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Imagine someone were complaining about a situation. You, unable to do anything about it and frustrated by the person’s complaints, might say to him in English in an indignant tone, “what do you want me to say?”

During a conversation, a guy said an equivalent of this in French to the person with whom he was speaking.

Can you guess how?

Make an attempt, and will look at the answer below. (Clue: More literally, he said the equivalent of “what do you want me to say to you?”)

Rue Sainte-Catherine, à Montréal [février 2016]

Does what you guessed sound something like this?

Qu’est-ce que tu veux que je te dise?

It’s correct, but it’s not quite how he said it. Before we look at how he did say it, let’s look at the expression vouloir que (+ subjunctive) because it’s important to learn.

I want you to leave.
Je veux que tu partes.

I want him to redo it.
Je veux qu’il le refasse.

I want you to be there.
Je veux que tu soies là.

He wants me to learn French.
Il veut que j’apprenne le français.

In sum, to say in French I want you to (verb in infinitive form), you literally say the equivalent of I want that you (verb in subjunctive form).

Let’s go back to our sentence from above.

Qu’est-ce que tu veux que je te dise?

Dise is in the subjunctive.

Remember, though, that this isn’t quite how the guy said it, so let’s look now at how he really did.

In spoken language, je te can contract to j’te. It sounds like ch’te, where the ch sounds like the ch of the French words chaise, choix, tache, etc. To pronounce j’te, then, put the ch sound immediately in front of the word te.

Qu’est-ce que tu veux que j’te dise?

In spoken language, there are times when you might notice that que is omitted. In this case in particular, the guy omitted both instances of que.

Qu’est-ce tu veux j’te dise?

Qu’est-ce on its own without que sounds like quèss, or like kess using an anglicised spelling.

Maybe you’ll remember that the letter d sounds like dz (like the dz sound of the English word lads [i.e., ladz]) when it comes before the French i and u sounds. Dise, then, is in fact pronounced dziz. And maybe you’ll also remember that t sounds like ts (like the ts sound of the English word cats) when it comes before the French i and u sounds. Tu, then, is in fact pronounced tsu.

Using a more phonetic spelling, here’s how what the guy said actually sounds:

Quèss tsu veu ch’te dziz?

And that’s how the guy said it.

*

To read a condensed version of the French language explored in the first 1000 posts of OffQc, you might like to get a copy of 1000: Québécois French.

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Here’s an excellent video where Pénélope McQuade speaks slowly. She talks about a teacher she once had and why she appreciates her. Apart from all the vocab, three interesting things to listen for:

1. là-dedans

Listent to how she pronounces là-dedans at 0:44. It sounds like lad-dan, in two syllables. We looked before at how has two different pronunciations depending on how it’s used.

If you don’t remember what they are, you can review that here and here.

2. qu’on avait

When Pénélope says qu’on avait at 1:07, you’ll really hear the liaison. It doesn’t sound like qu’onn / avait; no, it sounds like qu’on / n’avait. That’s because with the liaison, the normally silent or nasalised letter of the first word transfers to the beginning of the next word.

So, you don’t say vouz / avez; you say vou /z’avez. You don’t say lez / autos; you say lé / z’autos. If you pause where you see “/”, you’ll hear the difference. Pénélope pauses between qu’on and avait, allowing the liaison to really be heard.

3. attitude

When she says attitude at 1:55, you’ll also really hear the tsitsu!

(Remember what that is? The tsitsu is a made-up word used on OffQc meant to help you remember that t is pronounced ts before the French i and u sounds. Similarly, the dzidzu reminds you that d is pronounced dz before the French i and u sounds.)

Attitude, then, sounds like a-tsi-tsude. You can’t help but hear the tsitsu when Pénélope says this word in the video; it’s very clear. Maybe you’ll want to try to listen for other examples of the tsi, tsu, dzi and dzu sounds in this video.

Moi, j’étais une étudiante qui ne comprenait pas le système d’autorité. J’ai été élevée dans une maison avec des parents qui m’ont enseigné l’égalité, l’autonomie — physique et intellectuelle. Donc, j’étais une étudiante qui remettait beaucoup en cause le système établi, et la professeure qui m’a démontré qu’effectivement la relation entre un enseignant et son élève devrait d’abord et avant tout être une relation égalitaire pour que les deux puissent s’en bénéficier et grandir là‑dedans (0:44), elle s’appelait Antoinette Taddeo. C’était au secondaire.

C’était une ancienne soeur qui avait défroqué, donc elle-même un peu en révolte contre un certain système. Mais ce qui est intéressant ce qu’elle nous responsabilisait sans avoir à mettre en pratique son autorité. On avait tellement envie de gagner son respect qu’on avait (1:07) une conduite morale et éthique quasi irréprochable, et c’était quelqu’un qui respectait énormément ses étudiants, qui leur donnait une confiance même quand les élèves n’avait pas cette confiance-là en eux-mêmes. Donc, je peux juste respecter quelqu’un qui arrivait à voir à travers nous.

