help, I'll provide a
basic recipe for how to talk like a Canadian
(from the perspective of an American working for a Canadian
1. End every 4th or 5th sentence with the very fast question "eh?", as in "That sounds like a
good plan, eh?" (And yes, even after leaving Canada 2 years ago, my ~5 years there infected me and you will still here this occasionally in my FIR reports or my own podcast.)
2. Practice a
slightly different intonation of vowels and emphasis on different syllables. The oft-cited and extreme case is where "abOUT" becomes more like
"abOOT". One I run into all the time is where the American "praw-CESS" become "PRO-cess" (with stronger emphasis on first).
3. Never say "I went to
college" as that implies a
lower-level, more trade-type school. Say instead "I went to
university" even if the school you went to
was, in fact, called a
4. Drop out "the" in certain key phrases like
"the accident victim was sent to
hospital" versus "to
the hospital". You won't really have any idea where you should drop out the "the", so just do it randomly.
5. Realize that the capital of Canada is, in fact, Ottawa, despite the opinions of those who live within the greater Toronto area.
6. They have a
"Prime Minister" instead of a
President. Their current one is Stephen Harper who is basically a
more polite version of George Bush with nicer hair. He probably won't last long - and they at least have a
system where they can bring down governments they don't like
7. Learn about hockey, as it will factor into many if not most conversations. As a
point of reference, despite the fact that it is June and 80 degrees out, the Ottawa Senators were just now playing the Anaheim (yes, as in Disneyland and California) Ducks (formerly "Mighty Ducks") in this little contest they call the "Stanley Cup". The Ducks just won last night, so be prepared for intense hand-wringing and concern that an American team won (even though all NHL teams are pretty much just a
different group of Canadian
, Czechs, Finns and Russians with a
few token Americans thrown in) and of course the view from the Torontonians that the Maple Leafs would have done better. Realize, too, that all the discussion will shift to
analysis of the games and of the season and then into preparations for the next season which will start in a
month or two. Also realize that while most Americans might be playing baseball, football or soccer right now, many Canadians are playing "ball hockey" which is essentially hockey without the ice... this helps them prepare for hockey season which will start in a
month or two as soon as everyone returns from their summer "cottages".
8. Obsess about the US and what Americans think about Canada and the latest Canadian
political moves. (Even though 99% of Americans generally don't think about Canada at all and would be hard-pressed to
provided any information whatsoever about Canadian
politics or who is in charge.)
9. Remind any American who uses the term "American" that the term is arrogant and forgets the fact that "the Americas" also includes Canada, Mexico and a
host of other countries.
10. Complain about the health care system. Everyone has a
story of their great aunt Millie who had to
wait eight months to
get an MRI scan. (Don't point out that they could just buy more MRI machines - and whatever you do, don't bring up the massive spreadsheets you have to
maintain under the US system to
ensure adequate reimbursement, the large out-of-pocket expenses you have to
spend or the massive gaps in coverage... let them continue to
suffer under the delusion that its better down here.)
11. Get and use your Facebook account. If you are Canadian
, you have to
have one. (http://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=2398302130
12. Be polite. Be very polite. (Unless, of course, you are engaged in a
televised political debate or are getting into an argument about hockey.)
If you follow this 12-step program, you should have little problem talking and interacting with Canadians.
Finally, once podcaster suggested that you weren't a true Canadian until you could understand the sentence: "Please pass me a serviette. I've spilled poutine on the chesterfield." (The scary aspect, of course, is that the sentence made perfect sense to me.
In any event, I hope you've enjoyed this little trip through the common language that divides our two nations and that it might help you should you ever journey to the great white north.
Comments and additional examples are certainly welcome. Please just do the Canadian thing and be polite, eh?