors cubes, éventail ou tranches!

Let’s listen to Cynthia Dulude now. Like Ricardo, she also pronounces carrés with a noticeable â sound. It’s also very clear in her pronunciation of dépassez and relâche. I’ve highlighted these three words below. Here’s where to find them if you want to jump around in the video:

— 2:03 carrés
— 3:01 dépassez
— 4:21 relâche

Vous avez de la difficulté à appliquer votre eye-liner? Inquiétez-vous pas, selon moi c’est une des choses les plus difficiles à faire en maquillage. Aujourd’hui j’suis là pour vous donner tous les conseils que je connais au niveau du eye-liner, tout pour vous faire des beaux yeux de chat.

Tout d’abord, il faut choisir le type de eye-liner. Sans un bon produit, vous arriverez jamais à faire un beau trait. Tout d’abord, il y a les très populaires crayons. Il faut penser à aiguiser souvent la mine si on veut que le trait soit fin, mais c’est pas ce qui donne le trait le plus précis. Ensuite il existe les eye-liners liquides, soit à pointe feutre ou poils. Ça donne un trait très fin et précis, et c’est le eye-liner qui est le plus noir. Une alternative plus simple aux eye-liners liquides, c’est les ombres à paupières qu’on vient mouiller. Ça donne absolument le même résultat. Vous avez juste à mélanger un petit peu d’eau comme le Fix+ de MAC et ça vous donne un beau trait précis noir. Finalement, il existe les eye-liners crème ou gel qui peuvent se porter autant à l’extérieur qu’à l’intérieur des yeux, et qui sont généralement longue tenue.

Ma méthode préférée, c’est l’ombre à paupière qu’on mouille parce que ça glisse pas trop, donc moins de dérapage et je peux approcher mes doigts très proche des poils, donc plus de contrôle. Mon premier conseil, il est très important. Au lieu de tracer votre trait à main levée dans un miroir devant vous, inclinez le miroir par en bas, donc vous allez être plus haute que le miroir, vous vous regardez d’en haut autrement dit, et automatiquement la pointe du crayon va venir se poser sur le petit rebord de paupière sur les cils supérieurs, et vous allez avoir un trait parfait. C’est très important aussi de prendre appui sur votre visage et avec votre coude au besoin. Vous êtes prêtes? C’est parti!

Alors, ici on voit bien que j’appuie vraiment le pinceau sur le rebord de mon œil, que je suis la ligne des cils, et c’est ça qu’il faut faire si vous voulez avoir un trait qui est très fin. Pour où commencer le trait, moi je dirais, dès que vous voyez les premiers cils environ, que j’appelle communément les « bébés cils », et on essaie de faire des traits qui sont longs pour pas avoir trop de petits traits carrés [2:03]. J’arrête juste ici à la fin de mon œil parce que tantôt je vais vous montrer comment étirer pour faire un œil de chat. Et là, je fais juste des petites retouches qui peuvent se faire l’œil ouvert ou fermé. Si jamais ça tremble trop, sentez-vous bien à l’aise de tenir votre paupière avec un doigt sans étirer.

Maintenant on va passer à notre petite pointe œil de chat, donc saviez-vous que pouviez utiliser du papier collant pour vous aider à enligner le trait? Vous avez simplement à imaginer qu’il y a une ligne invisible qui part d’en dessous de vos yeux, donc dans la ligne des cils, et qui monte vers la fin de votre sourcil. Et posez délicatement le papier collant, je veux pas que vous vous fassiez mal au coin externe de l’œil. Et ensuite vous avez juste à tirer un petit trait qui va être plus fin, c’est-à-dire qui peut être large au coin externe, mais il faut vraiment que ça se termine par une pointe, donc pas de grosses fins de eye-liner épaisses s’il vous plaît, les amies. C’est beaucoup plus élégant quand c’est fin et mince. Vous pouvez l’étirer assez long mais jamais dépassez [3:01] la fin du sourcil.

