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Posts Tagged ‘francophone’

“Go back to the cuisine immediately and finish making the Chinese patty, Rupert. On way. ON WAY!”

Rupert and Samantha are two anglophone Canadians who live in a parallel universe.

In this parallel universe, Rupert and Samantha speak a variety of English that has borrowed and adapted vocabulary from Québécois French. Their English also conserves usages that have fallen out of use elsewhere in the English-speaking world.

In part 1, Samantha pawnied a hen’s nest on the roo (hit a pothole on the street). Her husband, Rupert, pawnied a cold (caught a cold) after a gross cave externated on him (a big idiot sneezed on him). If you haven’t read part 1 yet, you’ll probably want to read that first.

Here’s part 2. In this part, Rupert and Samantha are in a chicken (in a fight) because the chariot (car) won’t start. Does it have something to do with the hen’s nest that Samantha pawnied? Read on to find out.

Oh, and yes, Rupert and Samantha look a little different this time. That’s because this is a parallel universe and just whatever.

Have fun deciphering the dialogue!

Rupert and Samantha are in a chicken

  • Rupert! Art thou occupied?
  • I’m still in the cuisine, Samantha. I’m preparing delicious Chinese patty for supper.
  • Oh tabernacle, not Chinese patty again… Rupert, come look at the chariot. Ever since I pawnied that hen’s nest out there on the roo, I’ve been having misery to start the chariot.
  • Are thou nezzing me?
  • Pawn toot. I’ve been fucking the dog on mass.
  • Achooom!
  • Oh hesty, Rupert. I want not to pawnie thine cold. Cover thine mouth.
  • Samantha, thou knowest I pawnied a cold while out magazining in the formiddy. ‘Tis not my fault if some hesty of a gross cave externated on me.
  • Crucifix, Rupert. Just look at the chariot.
  • Samantha, I am looking at the chariot. Hast thou made the plain?
  • Bang sure not. I thought thou hadest made the plain.
  • Oh frankly, Samantha. I’m tanned of reminding thee to make the plain. Look, there’s no gauze in the tank. How thinkest thou to start the chariot without gauze? Verily, it astonishes me not thou hast been fucking the dog.
  • Shit of fuck of shit, Rupert. Just go back to the cuisine. I’ll get the other chariot and syphon gauze out of it with my mouth.
  • Oh… Hast thou not the bitch to syphon gauze using the mouth?
  • I’m not some hesty of a useless moomoon, Rupert. I know how to syphon gauze using the mouth.
  • Art thou insinuating that I be a moomoon, Samantha?
  • Oh verily, I have not the taste to talk about this pawn toot! Let me occupy myself of the chariot. Go back to the cuisine immediately and finish making the Chinese patty, Rupert. On way. ON WAY!
  • Aye, aye, Samantha, ’tis correct…

_ _ _

in a chicken: en chicane (in a fight)
art thou: es-tu (are you)
occupied: occupé (busy)
the cuisine: la cuisine (the kitchen)
Chinese patty: pâté chinois (shepherd’s pie)
oh tabernacle: oh tabarnak (oh fuck)
the chariot: le char (the car)
to pawnie a hen’s nest: pogner un nid-de-poule (to hit a pothole)
the roo: la rue (the street)
I’ve been having misery: j’ai de la misère (I’ve been having difficulty)
to nezz: niaiser (to kid)
pawn toot: pantoute (not at all)
to fuck the dog: fucker le chien (to have difficulty)
on mass: en masse (big time)
hesty: esti (fuck)
to pawnie thine cold: pogner ton rhume (to catch your cold)
thou knowest: tu sais (you know)
to magazine: magasiner (to shop)
in the formiddy: dans l’avant-midi (in the late morning)
’tis not: c’est pas (it’s not)
a gross cave: un gros cave (a big idiot)
a hesty of a gross cave: un esti de gros cave (a big fucking idiot)
to externate: éternuer (to sneeze)
crucifix: crucifix (fuck)
hast thou: as-tu (have you)
to make the plain: faire le plein (to fill up on gas)
bang sure not: bien sûr que non (of course not)
thou hadest: tu avais (you had)
I’m tanned: je suis tanné (I’m fed up)
of reminding thee: de te rappeler (of reminding you)
gauze: gaz* (gas, petrol)
how thinkest thou: comment penses-tu (how do you think)
verily: vraiment (really, honestly)
shit of fuck of shit: shit de fuck de shit (holy fuckin’ holy shit)
to have the bitch: avoir la chienne (to be afraid)
a moomoon: une moumoune (a sissy, suck, wimp)
I have not the taste: j’ai pas le goût (I don’t feel like)
let me occupy myself of: laisse-moi m’occuper de (let me take care of)
on way: enweille (get a move on)
aye, aye, ’tis correct: OK, OK, c’est correct (OK, OK, fine)

*Gaz is pronounced gâz in Québec. The French â sound in Québec comes close to how “aww” sounds in English. This is why Rupert and Samantha say gauze.

