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French French and Canadian French

Many English speakers don’t realise that there are different forms of French, even though they know that UK English, US English and Australian English have variations. You should not confuse Québécois and Canadian French-they are quite different. There are also other local French-derived languages, such as Acadien, which is where the term “Cajun” comes from.

Most differences are in the spoken language –the written language in French, especially technical French which we translate quite a lot, is fairly standard.

If you know some French, you should not really have any problem understanding a French-Canadian person. However, there are some funny differences. The best one, I think, is the word “gosses”. In standard French, it means “children”. In Canadian French, it means “testicles”!!!. Confusion here could result in embarrassment…

For a French person like me, a “hot dog” is “un hot dog”. In Canada, it is called “un chien chaud”, which is not as appetising! Canadian French often shows a desire to use French vocabulary and avoid “importing” English words.

In France, if you are “exhausted”, you could be “claqué” or “crevé”. In Canada, you are “brûlé”. “Une blonde” is not necessarily a blonde woman but a girlfriend (“copine” or “petite amie”, in European French).

Some of the Canadian words come in fact from old French, such as “jaser” (to chat). There are differences which are quite surprising. Un “chum” is a “(boy)friend” in Canada, as opposed to un “(petit-)ami” in France. “Sandales” is French for sandals (obvious) but they are called “babiches” in Canada.

My favourite Canadian French phrase is “une marmelade de chars” (a traffic jam). “Chars” is Canadian for “cars”.

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