Time to celebrate!
What’s the occasion, you ask?
A better question might be, what isn’t the occasion?
The “city of festivals,” Montreal, is where the party never stops.
Not only does it continually bring people together in the name of music, comedy, food and more—but it’s home to numerous cultural and educational gems like museums, renowned universities, great architecture and a famous botanical garden.
Want to join the fun?
If you do, you’ll be sure to pick up a bit of French à la canadien (Canadian style).
Learning French in Montreal makes learning French more fun than it’s ever been.
There’s always a reason to celebrate in Montreal. Especially when learning opportunities abound!
In this post, we’re going to look at exactly what makes Montreal such an ideal place to study French, key things to know about how the language is spoken there and, most importantly, where you can learn French in this bustling bilingual metropolis.
The Cultural Fun Guide to Learning French in Montreal
Why Learn French in Montreal?
Montreal has been ranked as the “Best Student City.”
C’est vrai! (It’s true!) Montreal is the best city in which to study, according to the 2017 Best Student City annual rankings by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS). Now trumping Paris, which sits at second after several years at #1, Montreal leads the pack in the six criteria QS used to evaluate 125 student cities in 2017: Affordability, Employer Activity, Student View, University Rankings, Student Mix and Desirability.
Three of Montreal’s universities were found in the World University Rankings, also composed by QS. There are more than 150,00 full-time enrolled students in the greater Montreal area.
Still skeptical as to why you should absolutely be learning French in Montreal? OK, read on!
Montreal is the best city for French students.
Not only is Montreal the number one best city for students, but it naturally follows that also being the second-largest primarily French-speaking city in the world, it’s the best city for students learning French.
Learning French in Montreal is, debatably, on par with learning in Paris. Debatably because Montréalais (Montrealers) just seem to excel at embracing celebration and learning.
If you’re American or Canadian, it’s close and convenient.
The city of Montreal, being situated just north of the northern border of the state of Vermont, is also a convenient place to learn French for those already living nearby. Although learning French in France is great, too, staying on the same continent is that much more economical. The Montreal International Airport is also a busy hub for the region. But perhaps you want to make a road trip of your French learning experience. Download some of your French learning podcasts and Francophone tunes and take to the open road!
There’s plenty of diversity of language and background.
As a result of the history of the city of Montreal and the surrounding region, Montreal is very diverse. Montreal served as a primary commercial center in the fur trade in the 18th century, and following, was under dispute between England and France. Therefore, the city has both English and French roots, as well as the indigenous influence of the Iroquois Native Americans who first called the province of Quebec home.
According to the World Population Review, Montreal’s population is composed primarily of European ancestries, but 31% of the population is of other origins—including African American, Latin American, Arab, South Asian and Chinese.
Of the entire population, 57% speak Quebecois French, 18.5% speak English and 20% speak other languages in the home. 56% of Montreal’s population is French-English bilingual. (But speak your French before you default to English!)
You’ll find many opportunities for cultural learning.
What’s more, my fearless French learner, is Montreal is jam-packed with cultural learning and public spaces in which to boost your language learning. Check out:
- Museums (search Montreal museums by category here).
- The Montreal Botanical Garden.
- The Notre Dame Basilica.
- Festivals and Music in Montreal.
- Even more learning opportunities here.
How Does French in Montreal Differ from Metropolitan (France) French?
The most apparent differences between Quebecois French (the type of French spoken in Montreal) and Metropolitan France (the French spoken in France) are audible. Spoken, the French of les Montréalais (Montrealers) sounds like it comes even more from the throat than the French of les français (the French). This is most noticeable in the pronunciation of vowels especially, with some being more open/close and/or short/long compared to Metropolitan French.
Listen to the Montreal French accent in this short conversation.
Although vocabulary in Montreal differs minimally, those words that do differ are certainly helpful to know. Similar to the slang verlan that exists in France, joual is the (traditionally pejorative) name for slang-type French in Quebec. A few examples of differences in French vocabulary (with Quebecois first and Metropolitan second) include:
- moé/toé — moi/toi (me, you)
- pis — et puis (and then/and)
- ma blonde/mon chum — ma petite amie or ma copine/mon petit ami or mon copain (my girlfriend/my boyfriend)
- borrowed English words, like le char — la voiture (the car)
- traditional French words that the French don’t use, like arrêt — stop (stop [sign])
- swear words, like viarge! — putain! (damn!)
