Learning some of the vocabulary of the Québec French lexicon is an essential piece of learning Canadian French. While the Canadian French lexicon of Québec is similar to that of France, there are some words that are different. In some cases, the words are important enough that the entire message is missed because one word in the sentence is unknown.
History of the Québec French Lexicon
Officially (according to l'Office de la langue française), the Québécois want their French to be as similar to the French spoken in France as possible. While the French spoken in Québec may sound like a different language, they are truly one and the same. Great care is taken to ensure that the two languages stay so closely related to one another that linguists classify them as the same language.
Despite being classified as one language, there are some differences between the two types of French. The vocabulary words that are different are different for a few reasons. The most common influences that make the vocabularies of the two languages differ are:
- Native Words: Regional words were incorporated into Québec French; the name 'Québec' itself is an Indian word that means 'where the river widens'.
- Religion: Many words in Québec are based on religion, such as saying 'tabarnacle' or 'tabarnouche'. Historically, religion was a focus in Québec, even more so than in Catholic France.
- English: Here, the influence goes both ways. For some vocabulary items, Québec French is more influenced by English, such as calling a boyfriend your 'chum' (French: 'copain'). In other areas of vocabulary, French in France has more anglicismes, such as 'mail' for the word 'email' (in Canada, it's a 'courriel'), or wishing someone a good 'week-end' (in Québec it's 'la fin de semaine').
Words to Know
Some words in the Québec French lexicon are essential. The following words are commonly used, and a common source of confusion between French speakers from the two sides of the Atlantic:
- un Chum: a boyfriend or male friend, in France, a copain
- une Blonde: a girlfriend; in France: copine
- les Piastres: dollars (often pronounced: piasse); this word actually comes from old French, when it was used to refer to the American dollar in the French spoken in France
- les Sous: this word refers to the cents of a dollar; in France: centimes
- le Char: a car; in France, called a voiture
- le Stationnement: in Québec, a French word for parking exists whereas in France le stationnement is often called le parking
- l'Arrêt: this is written on stop signs in Québec; in France, the signs simply say 'stop', and an arrêt refers to a bus stop
- la Facture: the bill; in France: l'addition
- CEGEP: this word is an abbreviation for a pre-university school; in France, referred to as le lycée
- le Déjeuner: breakfast; in France: le petit-déjeuner, and déjeuner refers to 'lunch'
- le Dîner: lunch, and in France, refers to 'dinner'
- le Souper dinner
- le Magasinage: shopping
- le Courriel: email; in France mail
- le Chandail: shirt; in France refers to a sport jersey
- la Fin de semaine: weekend; in France: le week-end
- le Breuvage: a drink; in France: boisson (which is also used in Québec)
- le Dépanneur: convenience store
- Fret(te): cold (generally colder than the French word froid(e))
These words are just a beginning of the list of words that are different in Canadian French. Although there are many more words that vary in the two dialects of French, the words mentioned here are some of the most important ones for surviving daily life in Canada.