5 Canadian Colloquialisms: What They Mean and How to Use Them!

intensive English program in Canada
Kings University College at Western University in Ontario, Canada

Every country, province, state – even neighborhood – has its own unique slang and colloquialisms. This is a big part of local culture, and learning to use these expressions is an important rite of passage for newcomers.

Canada is no exception, and the phrases ESL students will encounter as newcomers to Ontario are sure to cause some confusion!

With that in mind, we decided to de-code and explain five uniquely Canadian terms you’re likely to hear when you visit Ontario:

Hydro (pronounced hahy-droh)

The term hydro is a reference to hydroelectricity, the most common source of energy used to power Canadian homes. You’ll hear people refer to hydro in particular when talking (or complaining) about their monthly electrical bill. When renting an apartment in Canada, we usually ask up front if the total price includes hydro.

Kitty Corner (pronounced kit-ee – kawr-ner)

“I’m parked kitty corner from the entrance to our school.” No, that statement doesn’t have anything to do with cats. Actually it has to do with dice. Quatre, the French word for “four” was introduced to the English language as a way to define four-cornered dice. Over time, English speakers transformed the term into “catre-corner”, which soon became “kitty-corner”. Now we use the phrase in every-day conversation to describe something that’s positioned on a diagonal. So your friend’s car is parked diagonally across from the entrance to the school.

Loonie (pronounced loo-nee)

When you’re taking a break between classes at your ESL school and a fellow student asks if you have a loonie for the vending machine, it’s important to realize that they’re asking you for money: $1 to be precise. A few decades ago, Canada switched from paper currency to coins for some denominations. The $1 coin has the image of a loon (a type of Canadian bird) on one side, so people started calling it a “loonie”. The name stuck and a few years later, it inspired the nickname of the $2 coin, the “toonie”.

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Culture Works students take a coffee break at Apple Land Station in Thorndale, Ontario

Double-Double (pronounced duhb-uh l – duhb-uh l)

If you are pursuing an intensive English program in Canada, you have probably already encountered this term. It will most likely happen during a late-night study session when you just need a bit of caffeine to keep you going. A double-double is a cup of coffee served with two creams and two sugars. It originated as a term in the hugely popular coffee chain Tim Horton’s, but soon spread all over Canada as a typical way to order coffee.

Toque (pronounced tohk)

If you’re studying English as a second language in Canada, not only should you get familiar with the term toque, but you should also plan on buying one before the winter season starts. A toque is what Canadians call a winter hat. It was adapted from the French term tuque which was originally popularized by the coureurs de bois (French and Metis fur traders) in the 19th century.

Are you excited to try out some of these Canadian colloquialisms? Come to ESL school in Canada and you’ll get your chance to chat like a local!

How Knowing Multiple Languages Can Help Boost Your Business Career

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One word you’ll hear over and over again in business, politics and finance is “globalization.” In the business world, this term refers to the expansion of a single company beyond its own borders, into multiple other countries.

For example, many major Canadian companies such as Bombardier, Sun Life Financial and Roots, have set up locations all around the world in order to attract international clients. For many companies, international expansion is the ultimate goal, which makes learning more than one language a very smart move for today’s business students. Making the decision to study English and even earn your business degree in English will help international students build their language portfolio. Here’s why this is so important:

A Growing Demand for Multilingualism

Since more and more businesses have tapped into international markets, there is an increasing demand for professionals who have both business and language skills. Today’s companies are on the hunt for employees who can communicate with existing clients, prospective clients and business partners overseas. It’s also crucial for marketing and sales professionals to be fluent in multiple languages, since they have the duty of selling products and services, and identifying customer needs.

Job-Seeking Advantages

Taking an intensive English program like Culture Works can help double the marketability of your business degree. Employers love to see multiple languages on a resume, because multilingual employees can ultimately provide more value to a company by performing tasks that many others cannot. Better yet, bilingual employees can be hard to come by, meaning that recruiters are likely to prioritize your resume when filling positions for prominent companies.

Did you know that multilingual employees also get paid more than their unilingual (people who only speak one language) counterparts? In Canada, bilingual men outside of Quebec earn 3.8 percent more than their coworkers who only speak one language. For women, this number actually jumps to 6.6 percent. In the United States, bilingual employees might have a pay raise of up to 20% higher when they speak more than one language! As a bonus, bilingualism also makes the brain work harder and increases cognitive ability—overall making you a better, smarter worker.

A Global Appeal

Many students who come to Canada and participate in ESL programs are passionate about travelling and immersing themselves in new cultures. New graduates with multiple languages are far more likely to land positions that allow them explore new cities and countries.

As companies continue to expand globally, the demand for business professionals who are willing to travel for work will no doubt increase. Being fluent in multiple languages will give you the opportunity to showcase yourself as an ideal candidate, and give you the confidence to apply for these international positions. You’ll have the diverse language skills needed to adapt quickly and grow professionally no matter where your job might take you!

Are you considering a degree in Business? Which company would you love to work for?

