Help my french sound Quebecois!
March 27, 2009 4:35 PM   Subscribe

Yet another accent question, this time Quebecois French.

So not long ago I asked about a Japanese Accent for an audition. This time around, I'm auditioning in french, for a commercial. However after my first go round, suddenly they want to hear me do the material in french, with a Quebecois accent, as opposed to the more Anglophone meets Parisian meets Acadian accent that I have.

So...I'm wondering if y'all have any pronunciation tips on the markers that really read "Quebec" to listeners from Quebec, and also, ideally, I'm wondering if any one out there would be willing to memail me for the text (it's just a couple paragraphs) and record themselves speaking it, so that I can get a wide range of Quebec accents to work from. I don't want to publish the whole text here, obviously, as it's an ad, and I guess proprietary.

I'm not entirely sure if this request is appropriate for Askme, so if you think not, flag away. And thanks!
posted by stray to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
From my commenting history in AskMe it is apparent I am in love with the Speech Accent Archive site, but I really do think it would be of tremendous help to you.

Here is a male French-Canadian speaker from Rimouski, Quebec. You can listen to the sample of his speech and then at the bottom of the page it lists the distinctive pronunciation features of his accent. If you click on them, it highlights the parts of the words that are affected by this pronunciation feature.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:55 PM on March 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is more amusing than academic, but it can give you a feel for the relative sprawl of Québecois French versus the tightness of European French.

How precise is the request for a Québecois accent? A broadcaster in Montreal probably isn't going to sound like a waitress in the Laurentians. Try Radio Canada and RDI for a variety of Québec accents if you can't get any volunteers to work on your script from here. (My first language is English, so my accent is probably pretty weak.)
posted by maudlin at 5:25 PM on March 27, 2009


To me, a Parisian French accent sounds rounded and pretty: "oui" would be "ouwee"
Whereas a Quebec accent is more nasal and flat: "oui" would be more like "wheh".

In addition to flattening their vowels, Quebecois Francophones also have a slight tendency to twist their Ds and Ts into Zs: so "Lundi" would be "Lahn-DZEE".

They also compress syllables and speak faster and less precisely than Parisians.
"je ne sais pas" would kind of be "ch'sai'poh", or qu-est-ce-que tu as would be "s'k'tu'ah".

Here's a clip of various Quebecois speakers (some of them are goofing off so the accents are a bit harsher than they would really be)

One more little detail, the heavy Quebecois accent is sometimes called "jouale", so you could drop that word in your audition conversation & maybe score a point that way.

(I'm from Ontario, speak conversational French & have socialized with lots of Quebecois ppl.)
posted by pseudostrabismus at 5:27 PM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just throwing it out there, but I have found (with a very few exceptions) that people ascribe the adjective "nasal" to accents that they find to be less favorable (either generally or in comparison to another accent). Actually nasal is Fran Drescher in "The Nanny." I have never heard a natural accent that was actually nasal. As a descriptive term, it becomes pretty worthless because it's tossed around all the time and applied to things it doesn't actually mean (kind of like "ironic" once Alanis Morissette got her hands on it).

(Not harshing on you pseudostrabismus—this is just the frustration I get to live with because of my undergraduate classes in phonetics and Dialects of English. I swear, sometimes I wish I just didn't know these things.)
posted by ocherdraco at 7:06 PM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


(kind of like "ironic" once Alanis Morissette got her hands on it)

...and used it in the way that the majority of English-speaking North Americans would use it.

<>
posted by IAmBroom at 7:39 PM on March 27, 2009


Just throwing it out there, but I have found (with a very few exceptions) that people ascribe the adjective "nasal" to accents that they find to be less favorable (either generally or in comparison to another accent). Actually nasal is Fran Drescher in "The Nanny." I have never heard a natural accent that was actually nasal.
I don't think you're right. I find it very, very uncomfortable to speak French when I have a stuffed nose. I'm not snarking.

I'm fairly confident that, at least as how I speak it (which is consciously attempting imitation of native speakers), French has a lot more sounds that are forced out the nose than English does.

