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Canadian English Versus US English

canadian-versus-us-english-localization

Last updated on April 10th, 2020 at 04:30 pm

english-localization-us-versus-canada

English Language Localization for Canada or the US

A Language Shared by Neighbors

It is always an interesting phenomenon when two neighboring nations share a language.  Social development, political activity, colonialism, and environmental changes through history all influence linguistic development.

Canadians and Americans both speak English, but there are many small differences that make the two nations sound different.  What are some of those differences? Why is English Localization important?

Other Language Groups in Canada and the USA

Canada has two official languages, English and French.  According to Western Linguistics Canada, over 200 languages are spoken in Canada, and the vast majority of the population is at least bilingual, speaking one of the official languages, if not both.  The use of other languages in Canada is growing; one notable example being Tagalog, as immigration from the Asian subcontinent, especially the Pacific area, grows.

In the United States, English is the dominant language, followed closely by varieties of Spanish, a fast-growing language group.  The USA has long been known as a melting pot of cultures and languages and does not have an official language.  Besides Spanish, other languages increasing in use are Chinese, Japanese, French, and many more.  With the ubiquity of the Internet and globalized trade, more and more businesses from Canada and the United States are finding it necessary to translate their websites, marketing materials, and legal papers.

 

canadian versus us english localizationDifferences Between Canadian and United States English

Canadian English borrows a lot of spelling and pronunciation from British English and has done a lot of growing on its own.  Canadian English is generally well-understood by its neighbor to the south and vice versa.  Let’s look at some examples of particular differences.

Spelling

In the USA, nouns that end in “-ice” will often end in “-ise” in Canada, and nouns that end in “-ter” will often end in “-tre” in Canada.  A few examples, with the USA’s version first, are:

  • Checks versus cheques.
  • Center versus centre.
  • Practice versus practise.
  • Theater versus theatre.
  • Realize versus realise.
  • Centimeter versus centimetre.

The root languages of words play a large role in their spelling.  Words with Latin roots will end in “-ise,” whereas words with Greek roots end in “-ize.”  Words taken from French, like “theatre,” favor the “-tre” ending over “-ter.”

Vocabulary

Sometimes words will be completely different instead of only spelled differently, like these, with the USA’s version first:

  • Sneakers versus runners.
  • Beanie or toboggan hat versus toque. In Canada, a toboggan is a sled and tobogganing means to go sledding.
  • Bathroom or restroom versus washroom.
  • Parking garage versus parkade.
  • Napkin versus serviette. In Canada, napkins exist but are made of cloth and intended for more formal occasions.
  • Bathrobe versus housecoat.

Slang and Regional Terms

Slang, colloquialisms, and other regional terms highlight the importance of language localization in translation services and give a language its distinctive sound.

  • When something in the United States isn’t heard properly, we might say “Hm?” or “What?” In Canada, that would be “Eh?”
  • In the USA, Caesar is a salad, but in Canada, it’s a drink that the USA knows as a Bloody Mary.
  • A cigarette in the USA is a dart in Canada.
  • In Canada, a Larry is a left turn and a Roger is a right turn, whereas the USA has no other names for right or left.

All of the examples presented above are differences in usage of words, spelling, vocabulary, and expressions. They are all important elements to take into consideration when creating or translating content in English for Canada or English for USA. You need to select a native English translator or writer that will create the content appropriately.

Fine-Tuning Your Translation

It’s easy to think that small differences in languages can be ignored, but that is not the case.  When translating for a certain language group in a certain population and place, it is vital that professional translators skilled in localization be used.  Otherwise, the message may not resonate with the intended audience and will not produce the results desired.

Always be specific with your translation company when describing your intended audience to help them give you the best results possible.  JR Language uses only native professionals fluent in the source language, the target language, and well-versed in the culture the translated material is meant to embody.

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Jackie Ruffolo
Jackie Ruffolo
Jackie was born in Venezuela. Jackie has a BS in computer engineering; As President of JR Language, she spends time researching new technology and productivity tools for the Company. She holds a certificate of Localization and Project Management- Localization. Through her many years of experience working in multilingual corporate environments, she understands firsthand the value of bridging language barriers in creating smooth communication that allows for productive and happy work environments. She is fluent in Spanish and English, and is a frequent contributor to both our English and Spanish blogs. Jackie loves nature and to be outdoors.