Montréal is a destination like no other: the sights, the sounds, the food, the people, everything.
But one of the most fascinating aspects of a trip to Montréal is the language. Specifically, the chance to encounter one-of-a-kind 'Québécismes' — words and phrases that are très French Canadian, born out of Montréal’s unique position as the most populous city in Québec, a French-speaking province in an English-majority country.
According to some researchers, French could be the language of the future. It’s already one of the fastest growing languages in certain areas of the world, and is spoken by far more people than just the French alone. Of course, regional dialects vary, as language is often affected by the culture in which it is used.
So check out these five real phrases that you’re likely to hear in Montréal, and discover what they can teach us about the language and culture of the city.
1. “C’était ben le fun! (sayteh be(n) leuh fuhn)”
What it means: It was really fun!
Why it’s awesome: Québec takes its French very seriously, policing the language even more than the French do. That said, French Canadians infuse a ton of frenchified English words into their day-to-day conversations.
Much like ‘bouquet’ or ‘clique’ in English, the word ‘fun’ (among many others) is used so frequently that Canadian French speakers often don’t even notice that it’s an English word.
2. “Je vais te sender un email. (zheuh vay teuh sehnday u(n) eemayl)”
What it means: I am going to send you an email.
Why it’s awesome: The word sender in this sentence is the result of an English word used with French grammar. Especially when it comes to technology, French Canadians borrow a lot of English words. When referring to email, the English verb ‘to send’ was adopted into French grammar by adding an ‘–er’ verb ending.
3. “Il faut pas se bâdrer avec les détails! (eel fo pa seuh bawhdray avehk lay daytahy)”
What it means: Don’t bother with the details!
Why it’s awesome: This sentence is awesome because of what it reveals about the difference in the accents of Francophones from different regions when speaking in English. Stick with us here. When someone from Paris says, ‘the car,’ it usually ends up sounding like ‘zee car.’ When someone from Montreal says it, it usually sounds like ‘deh car.’
So, the word bâdrer is a loanword that comes from the French Canadian pronunciation of the English word ‘bother.’ They turned the ‘th’ into a ‘d’ and made it a French verb by adding ‘–er’ to the end.
4. “C’est le friforâll. (say leuh free-fohr-ahl)”
What it means: It’s a free-for-all. (Literal: It’s the free-for-all.)
Why it’s awesome: Those who are unfamiliar with Québécismes may have no idea what friforâll could possibly mean… until they sound it out in French: free…for…all.
Canadian French often takes English words and changes the spelling so that when sounded out in French, the pronunciation remains similar to how it’s pronounced in English.
5. “Je suis badeloqué, là. (zheuh swee badlohkay lah)”
What is means: I have bad luck.
Why it’s awesome: Much like the ‘free-for-all’ example above, badeloqué comes from the English ‘bad luck’ but with a French spelling and used as an adjective: ‘bad-lucked.’
The là at the end of this sentence is heavily used in French-speaking Canada. In instances like this, là doesn’t have much meaning. It’s a filler that can be compared to ‘you know,’ ‘like,’ or ‘so’ in English, and is used to show emphasis.