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    Blog Posts - How To Learn Canadian French

    How Canadian Labeling Laws Can Help You Learn French at the Supermarket

    Even if you don’t live in Canada!

    Canadians, and visitors to Canada, know that products sold in Canada have to be labeled in both English and French. It’s one of the things that Canadian customs checks for when products cross the border.

    French Labeled Squid

    This box of frozen squid, at a supermarket in Hawaii is labeled in English and French.

    What you probably didn’t know is that these Canadian labeling laws make every trip to a Canadian supermarket AND every trip to a US supermarket a chance to learn more French.

    You see, businessmen hate making separate English and French versions of the same thing, so a lot of times, they simply print both English and French labels on the same box so they can sell the same version to the US and Canada.

    Pay Attention to French Labels

    If you live in Canada, turn every trip to the supermarket into a chance to learn a few new French words.

    If you live in the United States, turn every trip to the supermarket into a search for products labeled in both English and French. You will find them!

    When you find one, compare the labels and learn to read the French words.

    Make it a game!

    You’ll turn your shopping time into French study time. What a deal!


    by Brent Van Arsdell

    Brent is an engineer . . . and a world traveler. When he’s not traveling the world, he’s busy making software to help people Learn Canadian French and other languages.

    Big Differences Between Canadian French and Paris French

    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.

    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.

    Why Canadian French is Different From Paris French

    On July 3, 1608, a young descendant of a family of mariners by the name of Samuel de Champlain founded the city of Quebec. With that, the French language was established on the North American continent.

    He brought with him, obviously, the French commonly spoken in France. As the years rolled on, the two versions of the language became quite distinct. People often think that the difference is similar to American vs. UK English, but Canadian French and Paris French are much more different that that.

    When you start to learn Canadian French, you might be surprised by how much it really differs from Paris French, also known as Metropolitan French. The two languages developed in very different ways and for different reasons.

    It will be fairly easy to recognize the influence of English when you learn Canadian French, but did you realize that Canadian French is actually much closer to Classic French as it was spoken before the French Revolution?

    Major Changes

    Two things happened that caused modern Continental French and Canadian French to be two very distinct beasts.

    First, France ceded Canada to England in 1763. Because of this, the following era saw a greatly reduced amount of cultural and business contact between France and Canada. It also caused English to gain a much broader coverage throughout Canada.

    But the main event that caused the modern difference had to do with the French Revolution, which took place between 1789 and 1799. Up until then, the French language was quite similar to the root-version of Canadian French. But when the revolution ended, the French of the Parisian bourgeoisie became the official language of the nation – a radical divergence from the previous format of the language.

    French is a very adaptable language. It moves and grows and it develops along with its culture fluently. At the same time, French in France tends to be conservative, for want of a better word. I still remember marveling in school when I heard that a computer in French isn’t called ‘un computeur’ but ‘un ordenateur. As my teacher said at the time: “If the French can avoid importing a foreign word into their language, they darn well will.”

    As such, both Canadian French and Paris French both evolved and developed in their own distinct ways. That’s why,  if you learn Canadian French, you’ll actually be speaking the language of kings and nobility. Well, with some English thrown into the mix, of course.

    Why not have a go and see for yourself what Canadian French is like?

    Click here to try our free Canadian French lesson today.