Most newcomers to Canada are at least moderately fluent in English. But speaking English like a Canadian? That is a totally different matter.
Canadian English is different in that it borrows from both the British and American dictionaries. Add to that the slang and pronunciation that is unique to Canada, and you might just wonder if you speak the same language as those Canucks.
That last term, if you were wondering, is slang for Canadians. (A list of commonly used slang is included at the end of this article).
It has often been said that the easiest way to tell whether you are speaking to an American or Canadian is to listen for an 'eh?' at the end of every sentence. That's an exaggeration, but not a very big one. Canadian do tend to finish many of their sentences with an 'eh', much like Americans would say 'you know'.
There are other notable differences in the English spoken in the two neighbouring countries. For example, Canadians pronounce the last letter of the alphabet 'zed' as with British English, rather than the American 'zee'.
When Canadians say they are at "school", they could be referring to high school, community college, educational institute, or university. An American would specify: "I am in university."
Canadian students will proclaim themselves as being in "Grade 8" rather than "8th Grade" as with their Americans cousins. American terms like "sophomore" and "freshman" are never used, Canadians will instead use the specific high school grade (Grade 9 or Grade 12 in these instances).
While these are relatively minor differences, there are also instances where
Canadian and American English can mean two completely opposite things. For example, to table a document in Canada is to present it, whereas in the US it means to withdraw it from consideration.
When it comes to pronunciation, Americanization is slowly creeping in, perhaps influenced by the TV programming which is dominated by US networks and cable companies. Nevertheless, Canadians continue to use British English pronunciation for words like fragile, fertile, mobile, semi- and anti-.
Likewise, in Canada, you can expect to see words like 'colour', 'theatre' and 'catalogue' spelt the British way, rather than the American 'color', 'theater' and 'catalog'; but we opt to follow the Americans with words like 'tire' (rather than the British 'tyre') and 'draft' ('draught').
American -ize endings (organize, cannibalize) also score over the British equivalents which end with -ise.
English, like any other major language, is always evolving, but the change is perceptibly faster in Canada's major cities where the influence of immigrant languages can be seen in some of the street slang.
Some of the slang is also directed at immigrants - often intended to be derogatory.
For example, F.O.B. means fresh off the boat, aimed at newly arrived (usually Asian) immigrants. Likewise, a Gino is an Italian who dresses in tight clothing (particularly denim), uses hair gel and wears gold chains, and has a macho attitude, while a Gina is a airheaded woman who associates with a Gino.
Lest this put you off, we should balance that somewhat by pointing out that those slurs are now increasingly being used in a more light-hearted way, and at any immigrant who might meet that description.
Also, remember how we spoke about the slang term 'Canuck' at the start of this piece? Well, Canuck started out as a term that was used disparagingly to describe Canadians; now not only do Canadians wear the badge with pride, one of the country's best ice hockey teams is called the Vancouver Canucks.
Finally, let's take you through an A-Z of commonly used Canadian slang. This list has been compiled from many sources, primarily Wikipedia. Enjoy.
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