Quebec French | French in Montreal | Moving to Canada (2024)

Around 70 percent of Montreal residents speak French as their primary language at home, and French is the sole official language in province of Quebec. Many more speak the language on a daily basis for work and socialising, though most Montrealers are also able to speak English, as well as often being comfortable in a third language. Interacting with the French language is a big part of living in Montreal, and Montreal French can be a charming and fun language.

Quebec French is not a separate dialect, but the accents you will hear are quite different from anything heard in Europe. Some slang words and idioms are unique to Quebec French, with a number of anglicisms borrowed from English. Many Montrealers switch mid-sentence between French and English in conversation –

‘Hey man, comment était le pub hier soir?’

‘Vraiment cool! Your friend Mathieu was there, avec sa nouvelle girl. Il dit hello.’

No matter which Montreal neighbourhood you may be in, you’re going to hear some conversations like that. If you’re looking for more English-speaking communities, this interactive map, courtesy of CBC, shows the pockets of southern Quebec where anglophones predominate.

Bill 101 and Quebec French — The Charter of the French Language

Any newcomer to Montreal should be aware of what is usually called “Bill 101” or the French Language Charter(La Charte de la langue française), an extensive piece of legislation brought in during the 1970’s that made French the sole official language of Quebec. The language laws are far-reaching; larger businesses are obliged to work in French within the workplace, and business-to-customer information, even down to menus in restaurants, must be available in French.

If you are bringing children or plan on having children in Quebec in the future and want to avail of the public education system, under the current laws your children would be obliged to go to a French school, as only the children of those who went to English schools in Canada are allowed to send their children to non-private English schools.

Montreal, French, and employment

Employment in the service (i.e. bar/restaurant) industry, or in companies working mostly with an international clientele, may only require a limited knowledge of French, or indeed none at all. However, anybody aspiring to move to Montreal for career reasons should be aware that French is not only an asset, but usually a necessity.

It is advisable to consider doing some French classes before moving to Montreal. It will make your move a lot smoother and give you confidence, so consider it an investment in your skills.

Immigration and courses

In order to assimilate newcomers, Immigration Quebec provides information on where you can attend French courses catered to all levels. These courses are often free.

The government of Quebec provides free French language courses to new permanent residents, as well as subsidized courses for certain work permit holders.

French courses in Montreal

Government-supported French courses in Montreal are available in the following formats:

  • Full-time: for individuals who arrived in Canada within the past five years
    • Session of about 11 weeks – 25 or 30 hours a week.
    • Beginner and intermediate stages.
    • Allowances possible for participation, transportation and child care.
    • Learn more about full-time French courses in Montreal.
  • Part-time: for all immigrants who want to learn or improve their French
    • Session of about 11 weeks: 12, 9, 6 or 4 hours a week.
    • Beginner and intermediate stages.
    • Allowances possible for child care expenses.
    • Available to asylum seekers.
  • Specialized by occupation: to improve your French in your field of employment
    • Fields offered: health and nursing care, engineering and applied sciences, administration, law and business.
    • Session of about 11 weeks: 4 and 6 hours a week.
    • Intermediate and advanced stages.
    • Allowances possible for child care expenses.
  • Online French training: to practice French at your own pace
    • Available to immigrants, foreign students and eligible temporary workers who want to improve their French.
    • Formulas with tutor or self-instruction.
    • Special modules by occupational field.
    • Intermediate and advanced stages.
    • Note: this French training is only available to people who have held a Certificat de sélection du Québec (CSQ) for at least two months and are still abroad (required age of 16 or older), people who hold a Certificat d’acceptation du Québec (CAQ) and are already residing in Québec to work or study (required age of 18 years or older), and people who reside in Québec with the requiredimmigration status.
    • Learn more about online French training.

If you are not eligible for the above courses and training programs, we recommend you register with Moving2Canada official partner Frantastique, linked above.

Citation"Speaking French in Montreal."Moving2Canada.Last modified January 30, 2024. for Citation

Quebec French | French in Montreal | Moving to Canada (2024)


Should I know French before going to Montreal? ›

French is Montréal's official language, but you can get by in English as a visitor without a problem. After all, nobody can expect you to know every language of all places you visit. That said, it's friendly to sprinkle in a bonjour or a merci where you can, or to practice any other French vocabulary you may have.

