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Québécois: 10 words or phrases to introduce Canadian French

We look at how Québécois differs from French spoken in Europe

Montréal is a city in Québec Pic: Firefighter Montreal / Shutterstock

This week we are looking at Québécois, which is most frequently described as a form of French and therefore a language rather than a dialect. 

Some people in France turn their noses up or make fun of how the language is spoken in Canada’s Quebec region. There are plenty of jokes and memes on the internet to back this up. 

Nevertheless, French and Québécois people can usually understand each other, even though there are lots of differences in accents, pronunciation and even words. 

To get an idea of the differences in the accents, it can be useful to listen to podcasts in Québécois. If you download the Radio Canada app you can find plenty of shows to get your ear attuned. 

Read also: French podcasts to help improve your language skills

Here are 10 Québécois words or phrases to help you along the way, too:

1. C’est écoeurant

This one has undoubtedly been misconstrued numerous times between native French and Québécois speakers, with some unfortunate consequences. 

In standard French, écoeurant means ‘sickeningly sweet’ or ‘disgusting’, however, in Québécois it can mean ‘delicious’ or ‘very good’. 

For example, if someone went to see a film in Quebec and described it as écoeurant, it means you should probably go and watch it too!

2. Char

In Québécois, char is a car but in standardised French, it translates as voiture

This is mainly used in spoken Québécois. 

Read also: How to gain confidence in speaking French

3. Chum 

This is the Québécois equivalent of ‘mon copain’ or ‘mon mec’ meaning boyfriend. 

Meanwhile, ‘ma blonde’ is often used to refer to girlfriends. This term is thought to derive from the song Auprès de ma blonde, which was penned in the 17th century and translates as ‘Next to my blonde’ or, as a Quebecois would translate it, ‘Next to my girl’. 

4. Attache ta tuque!

Tuques are an essential part of Canadian winters - it means beanie hat. ‘Attache ta tuque’ is like the English equivalent to ‘hold onto your hat’ or ‘buckle up’. 

5. Tabarnak 

The swear word putain seems to be the most used word in the French language, sometimes. 

The equivalent in Québécois is tabarnak

6. Déjeuner, dîner… souper 

In Québécois, breakfast, lunch and dinner all move around compared to their French equivalents. 

In standard French, petit dejeuner refers to breakfast, dejeuner is lunch and dîner for dinner.

However, in Québécois, dejeuner is breakfast, dîner equals lunch and souper means dinner.

7. Y fait frette 

This one will come in handy for the cold Québécois winters! 

Y fait frette is Québecois for Il fait froid in standard French, or ‘it is cold’ in English. Frette however means when something is really cold, a feeling particular to the conditions experienced in Quebec winters. 

8. Fin/Fine 

If you refer to someone as fin or fine in Québécois, it is a compliment and means that someone is ‘sweet’ or ‘nice’

Meanwhile in standard French, talking about someone as fine would suggest you were referring to their weight or figure. 

9. C’est tiguidou

This means ‘to be very good’ or ‘to be on top form’ and would be seen as an enthusiastic response to the question, ça va?

10. À tantôt

This is an apt phrase to end on… À tantôt is the Québécois equivalent of the French À bientôt, meaning ‘see you soon!’ 

Read also

Provençal pronunciation: How does it differ from standard French?

10 Breton phrases to take with you to Brittany

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