As many of you are aware, Quebec has the most French speaking Canadian citizens. The majority of Quebec’s people know plenty of English, many are even good enough to find grammatical errors in pretty much everything I say and write. Most Quebecois’ know more English than you know French. However there are some people, primarily in smaller remote towns, both in Quebec and New Brunswick, who haven’t had a need to work on their English all that much. Brushing up on your French can help out tremendously in many situations, even if you know how awful you are at it, people will smile knowing you’re at least trying.
1. Ask to speak in English
When speaking to a local stranger, be it gas station attendant, bistro staff, or just looking for directions, ask politely if he or she speaks English. You’re more likely to be treated kindly by doing this than by speaking blindly in English with no regard as to whether they speak it or not.
Pardon, madame/monsieur/mademoiselle, parlez-vous anglais?
Which translates to: Excuse me madam/sir/miss, do you speak English?
Most of the time you’ll find out that “Oui“, they do, however if they say “Non“, you’re on your own. Just hope that you’re both good at Charades.
2. Understanding French Road Signs
There are large parts of Quebec where the road signs will stop showing up in both English and French. If you know very little French this can be frightening. Stay calm. There are certain words that you can pick out of those signs to get you in the right direction.
When you see:
French English Nord North Sud South Ouest West Est East Entrée Entrance Sortie Exit Renseignements Information Interdit Prohibited Ouvert Open Fermé Closed Cédez la Priorité Give Way Défense de Stationner No Parking Interdiction de doubler No Overtaking Péage Toll Ralentissez Slow Down Sens Interdit No Entry Sens Unique One Way
Of coarse having a map will significantly increase your chances of not getting turned around. Whenever I travel through Quebec I always do some pre-driving preparations just to make sure I know which Highways to get off and on. My last bit of advice for french road signs, follow the herd. As long as you’re doing what everyone else is doing, you’re probably not breaking any laws, of coarse you might not be heading in the right direction, but there’s no fines for being a lost tourist.
Food and Quebec go together like bikini’s and beaches, popcorn and movies, and peanut butter & jelly. Quebec can be a foodie’s paradise, but ordering your favourite dish can be confusing if you know little to no French. For the most part, pointing to what you want on the menu will normally suffice, but if you want to look extra cool, and not make the mistake of ordering something you didn’t want, knowing a bit of french can make all the difference.
French English Je voudrais… I’d like (a)… Je suis allergique… I’m allergic to… …aux abeilles …bees …aux noix …nuts C’est combien? How much is it? Est-ce que je peux payer avec… Can I pay with…. …ma carte de credit …my credit card …ma carte de débit …my debit card (ATM/ABM) Petit-dejeuner (or) Dejeuner Breakfast Dejeuner (or) Diner Lunch Diner (or) Souper Dinner / Supper Manger Eat la Soupe Soup la Salade Salad le Dessert Desert le repas meal avoir faim to be hungry … …click here for more French food translations
You may have noticed there are a couple ways to say breakfast, lunch, and supper. That’s not a type-o, Quebec french is a little different than traditional French. It can sometimes be confusing if you were taught traditional French. Most French speaking Quebec people will call breakfast “dejeuner”, lunch “diner”, and supper “souper”. However they’ll completely understand what you’re trying to say should you say “petit dejeuner” in lieu of “dejeuner”. Just smile while you’re saying it and you’ll be fine.
If you plan on booking a hotel, bed and breakfast, campground, or a dorm in a hostel, there’s a chance you’ll end up having to do so in French. Knowing what to say in person and over the phone can make booking a place to stay in another language much less stressful. If you’re not comfortable speaking in French you can always book through one of the travel agencies in Quebec.
French English Je cherche… I’m looking for a… …un Hôtel …hotel …une auberge de jeunesse …youth hostel …un camping ….camp ground …une pension de famille …guesthouse Est-ce que vous avez des chambres libres? Do you have any rooms available? Je vourdrais… I’d like a… …une chambre à un lit …single room …une chambre pour deux …room for two …une chambre avec des lits jumeaux …room with two beds …me coucher dans un dortoir …dorm room Quel est le prix…? How much is it…? …par nuit …per night …par personne ….per person Je pars aujourd’hui I’m leaving today
If you’re not going to be the one driving there isn’t much need to know about the road signs. However if you plan on catching a bus, train, plane, or ferry, you’ll probably need to know a few french phrases to keep up with all the hustle and bustle going on around you.
French English Quel heur le (…x) arrive? What time does the (…x) arrive? Quel heur le (…x) part? What time does the (…x) leave? …le bateau …boat …le bus …bus …l’avion …plane …le train …train Je voudrais un billet… I’d like a … ticket simple one-way aller-retour round trip de première classe first class Je vourdrais louer… I’d like to rent/hire… une voiture a car un quatre-quatre a four wheel drive un vélo a bicycle le numero de quai Platform number le guichet ticket office la gare train station
Quebec is a stunning example of Canada’s mosaic of languages and cultures. Whether you know how to say ‘Bonjour‘ or not, you’ll have a good time regardless. Still, brushing up on your French can help you out a lot on the road. Even if you only end up using it a couple times. I compiled the translations into a more “Printer friendly” version, should you decide to print these out and give ‘em a go along the way.
Click here for a Printer Friendly version of the translations.