I know I’m French, and you’d think the same language would be used in the French part of Canada, but I can guarantee you that I was baffled more than once during my trip. I can’t even imagine what my English-speaking counterparts feel when they arrive in Montreal or Quebec City. As in my previous article on Australian slang, I’m here today to give you some useful words and expressions to help you navigate these cities more easily.

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What is Québécois?

Also known as Canadian French, this language is actually spoken by 22.8% of the total population, with Quebec City being the only predominantly French-speaking province.

Québécois was originally a mixture of Parisian French and other French dialects from colonial times. After Britain took control of the country, French education declined as the English-speaking minority took power and made their language the official language.

Industrialization led to a large proportion of the rural population moving to English-speaking cities. It was then that English and French began to mix.

Differences between French and Québécois

Question Marks and differences between Québécois and French

Although French and Québécois have many similarities, they are also different in many ways. Québécois is a little strange to the French because it retains old expressions/words that are no longer used in France.

Accents and pronunciations are also different, as they like to merge their pronouns. The language is more sound-based than you might think. They also sometimes mix English in their verbs or certain words.

Even though both languages have their own characteristics, I found it quite fun to try to understand all the expressions and learn some of them. It sometimes made for awkward situations, but it was an instructive and memorable experience nonetheless!

Québécois Words

Québécois Words

1. Jaser

To “discuss”, to “talk about”, to “gossip” about things that don’t really matter.

2. La bobette

Equivalent of “underwear” (no distinction between men and women).

3. Un chien chaud

Literally the French translation of “hot dog”. I don’t know why, but I always think of the animal and not the food when I say it in Quebecois. Weird, isn’t it?

4. Un char

This one really confused me for a while. Simply because char means “car”, but in French, char is actually the word for “tank”.
Imagine you’re walking down the street with your Quebecois friend and he says: “Wow, regarde c’est le char de mes rêves”: “Wow, look, it’s the tank of my dreams”. Now you can understand my surprise and dismay! A “CAR”, not a tank!

5. Frencher

The first time I heard this word, I wondered if it was a swear word directed at French people. Since we’re seen as people who complain, I expected it to be something along those lines.

But to my surprise, it’s not. It’s the equivalent of “French kiss”.

6. Magasinage

This is the word Quebécois use when they go shopping. It makes sense because “magasin” is the French word for “shop”.

7. Foufounes

If you’re not French, you probably won’t have the same reaction as I did when I heard this word. I’ll just say that in my country, it’s something only girls have.

But here, it means “buttocks”!

8. Souper

Even meals have different names. Souper is “dinner”. For the record, breakfast is “déjeuner” and lunch is “dîner”.

9. Le chum/La blonde

The two respectively refer to your “boyfriend/girlfriend”. I don’t know why “blonde”, because not all girls are blonde.

10. Chandail

Used to describe any “stretchy garment” other than a shirt that is worn over the upper body.

11. Fin/Fine

A word similar to English that translates as “nice” or “sweet”.

12. Ben

Not a name here, it simply means “well” or “really” and is particularly used in informal speech.

Ben là: “Well there” usually expresses surprise or annoyance.

Québécois Phrases

1. C’est le fun!

Easy, because the word “fun” in the sentence says it all: “It’s fun, great…”.

2. Être paqueté

Perfectly describes the state you’re in when you’ve had one too many. You guessed it, you use it when you’re “drunk”.

3. Cogner des clous

Or to “bang nails” is “someone who is fighting sleep when they are obviously very tired”.
You know, the thing we all do when we’re in front of the TV but always say we’re meditating.

4. Il fait frette

If you travel to Canada, especially the French part, you’re bound to hear this one.

It means “it’s freezing”. Spot on, right?

5. Aller aux vues

Vues or voir in French means “to see”, so “aller aux vues” means “to go to the movies”.

6. Ça a pas d’allure!

In French, “allure” means speed or rhythm, but it’s also used to refer to someone’s appearance. In English, the word is a verb meaning “to attract” or “to seduce”.

So it can be confusing, especially when the actual translation is “it doesn’t make sense”. Rather difficult!

7. Tire toi une bûche

Literally translated as “take a log”, this expression is actually used to say “take a seat”.

8. Se calmer le pompon

It’s like when you get too excited and start annoying other people, and they tell you to “calm down!”

9. Lâche pas la patate

We’re talking about potatoes here, but more seriously, this phrase means “don’t give up!”.

10. À tantôt

If you want to say “see you later”, this is the one!

11. C’est tiguidou

This expression sounds so cute, but it simply means “it’s all good!”.

Swear Expressions

Monkey in funny Québécois words post
Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash

When you live in a country for a while, you tend to adopt a number of expressions, and the easiest to use are swear words. Sorry, but it’s the truth, so here are my two favorites:

Tabarnak!

Which translates by “damn it!”.

Calice de Crisse!

Sounds like “Crisse” is a derivative of Christ? Well, it is, since the expression can be translated as: “Christ’s chalice”. And it’s another way of saying “damn it!”.

Some funny facts

It means “there” in French, but is widely used in informal situations at the end of sentences in Québécois. It is used as an exclamation in the same way as “right ?” or “yeah ?”.

J’avais raison, là? = “I was right, yeah?”

Tsé

Abbreviated form of “tu sais” or “you know”. It’s another way of punctuating your speech.

Tu

Which is “you” and you know what? Our Québécois friends also like to add words at the end of questions. It seems a little repetitive and odd to include a pronoun twice, but that’s how they ask their questions.

Tu m’écoutes-tu? = Are you listening?

All in all, I find Quebecois amusing and inventive. I hope this little guide will help you navigate the French part of the country a little more easily.

What about you? Have you heard any other words or expressions on your travels?
Or do you have any weird and funny slang words from your own country? If so, feel free to post them in the comments!

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