Canada is home to almost 7 million native speakers of French, most living in the province of Quebec. French has been spoken there since the early 17th century. The specific language spoken by the French speakers of Canada is not, however, identical to the French spoken in France or in any other part of the world. Some vocabulary words are different altogether, and pronunciation can make even shared words unidentifiable. There are many advantages to learning Canadian French, including ease of travel in Quebec and understanding television and movies in the language.
Steps to Learn Canadian French
Determine which branch of Canadian French you want to learn. In Canada, there are two main types of spoken French: Quebec French and Acadian French. Quebec French has the most speakers, including most people in the Quebec province as well as French speakers in many other parts of Canada. Acadian French is much less common and is found mainly in the maritime provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
Use reference materials specific to Canadian French. Dictionaries and grammar textbooks meant for Canadian students are your best source for this. Be wary of materials produced in France because the details of the language might be misleading.
Listen to Canadian French. For someone who already has learned French in the classroom, the most important aspect of learning Canadian French is accustoming the ear to the Canadian accent. For example, European French “ah” sounds are pronounced more like “eh.”
Find French Canadian DVDs. There is a vibrant television and film industry in Canada, and much content is produced in French. DVDs of these productions are available from online retailers.
Practice your language skills. If you can, travel to the French-speaking regions of Canada, particularly Montreal and Quebec City, and practice listening to and speaking French. If you cannot travel to Canada, practice by repeating Canadian French heard online or in media.
If you travel in Canada, spend time reading the labels of products purchased there. By law, all goods manufactured for sale in Canada must be labeled in both French and English. By comparing the wording of each, you can learn a lot of Canadian French.
Do not refer to European French as “real” French to French Canadians. This is extremely insulting.
Montreal, the largest city in Quebec, has a major English-speaking population. Don’t give in to the temptation to speak only English while visiting.
Laurel Brown has several years experience as an educator and a writer. She won the 2008 Reingold Prize for writing in the history of science. Brown has a Ph.D. and Master of Arts in the history of science and Middle Eastern studies from Columbia University, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in astrophysics from Colgate University.