https://www.duolingo.com/ruslanruskan

Louisiana Cajun French vs., French

Hello everyone,

I'm not a French speaker or necessarily a learner, I've lightly messed with learning it on Duolingo, Memrise and YouTube, I'm just more interested in other languages right now such as Russian, but someday I plan on delving further into French, its a beautiful language and culture no doubt. Anyway, my question is for those of you that speak French or are learning French. What's the difference between Cajun French and actual French? Are they mutually intelligible? Can you understand Cajun French? There's plenty of content on YouTube in Cajun French. They sound somewhat different, in my opinion, however I'm not a French speaker. I'm extremely fascinated by the French language diaspora. Can you share your opinion? Thanks DuoArmy.

3 years ago

24 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/lazouave
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Hi! I'm a European French speaker. I listened to that video without reading the subtitles. I could understand a good part of what was said, except for some words, as well as names and places. I understand the interviewer better than the interviewee (there were whole parts I couldn't make out, told by the uncle). In real life, I feel like mutual intelligibility would be possible, if I could ask him to slow down a bit at times, haha.

From a grammatical point of view, they use some constructions that would be considered wrong if they were speaking French; conjugation has also apparently changed a bit. Some differences also sound like mistakes English speakers would make, I could point out some anglicisms... English seems to have left a trace.

Their accent sounds to me like a mix of an American/Québécois accent.

I don't know anything about Cajun French, so those thoughts represent my experience with listening to it. I hope that can help you in some way :)

EDIT: Afterwards, out of curiosity, I watched this one, the grandmother made me laugh so much... I understood her much better than the uncle in the previous video, so the quality of the video may have been at play on top of the differences of French. Her accent also sounded a bit less foreign to my ears, I could have pictured her more easily as an old lady living somewhere in the French countryside, were it not for the anglicisms.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ruslanruskan

Thank you so much for taking your time to explore this subject for me. I appreciate it a ton, I actually watched the videos and noticed they seem to Roll their R's a lot, similar to Spanish so I wonder if there was that influence.

Would you relate Cajun French and French to British English & American English? Or do they use completely different words?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/lazouave
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No problem :) Yes, I noticed that as well, it's possible that's because of Spanish now that you say it.

Not exactly. British and American English have words, spellings and accents that differ, as well as some grammatical differences (Americans use the present perfect less than the British, for example) but on the whole, the grammar is the same. Here, not only are the words different, but the structures of the sentences as well, and, as I said, conjugation. Compare:

  • A où t'as été né? (C.F.) / Où t'es né? (oral French)

(In case you don't know, oral and written French are very different, so I'll just compare with oral French for that one. And all my examples come from the second video).

That would be like saying "in where have you been born" instead of "where were you born". Also, in French we have two auxiliary verbs to form one of our past tenses: avoir (to have) and être (to be). The use of each depends on the verb we want to conjugate. In English, you only use "to have": to have been born, to have played, to have gone, etc. Well, the Cajun French speakers I heard tended to use the auxiliary avoir even when in French it would have been être.

They use a lot of English grammatical structures as well:

  • Mai, le 25 (C.F.) / Le 25 mai (F.) = May, (the) 25th.

  • J'ai un 'tit chien, ma 'tite enfant m'a donné / J'ai un petit chien, que ma petite-fille m'a donné = I have a dog my grand child gave me

In French, you cannot forget the que (=that), otherwise the sentence doesn't make any sense. But apparently in Cajun French you can avoid it, like in English. She does that in other sentences as well.

  • Elle voulait je la prends / Elle voulait que je la prenne = She wanted me to take it

Once again, the que disappeared, plus the tense used afterwards is completely different. In French the subjunctive is used, which is a very special mode that you find in most Romance languages, which, in short, is used when expressing subjectivity. You often need it after the word que. In Cajun French, she used the indicative mode, that is, she made no difference between the first and the second parts of her sentence, conjugation-wise.

To sum this long novel up, I'd say they're further apart than British and American English, since not only the lexical field has evolved, but the structure of the language as well.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/cOOlaide117
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Actually, French up until somewhat recently (just 2 generations ago in Quebec and southern France) had the "rolled r" à la Spanish. It was only starting in the 18th Century that the current standard pronunciation of the 'r' became commonplace. The rolled r is still the standard in Louisiana French, in the French spoken in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and even in some rural varieties of québécois. This is because the colonists left France before they were affected by the sound change and then more or less isolated themselves from what was happening 5000 km away.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JonL44

A bit of both but you could make that comparison.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DavidHenryC

So in other words, kind of like the difference between English and Cajun English. ;)

11 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JonL44

Sorry to correct anyone but the French spoken in Louisiana mainly comes from Acadian French. I am an Acadian from the province of New Brunswick in Canada. In the 1750's when France gave up the fight for Canada (New France at the time) the people of Acadia (french settlement outside of New France (modern day Quebec) located where the Atlantic provinces of Canada are now. Were basically kicked/deported out of Canada (a form of ethnic cleansing some would say) sent to the sea to either die (about a third of them did die from disease or drowning) or make it back to France. However many of the ships just landed further down the coast in places like Louisiana. So the French in Louisiana started out as Acadian French and was later influenced by Spanish and West African languages to form Cajun French. Just an FYI Acadian French is different than Quebec French or even France French and is more like 17th century French because they didn't abide by the language laws of France at the time who changed a lot of things. Hope this helps a bit cheers all!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JonL44

