Author Topic: Learning the French language: a question.  (Read 5159 times)

lizzzi

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Learning the French language: a question.
« on: August 27, 2014, 04:36:26 PM »
As an American who spends much more time in francophone Canada than I ever will in France, does it matter what language course I take just in terms of Canadian French versus French French? Would it be better to try to learn the Canadian accent and idioms…or should I be trying to sound like an elegant, educated Parisian? I've had two and one-half years of high school and college French in the distant past, but really want to master the language now that I'm FIRE. At my level I can't even tell the difference between the two accents, but I believe I have heard that they are different in some ways. I genuinely respect the language and want to get it right.  Wise counsel would be much appreciated.

nonsequitur

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Re: Learning the French language: a question.
« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2014, 06:03:20 PM »
If you have access to a Canadian French language instructor/course, definitely do that.  There is a real difference in usage and pronunciation.  I studied Parisian French, and mostly learned to understand spoken French in while Paris.  With that as a base, it took me quite a while to readily understand my Quebecois in-laws, both due to accent differences and jargon.  I had no trouble being understood, however, so there is that. 

YoungInvestor

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Re: Learning the French language: a question.
« Reply #2 on: August 27, 2014, 06:24:34 PM »
People will understand you either way (Although people in France Paris often pretend that they don't). You, on the other hand, may have more of a problem. French is subject to huge regional differences: people from Montreal, Quebec City, rural Quebec, New Brunswick, Paris, Marseilles and Northern France all sound very different, in a way similar to how people from England, Scotland, Australia, NE US and Southern US sound very different.

I'd find a teacher from an upper-middle-class family from the region you're interested in. Working class people often have stronger regional characteristics.

Side-note : people with a Parisian accent do not necessarily appear more sophisticated in Quebec, it's funny more than anything else to us. I would not base my choice on perceived sophistication. Especially considering how likely it is that you will always have an anglophone accent. Several adults I know have learned french in their 20s-30s, and while they are able to do what they want to, they still make some mistakes. Genders come to mind (Because inanimate objects and concepts have (completely arbitrary as far as I can tell) grammatical genders in French. A chair is feminine whereas a sofa is masculine, for example).

Basically, I wouldn't care too much about this for the next 5-6 years. Canadian French teachers will probably have a better accent in english, but I leave it to you to decide whether that's a good thing or a bad thing).

YoungInvestor

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Re: Learning the French language: a question.
« Reply #3 on: August 27, 2014, 06:26:15 PM »
People will understand you either way (Although people in France Paris often pretend that they don't). You, on the other hand, may have more of a problem. French is subject to huge regional differences: people from Montreal, Quebec City, rural Quebec, New Brunswick, Paris, Marseilles and Northern France all sound very different, in a way similar to how people from England, Scotland, Australia, NE US and Southern US sound very different.

Side-note : people with a Parisian accent do not necessarily appear more sophisticated in Quebec, it's funny more than anything else to us. I would not base my choice on perceived sophistication. Especially considering how likely it is that you will always have an anglophone accent. Several adults I know have learned french in their 20s-30s, and while they are able to do what they want to, they still make some mistakes. Genders come to mind (Because inanimate objects and concepts have (completely arbitrary as far as I can tell) grammatical genders in French. A chair is feminine whereas a sofa is masculine, for example).

Basically, I wouldn't care too much about this for the next 5-6 years. Canadian French teachers will probably have a better accent in english, but I leave it to you to decide whether that's a good thing or a bad thing).

lizzzi

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Re: Learning the French language: a question.
« Reply #4 on: August 27, 2014, 06:59:02 PM »
Thanks for all the replies and insights. It looks like there are a zillion immersion courses available in "la belle province." It's nice that I can just drive up there--no plane tickets to buy--Magnifique!

water1974

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Re: Learning the French language: a question.
« Reply #5 on: August 27, 2014, 09:16:09 PM »
Very cool to see someone else wanting to learn French in Canada when they retire (already there for you, a few more years for me).

mbl

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Re: Learning the French language: a question.
« Reply #6 on: August 28, 2014, 08:10:42 AM »
The best bet is to be around native speakers in order to learn the regional version of French and so as to be respectful.
The further up in Quebec you go, the less English will be spoken.