Elle avait vraiment cette capacité-là d’aller chercher chaque personne, et le potentiel de chaque personne et je me suis jamais sentie jugée par elle. Moi, j’étais une élève qui était très provocatrice, qui était une grande gueule, qui aimait choquer pour choquer, et où d’autres professeurs se rebutaient, étaient plutôt réfractaires à mes comportements, mon attitude (1:55), elle a cherché à voir plus loin et à utiliser cette originalité, cette marginalité que j’avais et la mettait en valeur ou m’aidait à la mettre en valeur à travers de l’écriture, par exemple.

Donc, je remercie Antoinette Taddeo d’avoir réussi à ce que finalement je finisse par m’enseigner moi-même certaines grandes leçons de la vie. Alors, pour moi, un enseignant, une enseignante qu’on aime, c’est quelqu’un qui nous enseigne plus que juste la matière, qui nous enseigne aussi à faire confiance aux autres, à se trouver à l’intérieur de soi-même pour trouver des solutions, à se dépasser. Donc, c’est sûr que, y’a [il y a] des choses qu’on apprend là pis qu’on développe qui vont rester avec nous pour toujours.

I was a student who didn’t understand the authority system. I was raised in a home with parents who taught me equality, independence — both physical and intellectual. So I was a student who really challenged the established system, and the teacher who really showed me that the relationship between a teacher and student should be first and foremost one of equality so that both can benefit from it and grow (inside of it) was called Antoinette Taddeo.

This was in secondary school. She was an ex-nun who’d left the sisterhood, so, in a way, even she was challenging a certain system. But what’s interesting is that she taught us responsibility without having to exert her authority. We wanted to earn her respect so much that we almost always behaved morally and ethically, and she was someone who greatly respected her students, who gave them confidence even when those same students didn’t have confidence in themselves. So, I can only respect someone who really managed to relate to us.

She was really good at relating to individuals, understanding an individual’s potential, and I never felt judged by her. As a student, I was a troublemaker, a big mouth, someone who liked to get a rise out of people, and someone for whom other teachers were put off, who disliked my behaviour, my attitude. She tried to see beyond that to put my originality and difference to use, to value it or rather to help me value it, through writing, for example.

So, I thank Antoinette Taddeo for getting me to end up teaching myself certain important life lessons. So, for me, a teacher that you like is someone who teaches more than just the subject at hand, who teaches us to trust others, to find ourselves so that we can find solutions, to outdo ourselves. So, it’s really stuff that we learn and then develop that stays with us for the rest of our lives.

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Do you remember chu, that informal pronunciation of je suis used in Québécois French?

je suis > j’suisj’su’s = sounds like chu

Sometimes you’ll also see chu spelled as chus. Either way, it sounds like chu. But what about chu-tu? What does it mean in the questions below?

Chus-tu la seule à faire ça?
Chu-tu en train de virer fou?

If chu means je suis, does that mean chu-tu means je suis tu? Yes! But it most definitely doesn’t mean something like “I am you.”

If you read OffQc, there’s no fooling you — you know tu here is used to ask yes-no questions and has nothing to do with the second-person singular subject tu.

You can replace the tu with oui ou non to help you understand the questions.

Chus-tu la seule à faire ça?
Chus-[oui ou non] la seule à faire ça?
Am I the only one who does that?

Chu-tu en train de virer fou?
Chu-[oui ou non] en train de virer fou?
Am I going crazy?

Asking yes-no questions with tu is an informal equivalent of asking yes-no questions with est-ce que. The difference is that est-ce que goes before the subject and verb, but tu goes after them.

Est-ce que c’est vraiment ça?
C’est-tu vraiment ça?

Est-ce que je suis le seul à faire ça?
Je suis-tu le seul à faire ça?
But pronounced:
Chu-tu le seul à faire ça?

Est-ce que tu as vu ça?
Tu as-tu vu ça?
But pronounced:
T’as-tu vu ça?

Est-ce que je suis en train de virer fou?
Je suis-tu en train de virer fou?
But pronounced:
Chu-tu en train de virer fou?

When the letter t appears before the French u sound, it’s pronounced ts (like the ts sound in the English words cats, bats and hats).

Chu-tu is really pronounced chu-tsu.
C’est-tu is really pronounced cé-tsu.
T’as-tu is really pronounced tâ-tsu, etc.

It’s a small difference, but the Québécois will hear it. If you’re not sure what this ts thing sounds like, there’s only one remedy — start listening to lots of spoken French from Québec. If you haven’t listened to much spoken French before, you might not notice the ts sound at first. But once you’ve managed to hear it, you’ll realise just how prevalent its use really is.

