Canadian English is the set of varieties of the English language native to Canada. According to the 2011 census, English was the first language of approximately 19 million Canadians or 57% of the population.

Canadian English (Canadian English EN-CA) contains major elements of both British English and American English, as well as many uniquely Canadian characteristics. While, broadly speaking, Canadian English tends to be closest to American English in terms of linguistic distance, the precise influence of American English, British English and other sources on Canadian English varieties has been the ongoing focus of systematic studies since the 1950s.


Phonologically, Canadian and American English are classified together as North American English, emphasizing the fact that the vast majority of outsiders, even other native English speakers, cannot distinguish the typical accents of the two countries by sound alone. There are minor disagreements over the degree to which even Canadians and Americans themselves can differentiate their own two accents, and there is even evidence that some Western American English (Pacific Northwest and California English, for example) is undergoing a vowel shift partially coinciding with the one first reported in mainland Canadian English in the early 1990s.

Canadian spelling conventions can be partly explained by Canada's trade history. For instance, the British spelling of the word cheque probably relates to Canada's once-important ties to British financial institutions. Canada's automobile industry, on the other hand, has been dominated by American firms from its inception, explaining why Canadians use the American spelling of tire (hence, "Canadian Tire") and American terminology for automobiles and their parts (for example, truck instead of lorry, gasoline instead of petrol, trunk instead of boot).

Canada's political history has also had an influence on Canadian spelling. Canada's first prime minister, John A. Macdonald, once advised the Governor-General of Canada to issue an order-in-council directing that government papers be written in the British style.


A contemporary reference for formal Canadian spelling is the spelling used for Hansard transcripts of the Parliament of Canada (see The Canadian Style in Further reading below). Many Canadian editors, though, use the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, often along with the chapter on spelling in Editing Canadian English, and, where necessary (depending on context), one or more other references. (See Further Reading below.)

Throughout part of the 20th century, some Canadian newspapers adopted American spellings, for example, color as opposed to the British-based color. Some of the most substantial historical spelling data can be found in Dollinger (2010) and Grue (2013). The use of such spellings was the long-standing practice of the Canadian Press perhaps since that news agency's inception, but visibly the norm prior to World War II. The practice of dropping the letter u in such words was also considered a labor-saving technique during the early days of printing in which movable type was set manually. Canadian newspapers also received much of their international content from American press agencies, therefore it was much easier for editorial staff to leave the spellings from the wire services as provided.

A Translator must also take into account the six registers of the Canadian language. These registers refer to levels of formality, from literary language at the top to slang at the bottom. Knowing which register is appropriate for the intended audience and the ability to write convincingly in that register is key to successful English to Canadian translation.

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