How to Speak Canadian English Like a Pro!
If you’ve ever heard one of Alanis Morissette’s intricate songs or listened to Ryan Reynolds’ real accent in press junkets, you may have realized that Canadians have a unique way of speaking English. But, what is it that sets Canadian English apart? Whether you’re a Canadian looking to understand some of the nuances of your accent or an international visitor eager to blend in, you will not want to miss this guide.
So let’s get started.
How to Speak Canadian English: SPELLING
Canada may be closer to the United States than it is to England, but when it comes to spelling, it often opts for the British versions. One of the clearest examples of this is that Canadians prefer to use ‘ou’ in words like “colour”, “behaviour” and “humour”, while Americans opt for a simplified spelling with only an ‘o’.
The same thing happens with words like “theater” and “center”. While Americans favour a spelling that is closer to the actual pronunciation of the words, Canadians prefer to stick to the more British-like spelling, “theatre” and “centre”.
However, if you want to learn to speak like a Canadian (or write like a Canadian!) it won’t do to just assume that Canadian spelling mimics British spelling! In fact, words like “realize” and “organize” which usually retain the ‘s’ in British English, for example, take a ‘z’ in both Canadian and American English.
How to Speak Canadian English: UNITS OF MEASUREMENT
Another interesting difference between Canadian English and American English is how they measure things. In the United States, people utilize their own customary system of units: they measure distance in feet, inches and miles, and they measure weight in ounces and pounds. In Canada, however, the metric system is the standard method of measurement. When measuring distances, Canadians prefer kilometers rather than miles, temperatures in Celsius rather than Fahrenheit, and liters for liquid volumes instead of gallons.
However, this is only in theory. In everyday conversation, there are at least two instances in which Canadians use American units: it’s very common for Canadians to announce the weight of a newborn baby in pounds instead of kilograms, and they may even advertise a car’s top speed in miles per hour!
How to speak Canadian English: VOCABULARY
While American and Canadian English are perfectly intelligible to a native speaker of each variety, there are some vocabulary differences between the two that you should be aware of if you’re looking to blend in. For example, the footwear items we know as “sneakers” in the US are called “runners” in Canada. Also, American English speakers may be surprised to learn that when Canadians talk about having to pay their “hydro bill” they’re actually talking about the electricity bill.
Also, while the official currency in both countries is the dollar, Canadians and Americans have different slang words for some of their coins. While US citizens have “quarters” (25 cents) and “dimes” (10 cents), Canadian English speakers refer to them as “toonies” (two-dollar coins) and “loonies” (one-dollar coins).
While none of these differences will affect your understanding of everyday conversations, they’re worth noting if you want to learn how to speak Canadian English like a pro.
How to Speak Canadian English: PRONUNCIATION
Perhaps, the most noticeable difference between American and Canadian English is how they pronounce certain words and sounds.
Unlike American English, which presents very noticeable regional variations, the accent of Canadian English is relatively homogenous and it doesn’t vary much from region to region, which is always good news for language learners!
The most salient feature of Standard Canadian English from a phonological perspective is the cot-caught merger to the same short ‘o’ sound, which means that the minimal pairs not/naught, bot/bought all sound the same.
Another recognizable feature of Canadian English is “Canadian raising” of vowels in diphthongs. In /aɪ/ (as in the words plight and slice) and /aʊ/ (as in scout and mouse), the tongue is usually more “raised” than in American English when they are followed by a voiceless consonant ( /p/, /t/, /k/, /s/, /ʃ/, or /f/ ).
And then, of course, there is a much more subtle, almost unattainable quality of the Canadian English accent that could be described as a nasal twang.
It is this nasality that gives words like ‘about’ and ‘dance’ such a special sound in Canadian English. Add to this the ability to pair your vocabulary with a sly smile and an ever-so-slight nod of the head, and you will be on your way to learning how to speak Canadian English like an expert!
Learn How to Speak Canadian English Now!
All in all, Canadian English is similar to American English in many ways, but there are some subtle differences that give it a special flavor –I mean… flavour. So, the next time you find yourself in Canada, don’t be surprised if people start talking to you a little differently – just remember what we said about “runners” and “hydro bills” and you’ll be all right.
As we always say in our blogs, the best way to master the rhythms and intonations of a language is to practice as much as possible with the help of a native speaker who can serve as a model of the target variety. At Language Trainers, we work with Canadian teachers of English to make sure our clients get a lot of exposure to the language as well as expert feedback on their own performance.
So, what are you waiting for? If you’re looking to learn how to speak Canadian English, sign up for one of our courses today and start your journey toward fluent conversation!