Bonjour, hi. My name's Gabi and I moved to Montreal about six months ago from Toronto. Like any new city, I wanted to dive right in to fit with the locals and learn all about the history and the culture, which included improving my French. And now, I'm here to share the realities I've experiences about learning French in Montreal.
French class was actually one of my favourites in school and I wanted to continue with classes all throughout university.
But between extra-curricular, required courses and just life in general, French was put on the back burner for a while and the whole use-it-or-lose-it thing definitely came into effect.
It's not like I'm now a beginner per se, but I'm definitely not opening a bed and breakfast in the countryside anytime soon.
Some of the basics come back quite quickly, but Est-ce que je peux aller aux toilettes really only gets you so far, ya know?
I've definitely been trying to practice and really immerse myself in the French culture here in the city. Even been taking a couple of classes.
But like lots of newcomers, especially as an Anglophone, there are lots of things I've come to learn about learning French in Montreal.
"The Switch" Can Feel Really Shitty
We've all been there. You get ready to ask a question in French. You finally say it and then... the cashier switches to English.
It can feel like a defeat and it may seem intimidating. But don't let it get you down (I know, easier said than done).
People Will Get Frustrated With You
I'm not gonna sugarcoat it. There are some people who get frustrated that you don't speak French. They don't want you to learn French, they want you to know French (very different).
But don't beat yourself up.
There Are Just As Many Francophones Trying To Learn English
As much as you may feel awkward or uncomfortable speaking French, there are just as many Québécois who feel the same way when they speak English.
Both languages can be super tricky to learn.
Your Eye Will Always Go To The English First
Being a bilingual city, there's a lot of English on signs, labels, etc. Naturally, your eye will go to the language you're more comfortable with.
Try your best not to go straight to the English or it'll take you out of the full "immersive" experience.
Reading, Writing, Speaking, And Listening Are All Very Different
All four are key elements to learning a language. Just because you can watch a hockey game in French doesn't mean you can have a full-on conversation. Try to find ways to develop each of these factors.
And no — just listening to French music isn't enough. But try watching French movies with French subtitles.
Québécois French Sounds... Different Than Other French
Just like English, French has many dialects and accents. It's no secret that the Québécois have a very strong accent. It can be a bit of an adjustment if you've been learning more Parisian or European French.
What You Learned In High School May Not Cut It
Nobody cares that you know how to conjugate. Or that you know DR & MRS VANDERTRAMP.
When it comes to speaking, comprehension and communication are way more important than memorization.
Grammar is definitely important. But it's not everything.
If Someone Corrects You, They Aren't Being Rude
It's never a great feeling to be told you're wrong. Especially when you're learning.
But if someone tells you your pronunciation is wrong or that you used le when it should have been la, don't think of it as rude. Think of it as a way to learn.
Thinking In English And Speaking French Just Doesn't Work
Not everything is a direct translation. Some words don't even translate at all.
Try your best to think in French when you're speaking French. Thinking in English may not be as useful as you think.
Bienvenue à Montréal / Welcome to Montreal!