Posts Tagged ‘Montréal’

All I’ll say is GOOD LUCK.

1. If you add together the individual numbers in Montréal’s iconic telephone area code and then multiply that sum by the total number of STM métro stations, what is the result?

a) 420
b) 495
c) 525
d) 680
e) 799

2. In terms of Québécois pronunciation, which of the following words doesn’t belong?

a) barré
b) passer
c) tasse
d) lac
e) gaz

3. Which Montréal suburb will forever be associated with hair?

a) Repentigny
b) Terrebonne
c) Longueuil
d) Brossard
e) Blainville

4. Which typically Québécois word below is shared with another variety of French used in a country where women didn’t have the right to vote in federal elections until 1971?

a) poutine
b) bécique
c) mitaine
d) cégep
e) bécosse

5. If you divide by two the Montréal apartment-size designation equivalent to a one-bedroom apartment, what is the result?

a) 1
b) 0
c) 1¼
d) 1¾
e) 2

6. What kitchen appliance is associated with a francophone’s having little knowledge of English?

a) oven
b) refrigerator
c) toaster
d) blender
e) microwave

7. If you no longer stand a chance, then what animal has died on you?

a) pony
b) cat
c) dog
d) unicorn
e) bird

8. Do you hate me yet?

a) yes
b) oui

9. Which word below rhymes with an informal Québécois verb that might be used to talk about getting a ticket?

a) fâché
b) marché
c) mettre
d) cogner
e) finir

10. Which two components from a word pair below are related to each other in terms of French vocabulary?

a) bird / schoolbus
b) onion rings / computer
c) milk / post office
d) underwear / fire hydrant
e) rush hour / slice of pizza

Now you’re really going to hate me.
I’m not going to give you the answers.

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Here are 5 photos I found lurking on my phone waiting to be commented and put on OffQc! You can click on all the images for the large version.

1. Dans les allées, utilisez un panier

Literally, this means: in the aisles, use a cart, but what we’re meant to understand here is that, while shopping in the store, you shouldn’t place products in your reusable bags; you should place them in a shopping cart. This is to prevent theft.

une allée
aisle (in a shop)

un panier
shopping cart

2. Veuillez garder votre chien en laisse

I saw this sign on the front door of a pet shop. Une laisse is a leash, so management are telling us to keep dogs on a leash when in the shop.

être en laisse
to be on a leash

3. Partagez le plaisir en jouant au tic tac toe avec un ami

This photo is of the side of a box of timbits (small doughnut balls sold at Tim Hortons). The English on the other side of the box read: Share the fun and play tic tac toe with a friend.

A reader of OffQc asked a while back what tic tac toe was called in French, so I took a photo when I saw this.

jouer au tic tac toe
to play tic tac toe

4. Hot-dogs, tout garnis

Over on the right in smaller text are the words tout garnis. A hot-dog that’s tout garni has all the toppings on it.

Another word for hot-dog is roteux, which is an informal usage. Although the term chien-chaud exists (literal translation of hot dog), its use is rare nowadays.

I did manage to catch a photo of the old sign at Chien-chaud Victoire in Montréal before it was finally taken down several years ago.

un hot-dog
a hot dog

tout garni
the works

5. Au diable l’hiver…

This photo was taken in April, just after winter had ended. It’s the front window of a clothing shop, and the words mean to hell with winter, or literally to the devil (with) winter.

au diable l’hiver
to hell with winter

Remember this list of 50 words using the â sound but aren’t actually spelled with the accented â? We could add diable to it. That’s because the a in diable sounds somewhere between the English aw and ow, which is the sound made by â in Québécois French.

If you don’t what â sounds like, you’ll hear Martin Matte pronounce it in this video when he says j’me fâche and tasse-toi. You’ll hear this sound very frequently when listening to French spoken by the Québécois.

But that’s not all…
Diable has a few more things of note in the pronunciation department. One of them is that the d in this word sounds like dz. That’s because d is pronounced dz before the French i and u sounds. (If you say the English words lads, pads and fads aloud, you’ve just pronounced the dz sound. These words sound like ladz, padz and fadz.) This means mardi sounds like mardzi, dur sounds like dzur, and diable like dziâble.

Hold on, not finished yet…
The le ending, like in table or possible, is often not enunciated in informal language. That’s why table can be pronounced informally as tab’, possible as possib’, and diable as dziâb’.