Ensuite j’enlève délicatement le papier collant et vous voyez que ça fait une ligne qui est très droite, et ça vous aide à faire des lignes symétriques des deux côtés. Ensuite si c’est allé trop bas, vous pouvez faire des petites retouches avec un Q-Tips et du démaquillant sans huile. Un autre truc que je peux vous donner si vous voulez avoir une belle pointe au coin externe, c’est de prendre une carte d’affaires. Donc je l’ai enlignée pareil comme tantôt vers la fin de mon sourcil, et je fais tout simplement glisser le crayon juste en haut de la carte d’affaires. Ensuite on peut la mettre par en haut et venir rejoindre les deux lignes en remplissant le petit triangle noir, comme j’appelle. Bon, dans mon cas, ça allait pas assez bien donc je l’ai fini à la main comme je me sentais plus à l’aise. Et j’ai décidé d’épaissir mon trait au coin externe, donc vous voyez là, je triche vraiment. J’ai épaissi et progressivement ça vient se fondre avec mon trait qui était déjà là. Donc, c’est un truc que vous pouvez faire pour remonter l’œil pour faire vraiment des yeux de chat.

Et pour faire un trait très fin au coin externe, j’ai pris un pinceau en biseau, et comme le crayon est gras, vous voyez que ça s’étire bien. Maintenant je vais vous montrer une erreur que beaucoup de gens font. Les gens ont tendance à vouloir étirer la paupière à l’horizontale mais quand on relâche [4:21], vous allez voir des fois ça fait le trait un peu croche. Donc, le mieux c’est de tirer la paupière mais vers le haut, comme ça votre paupière va être vraiment laissée plate, en plus si vous avez la paupière qui est ridée, vous allez voir, ça va vraiment vous aider.

Quand vous faites une erreur dans votre eye-liner, au lieu de l’épaissir sur toute la ligne, comme on fait toutes, parce que c’est jamais beau de toute façon, vous êtes mieux de prendre des tout petits Q-Tips et d’effacer ce qui est en trop avec une eau micellaire ou n’importe quel démaquillant qui est non gras parce que sinon ça risquerait de transférer, votre eye-liner pourrait partir plus vite dans la journée.

Voilà, alors j’espère que mes conseils vous ont aidées et que bientôt vous serez toutes des championnes du eye-liner, mais rappelez-vous que c’est vraiment beaucoup de pratique. Sur ce, je vous dis à très bientôt, bisous les filles! Merci d’avoir écouté.

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Here’s a great audio overview of the main pronunciation features of Québécois French. It’s made available by Université Laval.

You can listen to vowels, consonants and 30 example sentences, pronounced by a Québécoise.

In the example sentences, you’ll notice letters between parentheses. This reflects the colloquial pronunciation where certain letters go unpronounced. Each letter in parentheses could be replaced by an apostrophe.

Here’s some help with the meaning of the 30 sentences:

le bain avant le dodo, ti-fille
bath before bedtime, young lady

Ti comes from petit, petite.

des barniques
specs (as in glasses to correct one’s vision)

je vais manger autre chose d’abord
I’m going to eat something else then

D’abord means “then” here, not “first of all.” It’s a Québécois usage.

Another example: OK, d’abord! OK, then!

toute frette
all cold

Frette is an informal pronunciation of froid.

c’est quelque chose
it’s really something (i.e., impressive)

un insignifiant
a nobody

se manger la laine sur le dos
to take advantage of one another

c’est pas ça qui met plus de pain dans la corbeille
that’s not what puts bread on the table
(lit., more bread in the basket)

ç’a pas d’bon sens
ça l’a pas d’bon sens

it’s crazy, ridiculous,
it makes no sense

Exceptionally, the final s in sens is not pronounced in this expression.

Ç’a and ça l’a both mean ça a.

Ç’a is a contraction of ça a, and ça l’a has a letter L stuck in there to make pronouncing ça a easier informally.

I recommend using ç’a instead of ça l’a, which you can just learn to recognise. Ç’a sounds like sa.

