Friday, March 23, 2007

Bonjour les Québecois!

I know I have many visitors from Canada, including, of course, the Province of Quebec. This morning I thought of them when, near the embankment, I came across this statue of Jacques Cartier, a Breton (from Saint Malo), who landed in Quebec July 24, 1534. Since then, people there speak French... Even if, it's a little bit like British English and American English; the accent, the phrases and some words are slightly - and sometimes totally! - different.


  1. In the New England area of the US there are many French Canadians who came here looking for work.
    My grandmother was one - and French was spoken in her home. Unfortunately, I never picked up a word of it.

  2. Canada is a totally cool country in many ways. I love going up there, especially to BC. A little on the cold side, though. :)

  3. A great tribute, Canada is a country with such beautiful landscapes!

    I'm off to the beach, I'm going on a short trip for the next few days, so have a great weekend you all.

    Eric, take care will you? Don't let that cold catch you again!

  4. where is this exactly? we were in saint malo last week and there is a bigger statue/monument of jacques cartier and his 2nd voyage to canada...

    love Canada! I'm from Ottawa!

  5. Tout à fait! Je dirais même que notre langue belle s'est mieux conservée de notre côté de l'océan, résultat d'une lutte incessante à livrer à l'anglais qui nous entoure. Alors que vous avez la chance d'être dans un bassin linguistique plus... varié!

  6. Dave and I have often visited Quebec. According to locals, the French they speak is based on the French of the 16th century and is slightly different because of the adherence to the French of that time. We love Quebec only second to France. It is beautiful country and the people are lovely.

  7. Dear Eric & others,
    Thanks for making my "countdown to Paris" a memorable event. Today I decided it would be my pleasure to view a picture on line each day....till I travel in May 2007 to Paris from my home in Hawaii. I will always remember the day I found this site. Happy Travels. Look forward to viewing your pictures each and every day. ;-)

  8. Even though Canada is my neighbor...I have never been. I've heard good things about Vancouver though and will make it there someday!

    Speaking of Quebec, is there still much support for secession from Canada?

    A real shame that the lack of an expressed national language (such a big part of culture) can be such a barrier to feeling alike. I suppose that is why France has the Institut de France..."to protect the language."

    I wonder if the U.S. and Canada are the only countries that do not have one official language?

  9. Silly me...and here I thought Cartier was famous for his jewellery. ;-)

  10. Oh me too, Michael...mmm my watch, which i sadly no longer have... mmm Cartier. Oh er yes and this chap was obviously..quite important too. Of course. lol. Never been to Canada. Been to Cartiers in London though... mmm....

  11. If you are really interested in flamboyant influential men of Canada, you might want to find out all about Louis Real. There was a hero of extreme importance.

  12. Never heard of Louis real Johnny.

    After reading the inscription on the statue I noticed "La Nouvelle France". That's an oxymoron isn't it Eric?

  13. he he i think it might be!

    Okay i'm showing off now with my link talent recently taught to me by Michael so here's a little interlude, a sexy french song, my VERY favourite! Don't worry i won't keep doing this, but well, i have a new toy; indulge me!


  14. Fantastic way of describing the launguage difference. So simple yet so right!

  15. Eric,

    My French teacher told us that Quebec French actually preserved a lot of the accent of old French, that it had actually changed less. Except, as you say, with the addition of a ton of borrowed words from English.

    Je l'ai trouvé un accent charmant, particulièrement une fois parlé par les belles filles du Québec.


  16. Some day if I am farther north, I will venture into Canada.

    Languages are funny things. Even within one country there can be a wide variety of the same language.

  17. Well, Kirt, yes, that is what they say, but it's actually more the French of a specific region (Le Poitou) than a so called "original French" !

    You have to keep in mind that, at that time, each region would speak its own French (or even a dialect).

    In Quebec then, they probably kept this "Poitou" French (and accent) which is different from the French we speak now in France. But both French changed over the past 5 centuries.

    We still can understand each other though, even if some words and expressions don't exist in Canadian French and vice versa.

    And Canadian artists (singers, film makers, comedians...) are quite popular in France.

