Big Differences Between Canadian French and Paris French

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Big Differences Between Canadian French and Paris French
June 3, 2013
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Editor’s Note: This is a controversial article, written by a Dutch author (who spoke good French) based on his travels both in France, which he loved, and Quebec, which he also loved.

It does NOT reflect the differences in the Parisian French and Canadian French lessons on Language101.com.

This article is probably incomplete in it’s explanation because it was based on the observations of one traveler, however it IS interesting. Perhaps you’ll remember the story of the blind men and the elephant as you read it.

We welcome your gentle comments below:

It is commonly believed that Canadian French and Metropolitan French are pretty much the same, aside from a few pronunciation changes and some colloquial idiom quirks. However, those who learn Canadian French all agree that the difference goes well beyond that. In fact, the differences are so significant that if you are planning to work, live or study in Canada, it might be well worth your effort to learn Canadian French first.

In a sense, Canadian French is more traditional, for instance when it comes to grammar and idiom, whereas Metropolitan French is more formal. This is noticeable especially in pronunciation. In fact, visitors to Canada who did not learn Canadian French first, often find that Canadians consider Metropolitan French to be quite pompous.

So What Are the Differences?

The most striking difference between Metropolitan French and Canadian French for those who already speak French is the idiom. Obviously, both are correct, and if you analyze the different words in either language they both make a lot of sense, if you take into account cultural differences and historic development of each of the two countries.

Obviously, Canada’s border with the USA has also caused the adoption of English words into Canadian French, including the transliterations that usually go with that.

Here are some fun examples to show you how you could get seriously confused, or indeed embarrassed, if you go to Canada and you don’t learn Canadian French first:

  • In France, money is ‘argent’. In Canada, they say ‘bacon’.
  • A pencil sharpener is a ‘taille-crayon’, but in Canada it’s called an ‘aiguisoir’.
  • Where throwing up is ‘vomir’ in France, Canadian French borrowed ‘barf’ from US English and made it a verb: ‘barfer’
  • ‘Why’ in French is: ‘pourquoi?’ In Canada it’s: ‘à cause?’
  • In French, kissing or a kiss is: ‘baiser’ or ‘bise’ (bisou). In Canadian French, both are: ‘bec’
  • A bathroom is ‘une toilette’ in France. In Canada you could hear the word ‘bécosse’ and have no idea what is being said. It’s a deformation of the English: ‘backhouse’.
  • A girlfriend in France is ‘copine’ or ‘petite amie’. In Canada it’s common to say: ‘ma blonde’ even if your girlfriend isn’t blonde at all.
  • Underwear is ‘culotte’ in France, in Canada you say: ‘bobettes’
  • Did you ever botch up something? They’ll understand perfectly: ‘botcher’ is the word they use in Canada.

The list is, of course, endless. What matters is that you realize that the differences are extensive. If you intend to get the most out of your stay in Canada, it’s really worth your trouble to at least learn some of its idiom.

Will You Understand Canadians With Your Paris French?

Yes, to some degree. But there will definitely be situations where the differences in pronunciation will leave you confused.

Some of the vowels sound distinctly different. Furthermore, Canadian French tends to be even faster than Metropolitan French. When you learn Canadian French, you’ll notice that they also seem to swallow words or partial words that in Metropolitan French are indeed supposed to be pronounced. This is also partially the reason why Continental French is often seen as a bit stuck up or pompous in Canada.

All in all, it is a really good idea to learn Canadian French if you plan to spend any length of time there. And even if it’s just for a holiday, you will feel so much more at ease when talking to Canadians. And an added benefit? Canadians will really appreciate it if you show that you’ve tried to learn Canadian French instead of thinking: ‘Well, I speak French, they’ll understand me just fine!’. And they’ll show you, and your holidays will be that much more fun!

If you would like to try our Canadian French demo, then click on Canadian French and then click on the big “Try It” button.

Leave A Comment

25 Comments to “Big Differences Between Canadian French and Paris French”

  1. evangeline

    Hi there. I’d like to learn French to help my child who is in French Immersion curriculum in Ontario. I suppose the are learning the Canadian French as opposed to the Paris French? Also will taking lessons from you really help me help my child?

    Thanks,
    Evangeline

     
    Reply
    • Brent Van Arsdell

      I would ask at your child’s school about whether they are studying Canadian French or Paris French in Ontario. I think they should be studying Canadian French, but double check.

      Fortunately you can use either our Canadian French lessons or our Parisian French lessons for the same low price.

      I think we could help you hep your child a lot.

       
      Reply
  2. heidi

    hello, friend?
    Do you know if Celine dion speaks Canadian French, or does she speak Parisian french?
    When ever I listen to her speak French, no matter where she goes wether to France or not, no one has a hard time to understand her.
    Why is that?
    Like i asked, what type of French does she speak?
    I have gone hunting for this answer, but I haven’t found a thing at all.
    She speaks with the Canadian french accent, but I can’t tell if she speaks Canadian or paris French.
    I do speak Parisian French, and I don’t have trouble understanding her what she says, but still.
    If I speak Canadian French, will she understand me better in Canadian French or vice versa?
    This all leads me back to the question.
    Does she speak Canadian or paris French or not?
    Thank you so much.

