Advantage Quebec: Being Bilingual
Updated: Jan 22
Canada is a bilingual country embracing both English and French as its native languages. But do you need to speak both languages to thrive in Canada? In Canada as a whole, English is a necessity, it is the standard language of business. French is more isolated to Quebec and a few small regions outside of the province. For most of Canada if you can speak English and French it is considered a great asset in both your personal and professional life. In Quebec things are a little different and speaking both languages is simply considered the norm. In addition, many businesses use French as their primary languages making knowing French as well as English almost a necessity! It is possible to get by in Quebec with only one language, but it will limit your options for both employment and your social life.
Companies are much more likely to hire a bilingual candidate over a uni-lingual one even if the language spoken in the office is English. Likewise, many Canadian companies do extensive business with the United States and other English-speaking nations making fluent English a must even for hardened francophones. For those of you who already speak and additional language other than English and French you will find that while attractive to employers, an additional language is not as important as fluency in our business languages.
Much of Quebec’s cultural identity lies in the odd mix of English and French culture. To really get the most out of our local culture it helps to dive straight in.
In your social life knowing both English and French will open doors that would otherwise remain closed to you. In major cities like Montreal or Sherbrooke most people are bilingual or will at least make the polite effort to speak the language in which you begin the conversation. So, for instance, if you greet someone with “Bonjour” they will likely answer you in French. Likewise, if you say “Hi” they will likely try to respond in English. Bilingual people will often use Quebec’s famous BonjourHi, our catch all phrase that lets you know we speak both languages and are willing to converse in either. BonjourHi is mostly seen in retail settings rather than in-between friends.
Most Quebecers are very understanding of language issues and will try to switch to the language you are most comfortable, provided they can. Many will make the effort even if they can’t which usually ends up as a mishmash of English and French charmingly known as Fringlish or Franglais depending on your first language. Outside of major cities the English language becomes less common. If you plan on living in more rural areas of Quebec, you can expect the amount of people who are fluent in English to drop.
Even with friendly locals willing to help, you will find life much easier and happier if you can communicate freely with everyone. Each extra day of practice brings you closer to being able to talk to your neighbours, make new friends and thrive in business. Taking a course with us at Grade Gurus is a great start, but you will want to use the skills we teach you every day. Just starting by ordering food or asking for directions can help. If you dedicate yourself to practicing each day in and out of class, you can rapidly become fluent and meet great new people along the way. A great way to practice and meet new people are language exchange groups which gather expressly for practicing conversational language skills! We will leave links to some below.
Being bilingual is a skill that you will use all your life. French and English are the most commonly learned second languages in the world. French is spoken in 88 countries spread over 5 continents. English is the international language of business and science and is spoken worldwide! A better grasp of both languages opens a world of possibilities both academic, business and personal. Much of the Internet is in English or French. With fluency you can take advantage of much more of the resources it provides where before when you were limited to pages in your native tongue or automated translations. Travel becomes remarkably easier as a world of English and French speaking countries become much more accessible. Even in countries where neither language is common international hotels and businesses’ will always have staff who can communicate with you. Finally, and most personally, being bilingual can help your love life. In a multi-cultural city like Montreal or Sherbrooke you can open your dating opportunities a lot by embracing another language. It’s hard to talk to that cute girl or guy if you don’t share a language after all.
We hope you can see the clear benefits of being bilingual in Quebec. We have put some useful links below to get you started on your language adventure.
All about Fringlish https://www.fluentu.com/blog/french/learn-quebec-french/
For those who want to speak like a Quebecois https://www.fluentin3months.com/quebec-french/
An anglo in Rural Quebec https://renee.tougas.net/blog/how-does-a-western-anglophone-end-up-living-in-rural-quebec/
Bibliotheque et Archives Nationale du Quebec Language Lab http://www.banq.qc.ca/services/grande_bibliotheque/laboratoire_langues/index.html?language_id=1
Language Exchange Social Clubs:
Conversation Exchange https://www.conversationexchange.com/