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Michael asks about a usage he’s heard in which qu’est-ce que is used instead of ce que, like this: je comprends qu’est-ce que tu veux dire.

Should you adopt this usage?

It’s not considered to be standard, not even in Québec where you’ll sometimes hear people use it.

You can continue to use ce que, which is always correct and won’t make you sound any less natural: je comprends ce que tu veux dire.

How do the Québécois pronounce je comprends ce que tu veux dire?

When said colloquially, je comprends tends to contract to j’comprends. When j’ comes before c, like it does here, it’s pronounced ch (like the sh in flash).

ch’compren…

When you pronounce ce que, try to say it with one syllable rather than two. This will sound more natural. To say ce que with one syllable, first say que. Now add an s sound to the beginning of it: sque.

ch’compren s’que…

Don’t forget the letter t is pronounced ts before the French u sound. It’s like the ts sound in the English word “cats.” So tu is pronounced tsu.

ch’compren s’que tsu veu…

The letter d is pronounced dz when it comes before the French i sound. It’s like the dz sound in the English word “pads.” So dire is pronounced dzir.

ch’compren s’que tsu veu dzir

Of course, it’s never written like that, not even in an informal text. If you write it like that, people will think you’ve lost your mind!

At most, it might be written like this informally: j’comprends c’que tu veux dire.

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Oh hello, good morning!

Well good morning to you too!

In Québec, you’ll hear merde (shit) pronounced as marde.

Today’s a shitty day. Not because it’s a bad day but because marde is our word for today. Here are 13 example sentences of how marde likes to be kept busy in Québec.

It keeps your enemies entertained.

1. Mange don d’la marde.
Eat shit.

2. Qu’y mangent don d’la marde.
They can eat shit.

It keeps crappy objets company…

3. Crisse d’ordi à marde!
Fucking shitty computer!

… as well as crappy people.

4. Osti d’chien sale à marde!
You fucking shitty asshole!

It pays visits to people in a pickle.

5. Chu dans marde.
I’m so screwed.

6. T’es dans marde, man.
You’re screwed, man.

Shitty idea? Shitty day? Hell, shitty life? Why not.

7. Non mais quelle idée d’marde.
What a shitty idea that is.

8. Bonne journée d’marde à toi!
Have a shitty day!

9. Maudite vie d’marde.
Goddamn shitty life.

People can be treated like it.

10. Y me traite comme d’la marde.
He treats me like shit.

11. Y me parle comme d’la marde.
He talks to me like shit.

It loves the stink…

12. Ouache, ça pue la marde!
Yuck, it smells like shit!

… and the wintertime.

13. Chu pu capab d’la marde blanche.
I can’t stand the snow (white shit) anymore.

***

What is don in the first two examples? It’s how donc is pronounced. I used the spelling don so that you wouldn’t be tempted to pronounce it as donk. But are you wondering why donc is even used in these examples to begin with? Don’t try to analyse it too much; you’ll often come across donc in declarations like these. It sounds better with it!

Do you remember to dzidzuate and tsitsuate? Maudzite journée d’marde. Crisse d’ordzi à marde. Ostsi d’chien sale à marde. If you forget to do your dz and ts, don’t worry — you’ll still be understood. If you can manage it though, it’ll sound a lot more authentic. If you use the offcois nouns le dzidzu and le tsitsu with your French prof, he’ll either worry that you know something he doesn’t or think you’ve gone batshit crazy.

Don’t forget that il and ils are most often pronounced as y (or i) when people speak colloquially. Y me traite comme d’la marde means the same thing as il me traite comme d’la marde. Remember too that je suis very often contracts to chu, and tu es becomes t’es.

In 13, chu pu capab means the same thing as je ne suis plus capable. There’s a lot of contraction going on here! Je suis became chu, plus became pu (also spelled informally as pus), and capable lost its le sound on the end.

Bonne journée d’marde à vous tous!
Have a shitty day everybody!

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Related reading: Ma vie, c’est de la marde! (#803)

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I went to the post office yesterday to deliver a package. When the cashier asked how I wanted to send it, I said: en régulier, which means that I wanted to send it by regular post.

It cost 9,65 $ to send the package, which is said in French as: neuf et soixante-cinq. On the receipt, the cashier showed me the tracking number, le numéro de suivi, so that I could track online the package’s delivery.

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Yesterday morning, I heard someone ask a friend: Comment ça va? The friend answered back by saying: Pas pire!, which means “not bad” in Québec.

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Are you pronouncing the French word suggestion correctly?

The letter g appears twice in this word, and you must pronounce each one. The first g is hard, like the g in goutte. The second g is soft, like the j in joute. What’s more, suggestion is a tsitsu word. The t is pronounced ts.

sugges-tsion

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Chris asked about the expression péter la balloune de quelqu’un in the comments section of yesterday’s post about the verb péter.

