Difference in Medical Language Between Quebec French and French From France?
By Melia Yanat, Lingolet Team
Isn't the French language the same in all French-speaking countries?
If you listen to a conversation between a French-speaking Quebecer and a French-speaking Parisian, you will surely think that it is not the same language because the accents are different.
But if you read a text from a Quebecer and a Parisian, you probably won't notice anything unless you are a Frenchman from France.
The most significant difference is pronunciation and grammar. The "tu" (personal you) is very common in Quebec, whereas the French apply the formal second person if you are not part of their close circle. We also notice the feminization of many words, such as "business" or "bus." We can also note that Quebecers use swear words that are most often related to the Catholic Church ("Câlisse de tabarnak!"), which is rarely heard in France.
Lexical variations can be a problem in understanding a conversation. They are easier to spot than the feminization of words.
A "boucane" is actually smoke. A "chariot" in Canada is a car in France and a "cauldron" is a cooking pot for Quebecers. We also talk about "shoes" for sneakers. “Liquor” is a soda drink in Quebec and a strong alcohol in France. Natives of France are often amused because Quebecers use very old French terms.
The Office Québécois de la Langue Française uses French words in all circumstances in Canada. In contrast, France has adopted many words and expressions from English (such as weekend, business, shopping) and other languages. If Quebecers don’t have a French word for something, they frenchify by translating word for word. A funny example is hot dogs. In France, the French say "hot dog", but the Quebecers changed it to "chien chaud". Poor doggie! When French hear this, they are amused and amazed.
A word of advice: if you work in marketing or international trade with Canada, be careful with English which often will not mean anything in Quebec.
Can this difference jeopardize my hospitalization?
The medical vocabulary is different in France and Quebec.
The names of pathologies or symptoms may differ. For the most part, Quebecers don’t know the word “rhinopharyngitis”. We will speak of angina pectoris. 90% alcohol becomes rubbing alcohol, etc.
For a French-speaking Quebecer and a French-speaking French person, these differences do not represent a great difficulty. They both have a perfect command of their language and can therefore exchange or ask questions easily.
It's a different story for a Spanish speaker, for example, who learned to speak French in France. If he goes to Quebec, there is, unfortunately, a high probability that he will not understand much. Conversely, an American who learns to speak French in Quebec will have great difficulty understanding a French person.
In the context of medicine, this can lead to catastrophe. Both for the description of the patient's symptoms or the understanding of the procedures to be followed or even the diagnosis.
Therefore non-French people should have a French-speaking medical interpreter. As the French say, "mieux vaut prévenir que guérir" (“better safe than sorry”).
Lingolet provides you with qualified interpreters specialized in the sector of your choice
Learn more about medical translation:
Why are medical translation errors unacceptable, and how can they be avoided
Is there a difference in medical language between Quebec French and French from France?