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I cannot go to Paris, but I can go to Montreal and Quebec City. Is it possible to learn a proper French in Quebec? Avoiding the accent, but taking the opportunity to speak the language as much as possible? I spent 5 days in Montreal recently, speaking only French to the French-Canadians, and I feel my French did improve in ease and fluency. And they understood me. What do you think?

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I'm from Switzerland, and have never been to Québec, so I can only offer you my view on this from the Québécois I've heard talking. I have had initial difficulty understanding them, as the accent is very different from mine, and some words and expressions are different as well. But after the initial "shock", we didn't really have a problem understanding each other.

I do think it would be good for improving your French, and I see Québec's French as just as proper as Paris', just different. I don't know if avoiding taking the accent is possible though, so if it's a big problem for you (as in, you'd tell someone who wants to learn English not to go to Australia, even if it's the only possibility), maybe you shouldn't. But don't forget that you'll probably have an accent from your language anyway if you learn French, so maybe people won't even think anything about it.

Thank you for your reply. I studied at the Alliance Francaise in New York so I do know the proper pronunciation. The language is the same, except for some slang. Quebec is obviously not the first choice for learning French, but when I am there, I think I can improve my French by speaking and listening. I also find the Quebecois accent difficult to understand. I understand the Parisian accent much more easily. But thank you for your comments.

My French has improved greatly just from the internet and since you've found this site, you perhaps know of other sites for learning such as "Mot du jour."  I've been listening to podcasts that speak in French but then explain vocabulary and I often look at the new words in a dictionary for usage examples.  I found French news programs on the internet radio in the "talk" section I think it's called.  (I only found French music stations in the International section.)    I was just listening to it and understanding a good part of it and it's nice to hear words I've just learned.  

My understanding re "Quebec" French is that it's the French of France 300 years ago.  Maybe there's a list online  of the expressions, words that are different.  I know the French laugh at some of the words that the Quebecois use.        

The accent can vary.  I've heard it very ugly but then much milder.  

The idea of Quebec being the "French of 300 years ago" is just a myth, a bit like the myth that "Eskimo has 50/100/400/random large number words for snow".

If you think about it, why would the language have possibly have stood unchanged for 3 centuries just in that specific place, whilst in other places we observe it changing? And what would possibly be the actual evidence that no change has occurred to the language in 300 years?

There are other nonsensical myths about French, such as "the French in Tours/other places is the most 'pure' French" -- again, when you think about it, what would possibly be the evidence or objective basis for that statement... but I've sadly seen it in mainstream French textbooks...!

But please... let's recognise myths, fun as they are, as being just that: myths!

Eileen -- you seem very hung up on saying that a particular pronunciation of French is somehow the "proper" pronunciation. There's really no such thing: there are different pronunciations, but no particular pronunciation has any divine intrinsic property that makes it the one that you must use.

If you adopt the attitude that you won't learn French in Quebec because you find the accent 'difficult to understand', it's a bit like adopting the attitude that (say) you won't learn English in South Africa... Well, part of being fluent in a language includes taking on board the variation that exists among speakers of that language. And if you take that attitude, what chance do you have of acquiring the ability to cope with that variation? Why not see it as a positive part of your learning: it will bring you additional experience of some of the variation that occurs among French speakers.

Note that the difference is by and large similar to the difference between varieties of (say) English or Spanish: there are differences in accent (but the overall system of the spoken language is ostensibly the same), and some vocabulary and minor syntactic differences essentially in the colloquial spoken language. But just like your metro-riding coffee-drinking rive-gauche pouting Parisian, Canadian speakers will generally 'tend towards' a common standard in the written form and in semi-formal contexts. So you really don't need to have too many concerns about 'not learning proper French'-- I'm sure some Canadians will even moan about people saying "malgré que" if you ask them nicely :)

I always thought Parisian French was the "gold standard" for French and I've been told (by a French Canadian) that the French think Quebecois speech is funny. I am aware that written French (I read La Presse, the Montreal paper) is exactly the same on both continents. I will continue my adventures in French in Quebec as that is what is possible to me.

I do want to speak properly, and I do think there are and should be standards. I don't want to adopt a patois in French or in English. I look for educated people in whatever language I am involved in learning so I can pick up the best version of the language. And with the beauty of French, all the more so, I want to speak it the way I was taught at Alliance Francaise.

It depends a bit what you mean by "Parisian French". In terms of the French that natives of France generally perceive of as being 'standard'-- e.g. the French used by national TV newsreaders and journalists-- it's hard to pinpoint features that actually uniquely belong to Paris. (Whereas, on the other hand, you will find language features that are concentrated around Paris which are hardly perceived of as being standard or prestigious...)

Does that make it somehow "proper" to impersonate a French newsreader and "improper" to speak with, say, a Breton accent? Not sure...

Good luck then! I'm pretty sure it *will* improve your French! :)

And yes, (some) French think Québécois is funny. They'll even go as far as make subtitles for, say, an interview that takes place in Québec. But then, a Parisien will also probably think that a Marseillais speaks funny. For myself, even if I have to get used to it, I like it. It's a nice accent, I think (and I'm a fan of the Québécois band Les Cowboys Fringants).

As fot the "French of 300 years ago": they probably mean that the language evolved differently since 300 years ago, because of distance and little contact, don't they?

Hi Christine -- from the côtes-du-rhône-fuelled conversations I've had, it seems that there is a contingent of French people that literally believes it to be true that the French of Canada hasn't evolved in 300 years (which, just to reiterate, is utter nonsense).

What I suspect may have kindled this myth is that there are surely occasional isolated features that haven't changed much compared to other features (not for any special reason particular, just that by law of averages some things will have changed less). But that's not the same as 'nothing has changed'.

However, I agree that the main thing to do is to go to Quebec, have a great time there, and do take the opportunity to learn French there-- it will certainly be a very enriching addition to the poster's linguistic experience!

Thank you Neil and Christine for your interest! I will return to Quebec and work on my French as time permits.


"contingent", sorry!


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