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Learning French in France or Quebec

I am retired took some French in a community college and have used Duolingo. I would like to try to take lessons in France for a week or two, or perhaps via Skype. Any suggestions?

Posted by
285 posts

I have a friend who did French immersion at a school in Ontario. She claims no-one in France understood her.

Posted by
2513 posts

A Québécois friend of mine told me a number of years ago it was a happy day when Garmin finally include a Canadian French speaker for directions. He stopped getting lost!

Posted by
244 posts

I think it depends on who you want to talk to in French. Many French speakers in France seem to have trouble understanding the Québecois accent (it often gets subtitles on television!), so if you primarily want to speak French there, you will probably want to avoid studying in Quebec. As far as sources of Skype tutors, I admit that there I don't know too much.

Posted by
248 posts

That should work just fine as a starting point. Once you have the basics down you'll need to spend time in France speaking, reading to lock things down. Not everyone learns the same way so you'll need to take your own personal strengths and weaknesses into consideration.
The comment about Quebecois is a bit comical...there is no formal instruction available for this. The history related to the reasons for differences between Parisian modern French and old world Quebecois are interesting in and of themselves but what is correctly noted is that they are not the same. Our family is of French Canadian decent and we speak what the French condescendingly call "old French".. The languages overlap but vary in syntax, structure and vocabulary. French language teachers in Canada do not teach this "old French" but if you are raised in Quebec or in Maine, you will learn it. My father once acted as a US Army translator for French boxing teams stationed in Germany. He says the experience was pretty comical but that they managed to work things out with some effort. The boys would show up at our apartment for late dinners and always brought along wine and bread to get things rolling.
I think of how my Berlin Grandparents reacted when I spoke Plattdeutsch as a child. If I was laying it on (as you should depending upon were you learned it) they could barely understand me. They were not pleased and made a big deal out of teaching me the Berlin dialect. I later learned Hoch Deutsch and laid that over the top of the Platt and Berlin lingo....a mishmash that somewhat resembles Quebecois contrast to modern "Paris" French.

At the end of the day people will recognize and appreciate any effort you make to converse in their tongue. Some will be annoyed, some will be amused but for the most part they will be appreciative. Worst case you can always fall back to English...assuming you haven't already insulted someone. Poutine anyone?

Posted by
3436 posts

A born-and-bred resident of Tennessee will sound different than you in Michigan, but the basic language is the same. Purists in France may turn up their noses at the "joual" accent of working-class Montreal, but that's snobbery, not grammar and syntax.

Posted by
285 posts

I think the grammar is manily the same. it was the vocabulary differences that made life hard for her

Posted by
6752 posts

The Big Ten university where I worked had a wonderful summer French language program in Quebec City. Just don't go to English-speaking Ontario!

Posted by
2798 posts

I think the grammar is manily the same. it was the vocabulary differences that made life hard for her

I suspect that is usually the case, and maybe accents. We have a French friend who visited us a couple of times, and one time we drove her and 2 others to Quebec, where they were spending a week. She later told us that she often had trouble understanding the Quebecois.

Posted by
6752 posts

Boy, is this overblown. As a fluent French second-language speaker, married to a Parisian French native-speaker, I can give the following: my husband has no trouble understanding any French Canadian accent, urban or rural. We are smart enough to figure out any vocabulary that may seem archaic from the 16th or 17th C. I can understand any urban accent. I do have some trouble with rural accents but even then my ear adjusts--except for a film like Mon Oncle Antoine, set way north, way rural.

On the other hand, we always have subtitles on when watching the BBC or PBS shows from Great Britain.

There are some excellent programs in French-speaking Canada and you won't sound like Mon Oncle Antoine. Bon voyage.

Posted by
244 posts

Bets, it's excellent that your husband doesn't have any trouble! As a fellow FSL-speaker, I sometimes feel like there is a mental block among native-speaker francophones from France - I've run across quite a few who at least profess to not understand Canadian speakers well, and have always noticed the pervasiveness of the use of subtitles. One of my colleagues once actually claimed to not realize something was in French at all due to this. I guess on the flip side of things, the one time I was in Scotland I really struggled.

