Our Canadian cousins are celebrating today the 400th anniversary of the birth (July 3, 1608) of Quebec City, founded by a Frenchman by the name of Samuel Champlain.
Champlain’s birthplace was Brouage, in Western France. As happened to many such places over the centuries, Brouage, once a thriving salt-trading port, is now an inland historic city that I visited some years ago.
Image via Wikipedia
As one of the minisites of the Quebec City website puts it:
400 years means:
146 000 days
3.5 million hours
210.4 million minutes during which millions of people have existed.
It also means 146,000 days during which thousands, then millions of people have fought to preserve their combined French and Canadian identities. Canadian French has retained some 18th-century French, but when you listen to people from Quebec, there isn’t such a big divide. The source of fun are most often straight translations from American English. I still remember a sign at Niagara Falls that made the translation of “Mind the step” look like “Take care of the step.”
One interesting piece of information I caught when listening to this program on the French national radio was that the present Quebec accent is similar to that of native French speakers of the 18th century. Now that is wonderful, and gives an idea of how languages change over time. The simple thought of Louis XIV, the Sun King, speaking like a present-day Canadian should be a lesson for those on this side of the Atlantic, who think that France has the monopoly over “good” French and that French Canadians have a funny accent!