4 Things That Really Define Canadians

Study English in Canada

When people consider the nation of Canada, a lot of symbols come to mind: the maple leaf, winter sports, the Rocky Mountains, frosty temperatures – even a couple of famous names like Celine Dion, Sidney Crosby or Mike Meyers. But what actually define us as people? How has living in this nation formed who we are?

If you’re considering traveling to Canada to study English and attend college, chances are you’ll be with us for at least a few years. And you might find yourself pondering exactly what it is that makes Canadians so Canadian. Let’s take a look at a few things we’re known for around the world.

We are Diverse

In 1971, Canada was the first country in the world to adopt multiculturalism as an official policy. In doing so, Canada affirmed the value and dignity of all Canadian citizens regardless of their racial or ethnic origins, their language, or their religious affiliation. Multiculturalism defines us as a people in every way imaginable.

Students enrolled in ESL programs in Canada know that our country has two official languages – English and French. However, many may not be aware that our inherent diversity has led to a veritable explosion of languages across the country. It was recently reported that there are over 200 languages spoken in Canada in the home or as a mother tongue. Our streets are rich with restaurants featuring foods from every corner of the globe, our schools are filled with children from all cultures, and in most cities it’s easy to find a place of prayer regardless of your religious affiliation.

We’re Friendly and Peace Loving

In a nation that embraces so much diversity, it’s no wonder that we get along so well! Canada consistently ranks among the top 10 most peaceful countries in the world, with low levels of violent crime, enduring political stability, and a high level of UN peacekeeping involvement.

Students who travel from abroad to study English in Canada soon discover that Canadians are also world renowned for our friendly attitude. We’re sometimes poked-fun at in the media for being overly nice and polite, but what’s so bad about that? The truth is, as travelers we are welcomed with open arms all over the world, and are valued as partners in global business and trade.

We’re Highly Educated

In Canada, education is seen as the most desirable route to career success, personal growth and happiness. With affordable tuition rates and a wide variety of high quality universities to choose from, it’s no surprise that Canada is ranked the number one most educated country in the world! We are considered a world leader in language training and boast an unmatched literacy rate of 99 per cent.

We Love Sports

As a nation, we’ve not only hosted the Olympics three times, but have produced some of the world’s finest athletes. We have leagues in nearly every sport imaginable from youth leagues all the way up to professional leagues. And ok, we do have a special place in our hearts for hockey – it’s true.

If hockey’s not necessarily your preference, we’ve also got prominent sports figures in the UFC and the NBA.

Whether you’re taking part in athletic training or watching a game from the comfort of your own home, a love for sports is something we proudly share as Canadians.

What comes to mind when YOU think of Canada?

How to Build Confidence as a New English Speaker

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Moving to a new country can be quite intimidating, but even more so if you don’t speak the native language. Many newcomers to Canada struggle to make contacts, build friendships, and just plain fit in because they’re nervous to make mistakes while speaking English. And for prospective university students, the stakes are quite high because they must improve their language skills in order to succeed at school.

An intensive English program (like Culture Works) will definitely provide you with a thorough understanding of the English language – but it will be up to you to actually apply what you’ve learned in class in everyday situations. This means that you’ll need to build up the confidence it takes to communicate with others and engage them in conversation, even if you’re positive you’ll make a few mistakes. Here are some basic confidence-building tips to get you started:

Do Your Reading Out Loud

Whether your English as a second language courses involve reading a textbook, a newspaper, or even a short story, read it out loud for extra practise. Not only will this help with comprehension, but will offer you a chance to work on your pronunciation. Reading out loud can also be a great way to enhance your reading speed and build confidence. If you’re a beginner student and are still unsure about your English language abilities, you can try reading to another person (either a close native English companion or a teacher) and ask them to provide feedback.

Make English-Speaking Friends—And Speak To Them!

They say “practise makes perfect” and what better way to practise your English skills than to have fun with some great new friends? When you attend an ESL school in Canada, you’ll find that it’s surprisingly easy to make new connections – after all, Canadians are known as some of the friendliest people in the world!

Casual socializing in English is a fantastic way to strengthen your language skills. First of all, your friends won’t judge you if you make a mistake – and secondly, it’s a great opportunity to pick up some conversational, colloquial banter.

Make Use of the Recording App on Your Smartphone

These days, most cell phones come fully equipped with a variety of applications—games, cameras and sound recorders. English language students will definitely want to make use of those recording applications. One of the most common exercises students do when learning a new language is the “Introduction Game.” Partners practise introducing themselves, making small talk, and asking questions – exactly like you would do in real life when you meet someone new. Recording these conversations and listening to them later at home can be extremely helpful for improving pronunciation, phrasing, and vocabulary. This of course can only boost your confidence when you’re trying out these same phrases outside of school.

Make Small Talk While Running Errands

No matter where you live you will definitely find yourself visiting grocery stores, convenience stores and restaurants. English language students should look at these activities as learning opportunities – valuable chances to converse with shopkeepers and waiters in a causal way. And, because they will most likely speak to you in English, you’ll be forced to face your fears and respond in kind. Those recorded conversations from class will really come in handy here, helping you make that first gesture with confidence. And hey, if you can master small talk then you’ll be ready to move on to bigger and better things, like longer conversations!

How would you practise your new language skills in Canada?