If you’re looking to learn a Canadian accent online, it’s important to figure out which Canadian accent you need to learn. Last summer I had the opportunity to travel across a great deal of Canada in our old 87 VW camper van, catching bits and pieces of the beauty of Canada and pulling out the recorder every chance I got.
French Canadian Accents
When someone says they want to speak with a Canadian accent, they generally mean they want to speak English. Canada is technically a bi-lingual country, recognizing both French and English as the official languages. This shows up in road signs all across Canada, though the French is primarily spoken in and around Quebec, more towards the east of Canada.
If you’re hoping to learn a French Canadian accent, you’ll be pretty darned close if you just learn a French accent of a person from France. (We've included both in the same volume of materials.) The English speaking is quite close – French Canadian tends to have some of the Canadianisms in it, whereas “French French” is more influenced by being based in the English of England, usually. The actual French, however, is quite different. The two languages have grown apart over the last couple of centuries, though many of the speakers would still be mutually understandable with the major variations being the more modern terminology – slang is hugely different.
Canadian Maritimes Accents
These are also not what a lot of people think of as a “Canadian accent.” The far east coast of Canada, including the islands off the coast and around the Gulf of St. Lawrence, is often called the Atlantic Provinces, including New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador. The first three of these are known as the Maritimes Provinces – Newfoundland and Labrador are the odd one out, all the more odd because the two are one province… (Newfoundland – the more populated of the two-in-one – is often considered a separate accent from the rest of the Maritimes, too, but we have to generalize at some point in order to discuss accents rather than a single person’s mode of speaking.)
There are a number of French speakers here as well, especially in areas closer to Quebec. Portions of this region are also known as Acadia. People who were forced out of there in the mid-18th century, and many of them fled to southern Louisiana – the term Cajun comes from a casual way of saying Acadian. Both Cajun French and Cajun accents vary from the French and English of contemporary Acadians – separated by a couple of centuries.
Unfortunately our travels didn’t take us this far east, so development of this accent for AccentHelp will have to wait for another trip.
When most people inquire about learning a Canadian accent, they mean something based in English from west of Quebec. They probably also aren’t suggesting something too far north in the country, such as all the way up in Nunavut, the newest Canadian province. They also don’t usually mean the accent of First Nations – “Native Americans” doesn’t really apply north of the border – though many First Nations speak with an accent identical to the European-Canadians in their community.
I’d still subdivide this Canadian accent into two major categories: General Canadian and Broad Canadian. General Canadian is a lot like General American or American Broadcast Standard, though it has some distinct differences. Broad Canadian is more along the line of the stereotypical Canadian accent of Bob and Doug McKenzie from SCTV – The Great White North. This is closer to the oot and aboot stereotype – though, in reality, that description of the pronunciation is grossly inaccurate and is often offensive to Canadians.
General Canadian can be found all across the middle and west of Canada, but it seems to be primarily in the eastern part of this region, especially around Toronto. The strongest stereotypical Broad Canadian is especially present in and around Manitoba – in general, “country” accents tend to be more Broad, whereas “city” accents tend more toward the General. These are all covered in our Canadian accent download, including audio from across central and western Canada.
Canadian Accent Audio
For an example of some Canadian accent audio, here‘s a fairly middle-of-the-road Canadian accent and a discussion of words on YouTube. She hits on some of the ways that both General and Broad Canadian vary from Midwest American accents.
Keep in mind that any time you categorize an accent or dialect, you’re making a generalization. Especially any Canadians out there may read this and argue that a Vancouver accent is frightfully different from someone who lives in Victoria, but we have to generalize to some degree to even talk about accents and dialects…