Oh! Just one more thing…
You may hear diable pronounced as ’iâb’ (sounds like yâb), where, in addition to the dropping of the final le, the initial d (or the initial dz sound) also drops. You may hear this pronunciation, for example, in Québécois folk music or folk tales. A similar thing happens when bon Dieu is pronounced as bon ’ieu (sounds like bon yeu). There’s a song by Les Colocs called Bonyeu that you can look for. «Bonyeu, donne-moé une job, faut que j’fasse mes paiements…»

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Perhaps you’ll find the question in the title bizarre because you learned that strangers always use vous when speaking to each other, and so the answer should be a given. But if I’m addressing it here, it’s because you’ll often read online or in certain learning materials that the Québécois rarely use the polite vous form, preferring the familiar tu instead.

The situation I want to look at here is how strangers behaved when they spoke spontaneously with me — did they say tu or vous?

Before I continue, you should know that:

  • I’m in Montréal (someone in a different region could have different results),
  • I’m a 40-year-old male (different ages could elicit different results),
  • These are just informal observations, but the results provide a good idea.

For the purposes of this commentary, a stranger is a person I’ve never met before with whom I had a short exchange or conversation, and someone I’ll presumably never speak with again. Over the past two weeks, I’ve paid attention to how these people address me to be able to comment on it here.

I didn’t just pay attention to whether they literally used tu or vous, but also wording like ton or votre, or which conjugation they used in the imperative (prends or prenez, etc.). If the exchange didn’t call for any such uses, I’ve simply not taken it into account here. To be considered as addressing me as vous, for example, it wasn’t enough for a stranger to be polite (e.g., bonjour, monsieur!); I had to actually hear vous in some form (vous, votre, vos, prenez, etc.).

The results are unequivocal:

Strangers have systematically addressed me as vous.

I’ve been spoken to by both male and female strangers of different ages (about 20 people in total, including random people in the street, cashiers, etc.), and not one person has said tu to me. All the strangers were adults, with the exception of one teenager.

A few situational examples:

  • A man in his 20s asked me for help connecting his laptop to WiFi. He addressed me as vous.
  • A woman in her 20s asked for help to find the correct STM bus to take. She addressed me as vous.
  • A woman in her 20s asked if she could take one of the extra seats at my table in a public space. She addressed me as vous.
  • A man in his 40s (possibly 50s) sitting beside me on an STM bus struck up a conversation with me. He addressed me as vous.
  • A man in his 30s (maybe 40s) struck up a conversation with me while waiting for an STM métro to pull into the station. He addressed me as vous.
  • A man in his 60s asked me for spare change. He addressed me as vous.
  • A teenager asked me for a cigarette. He addressed me as vous. (No, I don’t smoke!)
  • A man (age unknown) called me on my phone to ask if I were still selling my computer. (I’m not selling a computer; he called the wrong number.) He addressed me as vous.
  • All receptionists and cashiers regardless of gender or age (from about ages 20 to 60) addressed me as vous when the situation called for a choice between tu or vous.

So, there you go. Again, just informal observations here, but it’s enough to draw a conclusion about how strangers behave spontaneously in Montréal, I think. (Although I’m sure the results would’ve been very different if I’d included examples of angry strangers, like ones in the throes of road rage…)

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Here’s a challenging video with lots of informal language featuring a comedian from Québec called Korine Côté.

This video is part of a series in which Québécois personalities were asked to talk about their region of Québec.

Here, Korine extols the virtues of her region — Montréal.

The text is transcribed in French and translated to English. In the English translation, I’ve included contextual notes. After it, there’s a list of vocabulary with definitions.

There are three things in particular that I’d like to draw your attention to:

1. sur la

You’ll hear Korine pronounce the words sur la as s’a in a few spots in this video when she says s’a rue, which means sur la rue. This is an informal usage.

If you bought the OffQc Québécois French book 1000, you’ll find examples of the informally contracted s’a in numbers 415, 542, 550 and 848 (in case you’d like to hear it after having read those examples).

2. passer

When Korine says y’a une ambulance qui passe, listen to how she pronounces passe. This is the â sound that I’ve written about extensively on OffQc. It’s a very distinguishing feature of Québécois French. You’ll hear Korine pronounce it much like powss. The infinitive passer uses the same sound.

3. il y en a qui

In a few spots, Korine uses the expression il y en a qui, which she pronounces informally as y’en a qui. This is a very important expression to learn, which means there are people who, some people might…

On the first go, try listening without following the transcript to see how much you understand. You can follow along with it on subsequent listens.

