Beautiful people

24th March 2006 at 00:00
Clare Park visits Quebec - la Belle Province - and discovers a flourishing language and culture that can be used to promote the global nature of French

Last July, after winning a French essay-writing competition organised by the Association for Language Learning, I attended a three-week course at Laval Universite, in Quebec City, for foreign teachers of French. My prize was a bursary from the Association Internationale des tudes Quebecoises, covering fees, travel and accommodation.

The AIEQ is keen to encourage more European teachers of French to visit la Belle Province and to promote Quebec studies in our schools. Having taught the AQA AS prescribed topic, "France and the French Speaking World", for the past three years, I was delighted to experience la vie quebecoise at first hand.

Laval, the oldest French-speaking university in North America, was originally founded by the Jesuits in 1852. Lectures ranged from methodology and la langue quebecoise to le cinema quebecois, la litterature quebecoise and le festival d'hiver. We wrote essays and took weekly exams. I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to exchange ideas with other French teachers from Canada, the US and Central and South America. Weekend excursions took us to attractions such as l'kle d'Orleans, les Chutes de Montmorency, la Tour de l'Observatoire, le Musee de la Civilisation and Grosse kle.

Grosse kle, an island in the middle of the St Lawrence River, was the first port of call for many immigrants to Canada. In 1840, most were Irish, and a huge Celtic cross and memorial commemorate those who perished during the arduous journey or soon after arrival. Bilingual Parc Canada guides, dressed in period costume, conducted the island tour and gave us - in our role as hopeful immigrants - a head-to-toe inspection in the disinfection shed.

My stay with a Quebecois family was really worthwhile. It was so interesting talking to Lucie, a French teacher, about life in Quebec.

Lucie's ancestors (the Cotes) were from Normandy - indeed, most original French settlers were from the north and west of France. Samuel Champlain, who founded Quebec in 1608, was from Brouage, in Poitou-Charentes. Lucie explained differences between Quebecois and standard French, such as placoter (bavarder) and paqueter (faire les valises), and I came away with a much enriched quebecois vocabulary. She was also an excellent guide, showing me, for example, le Vieux-Quebec with its maze of narrow cobbled streets and the Plaines d'Abraham, scene of the 1759 battle between Generals Montcalm and Wolfe, whose victory led to the British control of Quebec and subsequently of the whole of Canada.

Of particular interest was a bus tour of the Plaines given by a guide dressed as the famous settler Abraham Martin, who farmed the land before it fell into British hands. Other highlights included crossing the vast St Lawrence River on a trip to the picturesque l'kle-aux-Coudres, settled by Jacques Cartier in 1535, and whale-watching off the coast at Tadoussac - site of Canada's first fur trading post.

Visiting Quebec gave me a fascinating insight into a French-speaking region outside Europe. It is important to raise our pupils' awareness that French is a worldwide language, not just one spoken across the Channel. Quebec's seven million French speakers are fiercely protective of their identity, language and culture. Through their determined efforts over many years, the French language has survived and flourished in a predominantly English-speaking continent of more than 300 million inhabitants. This is summed up perfectly in Gille Vignault's song "Avec nos mots": Avec nos mots, nos jeux, nos travaux et nos danses, Nos joies et nos chagrins aussi Quatre cent ans de foi et d'esperance Avec ceux qui vivaient ici Nos miroirs et nos differences Nous sommes devenus ce peuple et ce pays

Developing Les etudes quebecoises in the secondary classroom

* The AQA AS unit 2 exam includes the prescribed topic La France et la Francophonie. Chapters in the textbooks, lan: Part 1 Students' Book 1 (Oxford University Press pound;15.50) and Droit au But! - deuxi me partie (Hodder and Stoughton Educational, pound;15.99) provide good introductions. Candidates are asked to write an essay, under exam conditions, on questions such as: "Quelle est l'importance de la Francophonie dans le monde d'aujourd'hui? Parlez d'un pays qui n'est pas la France".

In addition, students could express their views and answer questions on la Francophonie for their oral presentation.

* An aspect of la vie quebecoise such as le francais quebecois or le Quebec: l'histoire d'un peuple, or Maurice Richard: le heros des Canadiens de Montreal -could be worth exploring as part of A2 coursework.

* The linguistic differences between quebecois and le francais standard can be explored in class by listening to Quebec singers or groups - Beau Dommage, Les Cowboys Fringants, Celine Dion, Felix Leclerc - or by studying texts and completing exercises. Laval Universite has provided me with copies appropriate for A-level students, which are available via email.


