Languages spoken by different communities across regions aren’t spoken the same everywhere. And some dialects might be so different from the standard that they deserve to be treated as an entire whole language.
That isn’t the case for Canadian French and Parisian French, but the difference between the two dialects should be considered when we’re looking for high-quality French translation services. A brilliant French translator from France might have a hard time translating from Quebecois French. Especially, when the material won’t be a formal document but, for instance, a novel or the transcription of a conversation.
In this post, we’ll make a Canadian French vs. French from France comparison, covering syntax, vocabulary, and pronunciation.
How Many “Frenchs” Are There?
Thinking of a single “French-French” is also incorrect. Most language students (native and non-native alike) learn Parisian French, also known as Metropolitan French, which is the standard version of the language. But there’s no denying the various dialects within the country. There are approximately 28 dialects within France.
Likewise, when we talk about “Canadian French”, we’re simplifying a diverse linguistic landscape. In most cases, by Canadian French, we mean Quebecois French, since this is the most widely spoken French dialect within Canada. But Newfoundland French, Acadian French, St. Marys Bay French, and Métis French exist too, and each one has its own peculiarities that deserve our attention.
Canadian French vs French from France: Syntax
While formal documents maintain the overall syntax of Standard French, informal speech is a whole different world.
Canadian French speakers use the relative pronouns “que” far more often than their Parisian counterparts. On the other hand, a sentence’s explicit subject is often used as a tag, as if, speaking in English, we said: “My sister, she’s a great dancer.”
We can also find some differences in the imperative form, with the object pronoun of a sentence being placed at the end of the sentence in Quebecois, and in the middle of the sentence in Metropolitan French.
While “tu” (the informal second-person pronouns) is far more commonly used than in France’s French, Quebecois speakers also use “tu” to mark “yes-or-no” questions, as well as to put an emphasis on one’s words, replacing the Metropolitan French word “si”.
Canadian French vs Parisian French: Pronunciation
Due to the isolation that French Canadian speakers had in relation to other French speakers, their dialects maintain some traits of 17th century French, such as the pronunciation of the “oi” in words like “droit” and “trois”.
Quebecois tends to replace some fricative sounds with alveolar and uvular trills, changing the way Rs are pronounced. This can be appreciated in other European French dialects as well. We can also perceive differences in how “open” the nasal vowels are.
Canadian French vs Metropolitan French: Vocabulary
Thanks to their constant contact with Anglophone communities, Canadian French speakers generally have a stronger tendency towards Anglicisms (words or phrases borrowed from English), than their counterparts.
Banning loanwords is a French tradition. And in 1966, President de Gaulle created the Commission d’enrichissement de la langue française, an institution that aimed to prevent the language from acquiring too many loanwords by providing alternatives. This Commission is still active, turning “fake news” into “infox” and “hashtag” into “ mot-dièse”. But still, finding common vocabulary between English and French isn’t odd. Centuries of commercial and cultural exchange have given English speakers words like “apricot” or “cousin”, while France-based French speakers call their weekends “weekends”.
Regardless, English has affected Canadian French in far more subtle and interesting ways. For instance, Quebecois is full of English expressions translated into French (these terms are known as “calques”), as well as English words copied verbatim, of course. An example of a calque would be “Ça fait du sense”, a direct translation of the English expression “It makes sense”. It’s also worth noting the usage of “Bienvenue” (“You’re welcome”), as a substitute to the French “De rien”, or the very English expression “avoir fun” (“to have fun”).
Dialects like Métis French, spoken by the Native Métis People, are heavily influenced by Aboriginal languages. This is also the case for other, more widely spoken dialects, that show signs of cultural exchange with aboriginal people through certain loanwords.
How to Hire the Right French Translator
Most formal documents might not require much insight into the nuances of spoken language across regions. So, translators of Canadian French vs. French from France experts might do the job equally well. But profound knowledge of spoken French might be crucial to properly adapt anything from court documents to short stories.
To guarantee a high-quality translation, make sure you reach out to a translation company that can provide a professional who’s used to the particular dialect the material is in. Aside from linguistic expertise, a good translator should also have experience dealing with the specific subject matter and format at hand.