March is the month of Rendez-vous de la Francophonie (RVF), a pan-Canadian celebration of the French language and its many cultural expressions. Nearly 10 million francophones celebrated across Canada with flag-raising ceremonies, sugar shacks, movie showings, singing, theatre and more.
Today on International Francophonie Day, which wraps-up RVF, it is an opportunity for Albertans who haven’t been raised in a francophone environment to learn a bit more, including the sometimes perplexing world of French expressions.
For example, the francophone phrase “retournons à nos moutons”, directly translates to “let’s go back to our sheep”. This might only make sense if you are on the lam from your lambs!
However, the original expression, used since the 15th century in Europe, actually means “returning to our main topic”, particularly for a discussion that has scattered in all directions.
Some expressions are more uniquely Canadian, like, “attache ta tuque avec de la broche”, meaning, “tie your toque with a wire!” This Franco-Canadian expression translates to “it’s going to be epic”, which pretty much describes how people have been celebrating Rendez-vous de la Francophonie across Alberta and Canada.
Francophones also express themselves through cuisine, always looking for an opportunity to “se sucrez- le bec”, meaning “sweeten their beak” – eat a lot of sugar. Seems rather suitable as maple syrup is a particular source of cultural pride! Did you know:
- In 2016, the average price of one barrel of premium maple syrup (CAN $1,570) was roughly 23 times higher than the average price of one barrel of oil (CAN $68).
- Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick produce 90 per cent of the world’s maple syrup.
- There is a Strategic Global Maple Syrup Reserve in Laurierville, Que., which holds more than 220,000 barrels of maple syrup!
- In 2016, a man was charged and received a prison sentence for the theft and trafficking of 9,571 barrels of maple syrup valued at $18.7 million. His scheme involved replacing the stolen syrup with water!
While Alberta is home to different varieties of maple trees, like the Manitoba Maple, they do not produce sap. But the francophone influence in Alberta is strong in other ways.
Looking at a map of the province, you will see town names like St-Isidore, Plamondon, Lamoureux, Beaumont, Trochu and Chauvin. In fact, French was the first European language spoken in Alberta. Today, roughly 238,000 people in Alberta speak French fluently and about one in three Alberta students is enrolled in a French-speaking, French immersion or French as a second-language program.
Alberta’s francophone population has grown by 18 per cent since 2006 and by 40 per cent since 1996. The province has one of the highest growth rates of francophones in Canada (excluding Quebec) and the third-largest francophone population after New Brunswick and Ontario.
Another interesting fact about Alberta’s francophone population is that it is enriched by people from around the world. In fact, 69 per cent of the Alberta’s francophone population was born outside the province, and another 21 per cent come from outside of Canada. All of these communities and cultures strengthen the Francophonie and help make Alberta a welcoming province.
Now more than ever, we can say that the Francophonie of Alberta is connected to the world!