AE 496 – Interview: Why You Should Learn Canadian English with Dana Catherwood
Hey, guys. How’s it going? Welcome to this Aussie English interview today.
Today, I have a special one for you guys. As we spoke about recently in that Walking with Pete episode where I was chatting to you about the future directions of Aussie English the podcast and, I guess, business in general, I have tried to sort of strike out and obviously interview more people from overseas, and this interview is hopefully going to be not the first one, I guess, ’cause I’ve done quite a few people from overseas, but one of the first ones more recently, I guess, heading in that direction of interviewing people from overseas, and today I get to interview an amazing girl from Canada.
So, this is Dana from Can Learn English, and we talk all about what it’s like in Canada as an immigrant going there, learning English, the differences between Australian English and Canadian English. I kind of just get to know her and try and have a natural conversation where we talk about these things. Right? So, without any further ado, guys, hopefully are going to enjoy this interview, and if you are interested in learning Canadian English, this is definitely the interview for you, guys. Okay? So, let’s go next.
Hey, guys! Welcome to this episode of Aussie English! today I have another interview episode for you, guys and I am here with Dana from Can Learn English at canlearnenglish.com so, Dana welcome to the Aussie English podcast.
Thank you so much for having me!
That’s awesome to have you. I think you might be the first Canadian on the podcast so, congratulations!
I reckon there’s not many Canadians are there usually so…
What’s the population of Canada? I’m always wondering if Australia is bigger or smaller.
Yeah, about 35 million now.
You’re like a third bigger than us then… damn. Little brother.
Yeah, we’re like barely 25.
Well, you’re way down there so we’re hard to get to.
Yeah exactly. Can you tell me your story? You’re currently living in Switzerland. You’re from Canada and you teach Canadian English. So, I heard about this through… I heard about this through Justin, who I interviewed recently, and he was like man you got to chat to Dana. She teaches Canadian English like you teach Australian English. How on earth did you end up doing what you’re doing where you’re doing it?
Yeah well what happened was is I moved to Brazil in 2016 and that’s when I really started teaching English full time. And I was kind of combining it with teaching kids and then I was also teaching adults and most the adults that were coming to me in Brazil were preparing to go to Canada.
So, yeah, pretty much all of them had some type of connection to Canada or wanted to go to Canada. And then one of my students was like oh Dana can you please start a YouTube channel because I watch…you know, he named a bunch of youtubers that he watches he is like there is no one really there from Canada and that’s where I want to go and I’d like to learn more about Canadian culture and learn your accent more and just things about Canada so, you need to start one. so, I did, and then I started my YouTube channel Can Learn English and I already had a website for my teaching business, but that kind of turned more into a blog. I got on Instagram and stuff so yeah, it’s been pretty fun.
How did you end up in Brazil like that seems like a random place and you’re in Switzerland?
My partner’s half Brazilian. So, we went down there for…
Man, my fiancée is from Brazil.
So, you are learning Portuguese then?
Exatamente, eu to falando Portugues cada dia (“Exactly, I’m speaking Portuguese each day”). I’m speaking every day.
That’s so crazy!
Portuguese is very hard, very, very difficult. I mean, I can understand a lot more than I can speak.
That’s my position as well. But that’s always the case, right? As soon as you get to intermediate/advance in a language it’s almost like… I hate this the beginnings of starting a new language because you sort of like you can say so much more than you can hear because people throw it at you and you’re just like… overwhelmed. And then all of a sudden though the listening takes off and you’re just like, all of a sudden, I can’t reply.
Like a sophisticatedly as I would like to reply to these things.
And there’s like, there’s holes where you can’t completely understand what someone is saying, but like certain words you have no idea what they mean, but within the context that must kind of mean this.
