What are the differences between Canada's French and France's French? Should I study a little bit of both? Are there some words or expressions from one that might not be understood by the other?



What are the differences between Canada's French and France's French?

Written and formal types of French are very similar. There are only a few cosmetic and vocabulary differences that do not prevent mutual comprehension.

Spoken French can be an issue. Colloquial conversations between French Canadians (see joual) might be unintelligible to France native speakers and sometimes subtitles are used in Quebec movies available in France. I suspect the opposite might be less of an issue because Canadian French-speakers have probably more exposure to French from France, its accents and expressions than the other way around.

On the other hand, I have never had any real issue understanding and being understood when meeting French Canadians, only occasional unexpected vocabulary, gender, familiarity (tu vs vous) and expressions issues that are quickly sorted out.

Should I study a little bit of both?

That's up to you.

Are there some words or expressions from one that might not be understood by the other?

Yes, probably a similar level of misunderstanding that would occur between US and UK English speakers.

  • De plus, combien de temps un(e) Français(e) faut-il passer à se familiariser avec les accents Québécois en s’y immergeant? – Yai0Phah Dec 29 '16 at 10:30
  • @FrankScience Il faudrait demander à quelqu'un qui a plus d'expérience que moi sur la question. Les différences d'accents et de grammaire sont probablement beaucoup plus rapides à assimiler que celles concernant le vocabulaire et les expressions spécifiques qui doivent être entendus pour être acquis. Le taux d'exposition et les capacités de mémorisation de la personne en question seront bien sûr aussi des facteurs importants. – jlliagre Dec 29 '16 at 11:06
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    Il faut noter, comme l'indique le lien wikipédia, que le joual n'est qu'un des sociolectes parlés au Québec. Le joual n'est pas le language courant ou familier au Québec, mais il peut l'avoir influencé. Le joual est d'origine urbaine et toute difficulté associée aux variétés régionales y est peu ou pas reliée. Souvent on s'attarde à un parler hautement basilectal qu'on présente comme un standard et avec lequel on a certaines difficultés. Si on écoute René Lévesque il y a 50+ années, on serait fort étonné qu'on comprenne moins de 99% de ce qui est dit. Merci ! – user3177 Dec 31 '16 at 13:34
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    @Tunedéroberas. Oui, bien sûr, il n'existe pas un français du Canada pas plus qu'il n'existe un français de France, Belgique, etc. René Lévesque parle ici un français « standard » dénué de régionalisme et parfaitement compréhensible en France. Il fait cependant allusion au joual (ou à un joual) en parlant de broche à foin, ce qui prouve donc qu'il est « bilingue » et conscient de la pluralité des niveaux de langages au Québec. Une autre originalité de son discours vis à vis d'homme politiques français de 1962 et même contemporains est sa prononciation bien meilleure de l'anglais. – jlliagre Dec 31 '16 at 16:01
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    Une autre bonne observation ! :) – user3177 Dec 31 '16 at 16:17

Since the differences, or lack thereof, have been thoroughly covered in other answers and comments, I'd like to focus on your middle question, namely whether your should study both.

Ultimately, only you can really answer that question, but here are things I'd consider if I were in your shoes:

  1. Why do you want to study French?
  2. Do you plan to use it for professional purposes?
  3. Do you have any plans to live in a French-speaking country or region?
  4. If you answered yes to the above, for how long?

If your answers boil down to something along the lines of a very nebulous "because it sounds cool, but I don't really know", then you're probably better off learning "international French", i.e. the basic set of vocabulary, syntax and grammar that is share by all varieties of French. You can then gradually pick up on more specific regional diversions as the need arises.

On the other hand, if the questions lead you to a very specific answer such as "I want to move to Montreal and work in the _____ industry", then you'll want to focus on studying the French Canadian variety of the language.

If you're still unsure, you probably can't go wrong if you simply start by getting a firm grounding in the basics of the language. You'll be able to build on that to adapt to any more specific needs you might have later.

Happy studying!


The differences aren't that big. The major gap would be the accent and some of the expressions. There isn't two different languages to learn, that's just one, with some variations. It's just like British English and American English. You just need to learn French, in general, to be able to understand Canadian French, and general one.

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    Well differences are sometimes big enough that it makes it difficult for a French speaker even... At least I can have a hard-time understanding canadian French and there are enough differences that a whole book would be needed to list them all I think... – Laurent S. Dec 28 '16 at 8:24
  • I guess it depends of the person. I've lived there for a year and half and haven't got any problem to understand anything. That was mostly regarding some of the expressions they were using, and sometimes prononciation of some of the words. Just as a British English person comparing his way to pronounce "herbs" and "aluminium" with an American person. – Shozs Dec 28 '16 at 8:29
  • Well indeed I'm probably not hearing enough Canadian French so when it happens it sounds like a foreign language to me. Not like Chinese or Russian, but still. The accent may play a big role in the misunderstanding though. I think a French learner might have an even harder time to understand... – Laurent S. Dec 28 '16 at 8:43
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    I agree on that. They might have kind à hard time understanding it. But fundamentally, what I meant is that it's not two separated langages. Like, when you go on a website, they oftentimes propose Canadian French and French as langages; when it actually has no difference at all when it comes to the way it's written. Just an example popping out my mind. – Shozs Dec 28 '16 at 8:59
  • @Shozs Yes, you are considering the written, taught at school, standard French which is essentially the same language on both sides of the Atlantic while Laurent is considering spoken French which is significantly different from written French both in France and in Canada. – jlliagre Dec 28 '16 at 15:28

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