My point is more to the idea that it makes sense to learn the accent of the place where you want to use it most frequently - for example, I love studying Spanish but have a preference for Latin American accents, because that's where I'm more interested in using Spanish (not that it narrows things down much at all since there are so many accent options!).

Edit: It's probably worth noting that there would be a big difference between the French someone is likely to learn in an FSL classroom in Canada versus some of the accents / dialects / variations that are sometimes considered "difficult" to understand - I just thought of this video where Acadian speakers talk about their experiences as French speakers, and it's really interesting how even within Canada you have so many varieties (and ways they are seen).

Posted by
16766 posts

My hairdresser was raised in France. At some point after he emigrated to the US as an adult, he took a vacation to Quebec. He ran into at least one person who insisted he was not speaking French. I laughed when he told me about it years later, but he still doesn't think it was funny.

Posted by
848 posts

I copied this response i made on a post with a similar question:

I am a French teacher here in the USA with plenty of experience under my belt studying abroad in France.
I highly recommend the following:
- L'Institut Catholique in Paris
- L'Institut de Touraine in Tours
-L'Alliance Francaise de Normandie in Rouen.
Also, prices in Quebec are amazing compared to the US dollar. I also highly recommend
- Ecole Quebec Monde in Quebec City
All of these schools welcome adults as well as younger learners. The best means of attaining French is having a host family and all of the places above will find host families for you. Though as we get older it seems silly to live with a family, but it really is the best way.

Posted by
2446 posts

Amy's analogy of having difficulty understanding the English spoken in parts if Scotland is pretty spot on when comparing Quebecois or Acadian French to that spoken in France. There are real differences in both the accents and vocabulary, but you can usually get by. DH had quite a time with French. His mother is Acadian from New Brunswick, so he learned and developed an ear for that as a child. But in school he was taught "proper" Parisian French (by an Anglophone Canadian). Then in the military he worked with Quebecois on a daily basis. Eventually he became comfortable with all 3, and could adjust both his ear and his speaking according to the person he was conversing with.

I still remember a day I spent as an interpreter. While I was in in the military our crew had a layover, so one of the other nurses and I went on a guided tour. Our guide was a lovely young French woman, fully fluent in English. My friend was Quebecoise, from a small village, with a very thick accent when speaking English. Neither could understand the other in either language, so I spent the day interpreting. We all laughed about it.

Posted by
2411 posts

An unnecessary story: I took (I can't say really studied) French for 4 years in high school and then college. I was not good. The summer after I graduated I worked in Kennebunkport for a few weeks (before I got a real job). The first time I ever understood someone speaking French to others was there, in the shop. I was so excited. It was because the Québecois spoke French with a Rhode Island accent! LOL. IMO YMMV.

Someday I will go to France for extended periods and immerse myself in it...

Posted by
30932 posts

bill,

I suppose which version of French to focus on would depend to some extent on what you want to use the language for. If you plan on spending a lot of time travelling in France, it would be more pragmatic to take lessons in France. If you're just using it for "general knowledge", that probably won't be as important as you'll still learn the grammar and structure of the language.

You may find this interesting (also read some of the comments below the video) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9rh3lqdtT0 .

French is similar to many other languages in terms of regional variations. Some friends from Calabria have told me that they spoke a specific language in the town they came from, but if speaking with someone from a neighboring town they wouldn't be understood unless they switched to "standard Italian".

I found this example from Germany to be very interesting - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKF0HfSg_oo . Although I don't speak German, the standard German made more sense to me than the Bavarian version.

Good luck!

Posted by
11411 posts

If a person wanted to learn english.. would they do better in london or scotland. ? Both speak english.. but one is a lot harder for many english speakers to understand.. ( well you can generally get the gist of it .. but you know what I mean)

My father is born/raised Parisian.. but I grew up in west coast Canada. My father cursed our french teachers here.. said they were not doing a good job ( yes I see the irony but why he wouldnt teach us is a long story.. I did learn "merde" by kindergarten though )

I think both would be fine.. but to really do it right I would go to France..