My husband and I are embarking on a train trip up to francophone Canada this weekend. For two weeks, my “classic” French is going to be challenged by Québecisms. I am so excited! Traveling to a country where your source language is spoken is a great way to maintain your language skills. I attend a French meet-up here in the DC area, but nothing beats being totally immersed in a culture.
The French spoken in Canada (outside of the universities) is much like the English spoken on Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay—many pronunciation quirks and funny conjugations actually pre-date the more common modern language. Québec French is especially influenced by the old Normandy dialect, since most of the francophone colonists came from that region. After the fall of New France in 1759, the language became isolated from its “parent.” Anglicisms and Native American words and phrases worked their way into common speech. The result is a language based on French but distinctly Canadian.
I recommend the very readable The Story of French, by Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow, if you want to know more about the development of the French language in general—plus, the authors are Canadian!
If I find myself catching on quickly enough, who knows? Maybe I’ll work on expanding my translation offerings to include Québecois. I’d certainly love to read something by Jacques Renaud, Michel Tremblay, or one of the other many québecois authors around. After buying a good dictionary, of course!
Have you ever tried to learn a variation of a language you already speak? Feel free to share any stories you have about Canada, too!