Understanding the Canadian Accent

I had a great experience on my first business trip when I worked at ObjecTime. I went with some of our customers from Lucent (this was over 10 years ago when Lucent was a new name) to take a course on the Chorus operating system. They were great people and really made me feel part of the team which is the best way to be if you’re a supplier. (I wonder where they are now…)

At any rate, one of discussions we got into talking was about different peoples’ accents. I mistakenly made the claim that Canadians didn’t have an accent. I was quickly proven wrong and I’ve since had a number of people comment about my accent. What is this Canadian accent anyway and why do we talk funny like that?

What brought this to mind lately is the way Doug Gaff pronounces Wascana (sorry Doug ;). For those who don’t know I got the name Wascana on the trip my family and I made back to my birthplace of Regina, Saskatchewan. Regina has a beautiful man-made lake on the provincial legislature grounds called Wascana. Having spent my high school years there, I figured I knew how to pronounce it. But it turns out it’s a great showcase of the Canadian accent since a lot of people I know (not just Doug) have a hard time with it.

So the Canadian accent goes like this. We love to pronounce our vowels. Why put them there if your not going to say them? So the pronounciation goes like this: ‘Wass’ ‘can’ ‘ah’. All the a’s have the same pronounciation. It’s not ‘Wass’ ‘con’ ‘a’ as I hear a lot of people say. So if you’re wondering if someone is from Canada, ask them to pronounce it. Or pronounce ‘about’. You know ‘ow-t’ with an ‘ab’ on the front.

It’s one of the things I like most about my job and my involvement in Eclipse. I get to meet people from around the world and I get to hear the way a lot of people talk. And you learn that to communicate, you need to understand it. And I’ll never forget the confused look on the taxi driver’s face when I went to the Eclipse PluginFest in London last year and asked to go to ‘south’ ‘wark’. I showed him my hotel reservation for Southwark Street and he said, “Oh, ‘suthuk'”. eh? (BTW, thanks to Andrew Ferguson from Symbian in London for teaching me the right way to say it 🙂