Parlez-vous What?

According to World Atlas, there are 29 independent nations that use French as their official language. Though you might think that the French language is all the same everywhere you go, each region has its peculiarities. Let’s look at some differences between the way French is spoken in France and in Quebec, Canada.

Though both versions of French come from the same classical French base, there are differences in grammar, slang, formality, and even vowel pronunciation. The French Canadian population tries to stay within the base of the language, “resisting the encroachment of English,” while in Paris, the language might contain an “imported Anglicism” or two.

Some Different Differences

Some of the differences between the language used in Paris and Quebec vary as follows, as described by Smartling.


  • In France, email is simply email. In Quebec, email is a mix of the words electronic and mail, which is courriel.
  • When in France, you would stop your car at a stop sign. In Quebec, you would stop at a red arrêt sign.
  • For a breakfast treat in France, why not have a good old fashioned donut? Of course, if you are in Quebec, you’d settle for a beigne.

Cultural Differences

  • In the United States and Canada, there is a strict policy about the age when one can purchase alcohol. Therefore, in Quebec, a waiter might carter a person before they purchase a drink. In France, checking for ID is not as widespread or common, so they might simply vérifier l’âge, which means to check how old you are.
  • Speaking of wine and alcohol, if you drink too much of it in France, you might wake up with “la gueule de bois” (the wooden face; meaning severely dehydrated). In Quebec, you’d simply wake up feeling lousy on “lendemain de veille”, or on the day after the party.
  • If you’ve watched an episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, you might have seen his sketches called “Ew.” In France, Jimmy would be calling the show Beurk! While heading north to Quebec, he would change the name to Ouache!

Different meanings depending on the country

Watch out for how you use the following words as they mean quite literally two different things depending on where you are!

  • Your girlfriend in Quebec is your blonde, but your blonde in Paris is your cigarette, light beer, or a blonde girl.
  • In Quebec, you might wear your camisole on a warm day, but in Paris, your camisole is a straightjacket! Better put on your débardeur.
  • To call someone épais in France means that you think that they are overweight; to call a person épais in Quebec is to call them stupid. Perhaps the word is best avoided in both places.

When it comes to languages, what you say and what you mean can be two different things. For help finding out which word works best, no matter where you find yourself, contact us today. We’ll vérifier the words in Paris, and checker them in Quebec, so you’ll say exactly what you mean every time.


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