I am sure this probably sounds like an utterly stupid question to many of you. It was brought to mind by the utterly stupid sketch which aired on the Conan O’Brien Show recently, and is further mentioned in this Pit thread. . His “Triumph the Insult Comic Dog” puppet went to Montreal and unleashed some of the standard line of stereotypes hurled at France. While I don’t question the tastelessness of the comedy, to me the real stupidity lies in hurling insults at “France” to people who haven’t lived under the French flag for over 200 years.
Do the French speaking peoples of Canada see themselves as part of the “French nation”? Or as a “New World” people who have predominantly French heritage, but are a separate Canadian (or Quebecois or Acadien) nation?
This is what I mean: “Anglo” Canadians, Americans, and Australians (the term means something different in various regions) do use the English language, and have a general sense of British heritage (not always “genetic” heritage, but cultural, legal, political, etc.) - but would never think of themselves as “English”. Likewise, while a lot of Americans erroneously call people from Hispanic America “Spanish people”, people in Latin America rarely think of themselves as Spaniards or Portuguese even if they are unmixed Iberians. In all of these places, there is some attachment to the “Mother Country” in Europe, but also there’s a nationalist drive that emphasizes separateness from Europe.
I know these issues involve sensitive cultural political questions which are withing debate or opinion territory. The “Factual” answer would likely be what is the preponderance of opinion among French speaking Canadians themselves.
I can’t answer your question factually, and thus should probably not be poking my big fat nose into this thread, but as an American who loves Montreal, I can say that while most people there are bilingual, almost all of them speak French.
To a Chicagoan like me, Montreal is a truly cosmopolitan city obviously inspired by French culture. A few block’s worth of designer fashions and boutiques, and you might think you are in Paris.
I think I identify with the UK because we (meaning me) share our native language and heritage.
How could French speakers possibly not identify with France? Similarly, if you are born and raised in French Canada, how could you not identify as a Canadian as well?
I’m not going to comment on the Separatist movement, except that the votes seem to have been pretty close in recent years.
IMHO that pit thread was pretty stupid, and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog’s digs toward French Canadians do not fairly represent the American populace.
I can’t speak for all French Canadians, but the ones I know - including many relatives - NEVER consider themselves to be “French.” They are Canadian, or French Canadian, or Quebeçois. Never, ever French.
Quebecois see themselves as francophones (French speakers), and part of the francophonie that the French government spends a lot of time supporting. They see themselves as quite distinct from France. When they visit France, they are often treated in a snobbish way, their Quebecois French is often derided as “medieval” (it is quite different) and they are thought condescendingly to be provincial, which I suppose is true at some level.
No, they don’t. Why would they? I don’t want Québec to separate, but they may as well be their own country already. They don’t even have the same legal system as the rest of Canada. That said, they are not that much closer in culture to France. “Casual” French as spoken in Québec is very distinct from that spoken in France. I don’t know if it would qualify as a “dialect”, whatever that is, but the difference is obvious… I know Canadian French in general gets bashed for being a typically North-American deformation of its pristine, European counterpart. Meh. It’s true. But fun! Québec has the best swear words.
Did you know that in France, they subtitle Quebec films and television? The language is that different.
To answer your question, French Canada feels strongly that they belong to a francophonie, which includes France (of course) but also Belgium, Haiti, various African countries, and Louisiana. And I think more than other North Americans, they do feel a bit more european in style and tastes, mostly because as French-speakers they are not as exposed to the American entertainment industry. But we certainly see ourselves as “d’amérique”, as a new world people.
The reality is that links between France and French Canada/Quebec were pretty much non-existent for over 200 years. This is why the language is so different: the French spoken in Quebec is an old Norman French heavily influenced by English. Heck, we still say we “embark in a chariot” when we mean we “got in a car”. French Canadians have practically no relatives in France, but plenty in the US. Links were slowly reestablished in the 1950s and now the european French are treated like distant cousins, not unlike how Canadians view the British.
Dr_Paprika is right about how some French view French Canadians, and it is a source of tension between the two cultures.
So, jokes toward Quebeckers that use French clichés betray some ignorance. It is very common among English Canadians as well. Remember Kids in the Hall?