The québécois expression péter la balloune de quelqu’un means “to burst someone’s bubble,” in the sense of disappointing or bringing the person back down to earth.

In the comments, JohanneDN provided a good example of the expression: Quand j’ai reçu les résultats de mon examen de philo, ça a pété ma balloune. (When I got the results of my philosophy exam, I was disappointed/let down.)

If you’re about to give someone a reality check, you could say: Je veux pas péter ta balloune, mais… or Désolé de péter ta balloune, mais… This expression can have a cutting tone to it.

Je veux pas péter ta balloune, mais la vraie diva du Québec, c’est Ginette Reno.
I don’t wanna burst your bubble, but the real diva of Québec is Ginette Reno.
I hate to burst your bubble, but…

_ _ _

Most words that end in -tion aren’t tsitsu words. For example, in information and animation, the t is pronounced like an s. So, there’s no t sound to begin with to be pronounced ts. But in words like bastion and gestion, which end in -stion, the t is indeed pronounced like a t — or, more accurately, like ts in Québec. That’s why suggestion above is a tsitsu word.

Don’t go overboard pronouncing ts and dz in tsitsu and dzidzu words. It’s not tsssssssss and dzzzzzzzzz; it’s just ts and dz. It’s said quickly like any other sound.

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I saw the advertisement in the image above in a public space in Montréal. The Fonds is promoting their RRSPs. An RRSP is a Canadian investment for retirement. In French, an RRSP is called un REER, which is pronounced ré-èr.

And, finally, the moose in the image is called un orignal in French!

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1. en régulier, by regular post
2. 9,65 $, neuf et soixante-cinq
3. un numéro de suivi, tracking number
4. pas pire, not bad
5. suggestion, check your pronunciation!
6. péter la balloune de quelqu’un, to burst someone’s bubble
7. bastion, gestion, the t is pronounced ts in Québec
8. un REER, RRSP (pronounced ré-èr)
9. un orignal, moose

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On Urbania, Jonathan Roberge writes about an accident he had while mountain biking.

The accident probably had something to do with the fact that he chose to go mountain biking on a volcano in Peru at an altitude of 4600 metres.

He says:

Faire du vélo de montagne sur un volcan, au Pérou! À 4600 mètres d’altitude, quelle idée de marde parfaite pour moi!

Mountain biking on a volcano in Peru! At 4600 metres in altitude, what a perfectly shitty idea for me!

Altitude is a tsitsu word. It’s pronounced al-tsi-tsude in Québec.

In his accident, he suffered massive injuries, like: deux vertèbres de chiées dans la nuque (two messed up vertebrae in the neck), quatre côtes fracturées (four fractured ribs), la mâchoire débarquée (a dislocated jaw) and all sorts of other fun stuff.

I’ve pulled three verbs from his text for us to look at:

1. embarquer
2. chialer
3. pogner

1. embarquer

To get to the volcano, Roberge paid a guy $100 to take him there by jeep.

Je donne 100 $ au gars pis j’embarque dans son 4×4 […].

I give the guy $100 and then get in his 4×4.

Embarquer can be used to get in a car, and débarquer to get out: embarquer dans l’auto (to get in the car), débarquer de l’auto (to get out of the car). If you’re travelling on the bus or métro with friends, you can tell them on débarque ici (this is where we get off) when you arrive at your stop.

4×4 is said as quatre par quatre.

In addition to dollar, you’ll also hear the word piasse used a lot: 100 piasses = 100 dollars.

Remember: gars is pronounced gâ, and pis (a reduction of puis) is pronounced pi.

2. chialer

Roberge wasn’t the only foreign traveller in the jeep. There were also some fussy British girls.

Dans le jeep, il y avait des princesses britanniques habillées comme M.I.A. qui chialaient parce qu’elles n’avaient pas de réseau pour leur téléphone intelligent […].

In the jeep, there were some British princesses dressed like M.I.A. who kept complaining that their smartphones had no signal.

In Québec, chialer is pronounced chiâler. The letter combination comes close to what “yaw” sounds like in English. This verb is frequently used in the same sense as se plaindre sans arrêt.

3. pogner

Roberge was going too fast on his bike. When he hit a hole in the path, he came crashing down hard on a rock.

J’allais vite, beaucoup trop vite, j’ai pogné un trou et j’ai été propulsé sur une énorme roche.

I was going fast, way too fast. I hit a hole and was sent flying into an enormous rock.

The verb pogner (rhymes with cogner) is often heard in Québec in the sense of “to catch” or “to grab.” What Roberge “caught” here was a big hole in the path that sent him flying off his bike. You can learn all about the verb pogner here.

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French quotes by: Jonathan Roberge, « Le Pérou, c’est médium le fun », Urbania, 21 février 2014.

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