Canadian and American English are very similar in pronunciation. So similar, in fact, that they are often grouped together as North American English. However, there are slight differences in the vowel sounds
Even if the American was from one of the northern states close to the Canadian border, like Wisconsin, Michigan, or Minnesota, where Americans tend to emphasise their vowels, you might not notice the subtle differences between their accents if you put an average Canadian and an average American in the same room. This is especially true if the American was from one of these states. You might be shocked to learn that these two English dialects from close by nations utilise the language somewhat differently, though, if you give them a closer listen.
American tone vs. Canadian tone
Let’s start off with what I would say is the most well-known difference between American and Canadian pronunciation: the infamous Canadian stereotype “oot and aboot”. Let’s get this out of the way, and I feel very comfortable saying this as both an American and a Canadian: Canadians do not say oot and aboot — this is totally exaggerated! However, Canadians do say these words differently, so… you might be asking yourself how do Canadians say it? Canadians say ____. Do you hear the difference between (CAN) and (AM)? What makes this sound different?
This is a process called “Canadian raising”. It’s called this because the vowel Canadians make is made slightly higher in the mouth than how Americans say it.
Americans start with a low vowel /a/, and move up to the high vowel /ʊ/. Compare this to the Canadian pronunciation, which starts from a slightly higher jaw position. Watch the video above where I demonstrate what a difference these two vowel heights can make in pronunciation.
Since both Canadian and American English are phonologically North American English, it can be challenging to tell them apart—some could even suggest they are indistinguishable. Spending some time listening to these two dialects will reveal a number of pleasant variations other than accents. Well, how about that? You can also download our app from the playstore or visit our website.