7

Nearly all of the TV and YouTube that I consume in French is from Québec, or other parts of Canada. A handful of times, I've been told that I am supposed to mention that a sentence that I'm asking about originates from Québec.

I'm confused about this. Often, I don't know if it's even relevant that the sentence is from Québec or not. Additionally, I almost never see other questions on the site write "Please make your answers relevant to French spoken in [region]".

It feels strange to me to mention, in every question that I post, that the source text is from Québec, even when I suspect that it's not very relevant to the question. Am I supposed to be doing so, anyways?


If I investigate my uneasy feelings about always having to indicate that the source is from Québec, here's what comes to mind:

  • I remember some people responding with "This is bad/incorrect/lazy French" when really, it was a Canadian/Québecois regionalism. This happened with a question with "C'est correct", and a question where "rendre" was used with a meaning that seems to be not used in France. It also happened in a very mild (non-aggressive) way in a recent question where someone said that "s'enligner is probably s'aligner".

  • So, it seems that Québecois French will be automatically treated as "incorrect", unless I specifically state that the source is Québecois. If other people don't have to say "I'm in France" or "I'm in Lebanon" repeatedly in their posts, then I feel uneasy to say "This media is from Québec" in every question I write; I would feel uneasy, because it seems to be implying that European French is "correct" and thus needs no mention of country of origin in questions, whereas Québecois French is substandard.

However, perhaps I don't understand etiquette in the Francophonie? Perhaps European French is considered standard, and that its the responsibility of those outside of Europe to either speak European French on public websites, or to warn people beforehand that their speech might include non-European regionalisms (in order to prevent people from calling their French "incorrect")?


What is your opinion?

  1. Should I be stating "This book/TV show/Youtube Channel is based in Québec" in every question that I write, even if I don't know if it's relevant, or if I only suspect that it's only relevant in a minor way (e.g. one or two words that might be regionalisms, but aren't the main focus of the question I'm asking)?

  2. When people ask questions like "How do I say [X] in French?", and if they are outside of Europe, should they always be stating their location in their questions (ie so the answers are relevant for the French spoken in their location) ?

  3. Am I correct to feel uneasy that I'm implying disrespect to Québecois/Canadian French, if I'm expected to state location of origin for every question, when other questions need not do so? Or am I feeling uneasy for no good reason, and that in reality, the benefits would outweigh the drawbacks?

3
  • 2
    Related: Étiquettes pour les variantes régionales
    – jlliagre
    Mar 15, 2022 at 23:09
  • @jlliagre +1, Good link. For me for expression's question it's a good thing, even for answer I would tag them (France, Quebec, Africa, etc...) For grammar question it's less revelant IMO, as grammar's rule are the only thing all French share IMO.
    – yagmoth555
    Mar 16, 2022 at 2:39
  • I really wonder why the Québecois French speakers aren't speaking up here. There are many participating here. I feel like I am the only one who attempted to answer this question in a way favorable to all native French speakers whether from, for example, Brussels, Paris, Montréal, Luxembourg ou Djibouti. Yes, there are native French speakers in Djibouti.
    – Lambie
    Mar 18, 2022 at 17:30

4 Answers 4

4

"Standard" French, the one you'll find in most books, papers, in TV news, speeches is almost identical wherever used.

Colloquial French spoken by native French is much more diverse and sometimes what is considered standard in one place is considered either incorrect or is just unknown/unheard in the other.

You write people would always label Quebec French as incorrect. Not everyone will, if only users from Quebec or other French speaking areas in Canada and hopefully not just them but the issue is actually worse. There are still people that believe spoken or informal French is incorrect, even the very same French they use every day. They also often believe there is only one French way to pronounce words and anything different is a mispronunciation...

A handful of times, I've been told that I am supposed to mention that a sentence that I'm asking about originates from Québec: I suspect some of these comments come from the same person. That person happens not to be a native French speaker and overestimates her level in French. No French etiquette to expect here, just flag comments if you feel they are rude or simply unfriendly.

Telling the source of what is quoted in a question is nevertheless a good idea. Even if all your questions are using Quebec sources, don't assume everyone will know it. No need to precisely tell from what country/region it comes from but a link to the original location if available would at least allow users to figure out by themselves what variant is used if they feel they need to.