Another example: ç’a été long (means ça a été long).

un barrage
a dam

supporter quelqu’un
to stand someone
to put up with someone

pas pire pas en toute
pas pire pantoute
not bad at all

c’est de l’ouvrage
it’s a lot of work

bastringue
stuff

y m’a faite freaker au boute
he totally freaked me out

Boute is an informal pronunciation of bout. Au boute (au boutte) means “to the max.” The pronunciation boute can often be heard in a number of informal expressions, like this one.

recouper les informations
to cross-check the information

terminus, tout le monde débarque
last stop, everybody out

pis tu t’en vas direct dans le lite
an’ yer goin’ straight to bed

Lit is sometimes pronounced informally as lite (litte). You can just recognise this and keep pronouncing li yourself.

Another example: Nuit is sometimes pronounced nuitte. Again, you can just recognise this and continue pronouncing nui.

Native speakers don’t expect you to say litte and nuitte. If you do, they just might correct you! Li and nui are acceptable pronunciations in all language situations in Québec.

oupelay
woops, woopsedaisy

y s’est-tu trompé ou quoi?
did he make a mistake or what?

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(official site)

César asks if I can write a little about Acadian French and Chiac on OffQc.

I haven’t spent enough time around speakers of Acadian French to be able to do here what I do with Québécois French. But what if we took a look from time to time at some of Lisa LeBlanc’s music? In this way, maybe you can infer certain things about Lisa LeBlanc’s variety of French without me having to explicitly say things like “this is Acadian.”

First, let’s return to Lisa LeBlanc’s song Câlisse-moi là. (You can read what câlisse-moi là means here.) We’ll look at another song of hers farther down.

In this song, you’ll very clearly hear the “aww” sound made by the accented â when Lisa pronounces the word câlisse. This sound is also used in Québec. It’s the sound you’ll hear in words like pâtes, fâché and ramasser.

There are three things in this song that strike me as less Québécois and more the variety of French spoken by Lisa LeBlanc, who, remember, is not from Québec but New Brunswick:

1. so
2. j’te bette
3. rolled r

1. so

We looked at Lisa’s use of the word so in her chorus here. Remember, the Québécois say faque instead of so, or at least this is the case in cities like Montréal and Québec. You can also hear so among franco-Ontarian speakers who live farther away from the borders of Québec.

2. j’te bette

In one line, Lisa sings: j’te bette que t’es pas game, or “I bet (you) that you’re not game.” Here, game means “willing,” and this informal usage is also used in Québec. On the other hand, I’d say that the verb most frequently used in Québec in the sense of “to bet” is gager. In Québec, you could say: j’te gage que t’es pas game.

3. rrrrr

Listen to how Lisa pronounces words like rut, vrai and peureux. Can you hear her rolled r? In Montréal, that rolled r used to be in common use up until about the middle of the 1900s. The rolled r today, in Montréal, is associated with older speakers. From what I understand, the rolled r is standard in Acadian French.

Here’s another song by Lisa LeBlanc that you might like: J’pas un cowboy.

Let’s look at these four parts of her song:

1. j’pas
2. pogner
3. tavarne
4. but j’feel

1. j’pas

If you’ve been reading OffQc for a while, you know very well that je suis often contracts to chu. Je ne suis pas un cowboy can be said informally as chu pas un cowboy.

Lisa takes the contraction one step further and pronounces je suis just as a ch sound, which is shown in the title of her song as j’. The j’pas in her title (which means je [ne] suis pas) sounds like chpâ. This can also be heard in Québec.

2. pogner

In one line, Lisa sings about a cowboy hat. She says: pis un chapeau que j’ai pogné à St-Tite, or “and a hat that I picked up in St-Tite.”

St-Tite is in Québec. Every year, there’s a western festival held there.

If you’ve been following along with OffQc for a while, you must be experts in the verb pogner by now, especially in the book title Ah shit, j’ai pogné le cancer written by Maude Schiltz.

The verb pogner, used very frequently in Québec, usually takes on the sense of “to catch.” Here, in this song, we can say it means “to pick up.”

