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Translating Into Canadian English
English is English unless it is actually UK English spoken in Britain or Canadian English spoken in Canada. There aren’t huge differences in general North American English, but there are some subtle nuances that will surprise a translator who doesn’t understand them.
Canada is a geographically vast country with its own history, political center and cultural realities. It stands to reason that Canadians would have their own ways of expressing themselves. The first thing a translator should know about Canada is that it has two official languages, French and English. The French language spoken in the province of Quebec is also somewhat different from the version spoken in France. Canadian French is intelligible to native French speakers, 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 and is a real melting pot. This means that after the two official languages many other languages are spoken as a first language and English or French as a second language is common. For example, Chinese dialects are the third most popular language after French and English.
Britain and France both claimed territories in Canada in the 1600s and eventually all became British with Canada gaining its independence in 1867. Comprised of ten provinces and 3 territories, Canada is the second largest country in the world based on geography.
Canadian English is very similar to English from the rest of the world with some different connotations in various words. Anyone listening to a Canadian speaker will probably be able to understand them just fine and will be able to pick up on these connotations with a quick second thought. Canadian English is a mixture of American and British English with a healthy dose of its own words mixed in. You also need to watch out for some regional differences in some of these words.
Grammatically, there are no major differences, but due to the generous mix of American and British English influences, some Canadian leanings are 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 origins from the general geography and topography, and even from the plant and animal life unique to Canada.
Some uniquely Canadian words and phrases are:
Anglophones – Anglophone Quebecers
- Francophones – French-speaking Quebecers
- Allophone – someone other than an English or French speaker who lives in Quebec and speaks a different first language.
- Canada uses the metric system, so all measurements are metric.
- Troughs with eaves instead of gutters
- The word to sound like “aboot”
- Canada has concession routes or rural routes for back or country roads. Many roads are also called lines especially in Ontario, the largest province.
- They measure heat and humidity with their humidex
- The garbage disposal is called a garburator
- Joe positions are low paying low grade jobs
- 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
- Marshes are referred to as muskrats
- Pogey refers to welfare or unemployment insurance
- Someone on the sidelines means they are in an offside agreement means they are ahead of the points in a hockey game
- Skidoo is a brand name of a snow vehicle and is commonly used to describe a snow machine.
- Tuque describes a winter woolen cap or toque (“toque”)
- Napkin instead of a paper towel.
The list is almost endless, but you get the idea that there is definitely uniqueness that a Canadian would notice. The closer a Canadian city is to the US border, the less linguistic differences there are. The same words that are pronounced one way in the US sound differently in Canada, such as dog collar or in Canada “dog calls”.
There are letter pronunciation distinctions throughout Canadian English, such as “t” sounding like “d”. The spelling of words is the main difference between other English languages versus Canadian English.
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