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“Aye, the roos are always mardy after winter. Unless thou restest in Montréal, bang sure. Then they’re mardy all year long. Ha ha ha!”

Imagine a parallel universe where the English language spoken in Canada had been influenced by Québécois French, and where it also conserved certain linguistic features that had fallen out of use in other English-speaking parts of the world.

What might that variety of English sound like?

Rupert and Samantha

  • Rupert, I’m home!
  • I’m in the cuisine, Samantha!
  • Ah, there thou art. Crucifix! I pawnied a hesty of a hen’s nest out there on the roo. I almost scrapped the chariot!
  • Aye, the roos are always mardy after winter. Unless thou restest in Montréal, bang sure. Then they’re mardy all year long. Ha ha ha!
  • May’s on! Verily thou art funny, Rupert. But ’tis donbe true — those Montréal roos are full purrent! At least here in Toronto the roos are less posh.
  • A-a-a-a-chhhoom!
  • Oh tabernacle, Rupert! Tell me not thou hast another cold!
  • Aye, some hesty of a gross cave externated on me when I was out magazining in the foremiddy.
  • Art thou nezzing me? Now I’m tanned, I am. Every time thou pawniest a cold, thou hast such misery getting over it. Oh hesty, Rupert!

_ _ _

the cuisine: la cuisine (the kitchen)
thou art: tu es (you are)
crucifix!: crucifix! (goddammit!)
to pawnie a hen’s nest: pogner un nid-de-poule (to hit a pothole)
a hesty of a hen’s nest: un esti de nid-de-poule (a goddamn pothole)
the roo: la rue (the street)
to scrap the chariot: scraper le char (to wreck the car)
aye: oui (yes)
mardy: de la marde (shitty)
to rest in Montréal: rester à Montréal (to live in Montréal)
bang sure: bien sûr (of course)
May’s on!: mets-en! (you can say that again!)
verily: vraiment (truly)
’tis donbe true: c’est donc ben vrai (it’s just so true)
purrent: épeurant (scary)
posh: poche (crappy)
tabernacle!: tabarnak! (fuck!)
tell me not: dis-moi pas (don’t tell me)
thou hast: tu as (you have)
a gross cave: un gros cave (a big idiot)
a hesty of a gross cave: un esti de gros cave (a goddamn big idiot)
to externate: éternuer (to sneeze)
to magazine: magasiner (to shop)
in the foremiddy: dans l’avant-midi (in the [late] morning)
to nezz: niaiser (to kid)
tanned: tanné (fed up)
to pawnie a cold: pogner un rhume (to catch a cold)
thou hast misery: tu as de la misère (you have trouble)
hesty!: esti! (goddammit!)

Does this maybe remind you of what Québécois French might sound like to European francophones?

Obviously I’m nezzin’, and the dialogue above is highly exaggerated. But what’s interesting is that it still feels like English — a very different variety of English, but still English.

It’s no secret that Québécois French has borrowed words from English and often transformed them into something unique. It also conserves French usages that francophones abroad have stopped using.

A regular, spontaneous dialogue of the same length in Québécois French wouldn’t sound as exaggerated as the one above.

That said, Québécois French really is different to other varieties abroad — but it’s still French nonetheless, hesty!

_ _ _

Read part 2 of Rupert and Samantha

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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 what you’re doing isn’t working, change what you’re doing.

You’re putting in the time.

You study French vocabulary. You review verb conjugations. You work on improving your pronunciation.

You watch TV in French, doing your best to figure out what those moving mouths on the screen are saying.

You listen to the radio in French, trying to unscramble the incomprehensible gibberish the speakers are vomiting all over your ears.

You’re doing everything you thought you were supposed to be doing.

And yet, you feel stuck. You don’t feel like you’re making progress. You don’t understand what people are saying.

You always feel like you’re on the outside looking in.

And you’re frustrated.

Hell, maybe you’re even really pissed off. Pissed off to discover that all the work you’re doing to learn French isn’t paying off.

And now you’re convinced that you must absolutely suck at French. You practically believe that if you looked up the French word for suck in the dictionary, you’d find a dumb-ass picture of you as the definition.

But you don’t even remember how to say suck in French, which only serves to further convince you of just how much you suck.

Except it’s not true.