  18. I can't understand a word of Quebec French. I'm from Canada, and my French is comme ci comme ca, and i can understand pretty well when someone speaks to me with a France-French, or Swiss-French accent... but in Quebec, I feel lost. The only thing I understand is the English words that they have adopted. (Although it's still a beautiful province to visit)

  19. My current French teacher is from Cannes. Dave and I can understand her is lovely,clear, and delightful to hear. Michael, Louis Real led a fascinating life...check him out in your spare time. LOL spare time!!

    In Quebec city, Dave and I entered a restaurant one morning. I said "Bon Jour" in my, ahem, "perfect French". The waitress immediately answered me in English. Later, I asked her how she knew I was American. She replied that just with a simple "Bon Jour" she can spot an American. So much for my perfected "Bon Jour". She did say that I looked very French. So there!

  20. Louis Riel is from Manitoba, Canada... not from Quebec

  21. Haven't been north of the 49th for some time. Used to go fishing every year for decades. Loved all the dual language packages for all goods and menus. Now, we are seeing multiple language packages in U.S.: English, French, and Spanish. Fascinating. Viva la difference!

  22. Oh, I love Quebec and les Quebecois! I lived there for awhile, and loved hearing their accent which was different than my Parisian french teachers! I just thought it was because they are truly bilingual, so it's interesting to read the background of how their language evolved.

    In any case, they were very encouraging about having me 'parle francais', but I was 'too shy' at the time...silly, eh? Something I regret now.

  23. Jeff,

    North of the 49? Did the continental U.S. acquire a new state? LOl

    Sorry, I couldn't resist.

  24. As Eric said, a great majority of French settlers in "Nouvelle-France"(Québec)at that time were "Les Poitevins" who spoke "Le Poitou" a langues d'oil (langue d'oui)just like le Français[France] and le Gallo[from Bretagne]and as Luc said, being separated from the "linguistic pool" of France by the Atlantic ocean, French Canadians didn't experience all the linguistic changes that France did.

    There are many influences from Bretagne and les Poitevins still found in French-Canada today. The Buckwheat Crepes[or ployes as they are called in Quebec]from Bretagne is one, and the Clafoutis[Cherry or plum tart]from Limousin is another. Le Quatre-quarts and les Sables Bretons[Breton Pound Cake and butter cookies]are two other French-Canadian traditions! It always comes down to FOOD!! LOL!!!

    In New England after the Great Depression when many French Canadians moved south, speaking the French language was really looked down upon and to speak it in public schools could even result in punishment for the speaker. Many French speaking people in New England stopped speaking French to their children and some even changed their names so they would be more "Anglo-Saxon". They didn't want their children to be discriminated against in school or society.

    Today in Maine there has been a huge renaissance of the French language and public schools are teaching it again starting in the primary levels. There are now four or five French speaking language channels that come standard with your Cable TV "bundle", as compared to the Chinese and Spanish channels that are standard in San Francisco..I have to PAY for TV5 Monde!! LOL!

    I speak to many French Canadians on a daily basis and I always think when they speak French it sounds a bit like they are skiing..sort of a "schluuusshhh" sound, and I love the TV programs on TV5 from Quebec with the French "sous-titres". ;-)

    susan in atlanta...Even though Vancouver and Quebec are both in Canada there is a BIG difference between these two cities. If you ever get the chance to visit both of them you will understand why there are many people in Quebec that would still like to secede.

    Copy and paste this and you will hear a song from Star Academy.."Santiano" that makes me think what it must have been like on the crossing to La Nouvelle France! They still play the spoons and sing "Sea Chantey's" like this in "Nouveau-Brunswick"!! ;-)

  25. Eric...Excuse me for writing a "Book" instead of a comment, but as you can guess....La Nouvelle-France is a "soft spot" for me! merci!!!

  26. Susan, the 49th parallel (latitude)
    separates most of the US from Canada - just one straight line, & undefended as many people like to point out.

  27. (Lost my comment... arghhh!!!)
    KP Gallant: Thank you very much for taking the time to write this very informative comment! I didn't know most of what you wrote, so thanks.

    About Santiano: do you mean this old song by Hughes Aufray? Yeah, that's a great song!!

    Santiano: (En Francais)

    1 C'est un fameux trois-mâts, fin comme un oiseau,
    Hisse et ho, Santiano
    Dix-huits noeuds, quatre cents tonneaux,
    Je suis fier d'y être matelot.

