Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Uniquely Quebec, Part 1

montreal 1

When I was studying translation, one book that I enjoyed reading was Deux Langues, Six Idiomes by Irène de Buisseret.  Ms. Buisseret was one person I would have loved to meet face-to-face but she committed suicide in Ottawa, after an enviable career as Chief Translator of the Supreme Court of Canada.  Her list of achievements was outstanding.  She was a lawyer in France before immigrating to Canada.  Her father was a Russian diplomat. 

Ms. Buisseret's Deux Langues, Six Idiomes was a valuable scholarly piece of work, although she didn't write it in stiff, textbook style.  I wouldn't call it a textbook because it was an absorbing literary gem - the kind of book one would curl up with and get lost in time.

The book's theme focused on the many ways that French is spoken and written in different countries.  It's a translator's reference; hence the "deux langues" (for Canada's two official languages - English and French), and  the "six idiomes" referred to the different idiomatic French expressions spoken in France, Quebec, Belgium and other countries.

To be familiar with regionalisms is an indispensable skill for translators.  At times, such regionalisms predominate in everyday language giving the impression that we in Quebec speak erratic (and erroneous) French. 

I'd be the first to challenge anyone who says that the French language as spoken and written here in Quebec is inferior to that of France.  We follow the same grammar and punctuation rules and the Quebec people may have an accent, but that doesn't mean we don't speak or write French correctly.  McGill University and the Université de Montréal produce excellent translators every year.  When people say "it isn't Parisian French", I have to chuckle.  Of course it isn't Parisian - that's stating the obvious.

If people make such snobbish statements, it reflects  ignorance - indeed a narrow-minded view - of regionalisms and the many other colorful expressions that mirror the unique and refreshing Quebec "esprit."

I won't use a table here because I'll be featuring a few expressions instead of single words.

  1. You're on a shopping spree.  You see a dress you like.  The price sends your head spinning, and you say:

quebec ex 1

2.  You bump into a friend you haven't seen a long time.  He's an active person, likes to get involved.  You wonder what he's been up to lately.  You ask:

FrenchSalut Jean-Claude.  Qu'est-ce que tu fais de bon?

EnglishHi Jean-Claude!  What have you been up to?  Or simply, what's up?

3.  Your friend lives in Montreal and discourages you from visiting her in November because of the cold.  She uses a slang word for "cold."

FrenchViens pas à Montréal ce novembre.  Il fait frette ici.

EnglishDon't come to Montreal in November.  It's cold here.

4.  You're a confirmed fan of chips.  Your friends describe you as someone who likes to snack a lot.

FrenchTu adores grignoter, heh?  Tu veux partager tes chips?

EnglishYou love to snack heh?  Would you like to share your chips?

5.  Your cousin has gone from one vocal audition to another without success.  You motivate him to persevere some more.

FrenchLâche-pas, mon cher cousin.  T'as beaucoup de talent!

EnglishHang in there, my dear cousin.  Don't give up.  You've got a lot of talent!

quebec 2

Stay tuned for Uniquely Quebec, Part 2!

No comments:

Post a Comment