How to Speak Canadian English

            In my previous post, I wrote about reasons Why Canada is a Great Place to Study English. Now that you’ve been convinced that Canada is the right country for you to do your English exchange, here is some basic knowledge that will help you adjust to Canadian English and impress your new Canadian friends and connect to the culture.

This is a guest post by star Canadian teacher, Santino Filoso. Santino lives and teaches English in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and has a really useful and dynamic facebook page dedicated to learning and teaching English through visual vocabulary, online ESL games, interesting ESL articles and songs. It’s updated daily and we encourage everyone to have a look and LIKE it!

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Overview of Canadian English

            While similar to both American and British English, Canadian English is unique and slightly different. One way to describe it would be a kind of a mixture between American idioms, British spelling and Canadian pronunciation.

Canadian pronunciation is much closer to American pronunciation than British, but there are some notable exceptions. Canadians often turn t sounds into d sounds. For example, when saying the name of Canada’s capital, Ottawa, it’s not uncommon for it to be pronounced “Oddawa.”

            Despite being such a large country with people in all different regions, if you travel from the East Coast to the West, even if you notice some small differences in pronouncing certain words, with the exception of people from Quebec (a French province), you probably won’t find a significant pronunciation difference.

            When it comes to spelling, Canadians have the option of spelling words either as Americans would, or as the British would. For us both are correct, but you need to remember to be consistent. If you’re writing a paper for school and you start off spelling words the British way, you need to make sure that all your words are spelled in the British manner. To give you a better idea of just how similar the spellings can be, here are a few examples with the American spelling coming first: center/centre, practice/practise, analyze/analyse, color/colour. flavor/flavour.

Essential Canadian Vocabulary

Now that we’ve looked at some technical aspects of Canadian English, it’s time to dive into terms, phrases and words that you’ll only find in the “Great White North”.

  • ANGLOPHONE = someone whose first language is English
  • BEAVER TAILS = don’t worry this has nothing to do with the animal itself, the name actually comes from the shape of this delicious pastry that you can only find in Ottawa. You can get all different kinds of toppings but I’d recommend going for the classic sugar and cinnamon one
  • BROWN BREAD: whole wheat bread
  • CABIN FEVER: a feeling of claustrophobia that can set in during the winter when you stay home many days in a row and don’t go out
  • EH: a uniquely Canadian term used after a statement or question that can mean: right? okay? please, maybe, thank you, how about it?, don’t you?
  • FRANCOPHONE: someone whose first language is French
  • KRAFT DINNER (KD): Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, each box has dry macaroni and cheese mix, extremely easy to cook
  • A MICKEY: a 13 ounce bottle of liquor perfect to bring to parties or to sneak into bars in your coat pocket
  • POUTINE: a dish from Quebec that consists of French fries covered in gravy and cheese curds, heavy on flavour and calories
  • SHINNEY: a pick up game of hockey that anyone who is around can join in and play, either on the ice with skates or on the road in shoes
  • SMARTIES: a Canadian version the M&Ms chocolate candy
  • TIMBITS: doughnut holes from Tim Horton’s (Canada’s most popular coffee shop chain)
  • TOQUE: an awesome winter hat
  • A TWO-SIX: a 26 ounce bottle of liquor
  • A TWO-FOUR: a box containing 24 bottles of beer

Bonus: Random Canadian Facts

            Despite being a relatively young country (only 144 years old) and having a small population, Canada has a storied and interesting history. Here’s a few things that you probably didn’t know about Canada:

– Canada officially got its own national flag on February 15, 1965 (almost 100 years after it became a country on July 1st,1867)

– While ice hockey was invented in Canada and is its most popular sport, lacrosse is the country’s official sport

– In the War of 1812, Canada burned the White House down along with most of Washington

– Canada’s land mass is 9,970,610 km2 (making it the 2nd largest country in the world)

– Canadians have made many important inventions, including Kerosene, SONAR, the electron microscope, the electronic organ, insulin, the IMAX film system, the snowmobile, walkie talkies, the pacemaker, the gas mask, the telephone, and the electric cooking range

–  Canada has 10 provinces and 3 territories with a population of 34.5 million people

– The beaver is Canada’s national animal

– Canadian James Naismith invented basketball

– Kanata is an Iroquois word meaning “village” or “settlement”

– St. John’s, located in the province of Newfoundland, was founded in 1583 and is Canada’s oldest city

– Wasaga beach is the longest fresh water beach in the world

– Dog food is tax-deductible in Canada

– Over 85% of Canada’s population lives within 160km of the US border

– Canadian researchers discovered stem cells

– In winter, Ottawa’s Rideau Canal freezes over and becomes the world’s longest outdoor skating rink

– The CFL (Canadian Football League) played its 100th Grey Cup Championship on Nov. 25th

Thanks once again for reading this article and you can now consider yourself armed and ready to tackle Canada, in fact, you probably now know more about it than many Canadians! Take care!

Santino Filoso (left) lives and teaches English in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Please go to his page and give it a LIKE for daily tips and visual vocabulary that will make a big a big difference in your English learning!

If you haven’t already, we encourage you to download a free copy of our popular e-book 101 English Words You’ll Never Learn in School.

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7 Comments

  1. Chad Fishwick on November 28, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    Cool article Santino Filoso. It made me in the mood for a two-six and a box of smarties!

    • Mariana Lara Brun on November 28, 2012 at 9:30 pm

      For sure better than french canadian…

      • Justin on November 30, 2012 at 4:36 pm

        Thanks for your comment, Mariana! Looking forward to seeing you at the RLE party!

  2. Chad Fishwick on November 28, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    Cool article Santino Filoso. It made me in the mood for a two-six and a box of smarties!

  3. Chad Fishwick on November 28, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    Cool article Santino Filoso. It made me in the mood for a two-six and a box of smarties!

  4. Ethan on November 28, 2012 at 9:56 pm

    What a cool article, Santino! For Canada being the closest English speaking country to the U.S., I sure don’t know much about it! I’m eager to visit now!

  5. Zamir Jose Rodriguez on July 10, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    I really liked it! I'm Latin but now i want to speak as a canadian haha!

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