4
  • "There are still people that believe spoken or informal French is incorrect, even the very same French they use every day." This was illuminating to me. And you're correct when you guessed that the comments that jump to saying the Québecois regionalisms are an error are from the same couple of users. I'm thinking that their critical tone made me feel resistant to mentioning Québec in my posts very often (or linking to the source), but after reading your comment that illuminated some thoughts for me, I'm more open to doing so, without feeling that i'm implying that Quebécois FR is inferior.
    – silph
    Mar 16, 2022 at 1:08
  • @silph, "spoken or informal French is incorrect". The same is true for English. For instance, I might say to someone "I wanna go now.". If they record in their log "Ray said '*I wanna go now.'.*", that would be okay. I instead they recorded in their log "Ray suggested it, and now I wanna go too." that would be incorrect. In written English, it's okay to quote something that's wrong, but not to use something that's wrong. Mar 16, 2022 at 13:18
  • It is really not nice to say things like this: I suspect some of these comments come from the same person. That person happens not to be a native French speaker and overestimates her level in French. No French etiquette to expect here, just flag comments if you feel they are rude or simply unfriendly.
    – Lambie
    Mar 18, 2022 at 15:35
  • @Lambie I agree it is not particularily nice but sometimes the truth must be stated, especially about someone that never stop telling my English is poor even in cases where it is totally irrelevant.
    – jlliagre
    Mar 18, 2022 at 16:21
2

Compare with asking on an English-usage site whether something should be spelled "color" or "colour" (I wonder, should my "spelled" have instead been "spelt"?).

In the US, it's correct with no "u". In most of the rest of the world it's correct with the "u". Here in Canada, either spelling is correct but only if it is used consistently throughout the document.

Similarly, "realize" is correctly spelled that way everywhere (at least according to the Oxford English Dictionary, and Fowler's Modern English Usage), but most countries insist on using the newfangled "-ise" ending, and some even say that "-ize" is wrong.

As you said, "Often, I don't know if it's even relevant that the sentence is from Québec or not.". But it's almost certain that the person answering the question will know whether it's relevant. And if they don't, they might end up giving you a wrong answer.

On other sites, I see questions about laws, building codes, wiring standards, and such things that fail to mention what the relevant jurisdiction is, resulting in comments asking about it. The OP typically answers in a comment, and then more comments are added asking that this information be moved into the Question. It's a waste of time for everyone.

You "feel uneasy, because it seems to be implying that European French is "correct" …, whereas Québecois French is substandard". Not "substandard", simply not Parisian French standard.

For a site like this, it's quite reasonable to assume that the French being discussed is standard Parisian French. If something might be some other version, the question should make it clear. And not only location, dates can be important too.

Even ignoring everything I just said, in general, on all .SE sites, it's always good to give the specific source of whatever caused you to ask the question.

The information doesn't have to be awkward; it can fit into the question quite naturally. It can be as simple as "A reporter on CTV Montréal's news tonight used the expression '…', which … .", or "In Philippe Panneton's novel 'Trente Arpents', published in Québec in 1938, … .".

It never hurts to establish context, and it often helps.

5
  • 1) "For a site like this, it's quite reasonable to assume that the French being discussed is standard Parisian French." can you expand on this? what are some reasons that it's reasonable to assume? 2) i'll think about ways i can mention the origin of Québec in my questions, using your two examples as starting points. i'm not sure if it'll feel awkward or not for me, but i can certainly try it out.
    – silph
    Mar 16, 2022 at 1:11
  • @silph, see Standard French - Wikipedia. This may or may not be the best choice of standard, but it is the de facto standard for the language. Mar 16, 2022 at 1:15
  • huh, thanks for that link. so there really does exist a "Standard". (as an aside, i've always wondered why Radio-Canada speaks with a pronunciation that -- while still sounding Québecois -- seemed to intentionally sound closer to the France pronunciation i was taught in elementary and high school, here in Ontario. i just chaulked it up to the reason they say American and Canadian English-language newscaster talk so "unnaturally": to be heard by listeners as "coming from no identifiable region" and thus strangely "neutral").
    – silph
    Mar 16, 2022 at 1:31
  • anyways, the idea that there actually does exist a notion of Standard French makes me more willing to make a note of the source location of the sentences that i have, especially if it's from a transcript of spoken language.
    – silph
    Mar 16, 2022 at 1:32
  • 1
    "For a site like this, it's quite reasonable to assume that the French being discussed is standard Parisian French." That is flat-out mistaken. It can however be assumed (especially if a question comes from a learner re basic usage), that the French asked about is about the part of French shared by all French speakers. And some unusual usage say from Mauritius or Tahiti or New Caledonia.
    – Lambie
    Mar 17, 2022 at 16:52
2

No. Technically, of course, the requirement is that the questions meet the general Stack Exchange guidelines:

The French Language Stack Exchange site is for linguists, teachers, students, and anyone interested in the finer points of the French language. We welcome questions about French (including regional or dialectal variants) that meet the general Stack Exchange guidelines.