    R Tiens bon la barre et tiens bon le vent,
    Hisse et ho, Santiano
    Si Dieu veut, toujours droit devant,
    Nous irons jusqu'à San Francisco.

    2 Je pars pour de longs mois en laissant Margot
    Hisse et ho, Santiano
    D'y penser, j'avais le coeur gros
    En doublant les feux de Saint Malo.

    3 On prétend que là-bas, l'argent coule à flots
    Hisse et ho, Santiano
    On trouve l'or au fond des ruisseaux,
    J'en rapporterai plusieurs lingots.

    4 Un jour je reviendrai, chargé de cadeaux
    Hisse et ho, Santiano
    Au pays, j'irai voir Margot,
    À son doigt, je passerai l'anneau.

    R' Tiens bon la barre et tiens bon le vent,
    Hisse et ho, Santiano
    Sur la mer qui fait le gros dos
    Nous irons jusqu'à San Francisco

  28. Yes, tomate that is the same song! The one by Hugues Aufray! If you copy and paste the link you will get a video link where you can click onto "Santiano" and watch the video from Star Academy. It's really kind of cute and the song is full of "energie"!!!

  29. Louis Real was from Manitoba but we classify him as a Canadian Hero...We found out about his life when we went to Winnipeg...there is a French population there. That is why we made the trip. Charming city!

  30. i enjoy your blog (almost-daily) and happy to have come across this image. I am Canadian (from the 'hammer' in southern ontario) and most recently spent the past summer in Quebec, in the beautiful Saguenay region. Hope you do get a chance to visit sometime :)

    ...on a side note, I spent a wonderful 'new year' in Paris a few months ago.

  31. KPGallant: Thanks for the link, it is really kind of cute!

    I don't get the same visualization, though, when I listen to that song. The young people look like they come straight out of an Abercrombie & Fitch commercial, and there are a lot of girls on that boat.. they all look like they're having a grand old time, as if they were a group of young people going clubbing or something. :)

    When I listen to that song, I imagine a scruffy looking guy either alone thinking about the one he left behind, or with a few other equally scruffy looking men, having a pretty hard time with rough sea and rough conditions on some kind of primitive boat, long months of hardship and sacrifice to make it to " the New World" It's hard to imagine that women would follow on these kind of exploratory trips. Also, because he says "San Francisco" I always imagined that the song referred to the Gold Rush of 1849, although I suppose the song could have been written to depict earlier travels, when people thought the streets on the new continent were "paved with gold." Anyway, that's just what that song means to me.

    I looked a little bit online but couldn't find any information to find out what the song is really talking about. I can tell you one thing for sure: listenting to that kind of songs when I was a kid, as well as folk music brought back to us by certain French artists (like Hugues Aufray) contributed big time to my personal "American dream."

  32. Bonjour, Éric!

    Pas envie de faire un cours sur le Québec, le Canada francophone etc... Mais il est important de se rappeler que bon nombre de Québécois francophones contemporains ne sont pas les rejetons des Poitevins, Normands ou Bretons.

    Johnny, keep on insisting and don't be intimidated. They will break down and speak French. And love you for it.

    There are few thing more infuriating than speaking to a nonperson in the language one assumes he or she speaks ... and often the locals get it wrong. If only I spoke all the languages people thought I did... I speak five, which is not bad, but...

  33. Bonjour Eric,

    Born in US raised in Quebec and moved back in US in my twenty.
    In my thirty I met people from Paris. We did understand each other
    but I had to rethink every words before speaking french (quebecois).
    It is easier for the Quebecois to understand the Parisian.
    The true is I cannot speak English or French properly.
    Honestly I feel handicap.

    by sad Franco-Englo-Quebecois who cannot express herself:(

  34. I don't know if anybody has mentioned this yet but Canada has two official languages French and English (on the federal level). On the provincial level only New Brunswick (province east of Quebec) is officially bilingual although Quebec includes an important English and immigrant minority and provinces like Ontario and Manitoba have somewhat important Francophone minorities. As to the comprehensibility of Quebec French. It depends on whether you're talking about a man speaking in a relaxed manner in joual or whether it's someone speaking standard Quebec French. Standard Quebec French is quite easy to understand. Having lived in both France and Quebec I think the hardest part in both cases is trying to get a grasp of the slang and idioms that are part of current usage.