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Canadian French vs. European French

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April 3, 2018

Canadian French vs European French

There’s more to the French language than meets the eye. There is actually a series of variations of the French language that includes Canadian French as well as European French.

While the two languages have many similarities, it is the nuances and differences that separate them that makes them unique. Even within Canadian French and European French, there are different sects of the language that have been developed by region and are the vernacular of the area even to this day.

The deep roots of Canadian French

To truly understand the French language that is spoken in Canada, one must look at how French became to be one of the official languages of the country. Here, French Canadian is primarily spoken in the province of Quebec. It is thought that the French language came to Canada in the 16th and 17th century as the French people began to settle in the country.

Even as the British took over the province, many French-speaking Canadians held true their French-Canadian roots and continued to speak their variation of the language. Today, it is the primary spoken language of the province with 95 percent of the residents speaking Canadian French. It is the main language spoken for 85 percent of the population of Quebec.

Differences in European French and Canadian French

As you take a broader approach to the French language, there are extreme differences in European French and North American French. The two languages do retain the same grammar rules but have developed a customised language within the population it is serving.

In France, it is common for locals to use Anglicisms along with their French pronunciation. In Canada, this is strictly forbidden and can result in unusual translations of many English phrases. European French speakers have adopted a more flexible translation policy and easily use English slang and phrases as part of their vocabulary.

Specific differences in European French and Canadian French

There are several ways that Canadian French and European French differ. With Canadian French, it is common to use a less formal address than you would use in France. France holds tight to using formal pronouns such as “vous” in most instances while French Canadians lean towards using “tu” to address someone even in business settings.

French speakers in Quebec also use the pronoun “on” instead of “nous” like in Europeran French. French Canadians also incorporate shorter prepositions with many using “s’a” and “dins” instead of the more proper “sur la” or “dans les” spoken in European French. The two French languages also carry differences in how vowels are pronounced and place accents on different syllables of a word in some instances, which can create some confusion if the difference is not appreciated by the interpreter.

Some European French and Canadian French examples to consider

As a workaround for many of the English phrases that the French have decided to adopt, French Canadians have developed their own words to stick to their deep French roots. For example, a common English phrase is; “Let’s go shopping!” The French have incorporated this phrase into their language by saying; “Allons faire du shopping!” The French Canadians are less accepting of the English term shopping and have created the phrase; “Allons faire du magasinage!” to mean the same thing.

The laws that govern French in Quebec are also designed to regulate how the language is translated for the names of products and services that are typically American. These laws do not apply in France, and the two regions have differences in how they refer to simple everyday items. For example, a Diet Coke is referred to a Coke diète in Quebec and a Coca light in France. The difference is subtle but all the different the same.

Even the rules of the road are uniquely French in Quebec with “arrêt” used to designate a stop while in France the English term “stop” has been adopted universally. Both mean the same thing but Quebec has decided to keep the French-Canadian translation of the word.

Both Canadian French and European French are languages that need special consideration when interpreting them for the specific region. With Canadian French being stricter in its use of English variations and European French observing a more formal tone with a smattering of English phrases, the two languages are unique in their own right and give each region they are spoken in their own personality.

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