Part II: The French of Quebec

We’ve sifted through our thousands of past tweets to compile this Essential Guide to Quebec for Translators. Part II is about the French spoken in Quebec and some of the common anglicisms that can cause translators grief.

Special Meanings in Quebec

1. Be very careful when you see national, pays, or d’ici in Canadian French. It can mean Quebec or Canada, depending on context.

2. Gilet is a “vest” in English, but some people (particularly in Quebec) use it to mean “sweater.” Always check.

3. Quebec’s biggest financial institution, Mouvement Desjardins, goes by the English name of Desjardins Group. Don’t make the mistake of calling it a “movement.”

4. Plusieurs ALMOST ALWAYS means “many” in Quebec French, yet I keep seeing translators use “several,” even when it’s illogical in the context.

5. If you can’t decide whether plusieurs means “several” (France) or “many” (Quebec), say “a number of” in English to remain vague.

6. We pointed out in a recent tweet that plusieurs almost always means “many” in Quebec French, yet many translators persist in saying “several.” Keep in mind, however, that sometimes it does indeed mean “several.”

7. J’ai plusieurs autos = I have several cars. Plusieurs électeurs ont voté pour Macron = Many people voted for Macron

8. If you don’t know for sure, say “a number of”: Il a plusieurs autos = He has a number of cars.

9. The takeaway? Please pay attention to context! If you know that plusieurs refers to 4 or 5 things at best, “several” is fine.

10. Before translating 1er étage, check whether it is used in the European way (2nd floor) or the North American/Quebec way (ground floor).

11. Ever had to translate the Quebec verb patiner in the sense of “not answer a question”? How about “to fudge”?

12. A quirk of Canadian French: trente sous means 25¢ (a quarter). Remember this if you come across it in dialogue.

13. Despite impressions to the contrary, the Quebec expression c’est de valeur means “that’s too bad,” not “that’s valuable.”

14. The standard translation of choqué is “offended/appalled/shocked/shaken,” but in Quebec French it often means “angry.”

15. Oh là là! 😉 RT @benoitmelancon: @offqc Everything you ever wanted to know about the Québécois use of LÀ

16. Quebec French trap: faire du temps supplémentaire les fins de semaine = work overtime on weekends NOT work extra hours at the end of the week

17. 5 à 7: This is not literally from 5 to 7 p.m., but rather Quebec French for happy hour or any form of late-afternoon drinks in a bar. Not to be mistaken for a European French 5 à 7, which designates a little bit of after-work philandering.

18. Quebec French alert: You may encounter température used in the sense of “weather” (la belle température). Don’t let it fool you.

19. Don’t be fooled by déjeuner: It means “lunch” in France, but “breakfast” in Quebec.

20. Don’t be fooled by dîner: It means “dinner/supper” in France, but “lunch” in Quebec. Supper in Quebec is souper!

21. Don’t be fooled by lunch (and its counterpart luncher) in Quebec French: It can mean a midnight snack/late-night meal.

22. In Quebec: table d’hôte. In France: formule or menu. In English (surprisingly enough): prix fixe. Or simply say “full-course meal.”

Anglicisms in Quebec

23. Careful—some Quebecers use délai incorrectly to mean “delay” instead of its true meaning of deadline/turnaround/lead time/delivery time.

24. Définitivement: Very often an anglicism meaning definitely/absolutely, so be on your guard for when it actually means “permanently.”

25. In Quebec, courrier is sometimes an anglicism meaning “courier.” Let the context guide you so you don’t mistranslate as “mail/post.”

26. Veste is a “jacket” in English, but some people (particularly in Quebec) use it to mean “vest” (a sleeveless garment). Always check.