And such guidelines are not about location, obviously, since they're mostly about scope and not being overly subjective, and incidentally showing effort/research and not being a duplicate.


I too believe that reference to source material solves most of the challenges you discuss, and I concur with the following from the selected answer:

Telling the source of what is quoted in a question is nevertheless a good idea. Even if all your questions are using Quebec sources, don't assume everyone will know it. No need to precisely tell from what country/region it comes from but a link to the original location if available would at least allow users to figure out by themselves what variant is used if they feel they need to.

[ from jlliagre's answer ]

Someone asking a question who wants an answer to be variant-specific for a target audience should say so; that goes without saying. But indeed how can the learner know whether and to what extent what they're asking about is regional? I don't believe the burden should rest on them beyond the source referencing discussed above. Furthermore consider some native speakers may perceive or believe something is non-standard and regional, as I do sometimes, whereas it may just be old and no longer in use with their variety (for instance je vas used by G. Sand). In any case, very often the Quebec French specifics of a sentence are intertwined with more typical French constructions and it's not clear splitting these would be useful or even feasible.


Beyond this we know there are subjective reactions to different pronunciations; enter the topic of linguistic discrimination and linguistic minorities, as Quebec French is both a minority language in Canada and a variety of the French language worldwide. With experience I come to understand that old stereotypes die hard and someone not experienced with diversity may react to differences and may be insensitive in some cases because of this lack of hands on knowledge about differences and not knowing how having a minority characteristic affects people. Because many of your questions are rooted in Quebec French, you get a small taste of how this feels like and I'm sorry you were made to feel this way because of my variety of French which I love. Luckily, the vast majority of contributors are about dealing at arm's length and are quite receptive to differences and care about them and wouldn't want them subsumed into a pool of trivial curiosities separate from and incompatible with « correct » French.


The site affords ample opportunity for anyone, with time, to come to terms with diversity and the stated scope of the site, and to reflect on an all-encompassing study of the French-language phenomena, not just the its academic or metropolitan components.


  1. No.
  2. They could when it's relevant for them to have something specifically geared for a target audience or if they want to know if there is a different phrasing for the region/variety.
  3. You should trust your feelings and act accordingly.
1

French is spoken in many places around the globe.

A lot of it is shared by all these speakers, but some of it is not. I daresay they all would say: Il fait chaud aujourd'hui. They wouldn't all say: Arrête donc de tchatcher. It is only in this sense, that I believe there is standard French, or English for that matter.

What I am saying applies to English, Portuguese and Spanish. Also spoken around the globe.

If the OP is not aware of where the content of the question is used, fair enough. But usually an OP will often know what variety of French is being used. In any case, it is very useful to point out where the French referred to is spoken or where a phrase or utterance comes from.

For example, in southeast France, they use the word tchatcher to mean speak. It is not used in Paris to my knowledge though someone might be from the south or have picked it up and use it. I would call that a regionalism. I would not call an expression used in Québec a regionalism unless it were only used in some place(s) in Québec and not another.

As for correct or incorrect, no linguist worth their salt, will say "This is incorrect" with a few caveats. People speak like they speak. Period. There are complex issues of registers (academic, poetic, informal, formal, colloquial) and uses (slang, trades and professions, for example) and forms (spoken/written/speech transcription, translation) that some people see as "wrong" when in fact a lot of people may be using those terms/expressions and not every French speaker knows every one.

So, back to: Il fait chaud. A mistake by a non-native would be: Il est chaud, for the weather. In that sense, "Il faut chaud" is the usual way to talk about hot weather.

In the Spanish and Portuguese forums, people do tend to identify the place as the varieties can vary a lot even though they all share "Hace calor." and "Faz calor.", respectively.