That happened to me recently where I live with three other Brazilians as well as my fiancée, like…
You’re basically living in Brazil…
Exactly, we moved into this house we had to move houses and I was like Can you see if you can find a Brazilian one? Like online on Facebook? And we can go there and I’ll just like learn Portuguese this year and she’s like yeah, yeah, yeah, no worries. So, we moved here, anyway, they showed me recently a song by a band called o Rappa, like the rap. It’s called Rodo Cotidiano and it’s like this amazing song and I thought I loved the song we’re listening to it, didn’t understand anything. Try to translate it and I was just blown away by like the metaphors the expressions and just like I just know nothing. I can talk to these guys for hours about my day and hobbies, but as soon as it gets to something advanced I was like…no.
Now. Yeah, and right now a lot of the conversations that Brazilians have leaned towards politics because they’re having an election in October, so in the point it’s like…Complete check out, just like, nothing. I will listen for the sake of listening, but I do not understand.
That’s the worst, they did that recently to me where they had a few beers and then all of a sudden, they just went crazy chatting about politics and I’m like I just can’t even… I have nothing to add and I am physically incapable of keeping up with this conversation.
So, you were in Brazil teaching English living there with your partner?
And then for how long was that and how did you end up in Switzerland?
We were there for about a year and a half and he’s also Swiss. So, this why we’re in Switzerland.
Damn, best of both words. Which part of Switzerland is he from? Which languages does he speak?
The German speaking part of Switzerland. German is the next hurdle for me.
Holly molly. Man, I’ll have to put you in touch with my friend Shannon because it’s such a… it’s such a small world she was in…. She was in Germany for eight years and then moved to Colombia for six months and then was like actually I want to go to Brazil, moved to Brazil ended up falling in love with a guy and marrying him, being there for two years and so now she’s like fluent in Portuguese, fluent German and just moved back to America and is teaching English in Portuguese on Facebook. So, it’s just… Brazil, man. They’re attacking everyone, they’re getting all the English teachers.
Yeah. You know, and that was the thing. It’s very hard to just like move to Brazil. Like as a non-Brazilian and someone without any visa. So, there’s not a whole lot of native English teachers there.
So, when they find someone, you know, you’re just completely busy. When you’re teaching in Brazil it’s kind of like a little bit of a novelty.
That was so crazy. So, what was the thing that made you want to teach English? Were you doing this from a very young age after high school or something or was it something you fell into?
It was something I really… I really fell into. I was working actually in business in sales and marketing for many, many years and then we moved to Brazil and I said you know, let’s try the teaching and I absolutely loved it. I had always done and been involved with kids and that was really what, you know, I had done a lot of… swimming instructor and I’d done all that kind of teaching other things, so I said let’s start teaching English they started doing that and I loved it.
That’s so funny. It was the same sort of story for me where. Similar to you I was I was studying something completely different at the time, started learning a foreign language and I had friends who were asking me…you told me about this podcast you were listening to in French, is there an equivalent for Australian in English? And I was looking couldn’t find anything and that’s how I began, I was like oh I know how to podcast, I used to be on a podcast so, just tinker away and create some materials for you and then it was so satisfying helping people on a daily basis and getting that sort of… the constant replies and e-mails and comments just thank you, can you do this? and that that really felt like I was actually helping and making a difference as opposed to doing science behind a desk every day. Do you miss business at all?
Yeah, not really. That’s funny that you say science because I actually did a science degree as well. It worked in a lab for a little bit, so we have very similar stories.
I don’t really miss it too much because like, you know, with YouTube and Instagram and I’m running a course in November for my students that there is a lot of business and stuff involved that you do still have to do.
The other side of teaching which is not teaching it’s more…
That’s so good though that you obviously had that background because I kind of had to dive in the deep end and just to learn all the business stuff online and just make it up as I went along.
Oh yeah, super challenging…like I’ve…podcasts and YouTube videos. I’m sure you’re the same…
Which do you prefer too? And how did you decide which platforms to use with regards to say Instagram, YouTube, Facebook podcasts all of that sort of stuff? Was there a clear one at the beginning you just said I’m going to do this or…?
