Friday, October 23, 2009

Two frenchs for the price of one

Just a note to say that I am still following the construction story on my street. I have been quite busy this week while thankfully the construction has concentrated solely on digging the big hole at the south side of the street. It's going very slowly, as they are digging through solid bedrock and there hasn't been a lot of change, other than them digging deeper and deeper. I have some pictures and will go into it in a bit more depth this weekend.

In the meantime, I had a very interesting conversation about the french language during a work 5 à 7. I was told that the rule in french is that all anglicismes have the masculine gender. I was happy to hear that, but then I remembered that everyone hear talks about "la job". I asked and was told that the correct way to say it is "le job". My response was, that if everyone says "la job", isn't that ultimately the correct way for me to learn it, so that I can fit in better? I was told no. I badgered a bit and then they finally told me that harsh truth. Ultimately, I need to learn both ways!

To be able to truly and deeply integrate yourself in Quebec society, command the language and be successful, you have to learn to speak, read and write (especially these last two) correct, Academie Française french. But to be able to hang out comfortably, talk smack, laugh, joke and curse people out, you've got to be able to speak some good Québécoise. Our comms officer here told me it was a dilemma for her. She is quite well-educated but is also a Québécoise. When she approaches a journalist, she has to use correct french in order to present herself as a serious professional. But she is also wary about coming off as a snob.

Fascinating stuff and it's interesting how it took me this long to really hear this so directly for the first time. I think I have heard it hinted at and I'm sure this is old news for a lot of people. But I also think there is a certain reticence to reveal these things to outsiders. Why I'm not sure yet.

The challenge for me has just doubled. I had been sort of thinking that I had a base of correct french but that I could dump it and just concentrate on learning how to speak like the people around me (my job calls for very little writing, though I do interact with the public a lot). And I've been working on that! Now I realize I really need to maintain my base of correct french and start absorbing more than one way to say things, depending on whom I'm talking to.

Recently, since I've got married and been able to put the planning for that behind me, I have had a bit more time and energy to devote to my french skills. I've started reading again in french (not only in french, but I've got a book I'm working through) and I'm making an effort to write more at work, to speak and listen more and to take the time to look words and grammar up. I'm getting older. I can feel my brain slowly hardening. But I think I can push my french up to a higher level in the next year or so.

2 comments:

lagatta à montréal said...

Hi walkerp! (coming from Spacing).

Why is your blog called "Briques DU Neige" - was the error in gender deliberate?

and of course, one speaks "québécois", not "québécois", though one could speak "la langue québécoise".

It doesn't sound good if people from away try to hard to speak colloquial québécois - important to understand it, but use standard French in general when speaking until certain local forms and expressions come naturally.

Ciao!

WalkerP said...

Hey lagatta! Thanks for stopping by. First of all, I want to congratulate you on being the first person to spot the error (or at least to mention it) after all this time. It was an actual mistake at first, but about a year after I had started the blog, I felt some embarrassment but now kind of see it as doing a good job of representing what I'm doing here. Making an effort, but not always getting it right. :)

And thanks for the advice on going with the standard french. I think I was going a bit far in trying to be colloquial (trying to fit in, man!) and it was muddying up my french. I am going to go back to the basics and try and follow the international rules for a while.