AshStash

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Re: Learning the French language: a question.
« Reply #7 on: August 28, 2014, 03:44:46 PM »
The only at home Quebecois course I've heard of is the one mentioned in this post on Fi3M http://www.fluentin3months.com/quebec-french/  I haven't tried it though, as I'm focused on Parisian French at the moment.

You can also find French Canadian teachers on italki.com if you're interested in taking lessons online via Skype. I did this for Spanish and it was a wonderful and cost-effective way to work one-on-one with a professional teacher and also to find native speakers with a variety of regional accents to have a language exchange with free of charge.

There are also probably podcasts, streaming radio, and tv shows or news videos online out of Quebec that you can find to listen to and increase your exposure that way.

Nords

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Re: Learning the French language: a question.
« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2014, 12:45:33 AM »
As an American who spends much more time in francophone Canada than I ever will in France, does it matter what language course I take just in terms of Canadian French versus French French? Would it be better to try to learn the Canadian accent and idioms…or should I be trying to sound like an elegant, educated Parisian? I've had two and one-half years of high school and college French in the distant past, but really want to master the language now that I'm FIRE. At my level I can't even tell the difference between the two accents, but I believe I have heard that they are different in some ways. I genuinely respect the language and want to get it right.  Wise counsel would be much appreciated.
Speaking Parisian French in Canada is like speaking British English in Texas.  Good luck with that.

One of my Canadian friends speaks Quebecois, and it sounds nothing like the Parisian French that I learned.  You should study Canadian French if that's where you'll use it the most.  If you someday travel to Paris and get treated like an ignorant colonial, then you can use your elegant colloquial Canadian French idioms to tell them exactly where to stick their upturned noses...

lizzzi

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Re: Learning the French language: a question.
« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2014, 06:35:55 AM »
I'm doing some Pimsleur CDs right now, which are standard French. They are too expensive of course--I think I will pay for Level I but check the library for the higher levels. I've heard that Pimsleur can be hard to cancel, as they just keep mailing CDs and billing your credit card unless you practically threaten them with legal action. Well, we shall see. I do like the CDs--it is all verbal, with nothing written to look at--which is fine for now.

I found online  www.learn-canadian-french.language101.com    This is also too expensive, but I did the first free lesson and found it kind of fun and interesting, but I didn't think the vocabulary would be as useful as what I'm getting from Pimsleur. There are three levels for a total cost of $527. (Pimsleur is $256 for each level, and they supposedly are coming out with the fifth level in 2014--it may already be out--so you are looking at over $1,200. Definitely am not going to pay that--will go to the library or maybe buy used if I have to. The language101 site offers scholarships, so I might look at asking for one--you tell them what you want to pay, and then they either approve it or not.

AshStash

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Re: Learning the French language: a question.
« Reply #10 on: August 30, 2014, 07:40:58 AM »
You are right about Pimsleur being expensive! The library is  more likely to have the beginner levels than advanced, so you might be better off getting level 1 from the library and saving your money for advanced levels or other courses. My local library has an online subscription to Transparent Languages, which is good for general tourist and conversation vocab. You might see what other resources your library has besides Pimsleur.

If you are new to at-home language learning, there are a lot of resources available. I'd suggest searching the forums of How to Learn Any Language. There are a lot of self-taught polyglots who post on that board and offer really detailed suggestions on learning languages in general and French in particular. http://how-to-learn-any-language.com/forum/  In a similar vein, Benny Lewis' blog, Fluent in Three Months (fi3m.com) has lots of useful reviews, recommendations, course suggestions, and general advice.

 It's something of a hobby of mine, so if you want more links, please PM me. I don't want to spam the board with lots of links  to language sites (even though I have no affiliation to them).