[0:10] Ma région? C’est une ville, fa’que… hein!

[0:16] Montréal, ville de liberté. Y’en a p’t’-êt’ qui vont dire qu’on est individualistes pis qu’on s’sacre de tout l’monde, ben c’est vrai. Tu peux ignorer des itinérants sans jamais te sentir mal. Tu peux te faire tapocher en pleine rue tranquille sans qu’personne vienne te déranger.

[0:30] Tu peux t’commander d’la bouffe 24 heures sur 24… pas toi, hein?

[0:35] Ici, tu peux faire le tour du monde avec ta carte Opus. Pis en plus avec not’ quartier chinois, là, on possède la Chine!

[0:41] On a plein d’affaires que vous avez pas… un aéroport, une équipe de hockey, des BIXI, des comédiens qui s’promènent s’a rue, des deux et demie à côté d’la 40 à 1400 piasses. Bon, y’en a qui vont te dire que cher à payer, là, mais croiser Stefie Shock s’a rue, ç’a pas d’prix.

[0:54] Ça sera pas long, y’a une ambulance qui passe.

[0:57] Eh câlisse, les travaux, hein? Vos yeules!!!

[1:00] Y’en a qui vont dire que Montréal, c’est bruyant, là. Moi, j’m’en sacre, je fais de l’acouphène.

[1:04] On a un stade, un métro, des autoroutes pis plein d’ponts. OK, y sont brisés, mais on les a.

[1:09] Nous, on a La Ronde. Pas besoin d’attendre que la Beauce Carnaval débarque avec ses manèges rouillés pis tout usés, non! Nous autres, nos manèges rouillés pis usés sont là à l’année!

[1:18] Nous autres, on a pas ça, un accent. Non. On a raison. On est plus. Fa’qu’on gagne. Hein! Fait chier! Des fois, c’t’un accent français. C’est pour faire beau.

[1:29] Nous autres, on a pas besoin de dire ça, la phrase «aller en ville». On est d’jà là.


My region is a city, so… ha! (Take that!) (She’s bragging that Montréal is considered to be an entire region, not just a city.)

Montréal, city of freedom. Some people might say we’re individualists and that we don’t give a damn about anybody — well, it’s true. You can ignore the homeless without ever having to feel bad (about it). You can get beaten up in peace in the middle of the street without anybody coming to bother you.

You can order food 24 hours a day… but not you, right? (She’s joking that only other people would order food at all hours of the day and night… and not you, who’s better than that.)

Here (in Montréal), you can travel the world with your Opus card. (The Opus card is a credit-card shaped bus and métro pass.) What’s more, with our Chinatown, we own China! (We’ve got all of China right here!)

We’ve got all kinds of things that you don’t… an airport, a hockey team, BIXI bikes (these are pay-per-use bikes), actors walking in the streets, studio apartments next to (highway) 40 for 1400 dollars (a month). (La 40 is une autoroute, or highway. The part of autoroute 40 that passes through Montréal is known as la Métropolitaine.) Fine, some people might tell you that’s a lot of money to pay, but bumping into Stefie Shock in the street? Priceless.

Hold on, there’s an ambulance going by.

Ah goddammit, construction, huh? Shut up!!!

Some people might say Montréal is noisy, (but) I don’t give a shit (because) I’ve got tinnitus.

We’ve got a stadium, the métro (subway, tube), highways and lots of bridges. OK, they’re broken (the bridges), but still — we’ve got them.

Montréal’s got La Ronde. We don’t need to wait for Beauce Carnaval to show up with their rusty, worn-out rides — nope! Our rusty, worn-out rides are there all year long! (Beauce Carnaval rents out amusement park equipment, like rides; they were interested in the mayor of Québec City’s idea to install une grande roue.)

(In Montréal,) we don’t have an accent. No. We’re right. There’s more of us. So we win… huh! Bloody hell! Sometimes it’s a French accent (that we do). Just to sound nice.

(In Montréal,) we don’t need to say “I’m going to the city/going downtown.” We’re already there.


