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Canadian and American accents

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21. Posted by bvheide (Budding Member 20 posts) 10y

I'm from Michigan and can tell the difference between Canadian and Minnesotan and UP accents. In reality though, the accents are nearly identical. Often, it's not until a few key words slip out (like about or eh) that you know for sure.

As for Michigan accents (at least LP ones) I've been told they're more nasal.

I find it much more difficult to detect a difference between a Western Canadian accent and US accents. Usually, for me at least, Ontario and Quebec accents (and the maritime provincal accents) are the easiest to pick out.

22. Posted by MerB (Full Member 147 posts) 10y

Quoting Clarabell

[quote]
there's absolutly no such thing as a British accent.

Not true!! Not to a foreign ear!!

23. Posted by Sliver24 (Budding Member 18 posts) 10y

For me, being a Canadian, it's usually pretty easy to tell an American from a Canadian based on their accent. It's not always immediately obvious, but within a few minutes a syllable or two will come out that make it easy to distinguish. Unfortunately, accurately explaining the difference using written language is almost impossible.

In Canada, Newfies have a distinct accent and a very unique dialect. People from the Maritimes (the three other Atlantic provinces) also have a distinct accent, but it's not nearly as noticeable as Newfie. In Quebec there's obviously the French aspect, but you'd be hard pressed to tell an anglophone Montrealer from someone from Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton or Vancouver. I'm an anglo Montrealer who's lived in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto, and I'd say people from Canada's biggest cities more or less speak with the same accent. Small towns in the prairies have a little bit of a different twang to their accent too. They probably are closest to the stereotypical parody of a Canadian accent (Hey, how's it goin', eh? Hoser.)

The US is pretty diverse when it comes to accents. There is the New England accent (think John F. Kennedy), New York accent (George from Seinfeld), Southern accent (ever seen Bull Durham?), Texan (King of the Hill) and a whole bunch of others. In my opinion Hollywood English probably closer to a generic 'Canadian' accent than it is to any specific American accent.

I can almost always tell the difference between Oz, NZ, England, Scotland, Ireland, and South Africa. Most of the time it's obvious but sometimes it will take several minutes of conscious effort to do so. The more common of the accents are always obvious, but people from smaller towns can sometimes have traits that hint towards two places. Identifying an accent from Glasgow shouldn't take you too long (that would be the Groundskeeper Willie accent) Someone from Inverness, however, may not be as easy to identify to a non-Scott. To my untrained ear they always sound very English.

And Isadore, don't worry too much about Showdogs1. Some people can be pretty sensitive around these parts when it comes to language issues. The difference between Quebec and France French is pretty similar to the difference between English in Canada and in England. Arguing over which is 'proper' French is about as useful as arguing about how many angels can fit on the head of a pin...

24. Posted by RiverRuner (Budding Member 38 posts) 10y

If you cant tell if a person is Canadian or from the US, ask them how they feel about the President. If you still can't tell, check their packs, Canadians all seem to have a canadian flag pinned to the pocket...still cant tell? Refer to them as an American. If they turn three shades of red and steam starts coming out their ears, you know their not.

25. Posted by vickim (Full Member 125 posts) 10y

Basically, there are all sort of accents across Canada and the U.S. from Buffalo, to Texas, to Newfoundland, to Boston to the ranches of Alberta. Those who speak English as a second langauage only add to the confusion.

However, I have noticed there to be less notice of accents in movies and television (unless, of course, the accent is supposed to be part of the character.)

26. Posted by maba (Inactive 227 posts) 10y

We have just returned from a 2 week tour of Italy which included American & Canadian's. I could not distinguish between them by their accents. They sounded alike to me, except for the lovely Texan couple - their accent was pleasant and easy to listen to.

All participants were nice & friendly but I found the Canadians seemed to be more knowledgable of Australia. That's probably because we are both Commonwealth contries!

Lets all be friends ;)

27. Posted by vickim (Full Member 125 posts) 10y

No way!! Texans have the most weird accent of everyone! Just kidding (well, sort of).

