Learning French in Quebec
comment 2 Written by on July 22, 2010 – 4:49 am

So here I am at summer school in Montreal. I’m into my third week of French refresher classes at UQAM (L’Université du Québec à Montréal). Keeping up the location independent way of life, I have signed up for the intensive morning course, which leaves me with the afternoons/evenings to earn a living and pay the cheap rent in a houseshare I found on Craigslist. However, others students in my class have also signed up for the afternoon sessions that include trips around town. There is even a ‘French with Jazz’ program to tie in with the city’s famous summer Jazz Festival.

Montreal is a wonderful place to live, but learning French here presents some hurdles. First, it is all to easy to get lazy and take advantage of the local bilingualism. If you really want to improve, it’s on your shoulders to make the effort and I don’t have a great track record at this. Last time I lived in Montreal (aged 19), I ended up working in an Irish pub.

There is also the accent to contend with. The Québécois way of speaking is known as joual. This sees simple words like ‘moi’ being turned into ‘moé’ (sounding more like the Spanish way of saying ‘muy’). Famously, when Québécois films are showing in France, they often come with subtitles.

That said I’m going to try and give some local films a go, starting with the highly acclaimed J’ai Tué Ma Mere (above), which many said should have received an Oscar nomination. Looking at the trailer and the speed they talk at, I may need to keep a finger close to the rewind button.

Personally, I am a fan of the drawling Quebec accent and it’s much easier slotting into the French of Quebec than doing something as silly as trying to learn totally-non-standard Spanish in Argentina.

Actually, my exposure to Québécois French on this trip has, so far, been minimal. Aside from day to day contact in shops and cafes, my main contact comes from my teacher (from France), my fellow students (from all over) and my housemates (three out of four from France). I guess I should follow my own advice and get to know more locals. Fortunately, I still have time. Five weeks to go…

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2 Responses to “Learning French in Quebec”

  1. How fun to take a bit of a break from Latin/Argentine culture by spending the summer in Quebec! I imagine that it must have been a bit of jolt going from BsAs to Montreal.

    What impression do the French have of the accent and peculiarities of Quebecois French?

  2. Thanks Katie. Yes, it has been great to have a change. I can tell you that supermarket here is a very exciting place to be. I also have another blog post coming up about needing a break from learning Spanish. Good to throw myself into something else for a while.

    As for the Quebecois accent, I’d say there is surely some snobbery against it.

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