3. tavarne

Listen to how Lisa pronounces taverne. It sounds like tavarne, right? Pronouncing ar instead of er is often associated with older speakers in Québec. For example, to the ears of someone from Montréal, la porte varte est ouvarte (meaning la porte verte est ouverte) sounds rural or spoken by an older person.

The exception, in Québec, is with vulgar words, which conserve the ar sound in all age groups, like marde, tabarnak and viarge.

When Lisa says tavarne (taverne), it rhymes with farme (ferme) in the line before it. It’s unclear to me if this pronunciation is standard in her variety of French, or if she’s chosen this pronunciation as a stylistic element to sound more folksy. I can’t comment on the social perception of the ar sound (as opposed to er) in Acadian French. If you know something about this, feel free to comment.

4. but j’feel

Lisa says: but j’feel toute seule en calvaire, or “but I feel as lonely as hell.” In Québec, “but” is definitely said as mais. This line would sound perfectly québécois said instead as: mais j’feel toute seule en calvaire.

The verb feeler (also spelled as filer) comes to French via English, and is only used informally. J’feel cheap. I feel bad. I feel like a low-life. J’feel pas ben. I don’t feel good.

We saw in entry #803 (Ma vie, c’est de la marde) the expression en esti, where the comic strip character says: il fait beau en esti, or “it’s fucking nice out.” The expression en calvaire works the same way: j’feel toute seule en calvaire.

There are other elements for us to look at in this song, but let’s leave some stuff for future entries! 😉

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Lisa LeBlanc

Lisa LeBlanc (click to go to her website)

In entry #795, we looked at the chorus of Lisa LeBlanc’s song Câlisse-moi là. One thing we didn’t look at is her use of the word so.

Listen again (video below). A few times, you’ll hear her sing so câlisse-moi là. That so means exactly what you think it does; it means “so” and obviously comes from English.

Some francophones in Canada say so in French. Lisa LeBlanc is from the province of New Brunswick, and so is used in her variety of French.

Some francophones in the province of Ontario also say so in French. In Ontario, the farther away you get from Québec, the more likely you are to hear so. The closer you are to Québec, the more likely you are to hear faque instead.

That’s because, you’ll remember, the Québécois say faque. If Lisa LeBlanc were from Montréal, she’d have sung faque câlisse-moi là instead, or even better faque câlisse-moé là because this is trash folk.

Faque is a contraction of ça fait que. Sometimes you’ll hear it pronounced with two syllables like fa–que, other times with one syllable like fak.

If Lisa LeBlanc had used faque in her chorus, she’d have certainly sung it with one syllable. Listen to the song again, and try replacing so with faque while you sing along.

But once you’ve tried it, go back to singing so câlisse-moi là. Lisa LeBlanc’s French is so delicious that we don’t want to change her lyrics and make them all, you know, standard or something by saying faque câlisse-moé là

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Focus on what you have control over, like speaking and listening skills. Don’t worry about your accent because it’s not a big deal. [Image courtesy of Snob Affair]

Are you disappointed by bilingual francophones who switch to English on you when you speak French? There is a solution.

It will require work of you and it won’t come overnight, but it’s within your control and it’s achievable.

Last week in Montréal, I overheard two women, one francophone and one anglophone, speaking to each other in French. The two women didn’t know one another. The francophone asked the anglophone for directions, and they spoke together for almost two minutes.

I listened in on their conversation. I’ve developed a very bad habit of listening in on other people’s conversations since I started this blog.

What struck me about the conversation was that the anglophone had an English accent so thick that you could have sliced it with a knife — and yet, the francophone did not switch to English on her. They spoke in French only.

The anglophone, although she had a very heavy accent, seemed reasonably comfortable speaking spontaneously in French. Admittedly, I don’t know if the francophone was bilingual.

I know another woman, also anglophone, who has a very strong accent when speaking French. I don’t know her very well, but I can recall four times recently where she spoke in French with a bilingual francophone who did not switch to English on her.

She may speak with a strong English accent, but she’s able to speak French spontaneously, and I’ve never noted any listening comprehension problems.

I have observed other instances of this with different anglophones in Montréal. Although they had an obvious English accent — sometimes heavy, sometimes not — there was no language switch from French to English.

