Learning to speak Canadian English (It’s not British or American – it’s Canadian)

Canadian button

When we moved to Canada, we had already spent a lot of time here and were aware of the cultural differences between the UK & our new home. What came as a big surprise to many of our new Canadian friends was how different ‘English – English’ and ‘Canadian – English’ could be.

So to help our Canadian friends understand our occasional use of ‘English – English’ in both speech and the written word, and to assist those new to Canada and confused about the meaning and spelling of some words, I have compiled this short list to help you out. You are very welcome!

Spelling

After fourteen years, this still confuses me no end. Canadians keep the ‘u’ in certain words (colour, neighbour, valour, etc.) like the British, but some people also use the ‘z’ instead of the ‘s’ in other words such as ‘specialized’, ‘realized’ etc.  To add to the confusion the double L is preferred in words like travelled, as apposed to the Americans who just use the one.

As someone who still cannot spell well at the age of 44 (not 45 for another 4 weeks), I choose to set all of my programmes & apps to ‘Canadian English’ and let them sort it out for me.

School

In Britain, public schools are the private schools you pay for and the free education system supplied by the government have ‘State’ schools. Canadians, very sensibly refer to state schools as public schools and private schools as private!

In Canada, high school graduates go to either college or University but at no point in their education are they a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior – that’s just the Americans.

Also, although in Britain I loved Maths, here I love Math – which I much prefer.

On a final but crucial point, if buying school supplies for your kiddos don’t ask someone in the store where to find the rubbers for your daughter – especially if she is with you and obviously only six years old. Here, you ask for erasers because rubbers are a contraceptive. Trust me; I have just saved you from experiencing the most embarrassing shopping trip ever.

 

Out & Aboot (!)

There are many places and many occasions where the English & the Canadian diverge. If you ‘need to go’ don’t ask where the toilet is (although people will understand it’s just considered a bit rude) ask instead for the washroom or bathroom.

If you want to see 22 men & a ball on a pitch, suggest a soccer game. If you get tickets for football, you are going to see a different game entirely!

Don’t ask for change to get a trolley when you go shopping, request a quarter for the cart (or buggy). While you’re shopping you will want to buy diapers, not nappies. Candy, not sweets, cookies not biscuits and never, ever ask where the faggots are because over here it has an entirely different and highly offensive meaning.

While I cannot cover every eventuality here are some of the other language differences that caused me problems in my first few years, with the English version first:

Lift – Elevator

Buggy – Stroller

Trousers – Pants

Jumper – Sweater

Trainers – Runners

Chips – Fries

Crisps – Chips

Jam – Jelly

Jelly – Jello

Off Licence – Liqueur Store

Bonnet – Hood

Boot – Trunk

Rubber – Eraser

Autumn – Fall

Barrister – Lawyer

Finally, there are many wonderful Canadian words & phrases that have no English equivalent. You may encounter a cougar, wearing a toque, buying a Two-Four. If you want to know what that is perhaps, you’ll have to come & visit us & perhaps we’ll let you in on the fun.

1 COMMENT

  1. Delightful! I think I’d be ok for a bit if I crossed the pond as I’m fairly aware of British English but I didn’t realize how much trouble the reverse would be!

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