So, I did YouTube at first, I was like, you know, we can just make some videos on YouTube. I’m pretty comfortable in front of a camera doesn’t really bother me too much, but there’s so like I’m kind of shiny object syndrome where, you know, and it’s like oh Instagram is really interesting and then…you know, I’ve been think thinking about a podcast as well, but I do kinda right now focusing on teaching my materials within my courses and stuff like that and then possibly we’ll do that later. You know, there are so many platforms to help people learn. So fun…
I know I feel like… my dad used to tell me this story about a baboon he used to work at the zoo as an educator there and he said there was a baboon and they used to put all of these coconuts in the baboon’s enclosure and the baboon would try and pick them all up but they’d always put in one extra that he couldn’t hold so he would constantly be dropping one as soon as he picked up the other one. And I felt like that kind of thing with social media quite often where I’ve got like YouTube and Instagram, Facebook and the podcast that it feels like this constant juggling act where a ball is always falling to the ground and you like ahhhh…
I’m sure like you can even take that into when you’re learning a language, you could sit there and focus so much on like your listening skills because maybe that’s a little fun and then you’re speaking falls behind and then, you know, reading maybe isn’t so good and writing. So you kind of have to learn how to incorporate everything and give everything the time that it needs, right?
Exactly. So, can you tell me more about Canada and what are the things about Canada that make it a better place to migrate than America or Australia or New Zealand or Great Britain? What are the pros and cons?
I think right now there’s a lot of process, especially compared to America, because you know what’s going on in the U.S. Donald Trump and his anti-immigration policy. Canada has always been very opposite to that, like diversity is really a pillar of our identity within Canada. And so we’re opening up our doors for immigration more so than ever before and especially more so now than the Americans. We have a really neat immigration policy that I think helps, you know, make our diversity work so well it’s based on a point system. So, unlike the US where usually if you have a family connection or if you’re married or your brother’s American somehow you can, you know, immigrate through family ties, whereas in Canada it’s a point system so you get points on your education, your language ability, where you want to go in Canada. So, if you’re willing to go to maybe a place that’s a little more rural that doesn’t have a huge population you could earn more points…it’s I’m not an expert this is just what I know.
Yeah, yeah, yeah…
Basic, you know, don’t take my word but that’s kind of the general thing of how the immigration policy works so, it’s really, really neat because you get some really well-educated people that want to be part of Canadian society. They have good language skills and can contribute.
So, which are the places too people should try to go? Which areas of Canada are the ones that you would recommend people go or maybe the ones that most people try to go to?
Yeah. Like I think all across Canada is a great place to migrate. I don’t think that one is better than the other. A lot of people prefer Toronto or Vancouver. That’s kind of like the two that people know. And so, they’re like I’ll go to Toronto or Vancouver. These are very expensive cities. Vancouver is one of the most expensive in the world, Toronto is very expensive. So, as long as people understand that when they’re moving there there’s going to be some larger costs than if they were to move to a smaller city or to somewhere, you know, less populated. And a lot of people that do go, you know, will study at a college and, you know, get a little bit of a Canadian education and then go on to start working, so yeah…
So, with regards to learning Canadian English, what are your suggestions? If I’ve got listeners right now listening to this podcast or watching this video, who are… wherever they are in the world they thinking about going to Canada or learning more about Canada. even migrating there, what is a way in which they can they can learn Canadian English? What are the difficult or different unique aspects of Canadian English?
It’s kind of a vague term Canadian English because it’s very similar to the American, we have a very similar to the American accent, the Northern American accent a lot of people have a hard time, just, I’m even sure yourself, have a hard time distinguishing if it’s a Canadian or an American.
Oh that’s the Australian New Zealand accent problem, right? We can here it really well, but you know others can’t and it’s the same thing I’m always like to ”say about, say about” she’s Canadian, got it!
Yeah. It’s always about. Even when I’m watching YouTube videos. I can tell if the content creator is Canadian or any subject. Pretty much as soon as they say ”about” I’m like ….
So can you say that first? Can you say those words? Can you do an American accent version, than the Canadian version at all?
