English is English except when it’s really U.K. English spoken in Britain or Canadian English spoken in Canada. There aren’t a terrible amount of differences in overall North American English but there are some subtle nuances that will trip up a translator who isn’t savvy to it.
Canada is a geographically huge country with its own history, political center and cultural realisms. It stands to reason that Canadians would have their own ways to express themselves. The first thing a translator needs to know about Canada is that it has two official languages which are French and English. The French language spoken in the province of Quebec is also different somewhat than the version spoken in France. Canadian French is understood by native French but again there are noticeable differences.
English Canadians speak a colonial version of English and over 30 million Canadians speak English as either a first or second language. Canada is the multicultural model for the rest of the world it being a true melting pot. This means that after the two official languages many other languages are spoken as first language and English or French as a second language are common. As an example Chinese dialects are the third most popular language after French and English.
Britain and France both claimed territory in Canada in the 1600’s eventually becoming all British with Canada gaining its autonomy in 1867. Comprised of ten provinces and 3 territories Canada is the second largest country in the world based on geography.
Canadian English is much like the rest of the worlds English with some different connotations to various words. Anyone listening to a Canadian speaker will likely be able to understand them just fine and be able to figure out these connotations with just a quick second thought. Canadian English is a mixture of both American and British English with a healthy dose of its own words tossed into the mix. You must beware of some local differences to some of these words as well.
Grammatically speaking there are no major differences but because of the generous mix of American and British English influences there are some Canadian predispositions to be expected. Articulation and pronunciation are distinctly Canadian features of Canadian English vocabulary. Canadian English borrows many words from its multicultural heritage and aboriginal peoples. Words also take their origin from the general geography and topography and even from the plant and animal life unique to Canada.
Some uniquely Canadian words and phrases are:
Anglophone – English speaking Quebecers
- Francophone – French speaking Quebecers
- Allophone – someone other than an Anglophone or francophone who lives in Quebec and speaks a different first language.
- Canada uses the metric system so all measurement are in metric.
- Eaves troughs instead of rain gutters
- The word about sounding like “aboot”
- Canada has concession or rural routes for back or country roads. Many roads are also called lines specifically in Ontario, the largest province.
- They gauge heat and humidity by their humidex
- A garbage disposal is called a garburator
- Joe jobs are low paid low class work
- They have a dollar coin called a loonie and a two dollar coin called what else – a twoonie
- Sofas or couches are referred to as chesterfields
- Bogs are referred to as muskegs
- Pogey refers to welfare or unemployment insurance
- Someone onside means they are in agreement offside means they are ahead of the puck in a hockey game
- Skidoo is a brand name of a snowmobile and is commonly used to describe the snow machine.
- Tuque describes a winter wool cap or toque (“kook”)
- Serviette in place of a napkin.
The list is nearly endless but you get the idea that there certainly is uniqueness that would be noticed by a Canadian. The closer to the American border a Canadian city is located the less the language differences. The same words pronounced one way in the U.S. sound different in Canada such as dog collar or in Canada dog “caller”.
There are distinctions with annunciation of letters throughout Canadian English such as “t’ sounding like “d”. The spelling of words is the major difference between other English languages vs. Canadian English.