Is Montreal in Quebec French speaking? ›

In 2021, French was the first language spoken by over 71 percent of the population of Montréal, Québec in Canada. 20.4 percent of the city's residents had English as their first language, 6.7 percent used both English and French as their primary language, and 1.6 percent of the population spoke another language.

Is Canadian French the same as Quebec French? ›

Formerly Canadian French referred solely to Quebec French and the closely related varieties of Ontario (Franco-Ontarian) and Western Canada—in contrast with Acadian French, which is spoken by Acadians in New Brunswick (including the Chiac dialect) and some areas of Nova Scotia (including the dialect St.

Do I need to speak French to move to Quebec? ›

The level of French proficiency required to immigrate to Quebec in Canada can vary depending on the immigration program you choose. Generally, many immigration programs, especially those managed by the Quebec government, will require a minimum to medium level of proficiency in the French language.

Can you visit Quebec without speaking French? ›

One of the common misconceptions about visiting Québec City is that you need to speak French or if you do not speak French, everyone will be rude to you. This, thankfully, is complete fiction.

How English friendly is Montreal? ›

Most Montrealers speak both languages, so ordering food or shopping shouldn't be challenging. If you are planning to move to Montreal, you should consider taking French language lessons since many Montrealers prefer speaking French, and some won't even speak English with you.

Can you live in Montreal without knowing French? ›

Basic French skills can bring you a long way in Montreal. Here is a fun fact for you: according to Statistics Canada, over sixty thousand people are living in Montreal who can speak neither English nor French.

Can you go to McGill without speaking French? ›

The language of instruction at McGill University is English. However, certain McGill programs include a mandatory internship, or 'stage', which will be completed in a hospital, clinic, social service centre, or school setting where the ability to communicate proficiently in French is essential.

Do French people understand Quebecois? ›

Although French from Québec can be understood by French people and vice versa, it is important to recall that it might be more difficult for English speakers learning French to understand Québec French.

What is traditional Quebec food? ›

Québec is home to many unique dishes and is most famous for its poutine, tourtières, pâté chinois, pea soup, fèves au lard, cretons and desserts such as grands-pères, pouding chômeur and St. Catherine's taffy.

What do French people call French Canadians? ›

A resident or native of Quebec is often referred to in English as a Quebecer or Quebecker. In French, Québécois or Québécoise usually refers to any native or resident of Quebec. Its use became more prominent in the 1960s as French Canadians from Quebec increasingly self-identified as Québécois.

Is Quebec more English or French? ›

Numbers of native speakers
LanguageNumber of native speakersPercentage of singular responses
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Is Quebec City friendly to Americans? ›

Quebecers are known for being warm and welcoming. Everywhere you go, you'll be met with a smile. People here are proud of their francophone culture and North American roots.

Can you get by with English in Quebec? ›

Many Quebecois switch to English right away, not only if you don't speak French fluently, but also if they detect the tiniest English accent. It is not rude to speak English in Quebec. You'll always be able to find information translated into English, and citizens will be happy to share their gorgeous city with you.

Should I speak French in Montreal? ›

However, anybody aspiring to move to Montreal for career reasons should be aware that French is not only an asset, but usually a necessity. It is advisable to consider doing some French classes before moving to Montreal.

Can you survive in Montreal without knowing French? ›

I know several unilingual anglophones who moved to Montreal and live full and rich lives there without speaking French. I wouldn't necessarily advise remaining as a unilingual anglophone in the city long term but it's definitely possible to get by just fine as one.

Is it necessary to learn French in Montreal? ›

Non-French speakers can be very happy in Montreal. It is an exciting city with excellent infrastructure, great public transportation, large parks, many cultural events, and many activities for children. Information for newcomers is readily available in English to help one settle in.

Should I learn French before going to Canada? ›

If you've ever dreamed of working abroad in Canada , learning French is almost essential. Looking for a job? You'll have options after learning French in Canada. Because French is one of two official languages of Canada, jobs throughout the country often require you to be proficient in both French and English.


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