No, I can’t do an American accent, but like you could say ”what about the house?” that would be like… because the OU sound.
What about the house? Yeah. What about the house? is how I would say.
What about the house? Is the OU is distinct, we say it differently.
Yeah. It sounds like that: “What about, what about the house”. I mean, that’s what exaggerating it.
Yeah, Yeah. And so, there’s not a whole lot of differences. There’s a few spelling differences, we kind of mashed together the British spelling with the American spellings, so for instance we spell colour, with an OU, labour with an OU, we don’t use the… like ‘organize’, we tend to use the Z and not an S. So, we have… and ‘Program’ it doesn’t have that ME at the end, like in England they spell it P R O G R A M M E.
See, that’s so funny because we suffer from the same kind of issue especially using computers. Anytime we get a computer like my Mac is constantly correcting me into American English. And it’s happened for so long that it screwed up my… I get the average one, I can understand okay you know like ISE what I’ll use instead of IZE or OUR r instead of OR, but then quite often you have words like program and I’ll be like… oh no. Is this with just one M or two Ms and a E. It’s so funny how that’s kind of leached into other areas of being way short of the dialects.
Yeah. Yeah. Especially anyone who moved, you know, away from Britain they kind of adopted their own spelling and then we kind of… because Canada is part of the Commonwealth and we kind of kept our ties to England, but we severed them a little bit. It’s just kind of weird how it turned out with spellings, but that’s kind of the main difference with the Americans. Same spelling and then pronunciation things, but then a lot of times I think students, you know, they can get more excited about learning especially if they’re going to Canada from a Canadian teacher. I think for them it kind of gives them a little step inside Canada. You know, they get to learn about it, they can ask questions. So, that’s really what I try to give my students.
And is there a big range of expressions or slang that differs from the U.S? and even accents too…I know that there’s the Newfoundland that accents that’s totally different, right, from Vancouver accent.
Yeah, I know, you would find that like I would sound very similar someone for Vancouver. There’s not a whole lot of accent difference. We have a little bit of like a rural accent. People that don’t live inside the city sound… yeah, really, really small, like you barely notice that accent differs, the differences than in Canada. And then slang, there are some slang words, like we add “ey” to the end of every sentence too.
Yeah? As in just saying that daradarara “ey?”.
Dadadada… it’s cold out, ey? Yeah, super cold!
So, that would kind of be what we would do. yeah, there’s a bit… I have a YouTube video on it, I can send you the link…
Yeah, definitely do, and that’s something there that pattern kind of happens every now and then in different dialects. If you go, in Australia, right? I’m from the south and if you go up to the north into a state called Queensland they do that, they have that sort of habit of putting hey, on the end of every sentence, so like ”it’s hot today, hey?” Would you like to go to the beach, hey?” so you know they’ll do that quite a lot and so it’s funny how those..
That’s our big one. I stopped saying it when I lived in Ireland because everyone would be like ”oh hahaha Canadian, that’s so cool”, so I stopped.
Well, that’s the funny thing too, any time I’ve been overseas I notice my accent…. I think it goes up and I like overdo it or it drops down because people are having trouble understanding me and I have to really enunciate and pronounce my words clearly and how do you find that, being in Switzerland now, how have you found your English, has that changed at all? or even after being in Brazil, did you find yourself changing at all?
To be honest, I think… you know. when you’re spending most of your time speaking to native English speakers, I think you’re just kind of… you start making some mistakes that they make sometimes. And I know a lot of other teachers say that that happens, you know, you start to kind of…”how do they say that? What happened there?”
Well, you used to what’s familiar, right? and that happens to me with Portuguese and French, after… especially when you are heavily learning them and watching TV shows, suddenly all use the same patterns, but I’ll say them in English but just with English words and then I’ll be like Wait… that doesn’t…. that’s how you would normally say that.
