BC Girl in a Québécois World Pt. II: What to Expect in Quebec

As you may remember from last week, I’m currently attending a full immersion language school in Quebec. A little over a week ago I gathered in a sweltering auditorium with approximately 250 other students while a professor spoke to us in English, for the last time.

“The people of this village have a name for you anglophones;” he explained, “they call you the ones with the blank stares.”

I’ve been here for about two weeks now, and more often than not that’s how it goes. I limp out something French. The Francophone responds so fast that to my untrained ears a sentence sounds instead like one very long word. It feels a little bit like being two years old again, only with memories of a time when you were actually a competent human being.

Just imagine that first image is someone trying to explain something in French.

Growing up in British Columbia I heard complaints against French language laws, which work to protect French culture. English speakers argued that it was an unfair double standard, and that the French were just being snobby. That has not been my experience here in Quebec. 


Plus, there are some really great little nooks around town to study. John took this shot from our favourite little pub today. The beer is named after the town where we are living.

On our journey from Montreal we almost missed our bus, but a Quebecois woman we had spoken with earlier came to find us before it left. We had been standing at the wrong bus stop. 

When we arrived in Trois Pistole our hostess  picked us up from the bus stop at 4 AM. A representative from the school was also there to ensure each student made it to their host family safely.

Later that day, our hostess showed us around the little town and took us to a small shop where we could rent bicycles for our 5-week stay. She also introduced us to another host family who would be cooking our lunch and evening meals for us. After the first meal, when John and I got up to help, we were sent away and told “it’s your vacation, all you have to do is practice French.” Don’t get me wrong, the practicing itself can be a lot of work, but the the teachers are all patient and do their best to make their classes a lot of fun.

It’s easy for Anglophones to grumble when people don’t speak to us in our own language. We’re so used to it. We get to travel wherever we want to go, and just expect someone to speak our language when we get there. So how could we ever know just how hard it is to keep a language from going extinct? Currently French is not a threatened language, but anyone who has taken a class on Canadian history will know that in Canada it most certainly was at one time.

My teacher recently explained to us that the major reasons the Catholic Church pushed Quebecois families to reproduce was in order to preserve French language, and thereby the religion and culture too.

So try not to be scared of our French neighbours. It’s amazing how they have managed to preserve their unique culture with the sea of English language that surrounds them.

Plus, they’re a lot more wonderful than you’ve been led to believe.

*In my French translation below I have gone ahead and simplified things considerably. So while the exact meaning may differ in some areas, the basic meaning remains the same.

 En Français

La semaine dernière, je t’ai expliqué que je suis en train d’apprendre le francais dans une école au Québec. Le premier jour de classe, le directeur nous a parlé en anglais pour la dernière fois. Il nous a expliqué que les gens dans cette ville ont un nom pour les étudiants qui arrivent: ils ont les yeux d’un cerf q’on voient dans la nuit.

Je suis ici depuis deux semaines maintenant et je me sens souvent comme les yeux d’un cerf dans la nuit. Je veux dire quelque chose en francais, mais quand un francophone me parle, je ne comprend rien.

Parce que j’ai grandi dans en Colombie Britannique, j’ai entendu beaucoup de plaintes au sujet des lois du Québec. Les Anglophones pensent que c’est injuste. La majorite des Anglophones pense souvent que les francais sont snobs. Mais, ce n’est pas mon opinion.

Pendant notre voyage, nous nous sommes trompé d’autobus et le conducteur d’autobus nous a retourné vers la bonne. Une femme, nous a donné le bon renseignement au sujet du notre destination. Quand nous sommes arrivés  à Trois Pistoles à 4 heures du matin, notre famille d’accueil nous accueillait. Plus tard, elle nous a montré la ville et nous a emmenés au magasin où nous avons loué des vélos. Le lendemain, nous sommes allés à une autre address, où l’on mange la plupart de nos repas. Quand nous vouillions faire la vaisselle, on nous a dit que c’était nos vacances. La seule chose que nous devions faire était d’apprendre et de parler francais. L’étude est souvent difficile, mais les enseignants sont intéressants et compétents.

Les Anglophones se plaignent souvent quand les gens ne parlent pas notre langue. Nous sommes habitués à parler anglais et les autres s’efforcent de parler notre langue. Comment pouvons-nous savoir combien il est difficile de préserver sa langue? La culture québécoise est très importante au Canada, parce qu’elle est en minorité. Quand le Canada fut une plus jeune nation, les Français avaient à lutter contre la majorité anglaise.

N’ayez pas peur du Québec. C’est un bel endroit avec de belles personnes. Vous devriez venir les visiter!

*J’ai écrit cela avec l’aide de google translate et ma famille d’accueil. N’hésitez pas à me dire si vous trouvez des erreurs.

3 responses to “BC Girl in a Québécois World Pt. II: What to Expect in Quebec

  1. Pingback: Quebec Pt III: 4 Things You Inadvertently Learn in French Immersion | Culture War Reporters

  2. Pingback: Québec Part V: Saying Goodbye (5 Things I’ll Miss about the French Province) | Culture War Reporters

  3. Bonjour ! I will be going to Trois-Pistolets this summer, and I had a few questions re: the program. Did you meet anyone who was in the advanced course? What was their experience? How many hours were you in class everyday? and what was there to do for fun? Is it a good idea to find a friend with a car? LOL

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