For me, I can generally identify AmE versus BrE, but not always. There are even AmE colloquialisms I am not familiar with. And that is probably true of many AmE speakers. It's a big country. And I certainly don't know a lot of Australian colloquialisms but am constantly learning new ones.

I think therefore that it is very useful to identify: the place, spoken or written, translation, and a link, if possible. However, if an OP doesn't know, that's fine, too. But they might want to say so.

8
  • Tchatcher does not originate from southeast France but from pre 1962 Algeria (and before that from the Spanish chacharear which itself derives from the Italian chiacchiera: a frivolous conversation). It is well known and used everywhere in France, including in Paris area. It was first used in mainland France by Pieds-Noirs in the 60s then became widespread while remaining colloquial. It does not only mean to speak but describes a talkative way of doing it, of chatting (close to avoir du bagou). Nowadays, it tends to translate the English to chat due to the phonetical similarity.
    – jlliagre
    Mar 18, 2022 at 8:11
  • I would not call an expression used in Québec a regionalism unless it were only used in some place(s) in Québec and not another. You should. Regionalisme means specific to one or more régions linguistiques, not specific to a région administrative. For example nonante is a regionalism used in Belgium, Switzerland, RDC, Rwanda and Burundi while huitante is also a régionalisme but limited to a subset of the Suisse romande. Similarly, the regionalism s'encoubler can be heard in France (Savoy), Switzerland (Romandie) and Italy (Val d'Aoste).
    – jlliagre
    Mar 18, 2022 at 12:00
  • I don't agree that nonante is a "regionalism used in Belgium, Switzerland and RDC." It is a French word not used in France. *By calling it a regionalism, you make French France-centric. Also, the same word cannot be a regionalism used in a number of regions. It can only be used in a single region. And: tchatcher v.intr. tcharrer avec volubilité. Quand'il aura fini de tchatcher, on pourra y aller. De l'argot pied-noir, croisement de l'espagnol charlar et de l'occitan charrar, avec répétition expressive occitanet.free.fr/tolosan/lexique.htm.
    – Lambie
    Mar 18, 2022 at 15:28
  • It was not always used "everywhere" in France. It may have moved north but it was not always used "everywhere". Sure, it is more than "talk", it's chattering, also. Also, I did not say it originated in southern France, I said used there, At least, at first. Most pieds-noir settled in the south. More like Algeria, weather-wise and probably food-wise, as well.
    – Lambie
    Mar 18, 2022 at 15:29
  • L'étymologie de tchatcher que tu as trouvée ne tient pas. Aucune logique ne permet de déduire que charlar ait pu donner tchatcher alors que chacharear est infiniment plus proche phonétiquement. Je n'ai pas dit que tchatcher a toujours été utilisé partout en France, mais qu'il l'est aujourd'hui (pour répondre à ton it is not used in Paris to my knowledge).
    – jlliagre
    Mar 18, 2022 at 16:53
  • Tchatcher était un régionalisme d'Afrique du nord avant la décolonisation mais à partir de 1962, on ne peut plus parler de régionalisme. C'est devenu un mot restreint à un sociolecte indépendamment de la localisation de ses locuteurs. Il y a eu dès le début une importante implantation des Pieds-noirs en banlieue parisienne. Tchatcher (et la tchatche) a ensuite été popularisé par le cinéma, le théâtre, des spectacles de comiques etc. et s'est répandu partout en France, en Belgique et en Suisse.
    – jlliagre
    Mar 18, 2022 at 16:59
  • My point was though that certain terms like tchatcher may not be known to all French speakers (say in Senegal or Côte d'Ivoire), all these speakers and mainland speakers will know: Il fait chaud. It was probably a bad example, but the idea was not. It is linguistically valid to say there is a common "pool" of French known to all French speakers and that it is useful to know the place where a thing is said. That is true for English, as well.
    – Lambie
    Mar 18, 2022 at 17:05
  • Oui, c'était un mauvais exemple. Tchatcher est tout aussi connu et utilisé par les francophones d'Afrique subsaharienne (ex: Momo la tchatche). Pour ce qui est du common pool, c'est vrai, il existe mais il se confond avec le français "cultivé" d'Île-de-France. C'est bien sûr très arrogant de sa part, mais le Parisien est parfois très arrogant...
    – jlliagre
    Mar 18, 2022 at 21:08

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