How to speak Canadian English
Listening
How to speak Canadian English

After my posts on Kiwi, Australian, British and American English, this post is all about the English you may see, hear and need to use in Canada. So if you’re planning to live, work or study in Canada, check out the examples of Canadian English below and, if you don’t like the cold, plan to go in summer or pack a ‘toque’ (a beanie or woolly hat) pronounced /təʊk/. Weather When I visited Canada, it was early summer so I didn’t experience how hot or cold it can get. I have heard from Canadian friends though how the extremes in temperature in some parts of Canada mean that some unique vocabulary is needed to describe it. Canadians may say the temperature is plus or minus even when it’s obvious which one it is. If it’s 30° Celsius on a summer’s day, you may hear someone say it’s ‘plus 30’ even though the difference between 30° Celsius (hot) and -30° Celsius (freezing cold) is several layers of clothing! To help you decide what to wear, listen to what the ‘wind chill’ is when you watch the weather forecast. The wind chill is how much colder the temperature will feel due to the wind, e.g. “It’s minus 20, but minus 25 with the wind chill”. If it’s too cold, you can always use the elevated or underground ‘pedways’ (covered walkways) between buildings if you’re in one of the cities with them. Money Some words that you’ll definitely need to know if you visit Canada are the names for coins because they are different to those in other English-speaking countries. A ‘loonie’ is the Canadian word for a one-dollar coin because it has a type of bird called a loon on one side. A ‘Toonie’ is the word for a two-dollar coin.  So, if you need to change a two-dollar for two one-dollar coins (or vice versa), you’ll need to ask... Do you have two loonies for a toonie? Do you have a toonie for two loonies? It’s also important to know that the name Canadians often use for a ‘cash machine’, ‘cashpoint’ or ‘ATM’ is ‘bank machine’ or ‘ABM’. So now you know the names for coins, let’s see how you might spend them! Free time If you decide to watch Canada’s most popular spectator sport, ice hockey, you’ll find that it’s simply called ‘hockey’ in Canada.  To see all the action, you need to be at the game by ‘puck drop’, the time when the puck hits the ice and the game starts.   If you like coffee, you’ll no doubt hear someone ordering a ‘double-double’ (a coffee with double sugar and double cream) and may want to try one yourself. A favourite memory from my visit, and something I’m happy to recommend, is eating ‘Timbits’, the bits cut out from the middle of doughnuts from the Canadian-based franchise Tim Horton’s (more often called ‘Timmies’ or ‘Tims’ by Canadians). I can’t remember how many I ate but it was more than was good for me! Spelling You’ll find examples of both British and American English spelling used in Canada. To give you a few examples, Canadians tend to use the British English spellings of colour, centre, and theatre (not the American spellings of color, center and theater) but tend to use the American spellings of favorite, program and tire (not the British spellings of favourite, programme and tyre). While you may find this difficult to remember, the good news is that both American and British spellings are accepted in IELTS. English and French With both English and French being official languages in Canada, don’t forget that you’ll see and possibly hear French while there. You’ll see French on signage at airports, government offices and national parks and hear some French words used by English speakers if you visit Quebec, a mostly French-speaking province. Bonne chance (Good luck) with your IELTS test! Pete

Pete Jones

22 July, 2020

How to speak Canadian English

How to speak Canadian English

After my posts on Kiwi, Australian, British and American English, this post is all about the English you may see, hear and need to use in Canada.

So if you’re planning to live, work or study in Canada, check out the examples of Canadian English below and, if you don’t like the cold, plan to go in summer or pack a ‘toque’ (a beanie or woolly hat) pronounced /təʊk/.

Toque Canadian English

Weather

When I visited Canada, it was early summer so I didn’t experience how hot or cold it can get. I have heard from Canadian friends though how the extremes in temperature in some parts of Canada mean that some unique vocabulary is needed to describe it.

Canadians may say the temperature is plus or minus even when it’s obvious which one it is. If it’s 30° Celsius on a summer’s day, you may hear someone say it’s ‘plus 30’ even though the difference between 30° Celsius (hot) and -30° Celsius (freezing cold) is several layers of clothing!

To help you decide what to wear, listen to what the ‘wind chill’ is when you watch the weather forecast. The wind chill is how much colder the temperature will feel due to the wind, e.g. “It’s minus 20, but minus 25 with the wind chill”.

If it’s too cold, you can always use the elevated or underground ‘pedways’ (covered walkways) between buildings if you’re in one of the cities with them.

Money

Some words that you’ll definitely need to know if you visit Canada are the names for coins because they are different to those in other English-speaking countries.

A ‘loonie’ is the Canadian word for a one-dollar coin because it has a type of bird called a loon on one side. A ‘Toonie’ is the word for a two-dollar coin. 

So, if you need to change a two-dollar for two one-dollar coins (or vice versa), you’ll need to ask...

  • Do you have two loonies for a toonie?
  • Do you have a toonie for two loonies?
Loonie and Toonie

It’s also important to know that the name Canadians often use for a ‘cash machine’, ‘cashpoint’ or ‘ATM’ is ‘bank machine’ or ‘ABM’.

So now you know the names for coins, let’s see how you might spend them!

Free time

If you decide to watch Canada’s most popular spectator sport, ice hockey, you’ll find that it’s simply called ‘hockey’ in Canada. 

To see all the action, you need to be at the game by ‘puck drop’, the time when the puck hits the ice and the game starts.

Hockey

 

If you like coffee, you’ll no doubt hear someone ordering a ‘double-double’ (a coffee with double sugar and double cream) and may want to try one yourself.

A favourite memory from my visit, and something I’m happy to recommend, is eating ‘Timbits’, the bits cut out from the middle of doughnuts from the Canadian-based franchise Tim Horton’s (more often called ‘Timmies’ or ‘Tims’ by Canadians). I can’t remember how many I ate but it was more than was good for me!

Spelling

You’ll find examples of both British and American English spelling used in Canada.

To give you a few examples, Canadians tend to use the British English spellings of colour, centre, and theatre (not the American spellings of color, center and theater) but tend to use the American spellings of favorite, program and tire (not the British spellings of favourite, programme and tyre).

While you may find this difficult to remember, the good news is that both American and British spellings are accepted in IELTS.

English and French

With both English and French being official languages in Canada, don’t forget that you’ll see and possibly hear French while there.

You’ll see French on signage at airports, government offices and national parks and hear some French words used by English speakers if you visit Quebec, a mostly French-speaking province.

Bonne chance (Good luck) with your IELTS test!

Pete

Pete Jones

Pete has been helping IELTS test takers and teachers for many years and really enjoys helping people improve their English and their IELTS band score.

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