You don’t suck at French. C’est pas vrai que t’es poche en français.

But you are indeed stuck. Big time. And to get unstuck, you’ll need to tweak the way you’re doing things.

Um, hold on. That’s not quite right. No, you don’t need to tweak anything to get unstuck.

What you need is a major fucking overhaul.

Stop studying French so much and start living it instead. Find people to speak in French with on a regular basis. Even one person will do. More is better, but start with one.

This is without doubt the one thing that you must absolutely not neglect. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing everything else under the sun to learn French.

If you’ve got nobody to speak French with, you’re doing it wrong.

Ouch.

That’s tough to hear, isn’t it?

But deep down, you already knew it, even if you don’t like to admit it.

Let’s be honest. Expecting to feel at home in French without communicating with others is like watching an atheist pray to God for a miracle. It just doesn’t make sense.

If you’re just dabbling in French out of interest, then maybe none of this matters. But if what you want or need is to feel at home in French, then finding someone to speak with on a regular basis is the first issue you must resolve. This is a priority. For as long as it goes unresolved, you will always feel like an outsider in French.

What about studying? Isn’t that important too?

Yes, of course, you can study too. But it shouldn’t make up the majority of what you do.

If you get a thrill out of studying verb charts, then do it. But it won’t make you feel more at home in French. People make you feel at home in French. Studying verb charts mostly just makes you good at studying verb charts.

Sure, studying has some benefits. It can help you to make sense of what you hear. It can provide you with the vocabulary you want to know. Listening to the radio and watching TV in French can improve your listening comprehension. But this is mostly on the condition that you’re already spending lots of time speaking with people in French.

Studying isn’t necessarily bad. After all, this is entry #739 on OffQc. But many of us suffer from a tendency to go way overboard on the studying side, and way underboard on the speaking-with-humans side.

Maybe you’ve read OffQc today. Maybe you’ve learned a new word, like poche. Maybe you’ve even reviewed how to conjugate a tricky verb. You’ve probably studied enough today.

But you’re not finished with French.

Put your books away, or your laptop, or your smartphone, and figure out what you’re going to do to begin forming a bond with someone who speaks French.

Don’t put it off any longer.

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People ask in forums online where to live in Montréal to learn French.

It matters little where you live in Montréal.

Furthermore, this is the wrong question.

The better question to ask is:
How will I spend my days?

Will you attend university in French? Will you accept work in French? Will you join a group where there are francophones? Will you share an apartment with a francophone?

There’s nothing preventing you from learning French in a typically non-francophone neighbourhood.

I have a Turkish friend who speaks fluent French. He never left Istanbul to learn French. He works in a hotel. He spends his days speaking with people.

It doesn’t matter that his neighbours speak Turkish. It doesn’t matter if your neighbours don’t speak French.

It may not even matter if your neighbours do in fact speak French. Just because there are francophones in your street doesn’t guarantee anything.

If you want francophone “atmosphere,” by all means, pick a typically francophone neighbourhood.

But don’t stop there, because what really matters is who you’ll spend your days with.

Focus on that instead if you’re serious about learning French in Montréal (or anywhere).

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If you’ve got a francophone boyfriend or girlfriend who won’t speak to you in French, what can you do to change this?

Maybe the two of you have spent a considerable amount of time speaking in a language other than French, like English or some other language that you share. But your French has improved, and now you’d like to start communicating in French with your partner.

(I’m just going to say “partner” and “he” to keep the language simple. You can understand it to mean boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, he, she, etc.)

Is it possible for the language to switch in a relationship?

Yes, of course, it’s possible. It’s just that most people who attempt to make it happen go about it in selfish ways that backfire, like these:

Wake up one morning and declare that you’re both going to start speaking in French as of right now, whether your partner likes it or not.

Get upset when your partner speaks to you in English, whether on purpose or out of habit, and demand that he speak French.

Don’t do that stuff, okay? Let me explain.

Making a language switch is a monumental change in a relationship. Don’t underestimate it. If you go about it the wrong way, it’s not going to work.

You’re excited that your French has improved so much that you’re ready to start speaking in French with your partner. Good for you! Now come back down to Earth.

You may feel ready for the change, but that doesn’t mean your partner does too. When you start speaking in another language, the relationship is going to feel very different. Your partner will probably feel uncomfortable about this.

If you just wake up and decide that from now on it’s going to be French and only French, you can be pretty sure that your decision will be met with resistance, even if your partner seems to be willing to humour your crazy ideas at first.

You’re thinking: I can speak French now! I can speak to my partner in his language! Hooray for me!

He’s thinking: Oh shit. This is going to be hell.

