Monday, December 03, 2007

Still paddling...

I'm not sure what it means to that I am not even remotely surprised that Mojo is doing a better job of updating his blog than I am, and he's a cat. He has a larger readership anyway.

On Sunday Husband treated us to a simply fantastic brunch at the revamped Crowne Plaza Lord Beaverbrook Hotel. The dining room and the Sunday brunch menu have both been extensively renovated and improved in the Grande Dame's overall facelift. The meal was outstanding, the conversation was good and the company couldn't have been finer. That was a nice way to end my fin-de-semaine in Fredericton and prepare to return to Moncton for work.

I am still in the process of 'settling down' to something like normal. I start working 5 days a week now and will for the rest of December; that will both help me settle into a routine and hopefully help with the French, with which I'm struggling. Basic knowledge of a language that will get you through a trip to an épicerie or dinner at a restaurant is not built for the rigours of having real, complex converstations with real people rapidly switching topics, using Department jargon, and throwing in chiac for good measure. Hearing with the CI makes it a lot harder to discriminate between individual words - they tend to slur together a bit - that's something I hardly notice in English, because my brain fills in the gaps. It's proving very problematic in French.

Speaking of which, today is the UN International Day of Disabled Persons. This year's theme is "Decent work for persons with disabilities", a not-so-subtle reminder that decent work is not the norm for people with disabilities in much of the world, and is more difficult to achieve in the developed world, too.

Zut! C'est le fin de ma pause de café. Retour au travail!



Blogger Ronnie said...

Que veut dire chiac?

Capital R Ronnie

1:28 a.m.  
Blogger Ronnie said...

It just occurred to me that I might have to blush when you answer. Don't blush very often anymore, but I don't know about you French-Canadians. My Parisienne next-door neighbor did not know the word and it is not in my dictionary. Oh dear---

1:37 a.m.  
Blogger Mike said...

I met a woman in Montreal who had grown up speaking Ukranian and Polish, then learned English in kindegarten in Ontario and studied German and Russian in school. She married a petroleum engineer and moved to South America, where she picked up Spanish and Brazilian Portugese. After her divorce, she moved to Montreal and learned French ... but as she was having an old building renovated for a studio found that she had to learn joual, the local blue collar dialect equivalent to chiac as well -- that it wasn't simply a matter of a couple of slang terms or odd constructions.

Which reminds me of a tourist guide I picked up in Quebec that said, of the Madeleine Islands, that you might have trouble understanding the French spoken there. Considering the source of that warning, it really gave me pause.

6:02 a.m.  
Blogger ronnie said...

Bonjour, tout le monde!

As Mike alludes, chiac is the blue-collar dialect spoken by many Acadians in the northern part of the province. It's part English, part French, and entirely Acadian. As Acadian comedian Marshall Button says, "New Brunswick, it's a place where you can parle le deux languages dans le meme chose, eh?"

An example is the chiac habit of using "ouais" instead of "où" (where). Who knows where "ouais" came from? But people use it. "Ouais est-ce que tu habite?" At least that one's close enough to figure out on the fly.

There's also an expression that's sort of a slurred "jevuvu" - translation: "I'll see you." Not even close to proper French at all; part of the dialect.

So the problem is, you can't find chiac expressions in any textbook - they just come at you random-like, kind of like bugs when you're motorcycling!

7:28 a.m.  
Blogger Xtreme English said...

oh, very cool!!! the excellent adventures of ronniecat among the frogs?? (bad!)

quais....from ou est?'s kind of like the ASL "see-see" ("we'll see")

hats off to you for learning yet a nother language in real time!! i try to work on my spanglish lessons, but when two folks get on the bus and talk spanish to each other, i chicken waaaay out!


9:01 a.m.  
Blogger Xtreme English said...


one thing i've experienced with this c.i. is total amazement at how FAST people talk nowadays!! when do they breathe??

9:03 a.m.  
Blogger Carl said...

Still, way ahead of me--I can make out written Spanish, and other than that, well, I'm fluent in English.

I'll bet you have less trouble with written French, right? In my experience, it can be very difficult to keep up with conversational speeds even if you can, given a bit of time, parse every word and sentence.

9:34 a.m.  
Blogger ronnie said...

Je vous remercie, tout le monde, pour votre comments!

M.E., it's exactly like signs like "see-see" - terms that develop organically, so people learning the language later in life never find them in a dictionary or textbook.

And I agree with you that people talk so fast! I had a very long talk with my fellow roommate who's a teacher of French and German (neither of which are his first language - nor is English, which he also speaks flawlessly) and chiac and poor enunciation are two of his biggest pet peeves. He also despairs at how his students - who are francophones attending French high school - pepper their speech with "comme... comme... comme..." - which of course is French for ""! I said, "Oh, no, they do that in French, too?" "Oh yes! 'Comme, nous sommes allés, comme, au le mall, et puis, comme, à un film...'" He grimaced and shook his head in despair :)

Carl, you're spot-on about the difference between reading French and conversing in it. I've been able to read French very well and write it fairly well for some years. Of course, as I said to someone today, "Of course, when reading, the words only come at you as fast as you want."

8:25 p.m.  

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