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Quebec French, or québécois, has a deep relationship with Montreal. As such, if you want to get the most out of Montreal you may want to consider learning French or improving the skills you already have.

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 required immigration 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.