* Pupils of French, from Year 7 to A-level, could gain a deeper understanding of la Francophonie by becoming involved in one of the events organised to promote the language during la Semaine de la Francophonie, held annually in March - this year, from March 17-26. Quebec hosts several occasions.

In 20032004, my AS-level students created stories, puzzles, posters and poems, which were exhibited by the Association Marquette-Jolliet at la Maison de la Culture, Laon, Northern France. Le P re Marquette was the Jesuit priest who left Laon to join the Quebecois explorer, Jolliet, in his discovery and exploration of the Mississippi river.

La Litterature quebecoise

The first quebecois novel for young people appeared in a children's magazine in 1921. Pupils can gain an excellent insight into la vie quebecoise by reading, in class or independently, authors such as Dominique Demers, who wrote La Nouvelle Maitresse (Gallimard Jeunesse, E5) and Roch Carrier, who wrote Le Chandail de Hockey (Livres Toundra, pound;5.14).

The latter is a collection of short stories depicting episodes in a young Quebecois boy's life. The charming Le Chandail bleu (also made into a 15-minute award-winning court metrage) illustrates perhaps his three most formative influences - the family, the Catholic church and ice hockey.

A detailed lesson plan to use with this popular story and film was given to me by a Canadian teacher on the Laval course. Please email me if you would like a copy. The books by Demers and Carriers are available online from and Amazon respectively.


Exploring the history, geography and tourism of Quebec

* L'Amerique francaise - un voyage au cOur de notre histoire is a CD-Rom and DVD about the 400th anniversary in 2008 of the founding of Quebec. The DVD contains the full series of five-minute TV5 programmes presented last year by composer and actor Luck Mervil on different aspects of Quebec. The CD-Rom has photos, illustrations, maps and virtual-reality tours. It costs CAD$29.95 from DLL Presse Diffusion Inc.


* The world's biggest winter festival, Le Carnaval de Quebec, is held every February in the streets of Quebec City and on the Plaines d'Abraham. The official website contains educational activities, and a DVD of the festival is available from the Carnaval office, 290, rue Joly, Quebec, Canada G11 1N8. Each school in Quebec receives a trousse scolaire containing stickers, badges and the cahier de jeux. (click on volet scolaire)

* Qui veut gagner des millions? Thanks to a teacher posting the original template on the forum of the Lingu@NET website, questions and answers for a selected topic (such as, la Francophoniele Quebec) can be created and tailored to suit your pupils' language level.

* Penfriends, school visits, exchanges. It may be a distance to go, but a visit to Quebec can be combined with a stop-over in New York - two very different cities an hour's flight apart.

Clare Park teaches French and Spanish at Carmel College, St Helens. She will give a talk on her Quebec experiences at the Language World conference in Manchester, April 7-8



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QuebecoisFrench vocabulary

Quelques noms (lexique)

un abreuvoir (buvette, fontaine)

la pate ... dents (dentifrice)

un aiguisoir (taille-crayon)

une piastre (un dollar)

la balloune (ballon)

un plasteur (pansement)

un barbier (coiffeur)

une pogne (pige, ruse)

un bec (un baiser)

quetaine (moche)

ma blonde (ma petite amie)

un siffleux (marmotte)

un breuvage (boisson)

des sparages (grands gestes)

un cegep (lycee)

une tuque (bonnet d'hiver en laine)

une chicane (conflit)

des vidanges (ordures)

mon chum (amicopainpetit ami)

une vue (un film)

un depanneur (epicerietabac)

des foufounes (fesses)

Quelques verbes Achaler (deranger quelqu'un)

ftre sur son 36 (etre chic)

Chauffer (conduire une voiture)

Crouser (faire la cour)

Magasiner (faire des achats)

Paqueter (faire ses valises)

Placoter (bavarder)

Se faire passer un sapin (se faire rouler)

Quelques anglicismes Bosser (se comporter comme si on etait le patron)

Canceller (annuler)

L'elevateur (ascenseur)

ftre djamme (coince)

raque (fatigue)

badloque (malchanceux)

Le flat (crevaison)

Kiquer (donner un coup de pied)

Ouatcher (garder ... l'Oil)

Le beurre de pinottes (d'arachides)

La scrappe (dechets)

Vedger (paresser, perdre son temps)

La meteo Il mouille (il pleut)

Il fait frette (trs froid)

Il mouille ... boire debout(te) (abondamment)

Il mouille ... sieaux (beaucoup, comme si on vidait des seaux d'eau)

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