General Question

elbanditoroso's avatar

How would you characterize the differences between Canadian French language and French language as spoken in France?

Asked by elbanditoroso (22421points) February 14th, 2017

Are there any general observations that would characterize the differences?

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28 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

As different as American English is from English English.

The characteristics are common to instances of languages that are separated by geography and culture.

janbb's avatar

I sent this to dappled_leaves and Berserker who might know specifics.

cazzie's avatar

Um…. No….. My Canadian language speaking relatives.. If they haven’t gone to school and learned proper, modern French, it is like they are speaking to people from nearly Elizabethan English with a twist, (because it was trapped in time and also influenced by indigenous language). Of course it has evolved and adapted. It isn’t modern Parisian French, not even the accent. Which isn’t a bad thing because they are a nation set apart and that has grown. Creole is what it is down in Louisiana and the indigenous French in Quebec is what it is. Language should evolve in it’s geographical location. It reflects the history and culture, as any language should.

New Zealand English is similar to a point.

BellaB's avatar

There are fairly significant regional differences within Canadian French, let alone the differences with the French spoken in different parts of France.

There is a dialect called Joual, which was historically found in the resource belt (which people travelled along to work forestry/mining jobs). Joual is how ‘cheval’ sounds in that dialect. When I did my summer immersion program decades ago, I landed in that zone. I couldn’t figure out how to ask what time it was when I arrived – it was such a different version of French from what I’d been taught – our primary teacher had been in Paris during the 1968 student riots – Joual was not in her skill set. Joual is now more mainstream.

Acadian French would be somewhat familiar to people who can speak/eavesdrop Cajun since they have the same base.

Manitoba French is different again.

olivier5's avatar

The Canadian accent(s) and way of pronouncing some diphtongs like “oi” in “moi” (sounds like “moa” in French / “moué” in Canadian) is believed to be closer to the French spoken in pre-revolution France, ie during the 18th century.

Zissou's avatar

The written language is basically the same in Quebec and France, but the spoken dialects have significant differences. Fortunately for Francophone travelers, Quebeckers can code-switch when needed (at least, that has been my experience in Montreal).

Here are a couple of useful sites for those who want to learn québecois:

OffQc: Québecois French Guide—this site is full of examples, explanations, and audioclips.

Boumeries—this webcomic is available in Canadian French and English. It’s by a young hipster mom of two who writes about her daily life in Montreal, and the language is colloquial. I like to read it in French and then read it in English to check my understanding. I’ve learned quite a few expressions this way.

olivier5's avatar

@BellaB Richard Desjardins often sings in joual. I can only understand about half of this:

elbanditoroso's avatar


- what about vocabulary? Differences? Or just pronunciation?

dappled_leaves's avatar

@BellaB makes several good points. There are many Quebec dialects, just as there are many French dialects. However, Joual is a very rough, rural dialect, and a very specific form of Québécois. You don’t hear Joual in the streets of Montreal; even for a French speaker, it’s extremely difficult to understand. I think there is often a tendency to label all Québécois as Joual, which is incorrect.

I think the main differences between French and Québécois are that Québécois is quite slangy, and I find that the mouth is a bit more relaxed. When I’m speaking French in a professional capacity, I tend to tighten my mouth, speaking more from the front of the mouth, and I change my vocabulary quite a bit. I went to English (i.e., English-language Canadian) schools in Quebec as a child, and the French we learned was called “Parisian French”, but I rather doubt it has any relation to French actually spoken in Paris (just to make things confusing).

I’ve posted this video on Fluther before; it’s by a French woman who grew up in Quebec, explaining Québécois vocabulary to people from France, so you can hear her use both. She talks about some of the peculiarities of Québécois. For example, in Québécois, you tend to add an apparently unneeded “tu” in some contexts; there many, many more contractions that don’t exist in French; and the usage of some words is quite different. But it’s also important to remember that the language she’s speaking is very informal. This is how you’d speak among friends; in a shop you’d be more formal.

There are also words in the Québécois vocabulary that come from our history. So, for example, we lock the door in Quebec by saying “Je barre la porte”. In French, “Je verrouille la porte”. This is because, in early Quebec, the “lock” was literally a wooden bar that would slide down to lock the door. There are a few odd words like this.

So, essentially, there are wide differences between Québécois and French in an informal setting. In a formal setting, the language is very similar, although there would be differences in accent, which I think mostly come from how we hold ourselves when we talk. Again, that mouth position thing.

I hope @berserker drops by, because she’s a native Québécois speaker, and her perspective will undoubtedly differ from mine.

janbb's avatar


Zissou's avatar

@elbanditoroso yes, there are differences in vocabulary and grammar as well as pronunciation. Look at OffQc and click on the “Start” tab.

The thing with TU that dappled leaves mentioned is a good one to learn early.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@Zissou Ha! Good resource. But it’s also important to note that you wouldn’t use any of this if you were speaking in a formal setting. The context matters a lot.

@elbanditoroso Do you ask the question out of curiosity, or are you planning a visit?

elbanditoroso's avatar

@dappled_leaves – I have been to both Ottawa and Montreal and would love to go back. Alas, no immediate plans.

Why I asked? At work, we were discussing Google Translate and its ability to translate English to French. We have customers in Canada, not in France. I asked if GT was translating to “French French” or Canadian French. It’s not at all clear from their documentation, and I’m not good enough in vernacular to test it out and know what the right answer would be.