Yeah. I know, this happens in Germany people put like verbs at the end of the sentence and you can kind of… the word order gets all kind of funny. But, you know, I’m really lucky in this place a lot of people speak very, very, very well in English so it’s not too difficult we tend to get round in English so I’m thankful for that.
And so, what are you doing currently to learn German? If you, you know, you’re used to teaching English, have you found that the way in which you go about learning German is completely different from how people would learn English or is it effectively the exact same thing?
I think when you’re an adult and you start at like zero, it’s a little different, because a lot of people who are learning they’ve had like a little bit of English through their schooling. Most children know a little bit of English now and then they grow up, you know, you do learn it. and starting from absolutely nothing.
Never had any exposure or anything like that.
Nothing. You know, I’ve got a few work books and just trying to possibly get myself up past a one and two and then I can get into like… taking a course here.
Do you recommend doing that?
I think for me for the… for motivation I’ll go to school and do a little course, I might do something online and I still have to kind of research and see what is out there in terms of learning.
I didn’t do anything, I took an online course in Portuguese and that helped me a lot. So, I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, it’s called The Semantica Portuguese…
Yeah, I have, I have heard of it.
Yeah, I took that one so that helped me a lot and there was lots of video lessons and activities and stuff and it kind of jumpstarted me and then the exposure.
And is it something you’ve always interested in learning languages or was that just something that kind of fell in your lap?
Yeah, nothing it’s like I’m forced to do it. You can’t get around in Brazil unless you can speak a little bit of basic Portuguese.
So, was your husband like that, though, or partner when you guys got together was he like so… you were going to do Brazil first and then we’re going to Switzerland.
So, yeah, that’s how it played out. So, you know, and I got to Brazil and I had like zero, nothing in Portuguese and just kind of was on Duolingo, was on on YouTube all the time, was taking this course and then I would chat a lot with my Uber drivers when I was driving to make lessons. Yeah, yeah, it’s like it’s kind of a safe zone cause you get to get out of the car in 30 minutes and yeah I don’t have to ever talk to these people again.
I can make a fool of myself and no one will know.
So, I think that’s kind of what I did and it was it was a cool experience and I never…Canada is a bilingual country, people speak French and English, I don’t speak French. I learned French in school, but I grew up so far away from any French speaking area that, you know, it’s not uncommon for people to be fluent in where I’m from.
That always blew my mind. I’ve been to Canada once when I was a kid and my cousins lived with my uncle and aunty in Vancouver and I remember we went and everything was in French and English and I was like What? I thought that Canada was an English-speaking country. Can you tell us a bit about, I don’t know a brief history of how that came about and what people expect if they come to Canada with regards to the two languages? And I almost said ‘the both languages’, the two languages*.
The two languages. Yeah, so we have…. officially it’s a bilingual country. So, you can interact with the government on any level in either French or English. All services are provided in both languages. Any materials, the websites you see are both in French and English. We have a French speaking province that’s entirely French, province of Quebec. And then a small part of a neighboring province has a lot of French speaking communities and basically, you know, way back in history you had the French settlers, you had the English settlers and was, you know, a bit of a fight over who would reign, but as it turns out we have both languages in Canada and in government. For example, it would be required that people speak both.
Every time our prime minister speaks both languages or switch between the two. In like if he’s doing like a press conference, he’ll be speaking both. You’ll get a translation and then from a young age in school, about grade 4 or more about 10 we start learning French for about five or six years and then you can stop and most of us do and don’t really think about it ever again. Unfortunately. I think in English speaking, at least for myself, I didn’t like this was the complaint at school. It’s like, well, so why do we have to learn French? Like, you know? Yeah. That’s kind of the attitude.
Doesn’t everyone just speak English?
Yeah, because the people do speak English, you know, so I wish that maybe I had had more of a… I liked it more and I stick more with it but I couldn’t.
Well, you’re in Switzerland. You never know, you might be able to just find somewhere that’s close to the border between where those two languages are in the country and they smash those two out as well.