Syntax and more
Syntax—the way a sentence is formed—can become very technical, but there are some common themes in Quebecois French as compared to Metropolitan French.
The manner in which certain words are constructed with liaisons (contractions) differs rather significantly, meaning that Montrealers generally insert more liaisons than the French.
Here are a few more examples of differences between Quebecois French and Metropolitan French.
Where to Learn French in Montreal
Whether you’re a present or future college student looking for a study abroad opportunity, or you’re after a program that’s open to anyone, there are some great options for studying French in Montreal.
If you’re currently enrolled in university in the U.S. or Canada, check to see if you can do your exchange a bit closer to home with some of the universities below.
And if you want to learn French over the summer, Montreal’s climate is absolument idéal (absolutely ideal) in the summertime!
Universities for degree programs, study abroad/exchange and other opportunities
A large university with more than 30,000 grad and undergrad students, McGill was also listed by QS as the #1 university in Canada, and #30 in the ranking of best universities worldwide. McGill offers three different programs for student exchanges: Incoming (yearlong) Exchange, Short Program Opportunities and Research Traineeship.
While most of the courses at McGill are in English, the university offers many opportunities for students to study French as well as French-language literature, including some that are open to non-students.
Another big Montreal university, Concordia is popular for incoming exchanges, inviting students from abroad to study at Concordia for the academic year. Like McGill, Concordia mostly offers courses in English, but has many options for French studies.
For more information on how to apply for an exchange, visit the Student Exchange Program page on the International tab on the website.
The University of Montreal (U of M) is the largest university in Montreal, with more than 40,000 grads and undergraduates enrolled. Their student exchange program has some nuances, so it’s best to check this list for program specifications.
Courses here are offered completely in French, and therefore your French language learning would certainly be more accelerated, regardless of what subjects you’re studying! For more information about applying for study/language exchange at U of M, check here.
At the University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM), courses are also offered completely in French, and UQAM offers different exchange options, including bilateral exchanges—a dual degree program.
National Student Exchanges (NSE) are available to U.S. or Canadian students whose current university is registered as an NSE member.
Non-university language schools and programs
The French School offers an intensive 60-hour French course split up into 20 classes. Ideal for beginners or re-beginners, it focuses on a combination of written and verbal teaching to help you best apply French in an everyday context.
The YMCA of Montreal offers a tremendous array of French (and other!) language courses running either in the day or evening or your choice of one or the other. Courses are ideal for any age and level of language knowledge, and range from focuses such as conversation to business French or test prep courses.
They also offer gap year programs, private classes and college preparatory programs for those wanting to attend a French-speaking University in Quebec or Montreal. Grouille-toé ! Depeche-toi ! (Hurry up!)
This 4-week intensive summer program is targeted towards those who are seeking to develop knowledge of French for the purpose of business. Participants, who must be at least 18 years of age, receive three language credits, work in small groups, and focus on learning from seminars and interactive oral communication workshops. The program also offers optional evening activities with French guides.
Geared towards Canadians by birth, Canadian citizens, permanent residents (like university students), refugee claimants, refugees and holders of some work permits, Centre Saint-Louis is a great option for those who already live in Montreal and want to learn more French. Participants must be at least 16 years of age, and present proper documents. The program fees are minimal for eight different levels of courses, which each take eight weeks to complete.
Offering language courses in more than just French, CLC Montreal Language School has a variety of programs to fit your French language learning desires. Full-time, part-time and private or Skype language programs are offered, as well as a “Tea-Time” incorporated into program curriculum. The Pre-immigration course offers French language preparation and cultural learning opportunities for those moving to Montreal. Language courses cater to all levels of experience.
ALI Montreal, which stands for Académie Linguistique Internationale (International Linguistic Academy), offers general French courses for second language learners, and also offers Youth Programs in French. FSL (French Second Language) courses are appropriate for all levels of experience and for ages 17 and up, and are available full-time or part-time. Find out more about ALI’s options here.
Regardless of whether you choose to do an exchange at a Montreal university or enroll in a French language program, you’ll learn plenty of French in Montreal.
Even if you choose to go to Montreal for a weekend and all you do is sit at a café for hours eating poutine (French fries with gravy and cheese curds—amazing!), you’ll still be learning French!
Just maybe don’t have more than two plates of poutine in one sitting, han?! (Okay?!)
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