Learning to speak English in Canada is no easy task to do. The process can be hard and challenging when there are many factors to consider when conversing. After learning and understanding proper English, there is a whole other world of English slang words, cliches, and idioms that you will need to be aware of when speaking and listening to Canadian English.
What do these expressions mean? With the help of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
Slang: "Slang words are an informal nonstandard vocabulary of words." Meaning that they are words or informal phrases that are casually spoken and often adopted into a group or culture. For example, calling something "cool", "hip", or "hot" means it is very popular.
Clichés: "A cliché is a phrase or expression that has become overly familiar or commonplace." Meaning that these phrases have been used much too often, to the point where it has lost it's impact. For example, "there are plenty of fish in the sea," is an expression that is often used to describe that there are many opportunities available everywhere.
Idioms: "An idiom is part of the language that is peculiar to a people, district, community or class." Meaning that phrases and expressions could be something other than what the words literally mean. For example, someone who "gets cold feet" does not mean that the temperature of their feet has dropped, but rather it means that they are nervous instead.
These varying expressions may seem foreign, unfamiliar, and even ambiguous to those who are learning English, but with time and lots of conversational practice, you can 'get the hang' of all these expressions. Another great way to do this is by joining an English Conversation Circle at your local public library!
[image credit: Gabriel J. Suarez's Blog]
To help familiarize your vocabulary, I have posted 12 common expressions used by Canadians, offered by Canadian Immigrant, have a look at their website to see the complete A-Z list:
1. Actions speak louder than words
In other words, what a person actually does is more important than what they say they will do.
2. American dream
The “American dream” is the reason why so many immigrants come to North America. The United States especially prides itself as a democratic place where people have the right to good education, freedom, peace and a rich life — if they work for it.
Canadians are known worldwide for tacking on the word “eh” to sentences, turning them into a bit of a question — for example, “That was a good hockey game last night, eh?”
4. Fingers crossed
Keeping your “fingers crossed” means that you are hoping for good luck or a happy outcome in a situation.
5. Jack of all trades
A “Jack of all trades” is a person who can do many different kinds of work well.
Unlike many other countries, Canada has its own nicknames for its money. The “Loonie” is a $1 coin (which usually features the image of a loon), while a “Toonie” is the term used for the $2 coin (because it rhymes with “Loonie”).
7. Needle in a haystack
To find a thin “needle in a haystack” is almost an impossible task. Thus, anything that seems impossible to find is lost like a needle in a haystack.
8. On cloud nine
When she got her citizenship, she was “on cloud nine.” That is, she was really happy and excited about it.
9. Raining cats and dogs
This phrase is used when you want to express that it is raining very heavily outside. For instance, “This summer was not good because it was ‘raining cats and dogs’ on many of the weekends.”
10. Start from scratch
Many newcomers to Canada have to “start from scratch.” This phrase denotes that something needs to be started from the beginning, regardless of the previous work that has been done.
11. Under the weather
If you’re feeling under the weather, it simply means you’re feeling a little sick, whether the weather is rain or shine.
12. Wear one’s heart on one’s sleeve
To wear your heart on your sleeve is to show your emotions openly.
Slang words, clichés, and idioms are all expressions that can be hard for an English learner to understand. Aside from all the great resources available out there, such as the Using English website with their lists of English Idioms, Toronto Public Library also has lots of books and resources that can help you!
What is your favourite expression?
Mine is, "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger," meaning all of the tougher experiences you go through, will help you grow and make you smarter & stronger for the next time.