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10 Great Resources to Improve Your Quebec French Language Skills

Sign Down­town Mon­tréal and Que­bec Flag

As a native speaker of “Parisian French” in Canada, many prospec­tive immi­grants and local Eng­lish speak­ers ask me what I think of “Québé­cois”, aka “Que­bec French”, the pre­dom­i­nant vari­ety of French spo­ken here.

I have many sto­ries related to Que­bec French. Some of the vocab­u­lary is dif­fer­ent and left me puz­zled at first. In my first job, as a bilin­gual call cen­tre agent, I some­time had a hard time under­stand­ing callers from French-speaking Canada—and they couldn’t under­stand me either!

But these are just anec­dotes. Que­bec French is still French. Sure, there are dif­fer­ences with the vari­ety of French spo­ken in France, Bel­gium, Switzer­land, French-speaking Africa, etc. But all these flavours of French still share the same roots, the same gram­mar, the same spelling.

I often com­pare the dif­fer­ences between Que­bec French and “Parisian” French to the dif­fer­ences between Amer­i­can Eng­lish and British Eng­lish, or to the many vari­eties of Span­ish spo­ken in Latin America.

I was a French as a sec­ond lan­guage teacher for four years in Ottawa, and I can guar­an­tee you that stu­dents could under­stand teach­ers from Que­bec, from France and from French-speaking Africa just fine.

Infor­mal speech, in both Parisian French and Que­bec French, is def­i­nitely the hard­est to grab, because it is intrin­si­cally linked to the cul­ture and is full of neol­o­gisms. But don’t worry, you will get to pick up some cool slang once you live there long enough—especially if you attend a few Mon­tréal Cana­di­ens vs. Toronto Maple Leafs games!

Mean­while, here are ten great resources to work on your Que­bec French lan­guage skills before or after you arrive in Canada.

La Presse — Founded in 1884, La Presse is the largest French-language daily in Amer­ica, pub­lish­ing local, national and inter­na­tional news. It’s a great way to learn more about Que­bec and to build vocab­u­lary. The arti­cles are gen­er­ally well writ­ten and sup­port a whole spec­trum of opinions.

Radio Canada — This is the only fran­coph­one net­work in Canada to broad­cast over-the-air in all Cana­dian provinces. Le français au micro, a lin­guis­tic tips show offered by Radio Canada’s lan­guage adviser Guy Bertrand, is very interesting.

TV5Québec Canada — The French-language global tele­vi­sion chan­nel offered a series of 12 three-minute long videos on French lan­guage in Canada. These are avail­able online for free.

Lan­guage Por­tal of Canada — This government-owned web­site focuses on Canada’s both offi­cial lan­guages, Eng­lish and French, and sup­ports the pro­mo­tion of bilin­gual­ism. It offers writ­ing tools (with con­ju­ga­tion, gram­mar, spelling, spe­cial­ized dic­tio­nar­ies, etc.), tips on French lan­guage, and arti­cles on lan­guages in Canada.

Resumes and Cover Let­ters in French — You may want to have a French ver­sion of your resume and cover let­ter, espe­cially if you live in a bilin­gual city like Ottawa. Ser­vice Canada has an infor­ma­tive sec­tion on cov­ers let­ters in French, includ­ing tips and sam­ples, on the infor­ma­tive Guichet emplois web­site. It also offers tips on resume writ­ing, includ­ing the dif­fer­ent sec­tions you should include.

Office québé­cois de la langue française — The Que­bec Board of the French Lan­guage is a pub­lic orga­ni­za­tion that defines and con­ducts Quebec’s pol­icy per­tain­ing to lin­guis­tic offi­cial­iza­tion, ter­mi­nol­ogy and fran­ciza­tion of pub­lic admin­is­tra­tion and busi­nesses. It offers many online resources, includ­ing a lex­i­cal dic­tio­nary, lan­guage games, and tips.

Le Devoir con­ju­gal — Devel­oped by the Uni­ver­sity of Alberta, this use­ful tool will help you con­ju­gate more than 7,400 French verbs. A sim­i­lar tool was devel­oped by the Gov­ern­ment of Canada: Con­ju­gArt.

Que­bec French (Slang) Dic­tio­nary — This dic­tio­nary stresses on slang and infor­mal French, and includes many colour­ful expres­sions you may hear in Quebec.

Gov­ern­ment of Canada Tests of Pro­fi­ciency in the Sec­ond Offi­cial Lan­guage — Those inter­ested in work­ing for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment will prob­a­bly need to take lan­guage tests, in French, in Eng­lish, or in both lan­guages. You will find a lot of infor­ma­tion about the lan­guage eval­u­a­tions on this web­site, includ­ing an infor­ma­tion brochure for can­di­dates with test description.

Learn­ing French in Que­bec — In Québec, courses in French as a sec­ond lan­guage are avail­able free of charge in sev­eral for­mats. Finan­cial aid is granted by the Min­istère de l’Immigration et des Com­mu­nautés cul­turelles (MICC) under cer­tain con­di­tions. A flex­i­ble self-training course in French as a sec­ond lan­guage is pro­vided in sev­eral self-training cen­tre. You can also take a free online French course (you have to reg­is­ter online first).

11 comments

  1. A friend of mine who recently did the French cit­i­zen­ship test told me it had Québé­cois French in it, so these resources could be use­ful for your non-native read­ers in France too!

  2. Inter­est­ing… Québé­cois French.. I’d say that’s a bit odd see­ing that you are ask­ing to take a test for cit­i­zen­ship in French or Eng­lish, but I gather it’s not too dif­fer­ent.. Great resources! Will have to check them out as ulti­mately Cam may be going to French school.

  3. I don’t mean to self-promote, but I wrote a book called ‘Le québé­cois en 10 leçons’ that would be an excel­lent start­ing point, as well.

  4. Hi Zhu,

    I have been read­ing your blog with inter­est for the past few years.

    I really enjoy the pho­tographs and all the infor­ma­tion included on your site.

    I was won­der­ing what you mean exactly when you say that your stu­dents could under­stand all accents? Really?

    I grew up in Ottawa but nor­mally live in France. When I was still in Ottawa, I could under­stand Québé­cois French (or maybe I just thought I could), but now that I live in France I find I have a really hard time under­stand­ing the Québé­cois accent. The hard­est accents to under­stand are elderly people’s accents.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Hi Teresa,

      Nice to meet you! You are a trans­la­tor as well, aren’t you?

      I agree, elderly people’s accents in Que­bec (and in France!) are harder to under­stand. I think that most teach­ers adopted a “neu­tral” accent when teach­ing and since stu­dents had teach­ers from Africa, France, Que­bec, etc. they got used to var­i­ous accents faster.

  5. Inter­est­ing read! Learn­ing the French of Québec doesn’t have to be any more dif­fi­cult than learn­ing the French of France. It’s just a ques­tion of get­ting the right kind of lan­guage exposure.

    The for­mal vari­eties of French in Québec and France are sim­i­lar. It’s at the infor­mal level of lan­guage where learn­ers find that things become more challenging.

    I write a blog called OffQc, where you can explore a lot of the infor­mal fea­tures of Québec French. I’ve also tran­scribed a lot of videos so that you can lis­ten and fol­low along with the text.

    • Thank you for the link, I will check it out tonight. As a trans­la­tor, I find language-related arti­cles and top­ics fas­ci­nat­ing :-)

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