Canadian Language(s) eh!

Having lived in Canada for so many years, I think that I have a pretty good grasp on not only who Canadians are, but how they communicate with each other!

Canada has an interesting history which is evidenced by many of our place names.

For example. If you rearrange the letters spelling the name of the City I first worked in, you would logically have an anagram. If you rearranged them yet again, and into the correct sequence, you could be forgiven for still thinking that you have an anagram!

Canada has two official languages, neither of which has any connection with the original residents here. However, although Canada really does have two official languages, being English and French, the realities are rather different and we all need to determine the “language of choice”  for any given part of Canada if we are going to communicate effectively.  As an example, many of the French contingent avoid speaking English, and the English speaking contingent are trying hard to forget French.

Newfoundland’s bilingualism is simply something that vaguely resembles English… and Noof. Other Maritime Provinces use similar English to Newfoundland with a rather creative and puzzling variation on French as the alternate language.

The Province of Quebec claims first prize for French but, sadly, it is not easily understood in France.  Try talking Shakespearean English in London (England) and you will get an understanding of France’s position.

The other Provinces are discreet enough to mask their obvious preference to what is generally known as English. “Generally known as” is an appropriate term because it does gets a little more complicated.

Someone once described England and the US as two countries separated by a common language and, when one considers what the US has done to the English language, the comment makes perfect sense. Due to the size and location of the US, they have clearly, and inevitably, influenced the language in Canada which has resulted in much confusion.

For example. Every kitchen in England has a cooker. When the English use their cooker, they are (no surprise) cooking!. In Canada (thank you US) every kitchen has a stove, and yet never have I heard of anybody stoving!  Of course it could be argued that “hoods and trunks” make more sense than “bonnets and boots” but hey……. it’s a really old language and is therefore entitled to some quirks eh!

The variations of our two official languages that are spoken between our three coast lines really is remarkable. We are proud of our multi-cultural population and their willingness to integrate while maintaining their own languages, and so the end result is a potential smorgasbord of sounds as you walk around (e.g.) Toronto (aka Tronna or TO [tee-o]).

So what does “two official languages mean”?

It means that wherever we go, we are likely to be confronted with signage in both languages. It means that business mail intended for wide distribution will have the English on one side, and the French on the other side. It means that products marketed in Canada must show both languages in all associated texts. It means that I often ponder over just how much of my taxes are going to the various levels of government in order to not only support our bilingualism both in signage and documentation, but also in enforcement.

I have recently heard “confused” and “Canadian” used in the same sentence as an attempt to describe us!

Given that our most common language spoken is US English; that early French is also confronting us on a regular basis; that on any given day around here, I can hear conversations in  Portuguese, Italian, Chinese & Korean, interspersed with smatterings of Slavic languages and perhaps the odd Dutch and German contributions; that we have significant East Indian and West Indian residents and, in my first job in Canada, my first contact was with a Japanese gentleman; that not only do we hear numerous variations on English based on where they originally came from in England, but we also have a S. African contingent with their own unique presentation of the English Language….. confused?????

Of course we are and, in my best English, …. “Damn proud of it eh!”

Footnote: In this “melting pot of cultures” that we call Canada, there are so many nationalities that I did not mention. My apologies to them, but readers should know that they are all a valuable part of the Canada that we love!


35 thoughts on “Canadian Language(s) eh!

  1. I’m a Canadian dog and I live in BC. In my ‘hood there are people from every continent speaking all kinds of languages. I woof it here!
    Louisdog Armstrong
    Louis the Blogging Dog

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  2. Living in a country that is closely bound to a country with four official languages … I can relate a lot. The difference in Switzerland is that the languages are limited to particular areas. There everything is written in that language and not two or more which makes it a bit easier.

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              • Exactly! The mulit-lingual system is a part of Switzerland for….. forever … lol. But there is also a political party in Switzerland which unfortunately has become very big. They are going for separations regarding keeping Switherland more Swiss. But that has nothing to do with the languages which are part of and actully something special about Switzerland. But the separation-bug is everywhere!

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                • In a world where commercialism rules; where the populations are so often at the mercy of self-serving political will; where the news media is bombarding us daily with negative events, and where we appear to have very little control over our lives which translates so easily into apathy…. no wonder that so many people are fighting for some sort of national identity. Fortunately for us, we already have an identity of multi-culturalism, and we now have a PM who is furthering that image.

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                  • Very true, Colin. The countries in Europe are trying to secure their identity… the smaller the more. But the leaders of those political parties are working with the wrong tools. They are spreading fear instead of searching for options to be open for everyone and still celebrate the special things about their country. They still work with statements that closing borders and limited and more difficult immigration is needed. Ok, there are limits, of course, because the state needs to be able to take care of its population. But that is something different.

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                    • It almost comes down to a philosophical position. Does a country with a high standard of living, force its population to lower their standard of living knowing that in doing so it can help those fighting for survival to raise their standard of living? I suspect that too many countries would not see that as a valid trade-off. i.e. we may well be developing into very self-centred cultures. Based on that assumption, then the future is rather questionable.

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                    • The opinions go far apart. Most of the people are still for a strong community that also welcomes people from everywhere. But they devidein many parties which gives the one party more weight. I think that people still see that in the end there is no future in separation but only in union!

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                    • There seems to be a significant number of people who agree that many countries/many refugees should be helped, but somebody else has do it! Likewise they agree that governments should pour more money into the poverty areas, but only as long as it does not impact their taxes! Fortunately, I do know people who are prepared to make personal sacrifices for humane reasons. 🙂

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                    • Well,that is actually so true, Colin! You touched an importnt point. As long as they don’t need to give something or they have to change something they are generous. That’s very true! But as you say, thank God there are others too. The way things happen at the moment may lead to the insight that only when we are willing to change something in our little worlds also the big world can change.

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  3. I was surprised when I got out to western (and especially northwestern) Canada and stopped seeing the French everywhere – of course, once you hit the Yukon, you’re pretty much at the end of the world. Having spent most of my time in Canada in Ontario, I expected to see the dual language signs and the like everywhere in Canada, even the absolute ends of the country.

    Here’s a good one on Canadian language – there is a little community along the Alaskan Highway called Burwash Landing, and it has street signs in the local First Nations language:

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  4. Colin, when I first moved to TN from PA, I was around a person from middle Tennessee a lot. I couldn’t understand most of what he said. Even in eastern TN (think Chattanooga and Atlanta GA) it took me a while with the more country folk. earl? what’ ear? Oh, oi.

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