And then the resistance starts. You start speaking in French and, maybe for the first ten minutes, he obliges. But then it’s back to English. And this frustrates you. Now when he says something to you in English, you get angry, when before it was perfectly normal for the two of you to speak English.

He thinks you’re crazy. “Why do we have to change?” he wonders. “Because I want to speak French now!” you retaliate. (Me! Me! Me!) And around and around you go, until all you’ve managed to do is create a whole lot of negativity around the idea of speaking French.

Ouch.

Can I make a few suggestions?

Find someone else to speak French with.

Don’t make your partner bear all the responsibility of providing you with speaking opportunities in French. Your French isn’t his responsibility – it’s yours. Find other people so that you don’t need to put this pressure on him and your relationship. You’re excited about speaking French, and that’s great. Now get excited about speaking French with someone else.

Take it very slowly.

When I say very slowly, I mean so slowly that he barely notices a change. Maybe for a long time the only thing you’ll say to him in French is je t’aime, or ça va?, or oui and non. You can try dropping in a little more French after a while, but always do it so slowly that it doesn’t feel like anything is changing between the two of you. He just thinks that you’re dropping in some French for the novelty of it, and you don’t require any French from him in return.

Let him speak English.

When he speaks to you in English, let him. You’ve been using that language for so long now that it’s unreasonable to expect him to make such a radical change on what seems to him like a whim. If you say something in French and he answers back in English, don’t sweat it. You’re already achieving a very nice result: he answered you back after you spoke in French.

Spend time with his family.

When you visit his parents, let him hear you speak French with them. He’s not used to the idea of French coming out of your mouth. Let him get used to it by hearing you speak French with other people, like his family or friends. If they answer you back in French, you’ll help him to start associating you with the idea of speaking French.

Let your partner convince himself.

Don’t try to convince your partner to switch to French. Let him convince himself of it. You go about your own business speaking French with other people. From time to time, you drop tiny bits of French into your conversations with him. You let him hear you speaking French with his family or friends. You let him speak with you in the language he wants.

If your partner is going to speak in French with you, let it be his decision, not yours. You’ve planted the seeds. Now be patient and let them grow.

Remember, your French is not your partner’s responsibility.

It’s yours alone.

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Language in MontréalSome people will tell you that Montréal is a bad place to learn French.

It’s a very common myth, one that’s easy to believe if you don’t take a closer look.

If you’re serious about learning French (and by serious I mean someone who’s committed to learning over the long term), then Montréal is a wonderful place to learn French.

It doesn’t matter that there are anglophones in Montréal. It doesn’t matter that some bilingual francophones may switch to English on you.

Why don’t these matter?

First, look at the language situation in Montréal.

Who speaks what native language in Montréal
(and why it’s not a problem)

If the city of Montréal (not including the metropolitan area) were reduced to 126 people like in the image above, roughly 66 of them would speak French as their native language, 17 would speak English, and 43 would be native speakers of some other language, most of whom have also learned to speak either French or English, or both.

Montréal is clearly not exclusively francophone. You may be looking at that image thinking, “oh boy, look at all those people who don’t speak French as their native language!”

It doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter that not all people in Montréal have French as their native language.

Why?

Because there is simply no shortage of francophones to speak with.

You choose who you let into your life. If you want francophones in your life, go find them. There is no shortage in Montréal.

What about the language switchers?

People in Montréal have a high rate of knowledge of both French and English. This may lead to some francophones switching to English on you in the beginning stages of your learning, especially if they do not know you very well.

Learning French is a long-term endeavour requiring a long-term approach.

The best way to learn French (or any language) is to develop a strong bond with someone who speaks it.

Why a strong bond is important

A strong bond isn’t just a girlfriend or boyfriend. It can be a close friend.

A person who you share a strong bond with is far more unlikely to switch to English on you. In a certain way, that person accompanies you on your journey to fluency over the long term.

There is a vested interest between the two of you.

There is also regular contact between the two of you, which is essential in maintaining the “fire” to learn French.

If you’ve got a strong bond in your life, it’s much less of a concern or annoyance when someone else (a weak bond) switches to English on you. Learning French through weak bonds is not an ideal long-term approach, no matter where in the world you learn French.

You just need at least one strong bond with a francophone in your life. A few more people are good too — but you can start with just one.

The bottom line

In reality, you can learn French anywhere. All the francophones in Montréal are just icing on your cake.

If you’re in it for the long haul, learning French in Montréal is a wonderful choice.

Here’s what you need to do:

Make at least one of the very significant people in your life a francophone. Montréal has nearly one million of them to choose from.

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