It did help me with Portuguese, so I must say, having a Latin language and understanding that they change the way the verbs change and conjugation and things like that, that really helped. So, it wasn’t completely useless, it was more… it helped me later on, you know?
Oh brilliant. And so, with regards to learning Canadian English, what sort of advice would you have for students if they are in their own country right now, what’s the best way, obviously going over to Can Learn English.com to get started and Can Learn English on Facebook or YouTube, but are there specific TV shows or books or things they should keep an eye out for that would be a bit of a boost?
Yeah, they can watch Canadian TV, there’s a bunch of comedians, I have a blog post about it, I can send you a link and put it in your show notes if you want.
Yeah, do it.
I list some Canadian TV shows that they can watch. they can… you know. always the news is a really good idea. You can watch the news from anywhere in the world. You know, you can pick a Canadian news channels, that helps a lot.
I know, YouTube is wonderful for that, right? You can get ABC News Australia streamed on their 24 hours a day, there are news channels in the US doing the same, I’m sure Canada as well. So, someone needs to put together a page or something that just has all these different dialects of English as YouTube channels, so that they can just stream them and switch between them.
They can all just stream all the news, because I think the news is great, it’s kind of a very understandable type of English and they can get in touch with kind of current events that are going on in the country and things like that. And Canadian news is always really cute and funny because it always tells the stories and there’s always this really sweet story at the end, you know, about a bear, who, I don’t know, visited someone in their back yard.
That it, there’s always like death, sad stuff and then at the end it’s like he’s a happy cat video!
Yeah, basically. A cat running for mayor or something like silly. So… It’s not a totally different thing.
Are there any other main big differences between say Canadian culture and American culture or anywhere else? Are there things that people should be aware of or consider before coming to Canada or would give them a bit of a boost as well, if they meet someone and they’re like ”yeah, I know this thing so I get you!”
Yeah, that’s a really good question, I have to think about that. I know one…. like there are big differences between Canadian and American culture and it’s just really good to like…know that. You know, don’t think you can just blend the two together, because we absolutely hate it, we are… I guess, we probably have like maybe a little sibling syndrome and ”we’re here too, you were too!” so we don’t like to be confused with Americans, and kind of like… you know, we have a very different government, we have a lot of social policies and we’re very proud of our free health care, so… A lot of the issues that are going on in America, we’re like you dealt with those like forever ago. Those aren’t a problem for us. You know, what’s going on? So, I guess you have to just be when you’re in Canada, be really mindful that people are very multicultural. We’re really uncomfortable with any type of like prejudice or racism or anything like that.
So, you know, it’s a very inclusive place.
And what are the guns like? I take that you guys are a bit more strict on that, right?
I think maybe in some places, but I don’t know anybody with a gun, so…
Anything else that you wanted to mention before we finish up then?
I don’t know, I think that’s it, I really liked it…Thanks for inviting me onto the podcast. I love your stuff. It’s really cool. I thought that you were doing, you know, Aussie English, I’m doing Canadian English it was great that we were able to connect, it was awesome.
I know. I’m so happy. Anyway, where can people find you, then?
Can Learn English.com, that’s my website. You can search Can Learn English on YouTube and Can Learn English on Instagram. And then I have a Facebook page as well and I have a group, so, if anybody wants… is moving to Canada and they want to join the group it’s called ‘Talking to Canada’, but you can find these links on my website and stuff so…
Oh brilliant, I’ll put them all in the show notes as well as the transcript so that you, guys, can them easily.
Awesome, Dana from Can Learn English, thank you so much for joining me today.
All right, guys. So, I hope you enjoy that interview.
Remember that you can find out more about Dana on her website CanLearnEnglish.com. You can obviously search “Can Learn English” on Facebook, on YouTube, on Instagram, and you will find her accounts. The accounts will also be in the transcript today. So, if you would like to learn more about her, what she does, how she teaches, and maybe just more about Canadian English, go to CanLearnEnglish.com. Big thanks once again, Dana. I hope to have you on again in the future. And I will see you guys soon. Catch ya!