How different in Quebec French from that of France

I am watching a French show on Netflix called Au service de la France. A fine show. I am not a French speaker, so I use subtitles.

In one of the episodes two men from Quebec appear, and our French characters find understanding them difficult. Indeed even colonial Africans think the Qubecers (if that’s the right term) are mangling French, while the French say they understand Africans more easily… The men are noted to comprehend the Parisians and Africans perfectly.

It seems more than just a case of accents and regional expressions like say with Americans, Brits and Aussies, though I understand the show might play up the “incomprehensible accents” trope.

So, how different are the two dialects? Is the above an accurate description? What about the French taught in schools to non native speakers in Canada, like say our own Northern Piper, is it closer to Paris or Montreal. What about the written language? Or spoken in Courts?

Quebecois French spoken very slang-heavy can certainly be a little tough for a Parisian to penetrate, but it’s not incomprehensible and some of the alleged difficulty can be accounted for by the French propensity to be a little elitist about people who don’t speak French perfectly. They are about as different as the English spoken in Californio versus Liverpool; if two people from Liverpool are really jabbering in their dialect it can make you miss a hell of a lot until you’re used to it.

Of course, Quebecois (or Liverpudlians) can code switch, and speak in a way that’s deliberately clear and standard to allow for a non-Quebecois (or non-Liverpudlian) to better understand it.

IANA French speaker, but I did work for a French company (well, Franco-German; one of the Airbus family of companies), and one of our execs/upper managers was a guy named Pascal from Quebec.

Apparently the French guys would give him a hard time for sounding old-timey and antiquated.

My French is quite faded by now but during my Army training, I remember a Canadian officer visiting our class. He was quite careful to speak standard French to the class but stumbled a few times. Mostly on words that entered the language afte the 18th century. We all thought it quite funny when he told us he had parked his rented tank (char) in the parking lot. He meant ‘car’ but the word in Metropolitan French is ‘voiture’.

Here is a good bit of info on the differences.

A friend of mine, who is not French but speaks excellent Parisian French, once described Quebecois as “antique French,” that it had retained many elements that had evolved away in France.

I studied French in high school, presumably Parisian French (but they never told me that at the time; they would have let us naive students believe there was one and only one French), and I never had any problem getting around day-to-day in Quebec.

I don’t know about regional Australian accents, but regional accents in the US and Britain can vary widely. There are some American accents that I, as an American, find a bit difficult to understand when they are spoken fast and I don’t know the context. Much more so for certain British accents. If you’re talking about BBC English, then yeah, that’s generally not a problem for Americans to understand.

What I know is that, although my French is poor, I can get by in Paris and it takes a special effort for a French speaking Montrealer to get through to me. There are two versions of French spoken here. The one call Joual (which is what happened to cheval in, well, Joual) and local standard French. The latter is probably no more different from standard French than American from standard British. But Joual is a horse of a different color and I don’t think a Frenchman will understand it without a good deal of practice. Especially the rural version. Just like me understanding Cockney. No way.

I learned French as a second language as a child in Canada (not Quebec) and I can more easily understand a formal speaker, like say a news anchor, from France than Quebec. Montréal street speech, aka jouale, is nigh impenetrable.

This. I also took French through high school. I can read and comprehend quite a bit. The problem is I was taught what we call Parisian French. I can understand the spoken language from France far better than the spoken language from Quebec.

ETA: RickJay’s comments are bang on.

Having aced my high school French classes, I moved to Montreal and found conversation difficult. I took French in university, finishing with a course in Quebecois French.

French speakers from Montreal might have difficulty understanding French from Lac St. Jean, Quebec. Parisians describe Quebec French as “medieval”.

French from France and Quebec can speak a standard French and be understood. And more academic French is easier to understand. But Quebecois have a lot of slang, unique phrases, and ways to pronounce a word that omit half the written letters — shu s’que shu — which the uninitiated would not recognize — je suis ce que je suis…

OP, from the imdb link you posted it looks like you were watching a scripted comedy so of course everything is exagerated for comedic value. Here’s a series of clips from other shows making fun of French accents from around the world: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Za833gIhefQ. For example at 1:16 is a clip of someone speaking in a heavy Northern French accent and hilariously the other actor responds “your jaw, are you hurt?” “huh?” “it hurts when you speak no?.. you speak in a very very particular manner” The francophone world is no different than others, we love to make fun of people’s accents.