Some background on myself and how I know this stuff. My last name is LeBouthillier and my family settled in Acadia (New Brunswick,Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island) in the early 1700's.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JeanneGamache

HI, You are correct, I just finished reading a history of French Canada and the forced deportation of French people. The land was rich in resources and the English wanted it! As for the Quebec French, most people call it Franglais!! ha ha, English effect. So it is a dialect of Standard French, which they do teach in the schools. It's like British and American English, Similar but different.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Luna906522

that is completely untrue! Quebec French and Franglais aren't the same thing! Franglais, or least the version I'm familiar with is a total mash up of English and French requiring you to be more or else bilingual to fully comprehend. Quebec French doesn't really have that many English loanwords or even as many anglisismes as you seem to assume. Honestly the French from France seem to use more obvious English loanwords than we do here in Quebec. I mean in France "un parking" is a parking lot and the use "le weekend", here people would look at you weird before directing you to the "stationment" and I vividly remember getting remember getting in trouble at school for using "weekend" instead of "le fin de semaine". Quebec French and Franglais are two very different things and Franglais is not unique to Quebec, or Canada for that matter.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JonL44

Agreed

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JeanneGamache

Do get a copy from Amazon of "The Story of French" by Jean Nadeau and his wife. History of the language not the people. Excellent. . Used copies very cheap. My grandparent were from Quebec so I am French too.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ruslanruskan

Thanks for sharing, I will add that to my amazon list of books that I order each month. I look forward to buying that for my March reading list.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JonL44

I'll have to check it out, I'm a big history buff thanks.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Skepticstate
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This is a really interesting topic. I work in a Middle School in Florida, and was recently asked if I understood enough French to help a student who spoke Haitian Creole. I said at the time that I was not sure and would have to do some research, but maybe I will give it a shot! Who knows, maybe I can help the kid out some.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Dylanysus

As far as I know, Haitian Creole and French aren't mutually comprehensible. It's not the best audio quality, but here's a video of someone speaking Haitian Creole.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88LqeifwZbs

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JeanneGamache

There is not much French in Creole! Look it up in Wickopedia (spelled wrong, I know) bu t has a good article on it.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Dylanysus

It shares around ninety percent of its vocabulary with French. In general, they spell things differently than the French because Haitian Creole is very phonetic. The words are pronounced exactly as they're written with the exception of loanwords. However, it's more similar to an African language called Fon when it comes to grammar. That's why they're not mutually comprehensible. I learned a bit about it in my linguistics classes.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/aistobe
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My friend, who was in Haiti with the Peace Corps in the 1980's, told me essentially the same. But I never knew the name of the African language where it gets its grammar.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Dylanysus

Yep! There's a thing called "relexification", which is where the lexicon of a language is replaced by another's with minimal (if any) changes to the underlying grammatical features. Due to certain historical conditions, that's what happened in Haiti between French and Fon.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jeanz1985

Cajun is broken French. I'm a New Orleans, LA native and have studied French through high school and college. Cajun is widely spoken Lafayette, LA and the surrounding areas (also known as Acadiana). The older generations ONLY speak Cajun...some don't even speak to their children or grandchildren unless the dialogue is in Cajun. The sound that you hear could very possibly be just the Louisiana accent. Some areas have thicker/heavier accents than others. For example, I've been told that I sound like I'm from New Orleans or New York (I've never been to New York!) and I haven't lived there since Hurricane Katrina. And if you hear a friend of mine, she sounds like a Cajun...heavier accent than mine and she speaks extremely fast! She's from Breaux Bridge, which is apart of Acadiana. My aunt is from New Iberia...her speech is slower but she still has that Cajun accent. It's really hard to explain, I would suggest if you can, to visit. That way you can experience the language and culture first hand. Hope I was able to give you some clarity. :-)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ruslanruskan

Oh I definitely want to visit Louisiana, especially Breaux Bridge, Houma, Cut off, and pretty much every place on the Bayou. I am from Florida and we have the same Swamp vibe just not the culture. I want to study French a bit and eventually head to that area someday.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jeanz1985

Well whenever you make the trip, let me know! There are festivals year round in every part of the state. Lafayette holds a french festival every year. You can check out the details here http://festivalinternational.org . I'm almost positive you'll run into someone who can answer all of your questions regarding Cajun French. The food is awesome too!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/BrentlinSh1
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I actually found a video showing a French shop owner talking to a Cajun couple and the description says that while she can understand them, she does have a bit of trouble keeping up to them when they speak. I can link the video. It's interesting. I'm actually interested in french and I know a few words, but i'm actually curious as to whether I should learn the Louisiana dialect or the Canadian dialect because, geographic-wise, I think that would make better sense as, were below Canada. I've also heard that Canadian french though is hard to a European french speaker to understand because of the pronunciation. https://youtu.be/4m15pXtI35w.

2 years ago
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