     
    Reply
    • Brent Van Arsdell

      Well Wikipedia says that she’s Canadian so my guess would be that if you get a chance to talk to her then using the polite Canadian forms of French would be best.

       
      Reply
    • mojomon

      she’s from Charlemagne Quebec…she speaks Quebec French.

       
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      • mojomon

        the reason that even in France she is verry well understood, is because when she is there…she makes a special effort to speak French that Parisiens will understand, wich is still French by the way, but minus the Quebec slangs or accent that seem to make Canadian French sound so foreign to France.

         
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  3. Andrea Healey

    This article is great but you need to know that your examples are very specific. These words/ expressions in Canada depend with who you talk. Of course there is a slang, same as U.S but people in general can talk well French Canadian. French from Paris use a lot of english words to but with a french pronunciation.

     
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  4. Martine

    Nobody says Bacon or barfer…we say argent and vomir

     
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  5. Mojomon

    hi. i`m a Canadian french female, my husband is from Quebec, i`m actually surprised of your explanation of Canadian french , you seem to be confusing Quebec french and Canadian french….wich are two entirely different things…like for instance, du bacon to say money….we never say it….in Quebec thaugh it SOMETIMES is used….but RARELY . a toilet in Canadian french is TOILETE. and to say vomit we say in Canadian french vomir….true some will say barf but that`s mainly because we`re billingual,mixing some english with french….depending where you are in Canada…the french differs depending where your at, there`s Acadien french,Canadian french Quebec french,Moncton slang french there all different, you can`t generalise saying that in Canada,this is how people speak, and if someone were to come from an other part of Canada…we`ll understand each other just the same, because we all went to school and learned FRENCH. no offense…just saying…

     
    Reply
    • Brent Van Arsdell

      Thank you very much for adding your insightful comments. As it says in the editors note, this article was based on the observation of one traveler.

      Do you know the story of the blind men and the elephant? Thanks once again.

      Brent

       
      Reply
      • mojomon

        i diden’t know it til now…it was an interesting read!!! It is to teach us how knowledge and truth is in fact relative. But the story is told from the point of view of the king and his courtiers, who are not blind but can see that the blind men are unable to grasp the full reality of the elephant and are only able to get hold of part of it. The real point of the story thaugh, is exactly the opposite. If the king were also blind, there would be no story. See, it’s a kind of arrogant thing to say that nobody can know the truth because to say, “Nobody can see the whole truth.” You couldn’t know that unless you think that YOU see the whole truth. And i’m pretty sure that’s not what you meant at all. :)

         
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  6. Bruno Siqueira

    The same happens with Brazil and Portugal. Some say in Brazil we speak “brazilian” burthe biggest differences are all about accents and for sure some expressions. I’d love learning french. Is the accent really different between Canada and French? Because Canada would be way cheaper than France for me. Thank you!

     
    Reply
    • thomas

      Bruno -

      Well there is definitely some accent difference between the Canadians and the Frenchmen! That’s the case with any language that has a wide diversity of landmass where it is spoken though. I’ve noticed this in English within England and the UK as well as across the United States. With German there are several dialects that are spoken throughout that relatively small land-mass country as well as the neighboring countries who use German.

      Did you know that with any French package purchase with Language101.com you also get the other dialect to learn with as well? We offer this so that you may have the opportunity to learn and travel to both countries with ease as well as have the opportunity to speak with any French speaking individuals you may meet on your journeys.

      Thomas

       
      Reply
  7. heidi

    Well, now I’m understanding why I don’t understand most of what she says to her peeps in Quebec then. sorry I guess I should have looked that up a long time ago. I’m going back to Europe thank God, so my “snobby” French will come in handy, and my Canadian French won’t, and that’s because I don’t speak any at all. I do speak with their accent though, and I can also speak with the “snobby accent.”
    I also speak German, and boy their are some dialects that I don’t understand one bit.
    This also goes for Spanish.
    Okay, I ain’t saying on subject here.
    Boy if I ever get to talk to Celine, I think she may make fun of my “snobbish French”, so I best learn Quebec French for her.
    Oh wait, no I won’t because she will speak with me in one way or another.
    Let’s just pray to our lord that she doesn’t jump into Quebec French or Canadian French.
    If she did that, I think I’de be just as lost in her speech as she is in a bedroom.
    all though my bedroom may be huge, but that doesn’t compare with this dialect.
    So much for people telling me that she speaks, what some people call, “ssnobby”, French.

     
    Reply
  8. Ismail

    Hi,
    This is Ismail. From Bangladesh. I need to know learning Canadian QC french language for my official purposes. But We have not any french language institute in our District. Can you help me for learn Canadian QC french language learning. My big problem in french pronunciation. It is very helpful for me if you give me a guide line to learning french language.