Yes, there seems to be an unusual bond that many Canadians have with Australia. Although both countries are now quite independent from the monarchy I think that is an underlying historical bond that links us. Canadians are quite fond of you guys. For a Canadian to be able to say they are related to an Aussie is almost a status symbol.

However, as far as accents go. Were you aware that most Canadians cannot distinguish the difference between an English and Australian accent?

28. Posted by js_2005 (Budding Member 18 posts) 10y

I'm from North Dakota, about two hours from the Canadian border. We get a lot of Canadian visitors from Winnipeg who come down here to shop. I can't tell who's Canadian by their accent, it's just when the mention how difficult it is to tell our money apart that I realize they aren't American. By the way, last summer I meet some kids from California who said that me and my group of friends had Irish accents. Let me tell ya, I've listened to some people from Ireland talk and our accents don’t sound anything alike.

29. Posted by Bau (Budding Member 7 posts) 10y

ok i gotta ask, why do Americans think we say ABOOT?
i'm a Canadian, who has never left his own province...Never once have i heard someone say aboot unless they were joking, someone please clarify this for me

oh and for accents as a whole...I'd say it's quite similar...Really i can only tell a fellow Canadian by the way they stress words(unless yer from Quebec, Maritimes, far west)...But that's just hard to explain, and not every Canadian talks like that.

It's tricky :)

30. Posted by Karl7 (Budding Member 4 posts) 10y

>> i have to ask this... From an Australian point of view Canadians and Americans have very similar accents and most Australian's can't tell them apart. Is this the case with Americans and Canadians or is their a fairly big difference in the to accents? <<

Both countries have more than one dialect. There is no such thing as "Canadian" or "American" English. Both are subdialects of North American English. The largest accent region in Canada is "West Canada", which stretches from BC all the way over to Manitoba, as well as to several areas in Ontario. This dialect is bordered by the Eastern Canadian accents to the East, and to the South: the North Central dialect (parts of North Dakota, northern Minnesota, as well as the UP accent), the Northern (northern midwestern area: e.g. southern Wisconsin, southern Minnesota, northern Illinois, extends eastward up 'til about NY state), and the Western US accent. In general, there is a sharp difference in accent at the border, except for the Western US accent, where there is a dialect continuum that exists both North-South and East-West--this continuum does not go as far east in the US--just from about Washington to Western Montana: so there is a very sharp distinction between the accent of someone, say from Windsor, ON and Detroit, MI. The Western Canadian accent is characterized by 3 main features: the Canadian vowel shift, Canadian raising, and slight fronting of the "oo" (as in "moon") sound, and strong fronting before t, and d. The Canadian vowel shift is very widespread in Canada, although it is also found in the Western US: for example, California has a similar shift. But, the Western US accent can usually be distinguished from a Canadian accent because many of the places in the West that have a similar vowel shift, also come with more fronting of "oo", as well as "oh". The Canadian vowel shift is a result of the merger of the vowels in the words "cot" and "caught". It came about because most Canadians (except very old people, and certain areas in the prairies, and a few other areas) have mergered those vowels. The original pronunciation was to pronounce "cot" with very unrounded lips, and "caught" with very rounded lips--almost like cohwaht. So, originally both merged to (the original 1950's or so pronunciation) of "cot". Now both "cot" and "caught" are moving towards the original pronunciation of "caught"--the one with rounded lips. The next part of the shift causes "cat" to shift to how "cot" was originally pronounced. The final part of the shift is to get back the vowel that was lost the "a" sound (as pronounced by someone in the Great Lakes region about 50 years go), so the "e" in the word "kettle" shifts to occupy the space--so it sounds like "kettle". Of course if you have the shift, it certainly won't sound that way. Well, anyway, because not all of the US is merged (only about 40 or 50% has the merger) (only the West, parts of Texas, Pennsylvania, and some of New England, and transitioning in some areas: such as the Midlands.), "cot" and "caught" are getting farther and father apart: "cot" is starting to sound like (the old) "cat", and "caught" is beginning to sound like (the old) "cot". This is called the Northern Cities Vowel shift, that is most prominant in the Inland North (e.g. Chicago, and LP Michigan). Both the Canadian shift, and the Northern cities shift are relatively new phenomena, so of course not all speakers have them. So, therefore, if someone with the Canadian vowel shift goes from say, Windsor to Detroit, and speaks to someone with the Northern cities shift, and asks for a "map" in a hotel, they will probably get a mop; and vice versa: if someone from Detroit asks for a "mop" in Canada (or in many parts of the Western US, such as California), they might just get a map instead. (Although if they asked for a map, they would also probably get a map, because "map" is shifting to "may-up" or "me-up). Some areas of Ontario are slightly influenced by the NCVS, though: hockey starting to sound like-> hackey. The North Central dialect: northern Minnesota, the UP of Michigan, etc., has neither shift. The Northwestern US (WA and OR for example) is variable: some speakers have the Canadian vowel
shift, but most have no shift at all.