Yes, I know this is all anecdotal evidence. That’s because: OffQc.

One of the most frequent complaints I hear from anglophone learners of French is that bilingual francophones always switch to English as soon as the English accent is detected.

I too used to believe that the language switch was caused by a heavy English accent. I don’t believe this anymore.

I believe now that what causes the language switch is the impression that you’re struggling to find your words (speaking problem), or that you don’t understand what’s being said (listening problem).

This is great news for you.

It means that you can chill out about your accent, which is pretty much impossible to eliminate entirely for us adult language learners, and focus on the stuff that you have much more control over — speaking and listening.

How do you improve your speaking and listening?

I’ll let you in on a secret.

The best way to improve your speaking and listening is by… speaking and listening. 🙂

You’ll become great at whatever you spend large amounts of time doing. Spend your time memorising verb conjugations, and you’ll become great at memorising verb conjugations. Spend your time speaking and listening instead, and you’ll become great at speaking and listening.

As adults, sometimes we think that we’re not ready to speak with others in our new language because we still have trouble recalling words. We fear that we speak too slowly — and it may even be true. However, no amount of independent preparation will ever cure this entirely.

The only way to become a faster speaker with the ability to recall words immediately is through speaking with others.

Until you begin putting yourself in situations where you’re obligated to speak spontaneously in French, you’ll always be a slow speaker searching for your words. And those bilingual francophones will switch to English on you.

The same goes for listening. I don’t remember who said this, but it’s not the native speakers who speak too fast; it’s you the learner who listens too slowly.

Until you begin putting yourself in situations where you’re listening to large amounts of spoken French, you’ll always be a slow listener with a look of bewilderment on your face. And those bilingual francophones will switch to English on you.

So, the best way to get those bilinguals to stop switching to English is to improve your speaking and listening by doing lots of speaking and listening.

You can worry about perfecting your accent later. Or never.

And this is great news because speaking and listening are things you can start improving right now. Yes, you’ve got work ahead of you, but it’s your call.

_ _ _

In the meantime, here are a couple essential phrases to learn for the times when you’re confronted with the language switch:

Nooon! Continue de me parler en français! L’accent québécois, je trouve ça tellement hot! Noooo! Keep speaking to me in French! I think the québécois accent is so hot!

Tu vas devoir me parler en français, tsé. Sinon, tu risques de pogner un ticket. You’re gonna have to speak to me in French, you know. Otherwise, you might get a ticket.

Who knows, maybe you’ll even hope for the language switch just to try those out on someone. 😉

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If you lack the courage to speak in French, it’s not because your accent is wonky.

It’s not because your grammar is off.

It’s not because you’re short on vocabulary.

When you’re at home speaking in French to the cat, none of these things hold you back.

If you lack the courage to speak in French, it’s because you worry about how other people will react to your French.

You’re worrying about things you can’t control.

Worrying about things you can’t control is stupid.

This is where an “oh well, whatever” attitude helps.

He didn’t understand me.
Oh well, whatever.

She switched to English on me.
Oh well, whatever.

I forgot how to say it.
Oh well, whatever!

You can fix what needs fixing later.

The “oh well, whatever” attitude works after you speak. Before you speak, you need to silence the thoughts in your head.

Your thoughts are screaming: “Oh my God. My accent is so bad. I can’t speak. I just can’t do it.”

You can’t control other people’s behaviour, but you can control your own.

Now is not the time to be a sissy.

You need to take that inner voice and slap some sense into it.

“Hey there, Inner Voice. You’re right. My accent isn’t so hot. But someday it will be. Oh, and by the way bitch, fuck you.”

Now speak, dammit.

If you lack the courage to speak in French, your priority right now shouldn’t be to learn more French.

It can wait.

Close your books.

Stop studying.

I don’t mean that learning French isn’t important.

What I mean is that worrying about other people’s reactions to your French is the best way to prevent yourself from feeling at home in it.

Make adopting a new mindset your priority instead.

If what you really want is to make French yours, this can’t wait.

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