As others have mentioned, there’s le Joual which is the heavy rural accent/slang similar to Cockney, and there’s the Quebecois accent proper (to be precise Canadian French except we gave up trying to tell the world that there are plenty of Francophones outside of Quebec). People might speak in Joual amongst friends but if you’re giving a business presentation you tone it down to a Quebecois accent/vocabulary. People in France have no trouble understanding Quebecois but if you don’t tone it down they will pretend to not understand, cause it’s funny, to them.

Things have changed a lot though over the past 30 years. Nowadays the French love Quebec, and are well aware of the particular vocabulary, part of globalization. When I go there, even though I can speak in Parisian accent I always use a toned down Quebecois accent and throw in some Quebecois words, which makes people smile and ask “t’es de Quebec?! Raconte comment que c’est la ba?”

Interestingly when I was a kid, radio and TV annoucers in Quebec and Ontario were made to use a Parisian accent, otherwise they’d get fired, also most of the foreign movies and TV shows are over-dubbed in France so again a lot of Parisian accent. Except Hockey announcers, and funny enough The Flinstones, that was over-dubbed in Quebecois, befitting I guess since they were working class. These days the announcers are free to speak in Quebecois, much much better. Of course, locally produced shows always used Quebecois accents. If you want to see what le Joual sounds like, watch some episodes of Les Bougon, for a Montrealais accent, try “Un gars une fille.”

At school in Ontario (French), most of our teachers spoke with a mild accent, but the ones in shop class or gym would slip into Joual often. Us kids used a range of Joual to Quebecois to interact with the teachers, except in French class, there we studied a lot of French literature and learned proper grammar so we had to watch our vocabulary.

One last thing, even inside France there’s a big variety of accents (like any country). Here’s a clip of France only: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Egrfsn2CU8E pay attention to Normandie at 1:00 a popular theory says that the Quebecois accent has its roots in that region and started when a bunch of people from Normandie migrated over. Other than Quebecois, my favourite is the accent de Provence.

just like the differences between Mexican Spanish and Castilian Spanish can leave people confused because when you learn Spanish at a school its the European version … Mexican Spanish is considered “street Spanish”

With my basically Parisian French, I managed reasonably well for a couple of weeks in Quebec - but the accent comes across sometimes as quite soft and slurred. And the vocabulary can be different. “Rôtie” seemed to be the word for toast, and I learnt that “miroir” could be the equivalent of “Sunnyside up” for a fried egg.

Formal French is almost identical between France and Quebec (there may be some very minor terminology differences most people wouldn’t even be aware of, such as emergency room doctors being known as urgentistes in France and urgentologues in Quebec). There aren’t even any differences in spelling, unlike between British and American English. The accents are different, but the difference is of the same level as the difference between British English and American English accents. And of course, both France and Quebec have regional accents, which means that even within each country people will meet other people who don’t quite speak like them. (Though accent variations are larger across France than across Quebec.)

Most accent differences between France and Quebec come down to the vowels. Quebec French has more vowel sounds than France French, and also maintains some phonemic distinctions that appear to be disappearing in (at least some regions of) France. Quebec French also affricates the consonants [t] and [d] before the vowels * and [y], which is a very characteristic feature.

More informal/vernacular speech can be rather different. If a French person speaks to me in full urban French slang, complete with verlan and Arabic loanwords, I won’t understand much of it (even though I am familiar with the concept of verlan and know some of its words). I guess I could alter my speech to make myself impossible to understand by a French person, but that would probably require my affecting an exaggerated rural/old-fashioned manner of speaking which isn’t how I typically speak.

