Montrealer gives tourists crash courses in Québécois swearing

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A Montreal woman offers tourists lessons in some of the important things they need to know about being a tourist in Quebec — and swearing is an integral part of her lesson plan.

Alissa Bonneville is behind the courses, which she gives through Airbnb. She told CJAD 800's Natasha Hall that our version of the French language — often known as joual, a bastardization of the French word for horse (cheval) — has a uniqueness she thinks tourists would find enlightening.

"It's definitely not just the swearing," Bonneville says. "I've been researching our history, and I'm just so in love with the way we speak, and the different expressions and intonations. So I decided to do an experience that's about Quebec language and culture. It's a three-part experience, and the second part is swearing. It's so part of the way that we speak in our everyday language, that I've dedicated a whole segment of our experience to it."

Bonneville points out to the tourists that many Québécois swear words — the French words for host, chalice and tabernacle, for instance — are religious-based, and part of what she imparts to the tourists she meets with is the history of French Quebecers' relationship to the Catholic Church, and with English-Canadian Protestants.

"This is the root of how we use les sacres...it evolved from our history with the Catholic Church."

As part of her attempts to establish historical context, Bonneville will also touch on things like the introduction of Bill 101 and the 1995 sovereignty referendum.

The lessons, which usually go for $18 a pop, draw people from around the world, including many Americans, and many French, Belgian and Swiss francophones, for whom joual is a colorful version of the French language they know.

She has held the lessons in poutine shops like La Banquise and Frite Alors! At one point, one of her groups was forced out of La Banquise because the swearing was bothering other customers, so at one point, she and her charges ordered takeout and moved the lessons to Lafontaine Park, over on the next block.