I’d go back to eastern Canada in a heartbeat, if I had a reason..

dappled_leaves's avatar

@elbanditoroso That’s an interesting question. I used to do freelance translation (French to English), and would sometimes use Google Translate as a starting point. This was possible in those days, because the algorithm was very good. There was a dramatic change about five years ago, in which GT appears to have forgotten how to speak French; I barely use it now. Particularly, it forgot how to liaise consonants at the end of a word with a vowel at the beginning of the next word. This is a fundamental part of how French works, and they should never have released a version that couldn’t do this. If I recall correctly, GT is better than immediately after the switch, but still far from as good as it used to be.

I tried earlier to throw “Lock the door” into it to see what it turned up, and it switched from “Verrouille la porte” to “Je ferme la porte” when I added the pronoun “I” at the beginning. This choice makes no sense at all. However, you are usually given an option to click on the translated word to see other options, and you can have those options defined. Clicking on “ferme” yields both “verrouille” and “barre” as alternatives. It’s a roundabout process, but might help you for what you need.

Another good translation tool is Linguee, which is much better at providing context, especially between fields of interest. The translation of a specific word in a legal context may differ dramatically from its translation in a scientific context, for example. (This is why real people are better at translation than machines are. :) )

dappled_leaves's avatar

@elbanditoroso ” I asked if GT was translating to “French French” or Canadian French.”

Regarding this specific question, it will definitely have used “French French” as a starting point. However, any user can submit alternative translations to what GT provides, and if those are selected by enough users, they become a part of the algorithm. So, your chances are good that any particular translation will be in “French French”, but “Canadian French” terms will certainly turn up from time to time.

BellaB's avatar

@dappled_leaves , I wouldn’t really consider Joual to be Quebecois. It is found in the resource belt in Northern Ontario/Manitoba/Quebec/NB but it isn’t really Quebecois to me. It is what I’d call my second French because of the time I spent in the Gaspesie and in Northern Ontario. Very distinctive sound for sure. I eavesdrop in it particularly well :) once my ear is re-set.

this is fabulous

janbb's avatar

@BellaB Oh my goodness @BellaB ! It almost sounds like a different language!

BellaB's avatar

The related blog is very good (and interesting) if you enjoy language.

which has links to

On the subject of various styles of French, you may be interested in the blog series I did on various accents. There are explanations, maps, and video examples of French from various regions of Canada (32 general regions). The last post on French from the Western Province Accents gives more context to the above audio tracts I presented you with.


1. “Our 32 Accents” – Post 1: Canada French Accents OVERVIEW (#86)
2. “Our 32 Accents” – Post 2: (ONTARIO x 5) (#87)
3. “Our 32 Accents” – Post 3: (QUÉBEC x 8) (#88)
4. “Our 32 Accents” – Post 4: The Big Three (Montréal x 2, Standard x 1) (#89)
5. “Our 32 Accents” – Post 5: (QUÉBEC x 7) (#90)
6. “Our 32 Accents” – Post 6: (ACADIA / ATLANTIC Provinces x 11) (#91)
7. “Our 32 Accents” – Post 7: (PRAIRIES / Western Province accents x 2 and nuances) (#92)
You might also be interested in this blog post I wrote on European French (the latter half talks about how learning European French comes with its own challenges, and the very last addendum at the bottom contains a very interesting French language “surprise”): TV5, & European French.

imrainmaker's avatar

I would like to learn French..Is there any online resource available? I know I can Google it easily..But let me know if you’re aware of good one.

cazzie's avatar

It’s so strange. I hear the difference and can tell when it’s Canadian but I can’t tell you specifically why because I never learned my mother’s language, which is horrible.

BellaB's avatar

@imrainmaker – have you tried duolingo? it is free and quite good. My best friend introduced me to it. She is about 70 lessons in on Spanish and I’m about 10 lessons in on brushing up my Dutch. I’ve also just finished my German placement test so I can tighten up my written German.

imrainmaker's avatar

Thanks @BellaB I’ll give it a try.

Berserker's avatar

Oops, late to the party. Should check my shit more often. Well most of everything has already been said. As mentioned someone from France and someone from Québec will understand one another quite perfectly. What differs are the accents, expressions and slangs. However the grammar and verbs are mostly identical.

And @dappled_leaves is correct. Not all Québec French is a collection of backwater slangs and accents, although if you go to places like Gaspésie, some places there it sounds like an entirely different language; however it remains French, and I assume the schools there will teach French with the same rules as they do in any other French place. I mean even if there are language rules which differ depending on the country, such as England and the USA when it comes to English, there isn’t anything which characterizes both “versions” outside of cultural differences, which is why I keep coming back to slangs, terms and expressions.

What I find interesting is that most Québec swearing revolves around Christianity, which, as far as I know, is unique to Québec. However both in Québec and France, “fils de pute” or “enfant de chienne” is used, going back again to my main point; nothing really uderlines different “types” of French besides stuff that grew from cultural specifications.

BellaB's avatar

Interesting that this popped up again. I was commenting to Set today that I understood Prince Charles’ French today (at the Vimy Ridge ceremony) more easily than his English. I wondered if they had taught him to speak in a more Quebecois-inflected way for the purpose of this event.

janbb's avatar

@Berserker “What I find interesting is that most Québec swearing revolves around Christianity, which, as far as I know, is unique to Québec.”

Yeah, I learned that when i was reading Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series and one of the swear words they used was “Tabernac!” I think I asked a question about it here.

Berserker's avatar

The varying cuss words for ‘‘tabernacle’’ in French are some of the fuckin funniest shit ever though. Seriously, tabréré? Lol.

cazzie's avatar

Norwegian spreads the gamut. It’s a very harsh and rude language. (if you are wondering:

If someone says ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ they are usually foreign. They know this about themselves and think it’s a bit of a joke.

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