For what it's worth, I'm a big fan of Assimil courses. Duolingo is also a fun resource, although I have my issues with it, it's hugely popular and good practice, especially considering it's free! For me, FSI courses are a bit tedious, but they are effective, comprehensive, and free to download. Add in podcasts, news and radio online, language exchanges with native speakers, and it's possible to gain incredible fluency very cheaply. Good luck!

ScienceSexSavings

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Re: Learning the French language: a question.
« Reply #11 on: August 30, 2014, 07:36:11 PM »
I would definitely choose standard and Canadian French resources. I learned all my French here in Canada, and just the regional differences were hard enough to deal with.

Gerard

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Re: Learning the French language: a question.
« Reply #12 on: August 31, 2014, 08:06:27 AM »
Speaking Parisian French in Canada is like speaking British English in Texas.  Good luck with that.

This.

Unless you're going to become a university professor and teach in French, he said from bitter experience.

RetiredAt63

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Re: Learning the French language: a question.
« Reply #13 on: August 31, 2014, 04:27:26 PM »
+1

We were told we were learning Parisian French when I was in school in Montreal, way back when.  Much good that did me - people understand me, but I can't eavesdrop on the Metro at all.  And I am sure that my accent is just Quebecoise enough that if I ever get to Paris, those noses will be up.

Speaking Parisian French in Canada is like speaking British English in Texas.  Good luck with that.

This.

Unless you're going to become a university professor and teach in French, he said from bitter experience.

lizzzi

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Re: Learning the French language: a question.
« Reply #14 on: September 01, 2014, 06:37:32 PM »
Has anyone here watched the TV mini-series Marguerite Volant that came out in Canada in 1996? Any thoughts on the accents?

Dee

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Re: Learning the French language: a question.
« Reply #15 on: September 01, 2014, 08:03:34 PM »
I haven't seen Marguerite Volant but I just got on the waiting list for it at the library (I am third in line) so perhaps I can report back soon enough that it will still be useful.

I am Franco-Ontarian. Even that is enough to cause occasional confusion in communications with my Quebecois neighbours (let alone my actual French counterparts!) I concur with what has been said -- definitely get used to hearing French Canadian being spoken if you want to understand it. It's quite different in spoken form than in written form. In writing, there would be a lot less difficulty focusing on French from France.

A couple of misunderstandings I've had with Quebec counterparts: I was raised that using "vous" was as outmoded as using "thou" in English. It just wasn't used at all in my generation, in my region. I have learned since that it is not outmoded in Quebec. This can cause slight embarrassment for me as I can hardly convince myself to use it with a straight face or for more than one sentence. (Of course, if you learn Parisian French, you will be using "vous" more than enough to fit in in Quebec!)

Another slight variation is that in Ontario, "crayon" means exclusively pencil, whereas in Quebec, it means any writing instrument. So if someone asks me for a "crayon" and I have a bin full of pens, I will tell them earnestly and with all sincerity that I have no "crayon" to share. In Quebec, "crayon" is more generic, and if a Quebecois wanted a pencil, they would ask specifically for a "crayon a mine". If they just ask for a "crayon," they just want anything to write with and any of those hypothetical pens from my bin full of pens would be just fine.

The biggest difference between Quebec and Ontario French is that the great majority of Franco-Ontarians are fluent in English, so any English word thrown in to any sentence anywhere is likely to be understood. Meanwhile many Quebecois do not speak English fluently so you have to know which "anglicisms" are understood before you throw them into a sentence. I once tried to say that someone had "ratted" someone out in French but didn't really know how to say it... so, of course I said "il l'a 'rat-é". Turns out that's not a concept in Quebec French! Luckily, the people I was speaking to took the time to have me explain what I was talking about... turns out if I'd used "stool" (as in stool pigeon) as a verb (Il l'a "stool-é"), I likely would have been understood.

Language is fascinating!

Also, if you're interested in the history of the language, you might like The Story of French by Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow (which was originally published in English and *then* translated into French as "La grande aventure de la langue française de Charlemagne au Cirque du Soleil"). The authors are a married couple who met at McGill University. I didn't have a chance to get through much of the book when I borrowed it from the library but I should borrow it again because it did seem really interesting.