I’d confirm what Shepherdless reports. The Québecois see themselves as distinct from English Canada, but not as “French”. Even if Charles de Gaulle was a big splash when he came by, just because they share a language doesn’t mean they identify with European French culture or society or history, even.
English Canada pretty much followed from settlement by British-Isles-type-people, and being a British colony under the Empire, and then a handing over of power under a government similarly-structured to the British model, and gradual transfer of power to the colony. There was never a strong break between the two, and they’ve simply grown apart naturally.
French Canada started as New France. Then it was more or less abandoned by France to the British as a concession in a war, and left to be ruled by (to the people of New France) foreigners. Quebec evolved as a society of merchants and farmers and fishermen – colonists – among powerful English influences on every side, and next to no contact with France for two centuries.
To be a “Distinct Society” within Canada doesn’t imply being Frenchmen in North America.
My Parisienne freind had no problems while living in Québec. The only oddities to really crop up were slight differences in terminology.
In a restaurant, ordering “un liqueur” will get you a soft drink, whereas in France you’d be ordering alcohol.
Or “les gosses” in France would be “little kids, brats” and in Québec it would be “gonads.”
The difference would be comparable to someone from the U.K going to Arkansas. The locals would definitley notice the different accent and think “ah, tourist,” but wouldn’t think you were particularly snobby unless you gave them good reason to.
Quebecois French is no more different from the French of France than, say, American English is different from the English spoken in Scotland. I certainly find it far easier to understand Parisian French than I do Edinburghian English. And English speakers use different terms, too. Where subtitles are used in France for Quebecois films - and frankly, it’s not a unviersal thing - it’s sort of a French thing, not a real necessity.
Like English speakers, there’s also a difference between speaking in local slang and speaking in proper French. Three people speaking English can deliberately make their speech impervious to each other’s understanding. Ask a black guy from Oakland, a Glasgow resident, and an Australian to speak their local slang as hard as they can and none will understand the other. But if they try to speak proper English, they can understand each other fine. Same with French; an Quebecois speaking joual as thick as he can might be hard for a Parisian to understand, but if he tries to speak proper French it’s just a bit of an accent and the odd terminological difference.
A New Brunswick accent will make anyone’s head explode.
I’d like to second a lot of what has been said. The 1998 World Cup was one of the most surreal experiences ever. All of a sudden, there were thousands of people partying in the streets of Montreal, waving French flags. If it hadn’t been for the flags, you would’ve almost thought the Canadiens had won the Stanley Cup.
French Canadians consume a fair amount of French media. Magazines like Le Point, or Paris Match sell fairly well even though they’re mostly about French politics or personalities. More general publications, like Géo, or Science et Avenir aren’t even treated as “foreign”. Most French films are released in Québec, and you’ll hear a lot of French music on the radio.
All this contributes to a definitive sense of cultural proximity. Which is not the same thing as identity. To many people from Québec, France is like a close cousin, America is the next-door neighbour and the ROC (rest of Canada) is like the spouse.
I’d disagree with this. I took French all through my studies at McGill. A lot of Parisians and francophones from outside Quebec would take the “fifth level” Quebecois French class because they genuinely had a lot of difficulty understanding people speak French in Lac St. Jean, Quebecois slang, as well as working class people in the cities.
Written French is similar everywhere. “Educated” French is more formal and tends to be fairly similar to the written language. Nevertheless, the spoken language can be very different. I know many francophones in Montreal who have difficulty understanding blue collar citizens from Lac St. Jean as well.
Of course, it would depend on the film. Many Quebecois films are intentionally written in strong Quebecois slang by nationalistic directors who seek to preserve Quebecois language… certainly these auteurs could make things much clearer if they wanted to.
This is false, IMO. Québec movies are shot in the language real people use. Filmmakers don’t make the language clearer because it would just not sound right. There was a time, up until the 70s where in television, theatre and film, people did speak a very “clean” French. The switch to more realistic language, with notorious works like Tremblay’s Les belles soeurs did happen in part because authors wanted to valourise the vernacular. Now, however, “realistic” language has become the norm and filmmakers just adopt it by default. There was an important shift from seeing the media as a vehicle for cultural role models to seeing them as mirror of reality.
Plus, I think you underestimate the level to which colloquial English language varies. Imagine someone from Texas, who for some strange reason has only been exposed to Texan English and ship him off the Edimburgh. I think he might have some difficulties, too.