    B/Rgds,
    Ismail./

     
    Reply
    • Brent Van Arsdell

      Hi Ismail,

      We make software for to help enthusiastic learners like you. If you don’t have much money, please apply for a scholarship.

       
      Reply
  9. Heather

    I live in Maine, and grew up in a French-Canadian family. My husband’s family is also Canadian french and sometimes find it very difficult to understand Parisian french. This site may help me to re-learn my Canadian french so that I can at least conversate with my family in french again.

     
    Reply
    • Brent Van Arsdell

      Thanks. We try to help.

       
      Reply
  10. heidi

    When I have heard Celine Dion speak French in Paris or in other French speaking parts of the world she doesn’t swich to the standard French accent…she keeps her Quebec accent.
    That’s pretty much the only time I can understand, but when in Quebec like I said I can only understand a few things she says but the rest is just bla for me…maybe it’s cause she uses so much Quebec slang and expressions in her speech, as well as different vocabulary, and to top that all off and make things werse for European standard French speakers like myself she uses so many English words…this is what I’ve observed whn she speaks.
    And…I really want to learn Quebec French because I really don’t want to affend her or anybody that is from that region at all, but I don’t have the money to by your products…and I don’t find anything else on learning this dialect of French at all.
    Also…can you give me a few examples of some Quebec words, slang, and expressions that Celine Dion says in her speech, and tell me what they mean?
    I would really appreciate that very much.

     
    Reply
  11. Natacha

    I’m sorry but some french canadian expressions written here are not very common. Like argent-bacon, it’s very rare someone will call it bacon, we normally will say argent or cash (borrowed from english). Also we mostly say Pourquoi, sometimes we will say à cause? but depends of what was told before to the person. We use both bécosse and toilette. As for Throwing up, we mostly say dégueuler or vomir.

     
    Reply
    • thomas

      Natacha -

      Thank you for your input. It’s great to get more and more responses from people who have traveled to many regions of both Paris and Canada to get the most well rounded idea of how the two countries’ languages are both similar and different.

      Thomas

       
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  12. Nicol Simard

    Some of your examples are totally offbase, as in you are using two totally different levels of language. Your ARGENT example is one such example. ARGENT is ARGENT in both countries. It when you go into slang that things change. The France slang word for money is POGNON, not ARGENT. In Canada, the slang word for money is indeed BACON. But as I said earlier, People in France will normally say ARGENT just like French Canadians do. You cannot compare an everyday word with a slang word.

    The same goes for VOMIR and TOILETTES. In fact, most people in France will say VC (short for watercloset)instead of TOILETTES. In Canada, the usage of the word BÉCOSSES is considered an old fashioned slang word and is rarely used outside of some specific circumstances. In fact, BÉCOSSES usually refers to an actual back house and not an indoor bathroom.

    Which brings me to the point of anglicisms. Both French Canadians and French people have their own anglicisms. In France, for example, they almost always say DRUGSTORE, WEEK END, SHOPPING and PARKING. Meanwhile, French Canadians always say PHARMACIE, FIN DE SEMAINE, MAGASINER and STATIONNEMENT.

    These are examples when the French are actually the ones using English words and not the French Canadians.

     
    Reply
    • thomas

      Nicol -

      Thanks for such a great sharing. Even in the U.S.A. where we all speak English there are different slang words that are used very regionally for the same thing. For instance sweet carbonated beverages… In Illinois alone there are four different ways to refer to the same thing, and if you are in the wrong region people will look at you like you are stupid for asking for the wrong thing:

      Pop, fizzy, soda or coke. If you are ask for a coke you will not get a Coca Cola, you might get a Pepsi! That’s because coke is a generic term for any fizzy beverage. If I wanted a Pepsi I would order a Pepsi coke, and if I wanted an orange drink I would order and Orange coke, or a Dr. Pepper coke. If I asked for a pop I would get a strange look as a pop might actually refer to a punch, which is not a fruity beverage at all but rather a fist! Probably NOT what you want served at your lunch table, at least not what I would want, and definitely not what the server wants to give you… yet. ;)

      Ahh yes, regional dialects and the fun they offer.

      Thomas

       
      Reply
  13. Pieter Greyling

    This is good conversation, whereas I am a beginner with Quebecois French – this would be my fourth language that I am learning apart from my mother tongue – I learned English at school as a second language – having read the comments I am much more at ease to give Quebecois French a go … knowing that this is not an entire different French, even if I learn Parisian French first … thank you guys!

     
    Reply
    • thomas

      Pieter -

      Thanks for letting us know you are interested in French! A little know secret is that when you buy one dialect of French from Language101.com we also include the alternate dialect so you can have a more full comprehension of French.

      Feel free to contact me at the support desk if you need anything: support101@language101.com

      Thomas

       
      Reply
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