But obviously French people and Quebecers have no problem speaking with each other, given that most people in both countries are able to use a relatively international register of French that’s exempt of exceedingly slangy expressions. The accent as well as some lexical choices are still of course a dead giveaway. For example, Quebecers can recognize French people by their frequent use of “du coup” as a transition marker in speech.

I should add that one frequent problem when discussing the differences between France French and Quebec French, especially with anglophones, is that people tend to refer to formal French as “France French” (or worse, “‘Parisian’ French”), and reserve the term “Quebec French” for particularly informal or vernacular forms thereof. I say especially with anglophones because there is some of that in this thread, but even Quebecers sometimes make this mistake (and I think it was more common when I was younger, maybe because Quebecers today feel more secure in their language skills). One reason for this is that the formal norm for French is based on the speech of the Paris-based elite, that imposed itself over France as well as the whole Francophonie. French dictionaries today will still mark expressions as regionalisms if they are particular from a region of France (that isn’t Paris) or from a country that isn’t France, with Franco-French expressions remaining unmarked.

But despite this, people in both France and Quebec (and the other French-speaking countries) speak a wide variety of registers of French depending on the circumstances. That is, there is formal Quebec French, as well as very slangly France French (which then again varies depending on the region). The most formal registers are very similar across the Francophonie, while the more vernacular ones can differ more. But most people’s normal day-to-day speech is quite understandable even by people speaking other French dialects.

The French taught as a second language to Canadian anglophones (at least in Western Canada) is the standard European dialect. Those who aced their high school French exams (like me) are often shocked when they travel to Quebec for the first time and discover that they can’t understand what anyone is saying. I couldn’t even do simple things like reserve a hotel room or buy stamps at the post office. But here in Europe I have absolutely no problems.

Heck, I learned French as a second language in Quebec and I find joual incomprehensible.

If we are talking about personal experiences:

I learned French at high school in Australia, with one teacher having a broad Australian French accent, and the other having a Parisian accent. (The second was a friend of my parents, so I saw him a lot outside the classroom, which did help my French.)

Later in life I spent a little time in Montreal and Quebec City, and worked professionally with Quebecois colleagues. Later again, I’ve spent time in France, francophone Belgium and Luxembourg – though in the last, the only local language I heard during a stay of a few hours was probably Luxembourgish, which is a Germanic language.

I did find the local language harder to understand in Canada – and harder to use, because most people will immediately switch to English when they hear that you are not a native French speaker. The language was a bit easier to understand in France (Paris, Centre, Burgundy and Grand Est) and in Belgium, and I did manage a few conversations with people having very limited English.

For what it’s worth.

How different from Parisian French are the various dialects/languages spoken in France? I mean just the ones that are close enough to Parisian French to be sort of and sort of not dialects of it. I’m aware that there are regions of France where something closer to German, Dutch, Italian, Breton, or Basque are spoken, but I’m asking about the various dialects/languages that are closer to Parisian French than to any other “standard” language:

I actually had a very positive experience using Parisian French in Montreal. In the US presumably we learn that version. In school I was a A student in French (I even scored a 100 on our state Regents Exam). I hadn’t used it for 10 years after, and decided to go to Montreal. For about 6 weeks before my trip I 'd spend much of my weekend reviewing some old French textbooks I still had. When I went I used my “restored” French and was understood by anyone I used it with (including the post office - something a previous poster mentioned as a difficulty) . I had one “incident” when I bought some candy and asked how much it cost; from my point of view, the salesman’s accent was extremely “Quebecois thick” and it took me a minute to realize the guy was saying a dollar - fifteen. His pronunciation of 15 (quinze) was the trouble spot. Someone else mentioned the vowel sounds - I guess this was such an instance. The “in” portion of quinze had a distinct long ‘a’ sound that confused me. For those who know the Paris version, his version sounded like “kayz”. I was able to order in restaurants with no problems. I did notice that it was the effort to speak French that mattered more than my proficiency. I saw a couple of so-called ugly-American tourists get a bit of a run-around in a souvenir shop (being told no English was understood). When it was my turn I used French and after about 10 sentences the clerk switched to English and was sweet as can be.