I'm not a native French speaker, and I'm not fluent, so I could easily just be doing it wrong, but I'm, uh, could-become-fluent-if-I-got-stuck-in-France-for-not-all-that-long, or something like that.
posted by Flunkie at 7:45 PM on March 27, 2009


Flunkie, I'm not talking about nasal phonemes within a given language (as per your example, in French). I'm talking about people using "nasal" to describe a difference in accents within a language, even though the accents being described have no difference in actual use of nasal phonemes.

But we're derailing.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:56 PM on March 27, 2009


Affrication (the adding of an [s] or [z] sound) of /t/ and /d/ in front of /i/ and /y/, and /j/ et /ç/ is very important: to my native ears, not affricating is a sure sign of a "foreigner". But don't affricate before other vowels, because we don't!

If you can read French, and have some linguistic background, this site should be very helpful. Take special note of the bolded entries in the "Liste des phénomènes" (such as the aforementioned affrication).
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 8:29 PM on March 27, 2009


I don't recall if Acadians roll their Rs, but you probably shouldn't: almost nobody rolls their Rs in Quebec these days.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 8:33 PM on March 27, 2009


My email is in my profile, I can Skype or Google Talk with you this weekend if you'd like to practice and have some examples.
posted by furtive at 9:09 PM on March 27, 2009


Response by poster: As usual, AskMe rides to the rescue--thanks gang, all of you. I've got a few offers to read or work the text for me (furtive, jchgf, and a few friends of mine), and all your info and resources--genius! All this will serve me in the future as well, hopefully!

Thanks mightily. *smooches screen*
posted by stray at 10:41 PM on March 27, 2009


As a casual observer, I found the Quebecois pronunciation of "fenetre" and "Jean" amusing. They use very open vowels compared to Parisian French.
posted by metaseeker at 12:52 AM on March 28, 2009


ocherdraco is absolutely right about the meaninglessness of "nasal" as a dialect description (other common and equally meaningless descriptors: "harsh," "flat," "guttural").

They also compress syllables and speak faster and less precisely than Parisians.
"je ne sais pas" would kind of be "ch'sai'poh", or qu-est-ce-que tu as would be "s'k'tu'ah".


Not true; a Parisian speaking in normal colloquial circumstances would use similarly shortened forms (though it would be "chais pas"). In general, it's not a good idea to try to explain differences when you're only familiar with one side.
posted by languagehat at 7:01 AM on March 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Watch Bon Cop, Bad Cop, it has a lot of Quebec French in it (and is awesome), including Francophones speaking English.
posted by biscotti at 7:17 AM on March 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


ocherdraco is absolutely right about the meaninglessness of "nasal" as a dialect description
I don't understand why it's necessarily meaningless as a distinction between dialects, when it's clearly meaningful as a distinction between (certain) languages.

How is it necessarily different than, say, dropping final R's, as in a Boston accent relative to a general American accent? Why is it inconceivable that there might be some dialect of French (or any language) that uses oral vowels in certain places where most other speakers of that language use nasal vowels?
posted by Flunkie at 9:18 AM on March 28, 2009


Try watching videos of Quebecois politicians speaking in English: Stephane Dion, Jean Chretien, Gilles Duceppe.
posted by krunk at 9:50 AM on March 28, 2009


Oh, sorry, thought you wanted it in English. Watch this instead!
posted by krunk at 9:56 AM on March 28, 2009


I second krunk's recommendation of Tetes a Claque for good examples of a Quebecois accent. It can be slightly exaggerated, but that might only help you hear the differences. Also, there's tons and tons of clips. There's a bit of range in how pronounced the accent is among the different characters.

Keep in mind that the subtitles are translated for an international French audience so they're often not actually what they're saying. E.g.: in krunk's link, "Scott towel" and "Canada dry" are translated as "essuie-tout" and "coca" respectively, and "Laval" is translated as "banlieu de Montreal". And the ultimate joke (spoiler alert!) in that clip is that while "gosses" means "kids" in standard (?) French, it's also Quebecois slang for testicles.
posted by mhum at 11:32 AM on March 28, 2009


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