Bare Chills: A survival guide to understanding Quebecois French

This article was written by Sarah Bhan, published on 18th February 2015 and has been read 2261 times.

Sarah Bhan studied French and spent her year abroad as a Language Assistant in Quebec. Here are her tips for getting to grips with Quebecois French!

As you bravely step out into the deep, crisp Quebecois snow, armed with your European French vocabulary, and having necked enough maple syrup to knock out a moose, you feel ready to take on your year abroad in Quebec. But when you’re talking about your copine suisse, how can you be sure you’re not declaring your girlfriend is a chipmunk? This survival guide will keep the embarrassment at bay

1. Weather Warnings
When braving the cold, leave your bonnet at home in favour of the good old tuque. In fact, it’s pretty frette (cold) outside, so you should probably take the char (car).

2. Animal Behaviour
There are lots of interesting new creatures to be spotted in Quebec, so make and impress new friends with your wildlife knowledge. Un Suisse is, in fact, the French Canadian term for a chipmunk, while a moose is an original (as opposed to the European elk or élan). And, if you wish to keep smelling fresh, watch out for mouffettes (skunks)!

3. At your Leisure
Careful when using Anglicisms such as 'shopping' or 'week-end', as your new-found Quebecois friends will tut and shake their heads in disapproval. Always opt for the alternatives, magasinage and the rather zippy fin de la semaine, to stay popular with the lads. However, do look forward to your journée off, which will definitely be le fun.

4. Dangerous Liasons
When looking for romance in the French-speaking province, and you stumble across une fille ou un gars cute you should cruiser or hit on them, and then jaser (chat) and they may even want to frencher you (no explanation needed). This may lead to you obtaining a chum or a blonde (a boyfriend or girlfriend)...

5. Dinner Time
When invited to eat chez the parents, double (or maybe triple) check if you’re turning up at the right time of day. In Quebec, you wake up and have your déjeuner, while your lunchtime maple syrup sandwich is – confusingly for Europeans – your diner, and in the evening, you partake of your souper...

6. Ants in your Pants
Never confuse your bébittes with your bobettes or your chum/blonde may raise a Quebecois eyebrow. The former means 'insects', while the latter is 'underpants'. Careful with this or they may tell you to scramme!

7. It's not you...
When you run out of things to jaser about you may want to flusher your chum/blonde, in which case definitely use the old classic “Ce n’est pas toé, c’est moé!”

8. Anglais
If you ever cross border into Nouveau Brunswick, be aware that this province is bilingual, some areas are predominantly French-speaking, and others English. There is, however, in the South East an amalgamation of the two called Chiac. This Arcadian French is every student’s dream: finally you can get away with sentences like “J’ai crossé le street” and “Quossé tu parles about?”

9. Lost in Translation
And finally, when heading back to Europe after a year frolicking in the snow, you may want to niaiser (annoy/tease) your French neighbours by acting extra Quebecois. In this case, definitely finish all sentences with an elongated  "làaa". Never shy from using it twice, ie “Mon char est là, là!” You may alarm your European francophone friends, however, by chatting about all the 5 à 7s (after work drinks) you went to in Quebec because in France this is a euphemism for an extra-marital affair… Never say learning French doesn’t keep you on your toes!

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