>> The Canadians who speak English as their language are noticable because of their pronunciation of certian words - such as about. We say it and it rhymes with out - they say it and it rhymes with boot. <<

Yeah, everyone's heard about that before--Americans say Canadians say "oot and aboot" or "ote and abote", and Canadians say something like: >> (moutallica) I've never actually met a Canadian that says it 'aboot'. <<

This phenomenon is known as Canadian raising. It is strongest in the prairies, and in rural areas of BC. In Ontario, some speakers have it, others have no trace of it--and thus will sound very similar (but not exacly like) to people from Washington or Oregon (because remember the (which have only very limited raising), because remember, the Western dialect in Canada extends all the way to Manitoba and a little beyond (Toronto is definitely included), but in the US, it peeters out around Montana, and the NY and Ontario accent are not very similar.

>> I've never actually met a Canadian that says it 'aboot'. <<

Well, true, it's not really "aboot"... The reason it sounds like aboot or aboat to Americans is that Canadian raising (which affects certain areas in the North Central US too... and that's why some of them sound like they have a "Canadian" accent...) causes the diphthongs "i" as in "fight", and "ow" as in "out" to be pronounced in a more central position in the mouth when a voiceless consonant (where the vocal chords do not vibrate: such as p, t, k, f, s, or the "th" in the word "thin" [but not in the word "the"]) follows it. This makes the vowel sounds in "loud" and "out" not be pronounced the same... (although people with the raising will sometimes still perceive them to be the same.), as well as "rider" and "writer".-- So in some dialects "rider" and "writer" can be distinguished from each other (even though the "t" is always pronounced as a "d" in both instances in casual speech), because writer will have a more centralized vowel.
What's interesting, is that if you have the "raising", you probably won't be able to hear it easily-- although people without it will. Also, raising the "i" (as in fight) sound is widespread in the US as well, so most Americans don't notice this aspect...but raising "ow" is very uncommon in the US--just some areas in the North Central area, and (*very* few) areas in the Pacific Northwest.
So... to say the word about (without raising), when you get to the "ow" sound in the middle, here is how it's done: it starts with the "a" sound in the word "bad" (at least in California... in the Midwest and Pacific NW, it's closer to the "ah" in "caught" [merged dialects ah=aw]), and then quickly saying the "oo" as in "moon". If you say it fast enough, you will be saying "ow". For "i" (as in fight), say "a" (as in bad) followed by "ee" (feet), and you will get the 1st person pronoun. Ok... so to add raising to these, say replace the "a" part of the diphthong with an "uh" sound (the 'o' in the word 'love'), and then quickly say the "oo" as in "moon", followed by a voiceless consonant: like t or p. So "about" will sound kinda like "uh-b-uh-oo-t"; out like uh-oo-t.

>> "A-boot" is an exageration though. I think "a-boat" is more like it, whereas Americans will almost always say "a-bowt". <<
Try uhbuh-oot, it's a little closer (if you say the "uh" as in the "e" in "the", and "oo" as in moon, and say it really fast and connected.)

>> Us Canadians speak slower and have softer pronunciation.<<
Some Americans do too... Texans talk really slowly...

>> "Say yah to da U.P. eh?!" <<
but would you ever say something like "Thanks, eh" or "I know, eh" --in a *few* dialects in Canadian English these are perfectly acceptable.