Fascinating Facts To Know About Canadian Languages
Updated: Aug 26, 2021
“A language is not just words. It’s a culture, a tradition, a unification of a community, a whole history that creates what a community is. It’s all embodied in a language.” – Noam Chomsky
As a newcomer to Canada, you are expected to be fluent in at least one of the two official languages, English or French; what you don’t know is that there is a third unofficial one: Canadian slang. So don’t let your ego fool you, regardless of where you lived before your move, and no matter how long you have spoken, written and read any of those two languages, you still have quite a bit to learn. Your linguistic skills will be challenged from the day you land, so be aware that the faster you learn slang words, the more natural you’ll sound.
Let me start with the English language. It’s just a matter of time before you get used to Canada’s idioms; some sentences and words will sound too funny when you first hear them, you will come to realize that they might even vary from one province to another.
The Canucks (slang for Canadians) will unintentionally confuse you as a newbie. For instance, they would add the word ‘eh’ (pronounced ‘ay’) at the end of almost any sentence; they substitute the word ‘kilometers’ with ‘clicks’ as a quicker way to refer to distance, “Andrew lives only 19 clicks away”; they have a common way to order their coffee with double cream-double sugar from Tim Hortons, by just ordering a ‘double-double’; and they nickname their one-dollar coin ‘loonie’ to refer to the Loon bird image stamped on it, and their two-dollar coin ‘toonie’! Remarkable, ‘Eh’?!
You will learn with time about the unique vocabulary used in the daily Canadian language: Tuque (a knitted cap), runners (sneakers), parkade (multi-level parking), pop (soft drinks), or garburator (garbage eater in a kitchen sink). Pronunciation of words is another whole world in the Canadian English language: ‘about’ is ‘aboot’, ‘caramel’ is ‘CAR-mel’ in Newfoundland, and ‘Toronto’ is ‘tronnoh’.
Reading some Canadian words is not easier; I got laughed at and corrected by another immigrant-friend (what an arrogant loser!) when I had first moved to Toronto city, for reading ‘Gloucester Street’ as it is actually written ‘glaw-ses-ter’!! How on earth would you know how to read correctly ‘Queens Quay’, ‘Tecumseth’, ‘Etobicoke’ or ‘Scarborough’ right away? So don’t take it too hard on yourselves, you will get there.
You know what’s ‘le fun’? it’s talking about the French-Canadian language, that retained words from the 17th and 18th centuries, primarily from the early French settlers in New France (today known as the province of Quebec)! Today, Quebec has its own dialect that differs from Parisian French in vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar. The best part is that Quebecois French has fascinating slang words and expressions that would leave you dazzled when you first hear them.
Though both Québécois and Français use standard French in grammar rules, verb conjugations and sentence structures, they differ in accents and word choices. For instance, ‘une blonde’ means ‘une copine’, ‘la job’ is ‘le boulot’ and ‘un char’ is ‘une voiture’; ‘barrer’ is ‘fermer à clef’, ‘magasiner’ is ‘faire du shopping’, and ‘bon matin’ is ‘bonjour’! Calques are expressions translated directly from English, such as ‘avoir du fun’ or ‘ça fait du sens’. So, moving to Quebec? Make sure you familiarize yourself with their French vocabulary by checking some YouTube videos and some slang language references.
Know this; Canada's linguistic diversity extends beyond the two official languages. More than 14% of the population speaks a language other than English or French, and 0.6% speak an indigenous language as their mother tongue, which means that almost everyone has a distinct accent or dialect. Amy Chua wrote: "Do you know what a foreign accent is? It’s a sign of bravery", so own it dear immigrant, you will learn the slang and acquire the accent with time.