Vocabulary notes

  • faque, so (can be pronounced with two syllables as fa/que, or with one like fak)
  • y’en a p’t’-êt’, some (people) might (contraction of il y en a peut-être)
  • pis, and (sounds like pi; contraction of puis)
  • se sacrer de, to not give a shit/damn about
  • ben, well (sounds like bin; contraction of bien)
  • tapocher, to beat up
  • se faire tapocher, to get beaten up
  • la bouffe, food
  • des affaires, stuff, things
  • qui s’promènent, who walk (contraction of qui se promènent)
  • s’a rue, on/in the street (s’a rue is an informal contraction of sur la rue)
  • un deux et demie, this is an apartment with a kitchen (+1), a living room/bedroom all in one room (+1) and a bathroom (+0.5); it’s a contraction of un (appartement) deux (pièces) et demie; a one-bedroom apartment is un trois et demie (kitchen +1, living room +1, bedroom +1, bathroom +0.5)
  • une piasse, dollar, buck
  • y’en a qui vont, some people will, are gonna (contraction of il y en a qui vont)
  • ç’a pas d’prix, it’s priceless (contraction of ça n’a pas de prix)
  • y’a, there is, there are (contraction of il y a)
  • qui passe, that’s passing by (listen to how Korine pronounces passe; it uses the â sound: pâsse)
  • câlisse, fuck, shit, godammit (câlisse is vulgar language)
  • travaux, construction
  • vos yeules!, shut up! (vos yeules is said to more than one person, whereas ta yeule is the singular form; yeule is an informal pronunciation of gueule, which can also be used: vos gueules!, ta gueule!)
  • j’m’en sacre, I don’t give a damn/shit (s’en sacrer means to not give a damn/shit about it)
  • acouphène, tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • plein d’ponts, lots of bridges (plein de means loads of, lots of)
  • y, informal pronunciation of ils
  • brisé, broken, out of order
  • manèges rouillés, rusty (amusement park) rides
  • usé, worn-out
  • à l’année, all year long
  • fa’qu’on gagne, so we win (contraction of ça fait qu’on gagne)
  • fait chier!, sounds typically French
  • faire beau, to sound nice, look nice, come across nice
  • d’jà, contraction of déjà

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Here are a few more examples of French overheard in Montréal today, and that I’ve managed to remember long enough to create a new post! 😀

Y’a-tu une caisse pop?

Is there a (Desjardins) credit union (around here)?

A man who passed by in his car asked me this.

Y’a-tu is an informal equivalent of est-ce qu’il y a? You’ll remember that y’a is a spoken pronunciation of il y a. The tu after it turns it into a yes-no question.

Caisse pop is an informal abbreviation of caisse populaire. Desjardins is a caisse populaire.

Attention à gauche!

Look out on your left!

A man on a bike yelled this just before passing by some people walking on a bike path. He said à gauche because he was coming up quickly from behind the walkers and intended to pass on their left.

It’s also possible to say just à gauche! or attention!

Jus d’ananas

Pineapple juice

The final s in ananas isn’t pronounced — anana.

The letter a appears three times in ananas — you’ll probably hear the last a pronounced like the vowel sound heard in the word bas in this video (at 0:15) or in the words pas and chat in this video (at 0:20). The other two sound like the vowel sound in la, sa, ta, etc.

T’es ben fin.

That’s really nice/kind of you.
(literally, you’re really nice/kind)

Fin is often used in the sense of nice or kind, like gentil. The feminine form is fine. T’es, an informal contraction of tu es, sounds like té. Ben, from bien, rhymes with fin. (A better spelling would be bin, which is phonetic, but I use ben here because it’s the more common spelling.) Ben means really here.

If this had been said to a woman, it would be t’es ben fine.

Even though fin and fine resemble English words, they’re not — pronounce them as French words. As for gentil, remember that the final L isn’t pronounced. In the feminine form gentille, the final ille sounds the ille in fille. Be careful not to use that ille sound in the masculine gentil, which just ends in an i sound.

C’est gentil, merci!
That’s kind of you, thanks!

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Another example of French overheard in Montréal today; someone said in French the equivalent of “I’m on break” (as in a break at work).

Do you know how the person might have said this informally in French?

First thing to know: to be on break is être en pause.

This gives us je suis en pause.

Do you remember how je suis en can be pronounced informally? It can contract to j’t’en, which sounds like ch’t’en. (The ch sounds like ch in chaise.)

This happens when je suis contracts to j’s’, which sounds like ch. Between the ch sound and en, a t sound then got slipped in to ease pronunciation.

So the speaker said:

J’t’en pause.
(sounds like ch’t’en pause)

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I saw this sign outside a building in Montréal:

Interdiction de fumer et de vapoter à moins de 9 mètres de la porte.

No smoking or vaping within 9 metres of the door.

Vapoter means to smoke an electronic cigarette, fumer une cigarette électronique.

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